2017 is finally here! As I continue to explore the next steps in my new career path, I find myself reflecting on “the good ol’ days”.
Think back to your first job. Can you recall the people, the sounds, the lighting, and the smells? Did you just smile, chuckle, roll your eyes or cringe? I LOVED my first job! It brings back memories of smiles, laughter and a few “what was I thinking” moments.
When I applied to Foster Freeze, I was only 15 but my birthday was right around the corner. I lied about my age and figured that by the time the interviews, paperwork, hiring and training took place, I would be 16. If you were born after ‘82 and don’t know what Foster Freeze was, it was a popular ice cream and burger place. Think about the diner Sandy and Danny went to in Grease and then remove the pristine decorations, large booths, jukebox and bright lights. If the Grease reference evades you, stop reading this and go watch Grease before continuing. I was interviewed by the owner, a tall, kind, grandfatherly type with salt-and-pepper hair, Sam. He loved me! What older man wouldn’t love a 16 year old girl who wants to work, is responsible, on time, and takes extra shifts? He had no idea I was focused on getting out of the house by whatever means necessary.
Within 6 months of being hired, I earned my first promotion along with the keys to the restaurant. I felt amazing! I was finally making my own money, driving my own car to a job where I was in charge and best of all, when I worked, I was out of the house. Because I got a discount on food, I would trade food with my friends up the street who worked at Pioneer Chicken but I would never trade my most cherished perk: the FREE pint of ice cream with every shift. This was not just any ice cream though. This was a full pint of smooth and creamy, rich, soft-serve, vanilla ice cream with peaches in syrup topping it off. I am getting dizzy with happiness just thinking about it! Yes, I ate a pint of Heaven every night. If I did that today, I would be rolling around rather than walking but my 16 year old body could handle it without hesitation or recourse.
It wasn’t just the discounted food or free ice cream I took from that job though. Foster Freeze gave me ownership, pride, and a sense of purpose. It gave me the ability to build friendships with the junior high and high school friends that I still love and cherish today. Because of Foster Freeze, I found out that vodka tastes good in a slushy. It was there where I first started to hone the multi-tasking skills that would take me so far in life. I ran everything from ice cream orders to burgers, fries, nachos, tacos, you name it. Thanks to Foster Freeze, I learned what it meant to have a strong work ethic at 16.
In addition to the learned responsibilities, Foster Freeze opened my eyes to quite a few things including alcohol, fashion and “whip its”. Sam forgot a lot because, in hindsight, he probably drank too much. He would sit in the back, watching a little black and white TV, while drinking 1 or 2 six-packs of beer a night. And the uniforms were a fashion faux-pas of the highest echelon! Who would choose white pants as part of a fast food uniform? Not only were they completely impractical (imagine trying to keep white pants presentable as you clean grease traps for the fried food) but they made my ass look huge. I was introduced to “whip its” here by my older teenage co-workers. I didn’t join in the “fun” but instead watched in awe of their ability to be carefree and reckless in their search of a 20 second high. Unfortunately, I also got to deal with the owner yelling at everyone because the new shipment of whip cream was completely ruined as a result of their reckless abandonment. I learned how to mop, sing, and dance all at the same time. Trying to slide across a plain cement floor while delivering the lip synching performance of my life to the latest Jody Watley or George Michael song is something I will never forget. At the end of the day though, it’s always the creamy, rich taste of soft-serve vanilla topped with syrup soaked peaches that will take me back to the days of my first job at Foster Freeze.
I wonder what my daughter’s first job will be. We all want the best for our children and work diligently to provide them with everything we didn’t have whether it’s through materials or opportunities. But sometimes, I think giving them what we did have is better than providing them with everything we didn’t. Encouraging her to get a job where she can find that sense of independence and experience the feeling of accomplishment that comes from hard work is probably one of the best life lessons I can give her. Hopefully she won’t do “whip its” with her co-workers and will build character and good decision making skills but I will have to wait a few more years to see. Since I have some time to kill while waiting for that day, I guess I will get off my soap box, raise a bowl of ice cream to Foster Freeze and return to finding my next job.