My first job with a real paycheck (and FICA, dang it) was at a local dollar store. I made $3.35 an hour, and my first check, for working the whole week, was around $40 after taxes. I thought I had found a pot of gold.
The year was 1987. I applied for the job, mainly because I wanted a "real" job and because I wanted to stop having to babysit my little sisters and brother. I only got paid $25/week for babysitting, and I was stuck at home the whole summer. It sucked. Working out at the dollar store was much better, as I gained valuable experience in a real work environment, and I had a wonderful mentor and boss, Carol.
I remember that she told me that there were several people who had applied. I had gone to the interview in a nice skirt with a sweater set, and she was impressed that a 16-year-old would know how to dress for an interview. After she hired me, she later told me that I was the only person who had shown up in a nice outfit – that everyone else had worn jeans. That skirt and sweater landed me the job, if not my eagerness to work in a real work environment.
I worked for Carol for two years until I got out of high school. She let me off for the Friday night football games, but I worked every other day of the week that we were open. I missed some parties and some friend get-togethers, but back then, honestly all of my friends had jobs or worked on their parents' farms, so me getting off at 6 or 8 pm, depending on the time of the year, was not a big social deal-breaker. I was just happy to have the money to spend on myself in the manner in which I chose to spend it.
I made a lot of friends there, too. Mary was one of my great working partners. Even after I moved away to college, when I came back to my hometown, I would go see Mary and talk over things with her.
Many years later, after I was in college and had a good job, I heard that Carol had passed away. It still makes me sad to think about it. She was the first real non-relative mentor I had, and I thank her from my soul for giving me the courage to go into the workforce.
I honestly believe that every American should have to work either retail, foodservice, or be in the military for at least 2 years before they can have any other job. I think that people tend to mistreat those in the service industries, and if they had to work in those industries themselves, to see the plight of the service workers, it would make everyone just a little more courteous to those who give good service every day.