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Friday, June 22, 2012

First-Year University: Work-Study

“C’mon, Sojourner, get the lead out! We need a dozen pieces of buttered toast over here like ten minutes ago; get with it, will you?” The line supervisor barked out his usual command and didn’t seem to care that it was just after six o’clock in the morning on a Monday. The freshman students waiting with their plates on trays at the toast bin didn’t seem to even be awake. Probably didn’t even notice they were waiting for toast, anyway.
“Well, if you want toast faster than this monster can spit it out, you’ll need to put in for a second beast. Do you see any dry toast just sitting here, waiting to be buttered?” As for me, I was standing in front of the hot, rolling contraption, buttering brush in hand, poised for the next offering of dry toast to shoot out from the bottom of the monstrous upright, metal appliance. The thing was slow because the bread had to have time to toast on both sides; but, when the next batch of toast began to emerge, it was a frantic bit of brushing the dry toast and placing them in the waiting serving bin, while flipping fresh pieces of bread onto the rolling upright belt.  A real rhythm had to be achieved in order to keep the process going… for the next four hours. Okay, now was that last batch white or wheat bread? These needed to be alternated… in case you thought there was already enough for the toastmaster to keep track of on an early morning work assignment! I was just glad I had passed that orientation stage where the shouting criticism of the line supervisor made me about cry with humiliation and frustration. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning of Winter and Spring Quarters was passed in this way that first year.
Tuesday and Thursday we did not serve toast so, as would naturally follow, I became the flipper for the French toast or pancakes four hours each Tuesday and Thursday. The lifetime ramification of this twice-weekly breakfast menu selection was that I never again chose to eat either breakfast item, if given a choice. I would be polite and eat it if a guest in someone’s home; but, otherwise, I did not eat French toast or pancakes for the rest of my life. Just writing about it now, I can smell them… and it as been 44 years! 
I had Saturdays off and only worked dinner some Sundays. Usually, I was the one to scoop ice cream out of those huge containers. They were deep enough that I had ice cream in every flavor decorating my forearms up to my elbows by the end of the shift. Uh, no, it never did put me off eating ice cream, but did, indeed, put another job on my list of employment I would never want to do for a living! I hated the feeling of sticky goo up and down my arms, not to mention how slippery it is to work with. At least, it wasn’t every weekend. 
My father encouraged me to go on to university, in spite of the recommendation of the high school guidance counselor, but let me know that my parents would only pay for the Fall Quarter expenses. If I wanted to continue after that, the financing would be up to me. At that time, Freshmen were not allowed to live off-campus, unless they lived with a relative in town. That meant I would need to come up with funds for the dorm, as well as books and tuition. 
This was really a wise move on the part of my parents, though I’m not sure they could have afforded to pay for the whole year at that time had they wanted to do it. If I was going to be independent of them, I would need to learn just how to do it. If I was going to make a life for myself out there in the world, I would need to learn budgeting and earning a living, while getting an academic education. A tall order for an 18-year-old’s first time away from home!
The first quarter I checked into the possibilities and found the best one that worked for me was the Work-Study Program. I would work four hours a day and get a student loan to cover what the paycheck would not. I had to arrange for late afternoon Chemistry labs so I could work the four hours in the mornings, but this was the only way I could get the work hours in with my class schedule. The other two quarters of the school year were thus financed and I was happy to know I had done it all on my own. It felt good to be “taking care of myself.” I planned to get some job skills under my belt during the summer months so I would not be working that breakfast line my second year. 
I did work my way through my university education, doing quite a variety of jobs. My parents had taught us to work hard and to give our best effort to whatever job we were doing. They raised no slackards and let us know that we were their representatives to the working world. Our shoddy behavior in the workplace would reflect badly on them so… do a good job! A good job included always being on time, always looking ready for work in every way (clean body, hair and clothing), having a good attitude, willing to do what was asked during the working hours, never leaving work early nor taking breaks longer than allowed, and putting in a full shift with the very best I was able to do. I am so grateful to God for my parents and the solid principles with which they raised me, by their own example as much as by their words.
The King James Version of the Bible says in Proverbs 22 verse 6:
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Well, now I am closing in on “old” and, indeed, I am not departing from that training of my parents. I still want to do the very best job I can!
You missed reading some related posts, but don’t know where to find them? Here you are, with the first link in the series:
Advice of high school guidance counselor:  Nuggets from High School: Career Guidance
Sojourner’s first ever work experience as a small child:  Snow Business, Scene 2
Sojourner’s first real job at age 14:  Adolescent Milestones: First Real Job 
****Have a Fun Weekend!

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