Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.
~James Matthew Barrie
The reward for a job well done is the opportunity to do more.
First jobs. We have all had one. Growing up, they mark the end of our beloved, time-worn retort: “You’re not the boss of me!” Because sometimes, actually, they are.
My first job (and by this, I mean a paid job that didn’t involve washing dishes, mowing the lawn or babysitting) was picking cherries for Gudmundson Orchards in Eastern Washington. I don’t even know if they still exist. But my next-older sister and I stayed with another sister over the summer when I was 13, and we picked cherries. That was in the 70’s.
I remember the songs that were on the radio that summer, because we would get up at the crack of dawn, make our lunches and put coffee in the Thermos; and then we’d drive out to the orchard. “Higher and Higher” by Rita Coolidge and Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” were in high rotation. I remember those times fondly; it was rather an adventure for me, especially because I wasn’t being treated as the kid; I was a worker. I was a wage earner.
We would climb the ladders and pick like mad, and we were paid by the bucket. The orchards were filled with migrant workers, mostly Mexican families who worked hard beside us. Even the children were busy working. We saw one elderly gentleman, apparently the patriarch of his family, climb nimbly up the tree without benefit of a ladder. He amazed us with his speed and agility.
At the end of the day, we would be very tired. We’d take periodic breaks throughout our shifts, and we would break for lunch, but it was hard, constant work in the heat, and it wore us out. I remember sleeping very well that summer.
One day, I went up a 13-foot ladder to finish filling my cherry bucket. I didn’t need many more, but I couldn’t turn it in until it was full. The orchard crew would come around with the tractor and trailer that held the huge bins that they would dump the cherries into. I knew they were coming around, so I wanted to hurry. I scrambled up the ladder and commenced to picking.
At some point, I overreached and lost my balance. I fell to the ground and hit my head, cherries flying everywhere. I vaguely remember the small children running over to scoop up my spilled fruit and take it back to their families. Someone called the tractor crew and they came over and splashed my face with alcohol, the cold and fumes of which woke me right up. My eyes stung from the alcohol. I was sore, and I had scraped my leg, but I was fine. But my bucket was empty.
That was the end of my cherry-picking career. I got a paycheck, and I believe I may still have the check stub, but I didn’t pick any more after my fall. They wouldn’t let me. Still, it was a great summer and remains a delightful memory.
What was your first job? Do you have a particular anecdote or memory of those days? I remember being so proud of that paycheck with my very own name on it! A first job teaches us so much more than whatever it is that we are hired to do. It is our first step into adulthood.
photo credit: williac