My Spectacular Odd Job: Working for the Local A&W

My very first job was working for the local A&W restaurant in my small hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia. I remember how excited I was telling my parents that I would be working five days a week in the kitchen of this popular eatery.

On my very first day of work I managed to break three A&W mugs and spilled a pail of sliced pickles all over the kitchen floor. I felt like an awkward, gangly fool -- a feeling that wasn't made any better when my manager, in the hopes of keeping me from causing another disaster, assigned me the task of chopping onions.

For weeks that was all I was required to do. I sliced them, diced them, cried over them, and basically drenched myself in bitter onion juice. For weeks the scent of Vidalia onions seeped from my pores and followed me like a noxious perfume, but I didn't care. I was working and more importantly I was making money.

My very first pay check was for $276.42, which at the time seemed like a million bucks. Without a moment's hesitation or thought of saving my hard earned salary, I withdrew all of it except for the forty-two cents and headed to the local teenage hangout -- the mall. In less than 30 minutes I was broke.

For some reason I felt the need to blow every last cent on a series of gag gifts and novelty toys. By the time my shopping spree was over I had a bag full of fake dog poop, a plastic bottom you stuck a pen into, a kaleidoscope pen, pepper-flavored gum, and a table lamp that looked like a toilet.

When my parents found out what I had done they were disgusted and decided to take away my bank book until I could prove to them that I could be more responsible with my money -- a request that wasn't achieved until I was almost 18 years old.

For me that job embodies my youth. I started that job when I was in the eighth grade and worked there until my senior year in high school. I developed crushes on boys who worked alongside me. I flirted with them as we flipped hamburgers on the grill and dropped fry baskets into hot cooking oil. I actually even came to eat at the A&W on my very first date.

It was a place where I had fun, but also learned how to take direction and break a sweat. That job taught me the value of a hard day's work, and it also showed me that I wasn't above scrubbing the public restrooms or scrapping the gum off the outside walkway.

I knew that this job was a stepping stone for me. I had bigger dreams than its small orange-and-brown painted walls could hold, but I was grateful despite this realization. I knew, even as a young woman, that this job was my first taste of what it would be like to be a grown-up. And for me the taste was sweet, even if it was a little heavy on the onions.

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