Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Work For Food

I have worked an assortment of jobs since I was sixteen years old. My first job was in southern restaurant chain as a busser/stocker. It wasn’t a particularly difficult job, only tedious; marrying bottles of ketchup, cleaning up after people who must have had holes in their mouths, and mopping the bathroom floor.

Like most other teens, I wanted to work to buy stuff. My first big ticket item was a pair of designer jeans, a purchase someone complained about to no end. Why did I need a pair of sixty-dollar jeans? What was wrong with less expensive clothes? Why are you trying to show off?

I moved up in the world with a job at a summer amusement park working in various food courts or restaurants. I’d leave that place smelling like all things unnatural, but here again, it was for a purpose. Amusement parks aren’t as amusing when you work behind the scenes and know how the machine operates.

I don’t remember when I decided that menial labor wasn’t for me, or that I didn’t like working for anyone else, or if I just wanted a more appealing job.

My next foray as a young working stiff was a job at McDonald’s, which didn’t last long. Learning that cash register wasn’t as easy as you might think with all those color coded buttons, and daily or weekly specials. I have faint memories of working the entire store, bussing tables, lugging around that yellow mop bucket and Caution - Piso Mojado sign. The wet mop weighed more than I did at the time.

After working at McDonald’s and a few other places that escape me, I enrolled in modeling classes out in a ritzy neighborhood on other side of town. I caught hell for that. I was determined to do something, anything besides handling frozen French fries and a lightweight headset. I remember one of the instructors, Aldo, a tall, heavily-accented Italian. Who’d have thought there were genuine eye-talians in Houston, Texas? He introduced us to skincare and I’ve used Borghese’s Fango mudd mask ever since. I improved my posture and learned to walk like a model. Shortly after graduation, I began booking local and national commercials, and print ads. My shining moment was three thirty-second national McDonald’s commercials. That audition was my first time actually competing for something outside of my comfort zones of school or church.

Fast forward. I landed the commercials and arrive on the set of a soon to open McDonald’s out in the boondocks of Texas. The rehearsals and filming were great experiences. I danced the rumba alongside Renee O’Connor, who later was cast as Gabrielle, on Xena, Warrior Princess.

Every job since then, I’ve used tools from my acting training. I played the part of an aggressive credit collector for a major retailer in college, after having been a credit authorizer. I did a lateral transfer from Houston to New York City with the same company, different store. Back then, I was inconsolable, and didn’t stay in the credit authorization department. I had to be a credit collector, again, if only to shore me up for life in New York.

Many years later, I’ve worked as a roller-skating restaurant host, food runner, software trainer/helpdesk agent, fragrance model, and booking appointments for a podiatrists in an outdoor booth in the dead of winter. The complete list, while not necessarily embarrassing, is too long to catalogue.

I’ve not been happier since hanging out my shingle as a Freelance Writer/Editor/Creative Writing Teacher. Health benefits aren’t included, so I make a concerted effort to keep myself mentally and spiritually happy. First the mind goes, then the body!

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