$3.50 or $4.00 With a Butterfly

Yesterday my daughter started her first real, turn-in-a-time-card-and-get-paid job. Fortunately for me she's working just across the street from our house at an elementary school in the kids' summer program. Once each afternoon, unless she's at the swimming pool, the gymnastics center, or some other place where she's wrangling in kids, I can look out my back window and see her towering over her 10-12 munchkins, leading them to some area in the playground and carrying a large ball, some hoola hoops, or some other playground paraphernalia.

I had a similar job one summer when I was in seminary. It was some tough work.

The other night as we sat on our back patio with some friends, we all discussed our first jobs, our teen years jobs, our dues-paying jobs. You know the ones we've tried to forget about like a bad nightmare.

My husband's first job was delivering furniture for a furniture store. This may be why he is at the neurosurgeon's office today for his periodic back injections.

My friend Lilly told us about one of her first jobs at an A&W Hamburger joint. She had a funny story to tell to go along with that job, which included A&W syrup all over the floor of the store an inch thick but you'll have to get it out of her yourself. I'd like to remain friends.

My first job was making creating tissue paper flowers and selling them at Six Flags Over Georgia. That's right. I sat on a tall stool, wrapped a folded set of colorful tissues onto a dowel rod with a rubber band, fanned them out and plucked up the individual sheets until they resembled a whopper of a carnation.

I made those flowers look awfully appealing. I must have, because some people even bought them on the way into the park...then proceeded to ride the log flumes, various roller coasters, and the bumper cars with said flowers. I'd watch those same people leave the park in the evening (we were located near the exit of the park) with their limp, damp, wadded masses of tissue...on a stick.

How much were those lovely flowers, Kay?

"They're $3.50 or $4.00 with a butterfly," I'd say...all...day...long...

That's right. For $.50 you could get a wiry little butterfly stuck securely (sort of) into your flower. Of course that meant 10-year-old girls with partially scratched off nail polish and dazzling blue eye shadow would have to spend not just ten minutes choosing the color of their flower, but an additional ten minutes deciding on the coordinating colors of their flower and butterfly.

It was a job joy!

Working at Six Flags, in those days, didn't even pay minimum wage. They got around that because we were seasonal labor. I don't know if they still pay below the minimum or not. At any rate, they have to pay more than the $3.10 I earned per hour. Of course, we could work double shifts if we wanted.

I didn't want. But my parents did want. So, spurred on by their "encouragement," I'd line up a double at least once a week so that I could make paper flowers for 16 hours. Or, if I got lucky, I got to spend the second shift holding down 60 helium balloons and selling one occasionally -- that one, no, not that one, the baby blue one, no the one on top, in the middle, oops, yeah, that one that got away -- or cutting up fudge and weighing out ridiculously priced candy.

Listen to me. Do not buy candy at an amusement park. Go to a Circle K on the way home; sneak a bag of M&Ms in through your backpack; whatever. But do not buy that pricey candy.

And do not buy a tissue paper flower on the way into the park. Hey. Don't even buy one on the way out. If you, or your ten-year-old daughter just really needs a paper flower, I will make one for you and send it to you.

For $3.50, of course. I have no idea where to get a butterfly.

Well, that is about all the advice I can offer based on my summer spent making shaping flowers from tissue paper. But obviously it is information some people need.

So, I've spilled the beans about my first paying job. I'd love to know about yours. This tends to be a delightfully revealing subject because few of us had the privilege of starting out in a cushy office. (And if you did, I don't want to hear about it!) So please do tell!

What was your first job?

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