Monday, June 26, 2006

First Jobs

I have promised Diana that I will take her to a local diner tomorrow morning. It had closed about a year ago and is now being reopened under new management. This kid is hot to have a job and money in her pocket. The other places she wanted to work filled up their summer positions before she got her applications in. She's also hindered by needing working papers since she isn't 16 yet. She wanted to know about my first job and since I was in need of a blog topic I thought I'd you about it too.

I worked at a Special Ed. camp for $60 a week when I was 14. I was sure I’d hit the jackpot. The camp needed extra hands desperately so I was a Junior counselor-in-training, fancy talk for ‘the kid who gets the dirty work.’My first day I was assigned to the group with severely/profoundly handicapped adults. Holy hannah! That was baptism by fire! Skinny, short 14 year old me was tossed into a group of people such as I have never seen before in my life. To say I was in shock would be a huge understatement. I was not repulsed I was just entirely clueless. I had NO IDEA what on earth to do. These people were big, strong, and did not seem too easy to communicate with although the other counselors were calm, gentle, and seemed at ease. I tried to pay really careful attention to them and do what they did

Penny was a BIG camper. She outweighed me by about 75 lbs. She liked to give bear hugs. The group's senior counselor introduced me and Penny lunged. I wondered how I'd extricate myself from her death grip. Next was Kurt who was about a foot taller than me and had a vertical leap that Michael Jordan might have envied. He was Tigger in human form. He came screaming at me and as I ducked I wasn't sure if he was going over or around me. In the middle of the day, a young man who was microcephalic but from the moderately handicapped group came over and said, ‘You’re new. But I like you.’ I’d never seen someone with such a tiny head, but darn if I didn’t need to hear that and he had such a sunny smile.

At the end of the day I was asked if I planned to come back the next day. I said, 'Of course. I was hired to do a job. Unless you're telling me I'm fired because I don't know what the heck I'm doing.' They laughed and said they thought I did just fine. Phew! Heavy sigh of relief. They also told me I'd be with a different group the next day. 'Oh, heavens, what next?' I thought.

The next day I was assigned to the wheelchair group. This was a group of about 5 kids ages 8-12 who were in wheelchairs for various reasons. They all had some degree of retardation as well. I was relieved not to be dodging huge people who couldn't talk. Penny saw me coming in that day though and she remembered me. She made a beeline for her hug though. After about 20 hugs from her the day before I had learned how to do a Penny hug without getting crushed. She looked for me every day. How the heck could I say no to her happy face?

Anyway, back in the wheelchair group I learned basic wheelchair manuevers and safety procedures. Did I mention this camp was built on the side of a hill that went straight up? Did I also mention there was nary a paved path anywhere on camp grounds? We pushed and pulled kids up and down a rocky hill more times a day than I can remember. Campers were tied into their chairs. Brakes were always locked. Counselors always had the chair facing uphill.

One day, I mindlessly broke the facing uphill rule. I was, afterall only standing there to talk to someone. Jimmy's wheelchair got away from me when he wriggled too much. The chair, with Jimmy in it, bounced and rolled all the way down the hill before coming to rest upside down with Jimmy trapped underneath! I had taken off after Jimmy when he started to fly. I was sure when he landed he must be dead. 'Dear God, I killed this kid!' When I got to the bottom of the hill it was one of those adrenaline moments where mothers lift cars off kids. Skinny little me grabbed the whole chair with Jimmy still tied in, lifted and flipped him upright in one motion. I started checking him in a panic at which point Jimmy started to laugh hysterically and he finally spoke......'Do again!' Once the camp nurse determined Jimmy had sustained no injuries worse than a couple scrapes the incident became the talk of camp...for the next 3 summers.

I really fell in love with all the campers there, including the ones in the first group on my first day. But my favorites were the wheelchair group. Most of the kids had moderate to severe forms of Cerebral Palsy. Few of them were able to speak but spend just a little time with them and their personalities came shining through. Communication could be challenging but again, with a little time and ingenuity things became clear. Any new skill learned or discovery made was a cause for happiness.

I worked there for 3 summers, made good friends, learned a lot of lessons, and grew up a lot. I've got lots more stories too but I won't bore you now. I wonder what Diana will take from her first job. Wish her luck! And while you're at it, tell me about your first job.


MyUtopia said...

My first job was to be a Nanny over the summer. Five days a week from 7-9 I took care of two of my favorite boys. I did this when I was sixteen. It was a great way to teach me that being a mom at sixteen would totally suck : ) My first "real" job was a coffee girl/hostest/cashire at a buffet restuarant. It killed me for buffets for years. My doctor asked me to quit my job because it was killing my back. I went on to be a tollgater for a metropark after that.

Phain said...

My first job was "counter clerk" at a dry cleaners. I had no idea how horribly exhausting that would be. The conditions were not that great either. The equipment was hot and smelly. I once walked too close to a steam pipe and burned my leg (2nd deg) - that sucked. But it definately taught me about hard work and taking care in the things that I do.

barefoot_mistress said...

LOL "Do again!!!!!"

Wonderful story first job was at a Greek hamburger stand...Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, pepsi, coke! pepsi!
Most exciting thing that happened there was being robbed at gunpoint at the cash register.....
That, and Tom, the 16 year old Greek cook.....yum!!!!!!

The Village Idiot said...

my first real job was as dishwasher at Lord Charlies, an english themed restaurant/pub. Ahh the fond memories of making Yorkshire Pudding bombs....

Solitaire said...

LOL! I worked with Special Ed students at an Elementary School for 5 years, your stories make me laugh and fondly remember my stories of my beloved students. You truly have a good heart!

my first official job was as an umpire for the Boys Baseball league here in town. I was the only girl and I was tougher than most of my male co-workers. LOL! All the team mom's loved me though because they saw me as a token to break the mold and inspire their daughters sitting outside the dug-out. :-)

Happy Monday!

lecram sinun said...

Loved that , Lime. The fact that you took that job at a tender age (instead of opting for the usual teen trouble) says loads for you. :)

shutterbugger said...

I loved this post, Lime. My son is Autistic and my SIL is downs. I have worked for years with special ed fundraisers, and my favorite part is always when I get to do stuff WITH them.

Melody said...

My first job was baby sitting for 3 kids, ages 5, 7 and 10...they were monsters. I worked 30 hours a week and made $30...I was also responsible for laundry and some cooking. After that, it took me a long time before I could stand kids Then I got a REAL job...Dairy Bar...$2.10 an hour..I was rolling in the dought..haha

Yasser Rahman said...

My first job was washing my dad's car.. 200 bucks ( 4 USD ) per wash... never worked under anyone after that..wonder if I should have! And wish D best of luck with findng that job :)

Cootera said...

Great story, Lime! And good luck to Diana. I hope her first job is something she likes.

My first job was the best ever. I worked at our town's public library after school three nights a week. As a staunch bibliophile, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven to get PAID for being around books!

Logophile said...

Other than the babysitting, paper route, lawn mowing variety, my first job was a two week stint as a page for the Washington State Senate.
I set off the elevator alarm on accident, ran into (yes, literally) the Lt Governor and managed to trip and nearly fall on the floor of the senate during a session. It was a great time!

snavy said...

My first job was as a babysitter, of course. Then, I answered phones at the dance studio I now teach at to help pay for my umpteen lessons per week. Then, I worked at my uncle's deli. Which led up to my first official paycheck job - working papers in hand - at Mcdonald's!!! Would you like fries with that shake???

M said...

More stories, please! I would love to hear your stories from working at the Special Ed camp.

My first job was working at a book store.

I did volunteer work in high school with the physically challenged in wheelchairs as well as with autistic and sight impaired kids.
One of my all time favorite days ever was being the arms and legs for a guy in a wheelchair on a picnic outing. It is so simple and so satisfying to just be there for someone as a companion and a caretaker.

PS I didn't send anyone flying down a hill, but that takes a special talent. Ahem.

Alistair! said...

Nice stories and good luck to Diana.

Apart from the paper route I had when I was 11, my first job was flipping burgers at a motorway service station cum resaurant shop complex. Biy was it fun when 6 coachloads of drunken football(soccer) fans all stopped by, bursting for the loo and all of them wanting burger, chips and coke.

Moosekahl said...

I knew you were an amazing person...that has to be part of the 'why'.

My first job was for a local couple that owned a Charlois cattle company. He managed the stock and she had her own publishing company that produced livestock sale catalogs for their own company as well as many other cattle companys across the country. I got to do the mock-ups and enter bull statistics, like scrotum size and viability numbers on their sperm counts. Cool, uh? I also babysit the kids too which was wonderful. Funny sister now works for them still. They are a wonderful family.

Mark Leslie said...

Wow, what a wonderful first job. I hope that Diana's is as satisfying as yours was. Thanks for sharing.

(rather than share my own tale here, I'll likely steal your "first job" idea onto my own blog in a future know, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that)

steve said...

Wow that a great story!
My first job was mowing yards with my grandfather. I tell you I always had cash with me and loved it!

Laurie said...

You must have been a special kid to have taken a job like that at 14.. not many could handle that kind of work as adults, much less at that young age. Good for you :-)

My first job was at a pizza place.. nothing exciting or interesting!

Anonymous said...

What a great story lime and the wheelchair part had me laughing pretty hard.

Good luck to your daughter on her first job.:)


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