Thursday, June 25, 2009

Musical memories - Work Sucks, I Know

I'm not a fan of Blink 182, I'm not. But this song really, really reminds me of my first job at Arby's. It was a month before my 17th birthday when I'd applied. I'd already dropped out of high school, got my GED and was taking classes at my local community college. I figured I'd need to get a job so I could support my book-buying addiction and to get out of the house.

When I first started looking, I applied at over 20 places, mostly at fast food places and some grocery stores. I only got called in for two interviews. One for Fred Meyer which I didn't get because they didn't think I could push heavy trolleys (which was probably true) and one for Arby's.

The manager at Arby's wasn't happy with me right from the start. It was his fault, but we still ended up disliking each other right from the very beginning. He was under some impression that he HAD to hire me but I would have understood if he'd sent me away. He didn't look at my application too closely. He saw the community college classes and assumed I was 18 and he really needed someone to work the meat slicer. So I was hired on a part-time basis, usually between 5-9 to help close the place down on the weekdays and longer shifts on the weekends when I didn't have any classes.

It was my first job, I was nervous. In many ways I didn't really know how to act around other people. How to act at work. Mostly I just kept to myself and got on with it, hardly spoke to the other people I worked with. But I got over that, and in the end, I loved it there. Even though I ended up going home smelling of grease. That I had to throw away all the clothes I wore there because I couldn't get the grease out. Even though one of my main responsibilities was to keep the bathrooms clean. Even though somedays, I'd scoop so many portions of curly fries that I felt like given myself RSI. Even though I had to wore a stupid baseball hat and a grungy green shirt and serve some of my old high school classmates. Even then.

I loved how everyone who worked there joked around with each other, asked really personal questions. One of the guys let me borrow from his movie collection, another girl and I ended up taking the same course at the community college. People there teased me about not being able to drive, about my religious choice of the moment (I might tell you about some other time). We all shared this common dislike for the manager. Everyone there became my friend and I couldn't wait to go to work and talk about books and movies and what we'd seen on TV and what was happening at one of the other girls' other job. We talked about who was sleeping with who and who was having an affair and I think there was some drug-dealing going on in the parking lot, but everyone kept me out of that. It was kind of like access to my own soap opera, so when, just as I'd given my two week notice, my ex-boyfriend started working there, I wasn't too surprised. When I left, one of the girls wrote me letters filling me in on all the gossip and that made me really happy.

One of the best things about the place, was that we were allowed to play whatever we wanted on the radio. We took turns picking what station to play. When 'All The Small Things' was released, it was on all the time. Everytime the song got to 'Work sucks, I know' everyone at Arby's joined in, even though work really didn't suck that much. For me anyway. And right to the very end, the manager didn't like me. Mostly because I gave my two week's notice the week before my 18th birthday and was never legally allowed to use that damn meat slicer. As first jobs go, it was all right.

What was your first job? Do you look back on it fondly?


  1. Great story! My first job was in fast food too, Checkers. (I don't know if you had them, it's a burger joint.) And it was great as far as first jobs go, a lot like your experience, we were all friends, we all hung out, and there was always some sort of "scandal" going on. always very entertaining though! i always pass it and think about it and i am pretty sure i can still make and wrap a champ burger in less than 30 seconds.

  2. My first job was as a waitress in an American Diner called City Limits. I stayed there from the age of 16 right through to 21, when I finished my degree. That restaurant was like my second home, I used to spend all my free time up there when not at college or actually working. I still reckon it was the best job I ever had.

  3. Ah, yes I remember the Arby's days. Mike, the guy I moved to Arkansas with started working there, but I think it was right after you left..

    My first job was at Factory-2-U in Springfield. The store wasn't open yet when I hired on. All the employees had to help set up the store. Display shelves, clothing racks, and then put everything on said shelves and racks. Once we opened they had me on register or wondering about the store doing random things.. Then I quite and moved to Texas..


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