My first job was babysitting. I distinctly remember going to one of my first babysitter jobs. I had to be about 13 years old, and it was for a newborn baby who slept the whole time. I basically watched TV the whole time. She wrote me a check and drove me home.When I got home and looked at the check, I realized it was for $20.00, which was much more than I had thought the job paid! My mom said it was fine to keep it but called the parents to be sure they meant to pay that much, and sure enough, she was so grateful for a night out she felt super generous in that check-writing moment.
Field worker 🌽
My second job was corn detasseling, walking corn rows and pulling tassels off corn stalks. I grew up in northern Indiana, and they paid kids as young as 14 to walk the corn rows and remove the tassel at the top of certain rows so that the hybridization would be completed for the type of hybrid corn they want to grow in that field. It was hot, dirty, and way more boys than girls would do this job. It paid well, I wanted to quit after a week, and I rode with a neighbor who was 16 at dawn-thirty every morning, taking a bus after that to the corn fields, packing a lunch each day.
Retail clerk 👟
My third job was selling sporting goods in a retail sports store, locally owned, as a retail sales clerk. I stocked shelves and racks, got shoes for people based on size, laced the shoes, and answered questions. I was their night shift, closer, and I was nearly fired after my first three nights because the cash register count kept coming up about $15 short. The day shift person was expressing growing concern as she came in to an inaccurate value each morning, so the owner came in at 9:00 one night to watch me count the cash drawer at the end of the night. He immediately asked my why I didn’t count the rolled coins. I had no idea I was supposed to! The confusion was resolved and I got to keep the job.
Parts inspector 🔎
My fourth job was inspecting manufactured rubber parts in a local factory, on the night shift during the summer in high school. We worked from night until dawn, hand-inspecting rubber o-rings and specially-made parts to make sure they did not have holes, tears, or other defects. It was smelly, (hot rubber manufacturing smell) dirty, (imagine black rubber dust under your fingernails and in your skin) hot, (though not as hot as the day shift), and loud. During the school year, one of our co-workers drove an elementary school bus after getting done with her night shift. She was famous for once saving the lives of a family when their house was burning and she noticed it from her bus-driver seat, ran into the house, woke them up, and got them to safety.
Library worker 📚
My fifth job was after starting college, checking out and shelving books at the university library. I wanted to focus on school and not work in college, but learned on a call with my Dad late one night the first week of school that I would have to work to cover costs or come home. I was lucky to land one of the work/study jobs as a desk clerk and book shelver in the four-story library on campus. I could walk to work, I could read and study when it was not busy, and I helped shut down the entire library at night. I remember turning out all the lights on the basement floor, then walking through the pitch black to the elevator, finding the button on the wall, and waiting in complete darkness for the narrow crack of light to appear to take me out of pure darkness. Once someone called in to the library to ask if she could retrieve a $100 bill she left on one of our copiers. Asking her to hold, I went downstairs, opened the lid of the copy machine, and sure enough, there was a $100 US dollar bill. I picked it up, picked up the phone, and told her she could come in to get it. That was one relieved voice on the other end of the line.
Chemistry lab worker (internship) 🍼
My sixth job was inspecting baby formula and drink supplement ingredients as an internship in a chemistry lab. This was another shift job, this time on the second shift from 2:00 in the afternoon until 10 pm. I drove across the Michigan/Indiana state line for this job. I had to wear steel-toed shoes and a lab coat. I remember using my thumb to pipette some liquid, where you have to release some air to get the liquid to the right level for a precise measurement. When my trainer saw me, he immediately re-trained me, showing how to hold a pipette properly using an index finger for more control and finesse.
Word processor (assistantship) 📏
My seventh job was assembling, word-processing and testing science education materials (such as Chemistry with TOYS, Physics with TOYS) as a graduate student. I also made copies, worked on NSF proposals, and assembled small science kits as giveaways at science educator conventions. One task was to staple more than 400 small cellophane fish to quarter-page instructions on teaching physical science with the small fish. After completing those and boxing them up neatly, I traveled to a science convention, met my boss there, who asked where the 400 fish kits were. They were still on my desk! I hadn’t realized that the assembly of the kits was FOR the conference I was attending. They had to call and have the fish boxed and shipped. I still think of that incident when I don’t have the big picture for a smaller task. Did not get fired then either, thankfully.