I was fifteen years old the first time I heard my parents speak those prophetic words—and just to drive home their point, they spoke them when I went to work for Billy's Roasted Chicken.
Now I'm no stranger to manual labor and I applaud anyone who's doing honest work. But Billy's was just a mean little place. Like something out of Les Miserables.
Gravelly-voiced patrons bossed you around because they could. Occasionally one of them would threaten you physically. Eew.
Meanwhile management talked behind your back and routinely kept their mostly teenage crew working long past closing, without gratitude or pay.
Turns out that's illegal.But as a spindly-armed wide-eyed teenager, how was I to know? So each night while the speakers blared Joan Jett and Blondie, my co-workers and I dutifully washed the dishes, wiped down tables, emptied the garbage, cleaned the toilets, mopped the floor, and dusted the corner clock. Never forget to dust the corner clock.
3 Life Lessons from the Now-Defunct Billy's Roasted Chicken
If you've ever worked a job that was less than humane, I dedicate this Pep Talk and these life lessons to you.
1. Don't confuse a place you like to eat with a place you want to work.
Billy's had good (greasy) food, I'll grant you that. But there's a world of difference between wanting to dine somewhere and wanting to put on an orange smock and get yelled at.
2. Don't let anyone yell at you.
Feedback is necessary. Sometimes it hurts. But no one should put up with physical threats from customers or tirades from the boss. Make sure your high school and college-age offspring understand this.
3. As much as possible, let your kids fight their own battles.
My father used to hate it when he'd come pick me up at 9pm and I was nowhere near ready. He would get out of the car, peer into the front window, then tap-tap-tap repeatedly until someone paid attention. Teenage daughters love that.
My parents knew this not-getting-paid business was not okay. They knew it wasn't cool when the boss-lady trash-talked me to my best friend. "Tell Gina she's slowly moving out of my heart." What was I doing in it?
Susie and I would later laugh and shake our heads at this. But at the time, the whole incident made me bawl my teenage eyes out.
My parents gave love and support, but they didn't fight these battles for me. At no time did I wish they had—but it's taken me a lifetime to appreciate that they did not. "Every job has something to teach you."
Then came the Saturday morning when, with my parents' blessing, I looked that boss-lady owner in the eye and gave my notice. She took it fine. But later during my shift when I went to check the next week's schedule, I wasn't on it!
For a split second, my heart sank. Then just like that, I was more than okay. I walked out those doors at the end of my shift, free for the afternoon, free for the evening, free in a way I had never been before.
Now It's Your Turn
What have you learned from your less-than-ideal jobs? How have they made you tougher? Wiser? More determined? More compassionate? I invite you to share your experiences on Facebook.