Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tell Me Again about the Whole Elf Thing? - Glasses Half Full

I met a friend for lunch recently and we got to discussing really crappy jobs we had when we were young. She's a bit older than I, but many of the jobs available to teens and college students didn't change much from when we were both young. Her most disastrous job was at was a popular fast food restaurant at $1.69 an hour. Turned out she was allergic to one of the food ingredients and not only bloated up terribly but ended up covered in little spots. I said "did you look like one of those sesame seed buns" and she started choking on her drink (she knows better than to tell me these stories when we're eating).


I worked as an elf.

And got fired.  Yes, that's on my author's bio for The Book of Barkley (which briefly hit the top 100 in Amazon sales Thursday, thanks to all of you)  Now several of you, that are new here, have asked for that story.

You see, in college there was a company that hired students and homemakers looking for part time work to do "product demos". You know, those annoying smiling people who try and assault you with a spray of Calvin Klein "Narcissist" as you walk through the cosmetics section at Macy's. Or those friendly people with food at grocery stores. "Sure I'll try your hickory smoked bacon but be advised I'm shopping with my identical twin so she'll probably be by for some too."

The pay was much better than minimum wage so it was a popular job and not everyone got hired. I applied. The choices though, for my first job assignment weren't great. A Mr. Peanut Costume, handing out nuts (oh please please please dear god no), more of the perfume thing (I LIKE rejection) or wait, this is perfect! An elf at Santa's Workshop at the fancy department store! All I had to do was wear the elf costume and help keep the kiddies organized while they lined up to sit on Santa's lap for a photo. I got picked for one reason only. Flaming red hair and bright green eyes. Elf material if there ever was one. Plus it was double minimum wage. Woo Hoo!!

The problem was the costume. Scooped neck Elf Dress, Elf shoes, plastic Elf Ears. All too small, especially the dress. We found bigger shoes, probably boy elf ones, but I was stuck with the dress. They usually hired petite students to be the elves, but there were a sucker for the hair and eyes, overlooking the fact that I'm tall, full figured and Scot. But I squeezed into it. Some parts didn't exactly squeeze into it well and were sort of on display.

Don't picture a female Herbie the elf.

Picture a green hooters waitress with really pointy shoes.


But I really needed the extra cash for college and flight lessons. So off I went, having fun with the kids, chatting with Santa (who was VERY jolly that day). It was all kinds of fun, and I collected enough money to pay for more education.

Until I got fired.

For you see, I was called to come in the next morning and canned as an elf, with an abject apology "It just wasn't suited for you, we've got an even BETTER position for the rest of the week, we're so sorry, here's your apron".

Apparently some of the Mom's complained that
(1) I was distracting Santa
(2) (and I quote) Elves do NOT have bosoms!!

So much for my elfin career.

The next day I was standing in a grocery store handing out hot dogs wearing an apron that said on it, in big letters "Have I Got a Wiener for YOU !"
THAT wasn't humiliating.

It was a job though, something even as a teen, I knew was a precious commodity and something to be thankful for. That was something I'd learned from my parents, even if I still totally disregard the whole "wait an hour after eating before going swimming Mom Rule #47".

But apparently, that thought process is not the norm in our "entitlement generation". I was in line at the grocery store the other day, and two very well dressed young mid 20 somethings, were chatting. One said "well I could get a job, but none I've been offered I really liked. I'd rather keep getting the unemployment since with what I save on daycare I have more money for me anyway".

That's not the attitude I was raised with. If you could work you did. Perhaps it is because I was raised by the generation of "if you didn't work you didn't eat". Both my parents grew up in the Depression, my Mom's Dad killed in a logging accident when she was a teen, leaving the family with neither insurance money or benefits. My grandmother could have just sat down and given up, abandoned in the backwater of lonely isolation of a small Montana homestead. But she did not.

She could cook and bake like no ones business and she did. Gathering up her tattered pride around her like a shawl, she sought out the prosperous in town and let them sample what she could create. Soon she had full time employment as a cook, while still tending to chickens, cows, stall and garden to feed 3 teenagers. Meat on the table was game, the other animals being sold for what they could bring in. Not only did she survive, she put my Mom through college, my Mom in turn helping to put her two younger brothers through. Both of them majored in engineering, ending up at Boeing with good jobs to support their families and grandma, who lived with us until she died.

A gamble it might have been, but it was one, that by hard work, paid off.

My Dad did ROTC in college, and had to work to pay for his expenses. My Dad is a very handsome, proud man, always popular with his peers. The job he had was going around the University of Montana campus with a nail on a stick, picking up other kids trash while the more well to do students made fun of him. He spoke years later of how he worked so hard so that he could do more in life than pick up the waste of others. He remembers the taunts. It drove him to excel, but even as much as he said he hated the task he was given, he never hated the job. He was thankful to have it, looking up from the leaves and trash to the high, pale, morning star of the future.

As a youngster, some kids teased me because my parents were so much older than theirs. I know I benefited from it, their words and wisdom. From them I got what work ethic I have. I learned that if you couldn't get work (and I've been there) you continued to try. I'd left a government position for a job in the private sector when unexpectedly, the economy tanked. I sold most of my possessions to get back into school, working multiple low paying jobs to make ends meet while taking more courses towards a goal I'd always had, looking at a uniform in my closet with no regret, only pride. I learned it again when the great hundred year flooding of the Mississippi took out much of a family business, leaving us broke, and me soon alone.

No complaints, no whining, it's life, plain and simple. But I know I'm beyond fortunate to have a good job. I am thankful to have  a little talent where if I can earn a little extra money with my writing to help out my Dad and brother's family as they need it.  I say thank you in a blessing as I have food on the table each and every day. Yes, I worked my butt off for the qualifications to get the job I have, and talent is something I view as a gift from God, but simply having it all is a blessing. But I will never forget NOT having anything.

This Saturday instead of going to the range I volunteered with some other squirrels to staff a food bank where we would spend the day packaging up meal kits for seniors and some disabled vets. Sure, I'd rather go shooting, but I have good health, time and two hands. I won't think of it as missing range time, but rather "reloading" some deserving folks with supplies to put a hot meal on the table.
 For those of you with jobs you like, you are beyond fortunate. Never forget it, and try and give some of it back. Not to the freeloaders and the lazy, they get enough of our hard earned tax dollars, but those in your community who are down on their luck after working and serving most of their lives.

For those of you still looking for work, my prayers are with you. It's never, ever easy. You're used to working, waking up each day to an early alarm, an orderly flow of named and numbered dates that line up like the pickets in the fence, holding in what's dear. Then you wake up one day and it's gone, bulldozed by bad decisions, politics and fear and you're left exposed, with nothing more than a pittance of a bank account and false promises from our leaders, blowing as trivial as trash and dead leaves.

It's true you never really appreciate something until it's gone be it home, a job or love. You spend years underneath a slow constellation of stars, bright spots of light that have no name and you don't even think about them until clouds roll in, leaving you without reference or direction. It's as much like being lost as any feeling I know. But please don't give up; keep searching.

For those of you with jobs you hate, remember it's not a lifetime, it's just this moment. Be proud of a character that propels you to work, rather than live off of the hard work of others. You may think the job beneath you or not worthy, but there will be those that are proud of you for simply having the ethics and strength to hold it.

For all of you, remember that there are those who care, even if they are terminated elfin people.


  1. Some people could save a trip to church today and read your inspiring post. Of course, the men folks might tame their imagination when they picture the hooters waitress with pointy shoes.

  2. The only job that I could get around here is part time. Though today I am working for free at the brewery, I get free beer and used grain to feed the chickens. Work is usually fun even if the pay sucks.

  3. LOL, YOU an elf??? That must have been 'interesting' to say the least... And you're right, we pick ourselves up and do what it takes to put food on the table. We weren't afraid to take those 'menial' jobs, it was a paycheck.

  4. Id really like to see a "If you don't work you dont eat or collect welfare" policy put in place. It isn't like there are not plenty of roads that could use some trash collecting and other equally useful jobs out there that should be done but aren't.

    On the subject of Bosomy Elfs....How much do I have to bribe you for that picture :D

  5. Bag boy in a Lucky Supermarket (when they existed in AZ).
    Ran my A$$ off! Worked 2 nights a week after school, and all day Saturday.
    Minimum wage.
    Left to be a Holiday Inn restaurant busboy, because slightly higher wage.
    Was 6' tall and 140#. No worry about the bosom thing! :-)

  6. I'm not sure about where your Dad lives, but I saw a Census figure of 37% unemployment among working age adults in Clark County recently.

    Legalized weed and pizza from the "take and bake" place paid for with food stamps -er- EBT cards. Who needs anything more?

  7. The plant nursery where I worked had a drain system installed, but the installers had done the job badly. So my first task every morning was to grab a big floor broom and push water uphill to the drain.

    And then there was selling encyclopedias door-to-door.

  8. I've worked almost non stop since 16, but in 2009 I was off for 4 mos.
    Shook me up. Lots of anxiety.
    But I took a step down to work and in time I was promoted past previous levels.
    But I still get anxious on weekends and today at church I found that two of my friends, one the pastor, suffer the same anxiety on the weekends when not at work.

  9. My first job was picking strawberries for a nickle a quart. Didn't get rich, but didn't starve either, :)


  10. Hmmm... I had some pretty awful jobs by other folks standards growing up... but I loved 'em all... shoveling manure... slaughtering and guttin' turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas for a local poultry farm... pumping gas, fixin' tires, and checkin' oil at a corner gas station... mowing lawns... de-tassling corn on foot through hundreds of acres... baling straw and hay...

    Boy I miss those low-stress jobs that kept me in good physical health...

    Dann in Ohio

  11. I hit the trifecta over the last year. Laid off after 16yrs last Nov. Lost my wife and my mom to cancer in May and April. The upside is being inspired? back to church got an offer of one third my old pay last week, so there's that and perseverance.

  12. Lowin Fovoter - You had the bad year of all bad years. I will not complain of leaving the house at 430 in the morning to go to work on this Monday. Keep up the fight.

  13. "false promises from our leaders,"

    We have false promises from a lot of people, but I would call very few of those people leaders. We don't seem to have any leaders these days, at least none in charge of our governments.

  14. LOL! Never was an elf, but I was Minnie Mouse. Hmm, my mother might even have a picture somewhere.

  15. Currently in the job I hate phase (the contrast being more harsh since I was laid off from a job I adored) but thankful to have one at all.

  16. I think we need a picture of you in the elf outfit. There's got to be one somewhere. Thanks for the encouragement. I've had crappie jobs...literally. I've cleaned toilets and emptied trash. For the record, women's restrooms are worse than men's by far.


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