Huffington Post, in addition to its usual piece, bleating that sex over age 50 is the BEST SEX EVER, has an article about post-60-year-olds’ first jobs. This got Life in The Boomer Lane to stop thinking about election results, in order to free up enough brain cells to address herself to the topic of jobs, specifically jobs she had over time. Because LBL was born into a family of diminished financial circumstances, sliding down the birth canal was the last time she had a free ride anywhere.
Aside from babysitting jobs, in which she put the baby’s diapers on over the plastic pants (that way the diapers wouldn’t get wet), her first real job occurred when she was age 14 and was hired as a junior counselor at a YWCA day camp in inner city Philadelphia. The main difference between hanging around on street corners in the inner city and being a camper at an urban day camp was that campers couldn’t play music while they loitered.
On the heels of that success, at age 15 she was hired as a junior counselor at a day camp in the suburbs. The parents of these suburban children paid to send their kids to camp. The cabins had toilets that flushed and the toilets had toilet paper. LBL, thrown into a situation that was dramatically different from any she had ever experienced, did the only thing she could: She got fired. This firing came after she and another junior counselor wrote obscenities all over the cabin walls after the kids were gone for the day, fully intending to come early the next morning to wipe everything off. Unfortunately for LBL, the next morning was Parent Visitation Day. Parents arrived extra early to see what their money had bought them and were confronted with LBL’s first piece of public writing.
Since being a camp counselor in the suburbs was no longer a possibility for employment, LBL gained summer employment at a day camp back in the inner city, where she belonged. This was a huge camp, run by the city. LBL’s job was to receive and tally the hundreds of free lunches that arrived each morning and to distribute them at lunchtime. After lunch, she did another tally and packed up all of the extra food and deposited it in a special locked facility. The job took all day. To her credit, not one 8oz carton of milk nor bologna sandwich nor banana went unaccounted for. All of the other camp staff wondered just what it was that LBL did in a locked room all day, and LBL wondered the same thing.
The next year, she became a model for an art class. To those readers who have a prurient interest in such things, LBL will dash your hopes and reveal that she was a model for a portrait class. There was no nudity involved. What was involved was sitting motionless for hours at a time, with only short breaks, while her brain did flip-flops. To this day, she has a fear of being immobilized and stared at by 20 or 30 people.
At age 17, she falsified her birth certificate so she would appear to be 18 and could work in a large, discount department store. She was placed in the lingerie section. Salespeople had to look busy all the time, so mostly, she messed up the inventory, so that she could then refold everything. She messed up more bras and panties than an entire professional sports team.
College, and her being legally 18, gave her the opportunity to have a number of jobs. Among them were working at a 15 cent hamburger take out restaurant on campus, called Wimpy’s. Wimpy’s was a forerunner of McDonald’s. It was McDonald’s, without the fun. She was told that she could eat for free. The food was so bad, that she couldn’t even take advantage of that one perk.
She sold hosiery in the basement of Wanamaker’s a large department store downtown. After Christmas, she was released from the lingerie department in order to sell Christmas cards, half price. She was never more terrified in her life, watching people fighting over boxes of cards that proclaimed “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” One woman tried to steal cards and raced to the large glass doors leading to the subway. Unfortunately, she forgot to open the door first. Her head did that for her, and her body followed.
Subsequent jobs included being a page girl at the Federal reserve Bank of Philadelphia, an assistant bookkeeper for a mayonnaise company, working at the college library, being an assistant for Head Start research, a file clerk for Amtrak in Washington, DC, and a Tupperware dealer.
Her fondest memory was of being a waitress at a restaurant on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Two of LBL’s numerous issues included an inability to carry more than one plate or one cup at a time and an inability to remember what people ordered. She made up for her failings by smiling broadly at everyone and hoping that they didn’t mind eating soup from a bowl that was placed directly onto the table, without a plate underneath, or having liquids spilled on them. On her last day, as she exited the restaurant, the owner turned to her husband and said, “That was the worst waitress I’ve ever seen.”
LBL would like to say that her years of jobs during high school and college would have prepared her for a career in both teaching and real estate. She isn’t sure that is the case, other than perhaps having chosen those professions because neither involved eating fast food nor changing their diapers. She admits, though, to a bit of discomfort when a client requests a cup of coffee or stares at her face intently, when she is explaining something.