Summer’s officially here, and students everywhere are out getting their feet wet in the job pool, earning valuable job experience—or at least a few good stories they can tell their grandkids one day. This week at Chicks on the Case, we’re reminiscing about our early employment, from first jobs to summer internships.
I spent the summers before freshman, sophomore, and junior year in college working as a drama counselor at Scarsdale Day Camp. Yep, you heard that right. Scarsdale, N.Y., of uber-upscale infamy, had a cheapo day camp that operated out of the town junior high school. (That’s what they called it in those days. Not the wussified “middle school.”) I was always amused by the massive number of campers we’d pull in. The locals, who dropped off their spawn in Mercedes and Caddies, liked a bargain.
Because I was hanging out with counselors who were already in college and liked to convene in the evenings at Danny’s Bar and Grill, I had a fake ID by the time I was seventeen. Completely unrelated to this was the fact that I got pulled over for speeding for the very first time during one of those summers. I dodged the ticket by showing the officer I’d raced home to retrieve a chicken costume that a four year-old desperately needed for the camp play. I sealed the deal by holding up the paper mache chicken head from the costume. The tears I made myself shed also helped. Remember, I was a drama counselor. Emphasis on the “drama.”
My first summer job was actually an internship. The summer after my sophomore year of college, I interned at Black Enterprise magazine. At the time I just knew I was the most grown person ever. I had to dress up in business suits (Spoiler alert: this was the last time I’ve worn a suit) and I’d take the New Jersey Transit train every day from New Jersey into Manhattan. I even had to take the subway!! I not only did this, but got into work on time! Each and every day. I also got to interview people. I sound young now at 37, so I know these poor business experts thought I sounded like a fetus back then. I also remember having to miss work one day for a pre-planned family vacation and being devastated. I just knew that Black Enterprise, which had been a successful publication for decades at that point without my assistance, just needed me. And I didn’t want to let them down. Now I know that when the intern isn’t there, people barely even notice. Aww, to be young again…
I’m embarrassed to say that my mom got me my first summer job, the minute I turned 16. In my town, all the college kids had dibs on the available crummy jobs, so my friends and I usually hit the beach in the summers. (I know. Different era, sigh.) But not that summer, because Mom secretly talked a local boutique owner into hiring me to help her out at the town’s annual sidewalk sale. It turned into a permanent gig, and I showed up on my first day of work at the fancy boutique wearing my best dress-up uniform: a checked Levi’s shirt with snaps, a painter’s pant skirt, and Dr. Scholl’s sandals. The owner scolded me for not being “high fashion,” and my whole future salary went to buying horrible, matronly outfits at discount from her store. Oh, and she caught me being honest when a customer asked me to help her choose between two dresses. Revenge: I’ve written my first boss into my upcoming book FASHIONABLY LATE.
Oh, how I miss summer jobs! There was almost zero pressure, lots of goofing off, employee discounts when I was lucky, and a paycheck every couple of weeks that far exceeded my meager allowance. Not that I ever had a super-fun job, but hey, you create your own fun, right? So I can truly say that I enjoyed the summer I worked as a hostess at a German restaurant and learned to drink coffee, as well as the summer I worked at a frozen yogurt shop and ate so much I couldn’t stand to look at it for several years.
Once I hit college, I left food service behind. I spent one summer working at the library, processing new books as they came in and doing all sorts of Dewey Decimal-related tasks. And then I landed a plum gig at the LBJ Library transcribing oral histories. Lady Bird Johnson had an office on the same floor I worked on, and when my aunt and uncle came to visit, they bumped into her on an elevator and told her they used to have a mule named LBJ. She was exceedingly gracious about that bit of information, as one would expect from a First Lady, and luckily she got off the elevator before they could tell her they were related to me.
Readers: We told you ours, now you tell us yours! First summer job? Favorite summer job? Worst summer job? We’re all ears.
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