Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Get a Job, Sha Na Na Na, Sha Na Na Na Na Na

I will always remember my first job. While I carefully weighed career paths worthy of a promising a fourteen-year old, my father found a job for me. He marched me down to the corner and rang the bell of a nondescript storefront with no identifying sign. A man who looked like a Hobbit straight out of Tolkien's imagination answered the ring and invited us in. He introduced himself to me simply as "Mel". I couldn't help notice that Mel walked with a pronounced limp that gave him a rolling gate.

Mel asked me whether I could work a few hours a day after school without my grades being affected. I said I could, and after instructing me to report at 4 pm the next day, he hired me for the princely wage of $1.00 an hour. As we walked out it dawned on me that I had no idea what Mel hired me for. I found out the next day that Mel's business was engraving sets of fancy cocktail glasses with people's initials. My job would be to pack the glasses for shipment to his cocktail-drinking customers, whom I imagined all looked like Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.

The "shipping department" was a beat-up, wooden table in a corner of the factory with big bales of straw-like stuff called excelsior that was used to pack fragile materials before some genius invented bubble wrap. The main benefit of the job was the collection of eye-catching pinup calendars Mel had hanging on the walls. While gawking at them, it was all I could do to avoid taping my hands together instead of the boxes. The calendars were probably my greatest incentive for showing up to work every day.

Mel turned out to be a quiet, decent man who was a very talented engraver. I did the job for a while, but before long, even the calendars couldn't overcome the mind numbing boredom of packing glasses every day, so I gave Mel my notice. He was really nice about it and even gave me some glasses to take home. They had someone else's initials on them, but still, it was a big step up the glassware ladder for us since we usually drank out of Welch's jelly glasses.

No matter how well off a family is, young people should learn the value of a dollar early in life. Besides teaching me how to pack glasses, that job helped me understand that when I asked my father for ten dollars, it meant the family would have to do without something that week. Starting with my next job, I always gave my mother something out of my earnings for the house. The news story last week of the New Jersey brat who was suing her parents to pay her college tuition is the reason why kids with the entitlement mentality need to learn that there is no money fairy.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association


Joseph Del Broccolo said...

What is it about Brooklyn dads? They put you to work from the get-go, and God help you if you didn't want to work. My Dad found jobs for me as a painter's helper, shipping clerk, and supermarket packer! At least I never asked for money from him. He also taught me to work hard, and people will have a high regard for you. I guess like Mel did.
Joe Del Broccolo

Jim Pantaleno said...

Hey Joe:

I was glad to have any kind of job. I hated asking my folks for money, and to think anyone would pay me a dollar an hour to pack glasses was a kid's dream come true. Somewhere along the line later generations lost that notion.