My first job ever, was as a child model. I was ten years old. I never applied for the job and was hired in absentia. My godmother was a print model and she and my mother conspired to get me, my brother, and sister hired to model for the Scott Lawn Care fall catalog. We spent the day posing in different outfits on different lawns in front of upscale houses in Fort Lauderdale. I have no idea how much we were paid—the check was made out to our parents and was used to buy a piano. We had as much say in the piano lessons as we did in applying for the modeling job.
The job I ever agreed to, was a babysitting gig. Once again, my godmother was involved, and once again, I didn’t seek the job, but had it thrust upon me. I didn’t know the family that needed the sitter, or their kids. The couple were friends of my godmother. They were all going out together and needed a sitter. My godmother asked my mother if I’d be interested. She passed the request on to me. I can’t remember how old I was at the time, twelve? Thirteen? Old enough that my allowance no longer covered my spending habits.
Mrs. Hart picked me up and drove me to the house where the kids were. There were three of them. They’d been fed, and a TV dinner was in the freezer for me, if I wanted it. Payment was discussed, but when I learned they were going to the movies at the Lakes Mall I asked if, instead of paying me, they could stop at the Paperback Place next to the movie theater and pick up couple of books for me and apply that toward my babysitting fee. They were so charmed that I read books they added the books as a tip, rather than in lieu of payment. I was into the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series then, and knew which titles I wanted. I gave them a list, and said any of those titles would do, asking them to pick one from the list. Instead they brought me three books—and still paid me in full for the four hours I watched the kids. Four dollars AND three books! I felt like I’d won the lottery.
The first job I sought was at McDonald’s. I’d just gotten my driver’s license and was told I could only drive the car if I paid for my own gas and insurance. I was hired, but told hours were scarce, and at first, they could only use me on weekends. That suited me fine. I didn’t really want to work. Now I could tell Mom and Dad I had a job, thus satisfying the requirement that kept me from driving the family car, but my days were still free, at least five out of seven of them. However, once I got that first paycheck and realized I could make more than four dollars and a couple of books, I wanted more. I was soon pestering my manager for more hours.
I proved adept at making hamburgers. I know that’s not much to be proud of, but the other people working there, though adequate, were no match for me. I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but I was soon known as Bobby the Mac and could easily handle “twelve on the flip”. Nowadays I understand that the cooking of burgers at McDonalds is somewhat automated, and the meat is cooked on both sides at the same time. In my day—back when we walked five miles through two feet of snow to school, uphill—it was all done by hand. During peak hours I had a dozen Big Macs and twenty-four cheeseburgers going at the same time, and laid down as many again when I flipped the burgers over. Yes, it’s unskilled labor, but I’d like to see you do it, and keep up with demand.
I smelled of grease 24/7, but because I did the work well, I took pride in it. Because I was clean-cut and personable, on non-peak hours they put me on a register, but during rush hour, it was back to the grill for Bobby the Mac. I kept that job for over two years. Only quitting when I wanted to date, and smelling like grease was no longer a fair trade-off for the fat part time paycheck.