written by K. Ann Karr
Photo credit: Instagram @morganc0828
Not knowing your true passion is a bewildering, confusing state of mind. I knew things I was good at and things that I wasn’t. I had a strong work ethic due to the fact that as soon as I could hoe a row in the family garden, I was doing it. I had a job as soon as possible; when I had my learners permit my folks took great joy in taking me to my first job at a card shop. I wasn’t too thrilled but I knew if I wanted a car I better buck up and make the best of it and, to my surprise, I liked the card shop and listening to all the stories of the customers that came in for their purchases. My favorite customer was a retired principal that was in her early 70’s. When they introduced me to her they always told me she had 28 proposals of marriage and said no to all of them. I asked her why she said no to all of them and she then told me, “well honey, I didn’t know the last one was going to be the last one!!!” I loved it. The stories those customers told me were so rich and they remain with me today. The women I worked with were just as sweet as they could be to me, so no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t hate it.
The ladies informed me we would get paid once a week and my check would be held back one week since I started in the middle of the pay cycle, whatever that meant. In the meantime, they taught me how to count back change. For instance, if someone bought a card for 0.50 cents and with tax it came to 0.52 cents, the customer would give me a dollar and 2 pennies. I kept trying to give them their pennies back thinking they were losing their minds. One of my co-workers explained to me that by them giving me the 0.02 that meant I could give them 2 quarters back in change instead of 0.48. What a novel idea. I even found myself asking people that bought those .50 cent card if they had 2 pennies. I have found these days if a calculator isn’t in the register that tells the worker how much change they are supposed to be give back they normally can’t figure it out. Rather sad, if you ask me.
Well, I put in my first few weeks and it was time for my paycheck. They would hand them out to us as we left for the day. I spent every night that week figuring out my paycheck, what I would buy with my money, and where I would hide it from my brother. When I got in the car with my father and tore open the envelope he saw my smile disappear. He asked what was wrong and I told him they made a mistake. Someone named FICA took a good portion of my money. My dad had to swerve to miss an oncoming car due to his laughter. That night at dinner we had a conversation about taxes. Totally bummed at first, then I realized I was the richest of my tanned friends that were at the pool. It wasn’t that big of a deal but it did instill a sense of pride in me when I went out with my friends and their parents would give them money for movies or pizza, whatever our night’s plan was. When my father would ask me if I needed money, it felt good to say no, I have my own.
Years later after college, I had a job that I went to school for, realizing rather quickly it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was living in DC, but moved to San Diego after a great vacation. I was gaining so much life experience, good and bad, and I was lucky to make great friends, east coast and west. After having a little too much fun in Cali for two years, it was time to go back to Virginia. Those Blue Ridge Mountains are like a siren song and they call you home. I still had no idea what I wanted to do. I think because of those early work ethics, I did pretty well at all the jobs I had; I just didn’t want them to be my career. My managers always liked me so I had great letters of reference from everyone I worked with.
When I got home, I signed up with a temp agency and boy were they impressed. They saw my degree, well-written resume, and those impressive letters of recommendation. I had not even gotten home yet before they called and said they had a 1 month assignment for me at a large insurance company. I was needed to work the next day and I was ready.
I got to the business 20 minutes early. The receptionist at the front met me with the biggest smile and said they were so happy to have me join them, the HR manager would be out with me in about 10 minutes. I sat on the expensive leather couch and looked around. Everything was top notch.
There were fresh flowers in the crystal vases and the area rug in front of me looked like it cost more than my car. On one of the walls they had a sign up that ran the specials that they had in the cafeteria that day, it all sounded good, but I decided on the turkey. The HR lady came out, impeccably dressed, and also acted so happy to see me. She commented on my nice outfit and said she was so impressed with my letters of recommendation and resume. She took me to my desk, which was surrounded with rows of employees of all ages, men and women. They all came and introduced themselves to me, each one nicer than the the other. Some told me they would eat lunch with me so they could show me around. They also let me know it was Herbert’s birthday and they would be bringing his chocolate cake out shortly. They all kept complimenting me, my outfit, my shoes, you name it. Then the most attractive two women came up to my desk and said since it was Friday, everyone went to a happy hour that was less than a half a mile from the office at this nice steak house. They invited me and, of course, I said yes. I wanted to meet everyone and I was sure by then I could use a drink. Right about then the lady from HR came with a stack of papers about 6 inches high and told me I needed to type these pages with all the corrections that were already noted on the forms, and I would need to copy everything on the copier in triplicate.
I looked up at her and said, “I don’t type.”
The hush that fell over the office was deafening. The impeccably dressed HR lady turned white. She quickly escorted me to the elevator. Once inside, not a word was spoken. Goodbye turkey lunch. The receptionist didn’t even make eye contact with me, man, news travels fast here. I imagined the date for drinks was off. Thankfully, it was the temp agency at fault, not me, and due to this, I would get paid for the whole day since I did everything they asked of me. As we got to the fancy double doors I could hear the faint singing of Happy Birthday, I hope Herbert enjoyed his cake. I think if she wasn’t afraid about ruining her Jimmy Choo’s, the HR woman would have literally kicked me out of the door.
I got home after being gone for less than an hour and I must say my family got a big jolt out of the situation. We lived in the country but I could have sworn some of our neighbors heard the hysterical laughter coming from the house on the hill. Within a week, I got my check for my 1 day of work where I was there less than 45 minutes. Looking it over, and laughing to myself, I’ll be damned if Mr. FICA didn’t get his cut this time too!