Although I had sporadically worked with my father on our family farm for most of my life – doing chores, working alongside him on various projects, etc. – I had my first real job when I was 17 years old. My parents had been constantly telling me to go out and get a real job, but I wasn’t interested. In my mind, I knew I would eventually work for the rest of my life anyway, so why rush into it when I still had the freedom to enjoy my youth? In my mind, as long as I could earn enough money for fuel by mowing my grandmother’s lawn or earning my keep by lightening my father’s workload, that’s all I really needed.
Then I learned about a temporary summer job remodeling my town’s local Walmart. I would only work from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, and I would get two hour (paid) lunch breaks to boot. It would be a great way to earn a lot of extra money in a short span of time, and when I found out most of my high school friends already got the job? I was all in. It would be like hanging out with my friends at work and getting paid for it!
I applied and was interviewed immediately. Within a week, I learned I had been chosen for the position, and started a week later. I thought the job was going to be one big party, but in reality? Yeah, it was pretty much one big party!
Although we stayed on task and finished our work every day, we goofed off as much as possible. On one occasion, a friend and I worked in the hardware department and had to install new shelves (which we painted in an old dog food factory a few times per week). From there, we had to organize the merchandise and apply the appropriate price tags on said shelves. We were telling jokes and working, until we found that one of the big boxes of merchandise we had to display was full of rubber mallets.
The result? We got into a huge rubber mallet fight every time we were alone in the hardware department – which was most of the day since we were stuck in the back of the tiny Walmart during a weekday afternoon. By the end of the day, we had so many bruises all over our bodies from hitting one another with the rubber mallets that my parents thought I got into a fight at work.
“No,” I replied, “we were just hitting one another with rubber mallets all day.”
After we had finished the remodel, it was time for a grand reopening of the store. A man an hour away brought a few mascot suits for some of the workers to wear during the day to interact with the customers throughout the day. One of the suits was a Keebler elf suit, and because I’m a shorter guy, I knew I had to wear it.
So I did, and I preceded to chase around children all day, kneel to one knee in the middle of the store with my arms spread and two packages of Keebler-brand cookies in my hands screaming, “who wants some of my cookies,” in a creepy, demonic voice several times per day, and generally make the entire store feel uncomfortable all day. Another friend and I, whom was in an M&M outfit, even staged a fist fight in the middle of the store’s reopening ceremony. Surprisingly, nobody was really angry.
Looking back, I was probably an annoyance to some of the adults at the store that summer – as were my other friends. But it was summer, we were young, and collectively, we wanted to make the most of the summer. It was my first real job, and oddly enough, one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.