Saturday, August 20, 2016

My First Seven Jobs

Remember a couple of months ago when this social media meme started going around where people were listing their first seven jobs? Yeah...me neither. That's not entirely true. I do remember seeing a few of them, but I didn't give it much thought...like those insipid things that pop up that say...If you love your sister, cut and paste this onto your wall. If you don't a hundred people in Kenya will die. Well, this morning, out of nowhere some woman on my Twitter feed yelled at the world..."Stop posting your first seven jobs! It just serves to illustrate your privilege!!"

Ok, this is where the social justice warriors lose me. What in the Sam Hill is she talking about? Is employment a privilege? Is the fact that someone may have actually had seven jobs evidence of their whiteness? Would she rather we were all on the public dole? Well, because it so upsets social justice warriors...I think it's time that I published my first seven jobs.

1. 1973. Age 15. I got my first summer job working for A.A. Walsh, a residential construction company which built single family homes in Hanover County. My job was to pick up trash on the job site and carry armfuls of lumber to the carpenters. I made the minimum wage of 1973...$1.60 an hour. The first paycheck I ever earned in my life was like $58. I felt like Thurston Howell III.

2. 1974. Age 16. With the help of my brother-in-law Bill Schwartz, (family privilege), I got a summer job with the State Fair of Virginia. Amoung other things, my job was to clean out horse stalls. Since the removal of dump truck loads of horse crap by the shovelfull was a more refined skill, my pay jumped to $2.75 an hour. I was well on my way to being part of the oppressor class!

3. 1975. Age 17. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the company, but I worked the summer as a construction laborer building the Southern States store on Broad Street just down from Parham Road. That was the summer where we had like five days in a row of temperatures above 100 degrees. Two of my buddies passed out from the heat while digging a footer. Good times.

4. 1976 Age 18. I got my first post-high school job as a warehouseman at Lowe's hardware on Broad Street, downtown Richmond. I worked every overtime hour they would give me and saved every dime so I could finance a cross country back-packing trip with my best friend, Al Thomason. I can't remember what the pay was...probably $3.00 an hour...$4.50 for overtime.

5. 1977-1981. All of my college years were made possible by the job I got with a material handling company at the Hanover Industrial Airpark called Trefz and Steenburgh. I worked 30 hours a week in the warehouse, mostly building wooden pallets and installing shelving and pallet racks. I started at the minimum wage and by the time I graduated, they were paying me a salary of $18,000 to be a territory salesman for them. Couldn't have made it through University of Richmond without that job. After graduating from college I learned my first lesson in the downside risks inherent in capitalism. T&S declared bankruptcy, leaving me jobless and out $5000 in unpaid commission that I never recovered.

6. 1981- 2000. I went to work for Life of Virginia in life insurance sales. I took a cut in pay to $16,000, and only took the job in desperation after the humiliation of having to collect my first and last unemployment check of $358. I figured I would work for Life of Virginia while I looked for something else. To my astonishment, I found that I actually liked the work, despite the fact that after three years, my $16000 salary went away and I was totally on my own. Don't produce? Don't eat.

7. 2001- present. Got tired of working for someone else. I determined to work for myself and see if I could make it on my own. Most terrifying decision I've ever made...but one of the best, although honestly, my boss can sometimes be a real jerk. How much do I make now? None of your business.

So, it turns out that I've had exactly seven jobs. How about that? Was I privileged to have those seven jobs? You bet I was. Any job is a privilege. Did the fact that I got those jobs as opposed to some equally deserving minority mean that I should feel guilty about my life's work? You're kidding me, right? My job history is certainly nothing to shout from the rooftops...kinda hard to feel superior to anybody while shoveling horse manure in 95 degree heat...but neither is it something to be ashamed of.