Through high school and college I held several part-time jobs after my initial work at the local orchard. I worked in the food, retail, and childcare industries and each one was an experience unto itself. 

My first official* part-time job was as a Sandwich Artist at Subway. No really, I still have the nametag to prove that title but absolutely cannot currently find it to offer photo evidence! Working there equaled a lot of long, late hours on my feet, as I worked nights and weekends, including the supper/closing shifts on Fridays and Saturdays when we stayed open late to accommodate the bars closing and drunk people who needed food after a night out. This was circa the same time that the movie Forest Gump came out and I can’t even tell you how many drunk guys slurred at me, “Me and Jenniiiiiiii was like peeeeeeas and carrrrrrrrots” after they read my name tag. *Insert eye roll here* Downsides of this job, besides the annoying late-night customers, included always smelling terrible after a shift (not even a shower could get that food smell out of my hair) and having to do all the odds and ends in the kitchen/stock room that go into making a place like that run. It definitely wasn’t just making sandwiches! Benefits of this job included free food. Duh! Their little frozen cookie dough pucks from the freezer were the best. 

Uniform: green polo shirts (Subway logo on left upper chest) and black shorts or pants; a visor with the Subway logo on it as well. Tennis shoes (that inevitably got food and gunk spilled on them and that stuck to the floor when someone spilled a drink in the dining area). Name tag pinned to shirt (both of which I kept, with part of the shirt ending up on my high school t-shirt quilt). 

*Funny story about this: I actually got hired at Dairy Queen first, where two of my BFFs and ton of other high schoolers worked, but then she never actually called me back to start the job, so I got sick of waiting and went out and got another job instead. Any time I went in (which was a lot given that my friends worked there) and the manager was around, I got the worst side-eye because clearly she was as frustrated by me as I was by her.

Eventually I got tired of the food service work and switched over to retail, big box style at the local Kmart. Although the store was made up of a half-dozen or so different departments that all had specific employees assigned to them, I was hired as a cashier which meant I (wo)manned a register by the front doors (which to this day is still a recurring nightmare of mine). This was also a long-on-the-feet job with plenty of eight-hour shifts that meant seven solid hours of standing and scanning/bagging items and handling payments. If memory serves correctly, we didn’t even have automatic conveyor belts to move stuff closer to us, so it was a ton of awkward stretching and reaching, too. When you’re a cashier, it’s either the best of times (a nice steady flow of people pulling into your register with carts ready to check out) or the worst of times (either nothing to do, so you straighten the candy in your aisle for the 10th time that day OR you’re sweating because your row is three carts deep and you were supposed to take your lunch break 10 minutes ago). I worked this job through the end of high school which worked out well as I got to use my employee discount to buy all the crap I needed to stock up my first dorm room at college. 

Uniform: white shirt of any design (for me it was mostly just plain white tees) and khaki pants. Red Kmart vest over that with name tag pinned to it (with blue stars under your name if a customer turned in an official compliment about you to the Service Desk). The vest also had two pockets where you could keep pens, tissues, a box cutter, or whatever else you might need during your shift; most of us kept our vests in our lockers in the employee breakroom where we also clocked in/out and took our lunches. Those of us really on top of our game took off our vests while walking through the store to get to the break room in an attempt to avoid being stopped by customers with questions. Also a must? Tennis shoes, of course, because of all the standing. 

Fast forward a couple years to the summer before my Junior year at Doane, I switched to a new food establishment in town, Pizza Ranch. This time it was a merging of my two previous jobs – some food prep but mostly running the orders and registers at the front counter. We also had a drive-thru so occasionally my shifts involved wearing an uncomfortable headset that would sound the alert whenever someone had pulled in to place an order at the squawk box. There was also a panic-inducing clock that started counting anytime someone placed a drive-thru order, so whoever was in charge of that window was always hustling to beat a super slow time. Like at Subway, I worked a lot of nights and weekends, and had a lot of late closing shifts, although never late enough for the bar crowd. A free meal during a long shift was a perk, but even pizza gets old after a while, so I hit up the salad bar a lot, too. We also served friend chicken which was an interesting combination. Fun fact: a few years later Ben and I rented the Pizza Ranch party room for our wedding rehearsal dinner and made our family and wedding party dress up in western wear for the big night. I’m just never one to pass up an opportunity for a theme!

Uniform: Khaki shorts/pants and tennis shoes, along with (really ugly) brown t-shirts that maybe had a sheriff’s star or something on them? I’ve blocked them out because, again, ugly. But, also comfy, so there’s that. 

While I spent one summer living and working as a counselor at a Methodist Church camp in Northwestern Nebraska (named NORWESCA), the last job I had before switching to professional gigs, was that as substitute daycare teacher for Cedars Daycare in Lincoln, NE, the summer before grad school. This was a bonkers job because it was literally different every day and involved covering shifts at five+ daycare centers around the city, working with children ages infant through school-age, depending on what room you were assigned to for the day. I believe we were called Relief Youth Services (RYS) and while we sometimes got put in the same place back-to-back, that wasn’t often the case. This made it hard to get to know the kids or establish a rapport with them, not to mention the other teachers we’d be working with each day. Looking back, I can’t believe I ever even did this job because it was so far out of my comfort zone (I was also scared of babies at the time and knew next to nothing about toddlers, either, so that was, um, fun).  But somehow I navigated the all-overness of it and made enough money to pay rent and such for my apartment prior to grad school starting. I only did this job one summer and I still think it’s remarkable that I went on to have children of my own after this experience!

Uniform: Whatever I wanted so long as it was appropriate and I didn’t mind it getting covered in food or kid grime. Lanyard with my photo/name on it so people would know who the heck I was/that I was allowed to be there. 

Can’t say I have a favorite out of this bunch, but I definitely have a LOT of stories from each place I worked in my teens and early 20s! 

*Post 46/52


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