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52 Stories #11—My First Paycheck

Everyone remembers their first job. These work situations provide us with places to learn basic workplace skills such as reporting on time, following directions, and getting along with others. Then we get that great reward—money of our own. Many of us feel real dismay when we realize for the first time just how much of our hard-earned cash goes straight to Uncle Sam.

I found my first job when I was seventeen years old. I worked that summer at the front counter of the local Tastee Freeze fast food franchise. There I waited on customers by preparing frozen treats like ice cream cones, malts and milkshakes, sundaes, and floats. I also took orders for hamburger and chicken meals. We had no cash registers and accepted only cash at the Tastee Freeze, so I learned to add up a ticket quickly and to make change correctly. One day someone handed me a one-hundred-dollar bill, the first time I had ever seen such a thing.

A married couple owned the Tastee Freeze, and they worked alongside the teenagers they hired. She was pretty nice to all the high school students who worked there, but he was not. In fact, I remember choosing him as my subject a few years later when I had to write a school paper about the worst boss I ever had.

He shouted at us when he did not think we worked hard enough or did not focus on the job. In the evenings, after it got dark, he often sat outside in his car, watching us through the restaurant windows to see if he could catch us doing wrong. One night after the place closed and our crew prepared to go home, we stopped to check the work schedule for the next day. Our boss had erased several names from the schedule, in essence firing people in that way instead of speaking with them directly. He said they had not shown proper respect for his expensive equipment, and he seemed to have no interest in re-training them or giving them a second chance. I thought him very unfair.

I stayed at this job through the summer, disliking the work environment more and more as the weeks continued. I left shortly after school started that fall. I had made enough money that summer to save a bit and purchase desired items I would not have had otherwise. I knew I would miss a regular paycheck in the coming months, but I would not miss this overbearing boss.

Working at the Tastee Freeze did provide me with some fundamental job skills. At subsequent jobs, I put them to use, and since then I have had a great appreciation for kind supervisors. I worked much harder for them than I ever did for my first boss.

A pleasant workplace became a real priority for me, and late in life I left another job because of another difficult boss. During the intervening years, when I had employees to supervise, I hope I treated them better than the Tastee Freeze guy treated his first-time workers.

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