Would you like paper or plastic?

For some reason, the idea seemed to boggle my mind: I could buy anything I wanted from the grocery story. I walked through the small bakery area and tried to decide what I was going to get. I couldn’t stop looking at the display of cinnamon sticky buns. I still had on the little aprons that we wore and I thought about walking down a couple more aisles, but I had to hurry, my lunch break was going to be over before I knew it.

shopping-cart-1275480_640I grabbed one of the cinnamon buns, quickly paid for it, and ran to the break room to enjoy whatever time I had left.

My first job in high school was working as a cashier for a Weis Grocery Store. I had just started to drive and needed to start making some money to pay for gas and food when I went out with my friends. In a mad rush at the start of the summer, I had filled out job applications at any number of places. Of course, no one called. I waited and waited and heard nothing. When the Weis manager called me up out-of-the-blue and asked me to come into the store to talk, I stuttered out a response that I would be in that afternoon.

One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had my first official job. I started working a few hours a week and quickly got to up-to-speed to working every day. They loved me because I worked anytime they needed and never complained.

baked-goods-1867459_640I started out as a cart runner and stocker and was quickly moved to working the cash register. They liked that I was respectful to the older patrons who frequented the store late in the afternoons. They liked too that I was careful to not overpack the bags.

Meanwhile, I loved the job, because I was finally getting paid. I remember loving the bakery too. Before the job, I had never really walked in a grocery store on my own. Oh sure, I had gone shopping with my mom, but that was usually out of drudgery and obligation. I hated shopping. This was different, I was shopping for stuff that I would be eating myself.

Oh, I loved the check too. I had real money for the first time in my life. I started carrying a wallet. I was stunned though to see how much taxes took out of my paycheck. I had earned that money and it seemed to disappear faster than I could make it.

cash-register-1885558_640I worked the job for a year, until I eventually had to quit. The job was starting to interfere with running cross country. If I’m being honest too, my grades were starting to suffer. I was trying to juggle too many balls and none of them were being handled all that smoothly.

In any event, I came away with three key lessons from the job:

–Treat everyone the way you would want to be treated. I remember one of my peers making fun of an older lady who stopped by the store every day. She never bought all that much, but my coworker didn’t like her because she didn’t move all that fast and she liked to ask a lot of questions.

I never really minded her. I figured we could have a lot worse jobs, so I went out of my way to be nice to her. I didn’t think much about it until a couple weeks later when one of the supervisors called me into the makeshift manager’s office. No one ever got called in to the office unless they did something wrong. I racked my brain trying to figure out what I had done. Was I rude to someone? Was my cash register short of money? The supervisor didn’t say much, but asked if I remembered the grandmother who came in every day at noon. It turned out that the woman was his mother and she raved about how I treated her. Thanks to her comments, he raised my salary an extra few cents and told me to leave after my dinner break. When I said I needed the hours, he said he was giving me the time-off, paid. I’ve never forgotten that lesson: treat everyone with kindness and respect.

beverages-3105631_640–People can be strange. I was stunned one day when the same manager told me to let him know if one particular regular came into the store. I asked why. Turns out the guy was using counterfeit bills. The guy looked like your neighbor or coach or teacher. He was friendly and nice and seemed like the kind of guy you could trust. In the end, I guess he wasn’t so nice.

–Don’t judge a book by its cover. I loved being able to buy whatever I wanted for lunch, but just because everything had nice packaging didn’t mean it tasted great. Sort of like life, looks can be deceiving.

I learned one more lesson: Never forget to ask the customer if they want paper or plastic. Of course, in this day and age, I guess the question is, paper, plastic or reusable?

What first job memories do you have?



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