The Happy Fun Joyousness Of Menial Labour For Pay!

There are some jobs every teen should have before being unleashed upon the world as an adult. I’ve been of the opinion for years that parents should make their kids have three kinds of jobs while they are still in school, and they shouldn’t work for their family members.
They need to:

1. Babysit

Caring for children smaller than yourself teaches patience and compassion. If parents don’t think that their kids are capable of babysitting alone, they should be close by, but the kid has to take responsibility for entertaining, bathing / changing diapers for, teaching basic information to (alphabet, rhymes, numbers, colors, etc.), feeding and comforting a small child. A good controlled environment is a nursery school at a church or synagogue or secular school with pre-K that allows volunteer students to help out.

Character-building experiences:

  • You will probably have something vile horked onto you or be responsible for cleaning up some disgusting mess at least once each time you babysit.
  • You will most likely not be able to enforce rules or discipline the children in any way (especially corporally!), whether or not they would benefit by it.
  • You will have to read the same eight children’s books over and over and over again.
  • You will want to kill Barney, Blue the Clue dog, the Wiggles, Elmo, Dora the Explorah and Diego, the Disney Princesses, the Veggietales, Mr Rogers and every other goddamned Muppet on Sesame Street. (Amazingly, I don’t hate every Muppet in the universe, but you’d probably understand if I did!)
  • You will know far more about Pokèmon than any adult ever should.
  • You will experience the joy of getting dried baked beans out of a shrieking child’s hair.
  • You will marvel at the poo that somehow wound up on the ceiling.
  • Vegetables that the children are supposed to be eating will end up everywhere but inside the child’s stomach. PROTIP: Look in the hutch and sideboard drawers after every meal.
  • The remote will always be lost, and finding it is vital, as otherwise the child(ren) will not stop crying.
  • You will watch way too many Disney videos. WAY. TOO. MANY. You will become enraged by the sexist messages being drilled into small impressionable children’s minds.
  • Some toy will break and be unfixable or require batteries you have no idea how to find. This will ruin someone’s entire day. (Hint: It’s you.)
  • There will be fights over personal space invasion (“s/he’s touching me, s/he’s staring at me, s/he’s looking at me, s/he’s making a face at me, s/he’s on my side of the sofa, s/he’s in my room, s/he’s not sharing, s/he’s not supposed to play with my (whatever thing it is), s/he’s farting”, “I’m telling”, et cetera ad nauseum).
  • An infant that does not wish to wear a certain item of clothing will go boneless, writhe around, wail, and grow nine or ten more appendages, none of which will go through the sleeve or pant leg they should go through.
  • You will have to referee or resolve fights over bed time, brushing teeth, brushing hair, wearing nightclothes, dinner time, TV time, and more.
  • You run the risk of being sued or arrested if the child hints to his or her parents that you were overly rough or overly affectionate with them, so you have to constantly monitor your every movement every waking moment.
  • You have to be a good example, so no smoking, no cursing, no drinking, no adult TV, no adult music, no guests, no adult phone conversations, and no Internet surfing.
  • Children will find their parents’ drug stashes, alcoholic beverages, medications, lighters or matches, pornographic material and so on, and you run the risk of being blamed for it if you can’t get the little devils to tell you where they found it (or put out the fire in time).
  • If there’s a pet, you will have to make sure the pet isn’t tormented by the children, and that it doesn’t get out or on the furniture, and that the children don’t eat its food instead of theirs. You also have to try to befriend the pet lest you get bitten or barked at or clawed. You will probably have to feed, walk, and clean up messes for the pet as well as the child(ren), and you won’t get paid extra to do it.
  • You’ll have to have a lot of extra energy to keep up with children who are playing on a playground, roller skating, biking or just running around in circles shrieking. Someone may get hurt, so you have to know CPR and first aid and the numbers for the police, doctors, the fire department, and a nearby responsible back-up adult or two. Considering that bros and bro hos breed like rabbits, being solely responsible for someone else’s baby/babies or small child(ren) MIGHT encourage them to use birth control regularly and responsibly.
  • You typically get no health benefits and there’s no chance for career advancement.
  • You also run the risk of deciding to have your tubes tied.

2. Work in Retail

Dealing with the public while they attempt to haggle over, steal, damage, hide, relocate, stain, or otherwise mistreat merchandise you are responsible for is a useful growth experience. In addition, they may get a merchandise discount, and will have to learn to manage money responsibly in the face of tempting short-term-gratification outlets like new electronics or fashions. Even with registers, clerks tend to have to learn basic arthmetic to answer customer questions about taxes, discounts and rebates. In most stores, a basic level of courtesy and efficiency is demanded of employees, so you can’t be a rude, surly brat.

Character-building experiences:

  • Your feet and back will usually hurt after a long shift.
  • You will typically despise most of the items you are asked to be enthusiastic about selling.
  • You will grow to hate folding, hanging things up, and the wrinkle-steamer.
  • You may never willingly do any of these three things for the rest of your life, actually, because they become such a pain in the ass when you have to do them for 7 hours a day.
  • You will probably be given, begrudgingly, a half hour to procure and eat lunch or dinner.
  • You will have to push credit cards on customers who don’t want them or shouldn’t have them, as the state of debt in this country is already ridiculously high.
  • You will be forced to maintain a certain dollar amount in sales, meaning that your coworkers will do their best to steal your customers, ring up your sales under their employee ID numbers, or neglect other required tasks in order to meet their quotas, meaning that you will have to do the shit work they won’t do.
  • You’ll have customers bringing in stuff from other stores for returns and demanding cash back.
  • You’ll have customers bringing in stuff they have worn or damaged for refunds.
  • You’ll have customers bringing in stolen items for refunds.
  • You’ll have customers letting their children use the store racks as a kindergym.
  • Customers will leave tags, food trash, dirty diapers, and worse in the fitting rooms.
  • Customers may have sex in the fitting rooms. Yes, really.
  • Customers may use the fitting rooms as bathrooms. Yes, really.
  • Customers will monopolize you for two hours by having you run all over the store fetching them stuff in different colors and sizes and styles and then end up buying nothing, because they are just bored and using shopping as a hobby.
  • Customers will ruin clothing with sweat, urine, perfume, makeup, dirt and food stains.
  • Customers will pop zippers and buttons and straps.
  • Customers will leave clothes on the floor of the dressing rooms after tromping all over them.
  • Customers will ask for items you do not, will not, and never have sold.
  • Customers will stash accessories in pant pockets, purse linings, socks, haits, umbrellas, shoes, and you wouldn’t BELIEVE what else.
  • Customers will ignore the health code laws and try on pierced earrings, bathing suits, underwear, hats and hosiery.
  • Customers will have horrendous body odor.
  • Your bosses may be younger than you, but if they aren’t, they are unlikely to be much smarter than you are or over 30.
  • You won’t get paid much, and the work can be extremely stressful and extremely boring in turns.
    This also teaches patience, and that the world does not conform to your preferences.
  • You typically get no health benefits and there’s little chance for career advancement.


3. Work in a Restaurant

Preferably as a waitperson, but bussing and dishwashing have their own challenges, too. Food delivery doesn’t count. Fast food restaurants do not count. Working in your colleges’ cafeteria doesn’t count. We’re talking about a real restaurant with a wide variety of customers coming in every day. You’ll have to earn your tips, and sometimes work your ass off for little reward.

Character-building experiences:

  • You’ll earn a staggeringly pathetic $2.01 an hour (plus tips) in most places AND have to declare taxes up to the current minimum wage, which means that you will sometimes be working for free…or, after taxes, actually PAYING for the privilege of working. Yay!
  • You will reek of food odors every day.
  • You’ll ache and hurt every day.
  • People will be rude to you every day. It will suck.
  • Normally you will earn less than nothing, but some days you’ll earn a living wage, and having cash in pocket also requires learning money management in order to save enough to pay bills and rent and for groceries.
  • Many restaurant workers keep terrible hours (most everything is closed when you are off duty) and many drink excessively and do drugs to kill the innate despair of their job, and that’s another temptation you need to avoid.
  • Restaurant work also appeals to people who can not do any other kind of job, so expect most of your coworkers to be practically illiterate, ill-informed, un(der)educated and possessed of bad taste.
  • Your bosses will typically have no idea what your job is like, as they have never actually waited on the public before, so expect little useful guidance or support if a problem customer turns up.
  • There will be rules that make no sense and work counter to the stated goal of providing customer service. For example, cheap-ass-bastards tend to require customers to pay for soft drink refills (notably, even most fast food chains will give you a refill if you eat in their dining area, and fast food chains are notoriously cheap), despite the fact that, even factoring in the cost of the soda, the equipment costs and maintenance, and the hourly fee to pay someone to wash a rack of glasses, it costs the restaurant pennies to give someone a refill.
  • Angry customers who resent paying for refills–not your choice, mind you!–will not tip you.
  • Cooks are usually surly bastards who like to maintain an adversarial relationship with the waitstaff, even though they earn 4-5 times more an hour (even after you factor in tips) and work fewer hours.
  • Half of the waitstaff typically does 85 percent of the work while the other half skives off early, is lazy, does it in a half-assed fashion (so that someone else has to finish or redo it), or skips out of sidework.
  • You will probably not be fed often (if at all), or, if you are, you will get something far less exciting than even the cheapest item on the menu or you will probably have to pay for all or half of what you eat. This means that your meals will typically consist of stuff you can filch between tables, like crackers, dinner mints, tea and soft drinks.
  • Customers will not want to sit where you put them, and you’ll have to shuffle them all over the dining room, which messes up the hostess’ system and means that someone gets overloaded or waits on fewer people (which means less money potentially earned).
  • Customers will rarely want the food served “as is”, so you will have to make endless adjustments and variations and service alterations for Sallies (as in “When Harry Met Sally”, with Meg Ryan portraying Sally as the typical high-maintenance nightmare who can’t just order food as it comes).
  • Children will play with or gum their food and leave crumbs and mush in a five-foot radius.
  • Customers will use condiments as art supplies.
  • Customers will refuse to help you out by getting all their requests in at the same time, meaning you will inevitably run back and forth across the restaurant three times more often than you otherwise would have to.
  • Customers will often touch you inappropriately, or ask you for a date, as if buying a $15 meal means that you are included in the deal. Fail to respond with a minimum of feigned delight and you will most likely not get a tip.
  • Customers will poke around ordering and then be in a huge hurry for their food, as if it is your fault they took 25 minutes to decide what they wanted to eat.
  • You’ll have regulars, and you’ll want to do something nice for them to encourage them to keep returning, but it is likely that the rules your cheap bosses have set will make it impossible for you to give them anything as a fillip or reward for faithful patronage.
  • You typically get no health benefits and there’s little to no chance for career advancement, unless you consider it an advancement to become head server, a position with increased responsibility, longer hours, and the same pay rate.

If every teen and young adult had to do these three things, rather than have their parents hand then an allowance, there’s be less bullcrap from people when they dealt with those in the service industries.

Or so I believe.

Adversity also builds character, and in our “Everyone’s An Entitlement Bitch” society, a little more built-up character couldn’t hurt.

People might learn some patience.

They might value hard work and achievement more than material trappings that, if bought, will result in horrendous debt and associated msieries.

People might not act like non-housetrained, loud, rabid, smelly wolverines in public. It’s possible. Really.

And the concept of working for things is never a bad value to instill in your kids. If you hand them everything on a plate, how do they learn self-reliance and responsibility? The first time they mess up as adults, will they say “I messed up” and work to fix their error(s), or will they say “It’s not my fault, I’m special, I have an excuse, I am a victim, you must give me a break” and call an adult to bail them out of their mess and, additionally, learn nothing from the experience?

Just wondering aloud.

What were the most character-building (or, conversely, just describe the worst overall) jobs you had as a young person?

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