My first job
I got my first job during football season of my junior year in high school in 1984. The reason I decided to look for a job was for the simplest and most obvious of reasons, I needed spending money. One afternoon after football practice Joe Miller and I went to that restaurant at the intersection north of Cedar, MI. It’s now a family style restaurant where you can get a pretty good breakfast. At least it was this last winter. I hope it’s still in business. In the fall of 1984 it was a restaurant that I never went to other than to use its game room. I remember playing the Red Baron arcade game. I remember thinking those vector graphics were the fershizzle. On this afternoon all my friends were pouring quarters into arcade games. This was one of the first times I had been out with the guys in a social situation and I didn’t have a dime on me. I had to stand there like a schmuck and watch everyone else play these games. It really ate at me. That night when I got home I complained to my Mom about not having any spending money. I think she essentially said, “Get a job.” Mom was always practical.
Where to get a job in rural Northern Michigan? Here’s an aerial shot of my neighborhood. We were located 1.6 miles from the middle of Maple City and 3.2 miles from Cedar. I just really had no idea where to even begin looking for a job. I didn’t know how the real world worked. Which, frankly, has been a problem with me for my whole life. My head is usually in the clouds. The closest I’d come to having a real job was tarp pulling in a cherry orchard that summer with Kevin, Tom and Pat. Tarp pulling is whole story itself. I do remember they paid us around $5 an hour to pull that tarp. That was good money when you’re 16 in 1984 when minimum wage was $3.80 an hour. The summer before that I picked strawberries for a day in a field south of Cedar. My output was so bad they asked me not to come back. I had no problem honoring that request. At some point Kevin Draper had attempted to get me hired as his replacement at the grocery store in Maple City. They let me work for free for a day and told me not to come back. I don’t know if it was called Gabe’s back then. If it’s still owned by the same people they still owe me $50 bucks if you adjust for inflation. Really, who takes advantage of a kid like that? Go ahead and let him think he’s training for a job and when he’s done tell him not to come back and not even pay him for the work? So it goes.
Like my first step into library work back in 1993 the impetus for finally applying for a job at the local ski resort, Sugar Loaf, was my Mother’s idea. I don’t remember too many details of the process. I do remember putting on my best clothes and going to the interview and feeling really grown up. I also remember fretting afterwards for a day or so, wondering whether would get a job. Mom gave me another suggestion. She said that employers appreciated applicants that called them back after a couple of days. She claimed it showed them that you really wanted to work. The next day I followed her suggestion and I was offered a job in the housekeeping department as a houseman.
The position of houseman was not a bad gig at Sugar Loaf. You spent a lot of your time picking up and delivering sheets, towels and washcloths to the maids. When you worked evenings you first emptied the trashcans in the administrative offices and spent the rest of the evening mostly roamed the building picking trash up off the floor, delivering rollaways and extra towels to guests in their rooms, helping the maintenance guy carry stuff or hold the flashlight while he worked and cleaning up the occasional spill. Once I had to clean up vomit. Once in three years isn’t bad. Essentially, if something needed moved or lifted and it was pretty heavy they called one of the three houseman.
I spent a lot of time working the night shift in the winter. I played football in the fall and baseball in the spring and for a couple of winters I spent my time after school roaming the lodge at Sugar Loaf and doing whatever needed to be done. When there was nothing pending I would just mosey. I’d visit the game room in the ski lounge and then do my rounds and come back to the lounge. There were always guys from school hanging out. I remember Anthony Hayes, Scott Scanlon and Alan Popa killing a lot of time at Sugar Loaf. I think it was Anthony who figured out if you kicked the Dig Dug machine just right with your ski boot you could get a free credit for each kick. Alan spent a lot of time playing Dig Dug. Dennis Fleis would be there also, spending hours playing Donkey Kong. He had mad Donkey King skills.
Except for the working at The Cove restaurant during the summer between my junior and senior years I kept that job until I left for bootcamp in August of 1986. Working at The Cove is a whole ‘nother story.