Friday, January 24, 2014

30/30: My First Job

It's week 2 of my 30/30 Vision Blog Challenge, and this week's topic is Your First Job. One of the advantages of making up your own list of prompts for a blog challenge is that you get to decide exactly what YOU meant by each topic. There are any number of ways I could go with this. The first time I got paid for doing work was while I was in high school, and my youth pastor hired a few of us to help him move rented furniture in and out of apartments and to help set up rooms in a new retirement facility. But that was very sporadic. I spent much of the summers after my junior and senior years in high school volunteering at Quaker Lake Camp, so no real money changed hands. For three weeks at the beginning of the summer of 1977 (after graduation) I was hired to clean stalls and feed some champion show horses by a family friend. Seeing as how it was only temporary, and I don't want to spend today writing about shoveling horse poop (cool as that was- and I did have some good times on that job!), I won't count that one either. My first real, full-time employment came when QLC hired me for the summer of 1978. But I have written so much about camp in this space that I am skipping that one as well! My first youth ministry position (1978), which was very important in my life as it led to my career working in churches, only paid $50 a month, so it doesn't really count either. Which brings me to my first regular, name tag wearing Joe Job. And that's the one I chose to write about today.

Sometime in the late 1970s there came a point when I had to have a little more income than my lucrative youth ministry positions had to offer. I was sharing an apartment with some friends, and that required money. I was planning a cross country adventure with friends in May of 1979, and that would require lots of money. So I got a a job at the local Pizza Inn as a waiter. Pizza Inn was a big deal in Greensboro, North Carolina at the time. There were 4 in town, and another (later to become legendary in my life) in High Point. When I was hired, I knew two things about PI. First, they had an amazing all-you-can-eat buffet every day at lunch. And secondly, on Friday nights after football games the place would swarm with students from my old high school who wanted a place to hang out- and who seldom spent much money. I was trained as a waiter (that took about an hour!) and began working both lunch and dinner shifts several days a week. I discovered that waiting tables at PI included busing them as well- and washing the dishes on many occasions. Like many first jobs, the work was hard and the pay was terrible. But there was pay! And slowly I discovered the keys to success as a waiter at Pizza Inn...

Lunch was always a buffet. People do NOT like to tip well when they are responsible for getting their own food. So you had to do two things to improve your chances. You had to be memorable. I tried to make them laugh, suggest new pizzas to try, ask them if there was any special pizza they wanted and bring it to their table first instead of straight to the buffet- anything to make them feel special. And most importantly, you kept their drink classes full. ALWAYS! If a customer had to ask for a refill, I had failed. They were getting their own food. Drinks were MY thing. Dinner was an entirely different matter. There was serious money to be made at dinner. There was a very popular restaurant in the area called Darryl's that was more upscale than our little pizza place- think Applebee's or Red Lobster prices. Darryl's had great beef ribs and steaks, as well as pizza and other things. What most people were just discovering at the time was that PI was owned by the same parent company, and that the steaks and ribs we served were the exact same ones as Darryl's- but at much better prices! So the dinner crowds got bigger, and the tips got bigger! And on Mondays, we had an all-you-can-eat-ribs night.  If you kept patrons plates full of ribs and their glasses full of sweet tea, the tips were often very, very good. I always worked Monday nights. Those tips eventually paid for a month on the road to California and back. It was a good first job.

I eventually was promoted to cook and offered a spot in management training, but I was still taking summers to work at QLC and Sundays for youth ministry, plus taking classes -so I had to pass. But I do have some great memories of fun times with co-workers, interesting customers (like the lady who came in every week and ordered her steak cooked rare- and she meant it. If it was too warm she sent it back!) and lots of mishaps and laughs. And then there was the night I gave free beer to future major league baseball stars Otis Nixon and Don Mattingly (currently the manager of the LA Dodgers) along with a number of other Greensboro Hornets. But that's another story...

My first job was a good one. I learned many valuable lessons about serving people, listening and being attentive that served me well over my years in ministry. I made some money. And I had some fun. Not much else you can ask for in a Joe Job, is there? I'd love to hear about your "first" jobs today too!

Because of Jesus,

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