birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Taco Bell

I stood in front of the mirror and looked at myself. I was wearing a doo-doo brown polyester suit. I laughed filled with the excitement and anticipation of beginning my first job.

Since junior high, I had wanted a job. Something in me yearned for the independence I'd feel by having a job and earning my own money. One evening, I sat on my bed with the Yellow Pages and our telephone and called ET (Extra Terrific)Donuts and inquired about a job. I learned I had to be 16 and obtain a worker's permit. I was devastated. I told the person on the other end of the phone that I was a responsible 13-year-old, then hung up the phone disappointed by the person's assurance that I was too young to work.

Finally, sixteen, armed with a worker's and a driving permit, I drove four long blocks to Taco Bell and began earning my own money.

The work was fun, yet brutal. Because I am tall, I was asked to smash beans. "It would be easier for you," my shift-manager assured me, "because you are tall." So I stood in front of a very wide and tall stainless-steel pot, it's insides erupting with molten pinto beans and I stood there with an instrument that resembled a potato masher, and I mashed beans, by hand for a very long time. My brow sweated, the muscles in my shoulders burned and I cursed my father for sharing his tall DNA genes with me.

Somewhere inside I protested being assigned bean masher and made some reference to someone that everyone should have an opportunity to mash beans and I was eventually moved up front as a cashier. I am a people person so chewing the fat while handling money was perfect for me. We weren't allowed to wear finger polish, false nails nor more than one ring on each hand. I loved jewelry and bought it often, yet felt earning money was more important than wearing jewelry or false nails so I wasn't bothered by this company policy.

A benefit for working at Taco Bell, was having the option to get a free meal. This, proved to be almost as good as earning money. I enjoyed food as much as I did buying and wearing jewelry and it didn't help that unbeknownst to me, I was also using food as an escape to living in Simi Valley and being away from what I viewed as modern living. So, I took great pleasure in selecting my free food and savored every bit of it. I ate for the first time: Nachos Bell Grande, Mexican Pizza and those simple yet delicious Pintos and Cheese.

Eventually, I tired of coming home smelling like old, hot processed food and secured a job at Miller's Outpost. I hold fond memories of my first job and look back on young me for having the spirit and motivation to secure a job and earn money and being thinking as an independent woman.

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