Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Days of our Youth - Glasses Half Full

I met a friend for lunch recently and we got to discussing really crappy jobs we had when we were young. She's a bit older than I, but many of the jobs available to teens and college students didn't change much from when we were both young. Her most disastrous job was at was a popular fast food restaurant at $1.69 an hour. Turned out she was allergic to one of the food ingredients and not only bloated up terribly but ended up covered in little spots. I said "did you look like one of those sesame seed buns" and she started choking on her drink (she knows better than to tell me these stories when we're eating).


I worked as an elf.

And got fired.  Yes, that's on my author's bio for The Book of Barkley, but is not a tale I've told most of you.

You see, in college there was a company that hired students and homemakers looking for part time work to do "product demos". You know, those annoying smiling people who try and assault you with a spray of Calvin Klein "Narcissist" as you walk through the cosmetics section at Macy's. Or those friendly people with food at grocery stores. "Sure I'll try your hickory smoked bacon but be advised I'm shopping with my identical twin so she'll probably be by for some too."

The pay was much better than minimum wage so it was a popular job and not everyone got hired. I applied. The choices though, for my first job assignment weren't great. A Mr. Peanut Costume, handing out nuts (oh please please please dear god no), more of the perfume thing (I LIKE rejection) or wait, this is perfect! An elf at Santa's Workshop at the fancy department store! All I had to do was wear the elf costume and help keep the kiddies organized while they lined up to sit on Santa's lap for a photo. I got picked for one reason only. Flaming red hair and bright green eyes. Elf material if there ever was one. Plus it was double minimum wage. Woo Hoo!!

The problem was the costume. Scooped neck Elf Dress, Elf shoes, plastic Elf Ears. All too small, especially the dress. We found bigger shoes, probably boy elf ones, but I was stuck with the dress. They usually hired petite students to be the elves, but there were a sucker for the hair and eyes, overlooking the fact that I'm tall, with a generous bustline.  But I squeezed into it. Some parts didn't exactly squeeze into it well and were sort of on display and being tall, the skirt was rather short.

Don't picture a female Herbie the elf.

Picture a green hooters waitress with really pointy shoes.


But I really needed the extra cash for college and flight lessons. So off I went, having fun with the kids, chatting with Santa (who was VERY jolly that day). It was all kinds of fun, and I collected enough money to pay for more education.

Until I got fired.

For you see, I was called to come in the next morning and canned as an elf, with an abject apology "It just wasn't suited for you, we've got an even BETTER position for the rest of the week, we're so sorry, here's your apron".

Apparently some of the Mom's complained that
(1) I was distracting Santa
(2) (and I quote) Elves do NOT have bosoms!!

So much for my elfin career.

The next day I was standing in a grocery store handing out hot dogs wearing an apron that said on it, in big letters "Have I Got a Wiener for YOU !"
Today, I have Dr. in front of my name and a paycheck that is more than my needs.  It took a lot of years, of sweat and blood to get there.  But when I'm out and about and see some kid dressed like
(1) The Statue of Liberty
(2) A Slice of Pizza or
(3) An Egg (yes, last weekend at a local new restaurant)

standing by a business in the cold, dancing or holding a sign. .

I give them a friendly wave, a kind word, or if I can, go inside and give that place my business, AFTER I tell them what a great job their employee was doing out there, wishing they were anything but a dancing egg, but while they had to be - they were going to be the best dancing egg on the planet.

Because that's what becoming an adult is all about, doing the job that needs to get done for you or your family.

Still, I wish I had the Weiner apron now.


  1. Don't publish this comment if you don't want to. I'm going to get on my "OK Boomer" soapbox for a minute. Bravo for your hard work and determination to make a good living for yourself. I had several crummy jobs as a teen as well, worked hard all my life, and still do. My husband's dad was a mining engineer and in order to not to be accused of favoring his son, gave him the most difficult and dirty jobs at the gypsum mine or the paper mill where they made wall board. Seems a lot of people these days want everything just handed to them. I won't go into details because I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Bravo for you, and the egg-boy, pizza kid, and statue of liberty too!

  2. Ha!
    Ha! Ha!
    Ha! Ha! Ha!

    Once word got out, Daddy would be taking the kids to see Santa... just a stray thought. I never worked in a department store, my temperament being unsuited to crowds of people, milling around like sheep, bleating for attention while the little goblins did their very best impersonation of a tribe of howler monkeys.

    What fun.

    What was your elf name? Every elf must have a name... I'm going to guess that 'Hot Stuff' wouldn't be appropriate. I can just imagine the fat old whiskey drinking Santa, "Hey Hot Stuff, how about passing me that toy over there? The doll on the top shelf."

    The kids would take it home and tell Dad all about the elf.

    "We had an elf named Hot Stuff! Boy, was she pretty. She had red hair and green eyes."

    "Did she look like Mommy?"

    "No... she kinda looked like that lady on TV, Honey West."

    They'd probably tell both grandmothers all about Hot Stuff too. I'm thinking the store made the wrong decision. I'd have hired more women who looked like you and a good deal fewer that were built like a jockey.

    David Sedaris penned a memoir about working as an elf. I've got the book and it's hilarious. Here's a link:


    Have a great day, LB!

  3. I can (almost) picture you in that elf costume, as well as the complaining mothers. But OMD! The apron was even worse, in it's own way. I think mos of us have our "early years" job stories. Thanks for sharing yours, and so timely, too.

  4. How very appropriate. I recall LBJ giving ALL of us the wiener back in the 60's

  5. Snorf! That is too funny. Yes, being an elf does not seem like the best job with distracted Santa's. Bless you for being kind to others who are working hard to get by and move toward better things like you did.


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