Richard Weirich

Lessons Learned from Your First Job

Do you remember your first job?  Do you recall what you learned from that gig?

My first employment opportunity, other than mowing my neighbors grass, came when I was sixteen at the Virginia Restaurant in Strasburg, Virginia.  Not certain that there was a job title assigned to my position but I’ll just call it “Gross Removal Specialist,” or GRS.

Virginia Restaurant
Virginia Restaurant

As Gross Removal Specialist it was my responsibility to empty and clean the grill grease buckets and carry out the garbage and trash.  That was in the days when people still smoked in restaurants and their empty plates became ash trays.  Nothing like an extinguished cigarette in a pile of ketchup and French fries.  It took me several weeks on the job before I could perform my tasks without gagging.

More troubling was the reaction I received from many of the customers.  The Virginia Restaurant was the primary hangout for teenagers in my hometown and among them, some of my friends, who thought it was a riot seeing me in my apron cleaning up their garbage.

I also discovered that other employees like to criticize your work.  “The other boy that used to do this didn’t do it that way.”  “You missed a spot.”  “Are you always that slow?”

It wasn’t exactly full-time employment but it was steady work  requiring at least a two hour effort, seven days a week for a dollar a day.  Yep, seven big bucks a week.  Now that was in 1965 when you could still buy a Coke for a dime or a long Coke for a nickel.   “What’s a long Coke?” you ask.  It was mixed at the soda fountain.  Less syrup, more carbonated water.

Did I like the job?  Nope.  Hated it.  But I did like the proud moment every week when my boss, Buggy, handed me my $7.  Yes, his name was Buggy and the cook’s name was Pearlie.  They were brothers.

What did I learn?  Jobs are not always pleasant or enjoyable. Sometimes they are demeaning and your co-workers can be critical and unkind.  And there will be times when the best thing about your job is…getting a paycheck.

Jump ahead 40 years.  There is no such thing as the perfect job where everything is just the way you like it.  That’s true no matter the level you attain on the success ladder.

The key to surviving in an unpleasant work environment or, for that matter, any unpleasant situation in life…is an attitude of gratitude.  Put another way, be thankful for what you’ve got and go with what God gives you.  Make the best of every moment while striving for something better IN THE VALLEY OF HOPE.

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