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Indulging in Nostalgia: My First Job

Something that has always amazed and intrigued me is the way certain smells – even the tiniest of whiffs – have the ability to instantly trigger a flood of memories.

This morning I decided that my breakfast would be raisin toast, as I hadn’t had any in ages and there was a brand new loaf of Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin Bread waiting in the freezer. I pried two slices away from the rest of the rock-solid loaf, popped them in the toaster, and set them to cooking.

Within seconds the air was filled with a complex, yeasty aroma of crisping grains, warm cinnamon, and softening raisins… and in a flash I was 15 again, walking through the front door of the combination bakery-cafeteria that was the site of my first job, where the staff baker had arrived hours earlier to start the day’s production of bread, buns, and cookies.

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Credit: krosseel

As first jobs go, it was a pretty good one. I made $3.15 per hour – 15¢ more than minimum wage at the time! – and was given enough hours to keep me in pocket money, but not so many that they interfered with school or my budding social life. My boss (the owner of the restaurant) was fairly young, but seemed to have mastered the skill of firmness tempered with kindness, and my co-workers were for the most part pleasant and in some cases fascinating. On the down side, the fact that the restaurant was cafeteria-style meant no tips – but it also meant no waiting on tables, which was perfectly fine by me, being shy and not at all outgoing when it came to strangers.

Our uniform was our own white pants and white shirt, augmented by a restaurant-supplied orange-and-white gingham bibbed and ruffled apron and (believe it or not) a frilly white cotton lace-edged nightcap. Horrifying! We’d all try to get away with skipping the hat, but were reminded to don it anytime the boss noticed that it was missing.

I learned some silly little lessons at that job that have stuck with me to this day; for example, I discovered that milk or cream will curdle when added to herbal tea. Also, a steaming hot empty glass coffee pot will emit an ear-splitting crack as it shatters when placed on a cold laminate countertop (and as a bonus, will create a ring of unfixable bubbles and burn marks in the aforementioned counter’s surface).

That job also led to me creating a particular signature treat that I absolutely love even now, but that receives grimaces of disgust when I try to describe it to anyone. See, there was a group of construction workers who used to come in to the restaurant for breakfast and they would always order cheese toast with peanut butter to accompany their coffee. At the time, the thought of combining cheese with peanut butter baffled me, until one day I was overcome with curiosity and decided to try it for myself… and fell in love with the taste combination. Though we didn’t normally have cheese bread at home, through trial and error I developed a method of making a toasted peanut butter and cheddar cheese sandwich that was beyond delicious and that I still make on occasion. (I suspect you’re feeling ill at the thought, but hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!)

I remember one particularly bad night at the restaurant. We were cleaning up and preparing to close and I clumsily dropped a large melamine container full of Thousand Island salad dressing. The container didn’t break, but landed hard on the ceramic floor tiles, sending splotches and glops of the pale orange fluid seemingly everywhere. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, when I started trying to clean it up I slipped in the dressing and fell flat on my butt, right into the middle of the goopy mess.

Fun times!

I was laid off after about a year, along with the rest of my co-workers, when the ownership of the restaurant changed hands. I soon found work elsewhere, and moved on with school and my life, but never forgot my first job.

And this morning’s breakfast reminded me once again.

Do you remember your first job?
Please share!

NaBloPoMoNovember2013

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Lorinda J. Taylor
    Twitter:
    November 8, 2013

    I didn’t have a job until after the summer of my sophomore year in college (I started college a year earlier than most people, so I turned 18 only that summer). It was in my college library and at the time I said that I didn’t want to be a librarian because it was boring (circulation work, you know). That changed!
    And while I’ve never tried cheese with peanut butter, I do like bacon with peanut butter, so maybe the salty and nutty combination isn’t so bad!
    Lorinda J. Taylor recently posted… Publishing Update: The Valley of ThornsMy Profile

  • Elin Stebbins Waldal
    Twitter:
    November 8, 2013

    My first job outside of babysitting was in a stationary store, two of my siblings worked there before me so in a way it was familiar from the get-go. The store closed years ago and yet I can still picture the way it looked in my mind.
    Elin Stebbins Waldal recently posted… Garden RefugeMy Profile

  • Kathy
    Twitter:
    November 8, 2013

    Hi Laural…I just wandered over here from the FB Midlife Group and your post caught my eye. Funny how we remember some things right? Especially as you say, those related to smell. My first job was at a smorgasboard. My dad got me the job and because I couldn’t drive he even drove me there. I wasn’t a full waitress but I think people felt sorry for me and gave me small tips anyway. The thing I remember the most was that EVERY Thursday it was liver and onions night. People came from all over just to eat the dish. Meanwhile, every Thursday I just managed to not throw up. I HATED the smell then–and HATE the smell to this day! I am extremely grateful that I don’t have to smell that smell hardly at all these days! ~Kathy
    Kathy recently posted… Fifty Things I’m Grateful for TodayMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      November 8, 2013

      Oh, dear… liver and onions?! My worst nightmare! I can’t even imagine working around that awful smell! I must say, I’m rather glad my memory trigger was cinnamon raisin toast. 😉 Glad you stopped by!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… My first name… once againMy Profile

  • Sharon Greenthal November 9, 2013

    My first job was working – alone – in a dispatch office for U-Haul when I was 15. In an office park. Alone. What the heck were my parents thinking???? Good times.
    Sharon Greenthal recently posted… Why Marriage is For MeMy Profile

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