Memoirs of a Working Girl

by - September 26, 2011

I got my first job the week after I turned 16. Between then and now, I have worked in two grocery stores and two restaurants. And I saw/heard/experienced A LOT. That's probably an understatement...

The point is that all those experiences made me a better person. It sounds cliche but it helped build up my character.

I'm of the firm belief that every able-bodied person should be required to work at least one year in a job in which they have to deal with the public.

That way when they make that transition into the so-called 'real world', they don't treat people who do work in the public sector like crap and maybe along the way learn a little patience and respect for others while learning how to work with people to achieve a common goal.

 There are people you're going to come into contact with over the course of your life that will vex you. Knowing how to deal with those people is a skill. Working with the public will help instill that skill in a person.

For instance, I wouldn't know how to react to people acting like fools if I had never seen a woman take off her flip flop and chase her child around the grocery store because he wanted a candy bar.

I wouldn't have as much patience as I do if I hadn't worked with a bag boy who was the epitome of a butterfingers. (Granted, my patience ran out and he was banned from my register after the pickles, hot sauce, exploding case of Pepsis, A1 steak sauce, Clorox bleach that ruined my pants and gallon of cane syrup that closed my register and took 20 pounds of sugar to clean up.)

I wouldn't have as much respect for myself and those around me if I hadn't dealt with countless customers who insist on ordering their food while they're on the phone with someone. That's just rude, you know?

My stories could go on and on but I'll resist the urge to tell them all in this post (maybe I could turn them into a book...?).

Now that I don't work with the public, I'm working in the public's eye. I may not be on air, but every word I write, every video I cut, every story I produce is analyzed by countless viewers.

And it never fails that whenever an angry viewer calls to complain, I answer the phone. I deal with them using professional courtesy, although most of the time I want to at the very least hang up on them.

People can be jerks, especially when they're dealing with people who work in a realm they don't understand. Most of the time those are the people who have never had to deal with the public in any fashion.

They don't have the war stories, the friendships forged in controversy and drama, the fortitude of spirit that comes from having countless people tell you that whatever you did was wrong. They feel entitled to their right to have and broadcast their opinions about your performance when they haven't really earned it.

Only when you've worked in the trenches that are public service or had every move you make scrutinized by the public do you have the right to speak out about someone's performance in the same field. The difference, though, is that most of us won't.

You know, unless we're a jerk. And if we are, well then we need to do another year of service.

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  1. In my teens I worked as a shoe store clerk, a hardware store clerk and a beverage store clerk, Ashton. I also worked in the produce department of a supermarket, another job that gave me contact with the public. I had to stand at the scale and weigh, price and bag bananas, grapes and other produce that people wanted to buy. You wouldn't believe how many of them looked over my shoulder as I weighed their items to make sure that I wasn't overcharging them. It was all good experience.

  2. I agree - it was definitely all good experience. There are just so many ungrateful people in this world nowadays who think they're 'above' jobs like those. It makes me sick.

  3. yup, dealing with the public in any kind of service industry is eye-opening, to say the least. many times it is just awful. and depressing. but every now and again you run into a winner or two. in theory, at least! :)