Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, May 22

Gapers Block

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David / February 27, 2009 4:18 AM

Other than mowing lawns and babysitting, my first real job was as a dishwasher for a family-owned burger joint. I have vivid memories of soggy fries...

The building is now a Japanese restaurant.

charlie / February 27, 2009 7:34 AM

I delivered the Star-Tribune.

mary / February 27, 2009 8:17 AM

i babysat (still do from time to time) for years, but my first tax-paying job was at a meat market. sold prime and first cuts, as well as deli items (boars head!!).

its been my favorite job, both bc i loved the people i worked with, and because knowing about different cuts of meat and how to cut up a whole chicken in less than 60 seconds has been really helpful.

it's still open and when i visit my hometown, i always try to stop by.

pat / February 27, 2009 8:34 AM

Initially it was working for my dad's Industrial Supply business. Doing all sorts of odd jobs in the office and warehouse.

In high school, I also worked in a couple different toy stores. The one at Gurnee Mills was kinda hellish.

jennifer / February 27, 2009 8:38 AM

aside from mowing the lawn for my grandmother (I'm ashamed that she had to pay me... :( ) and babysitting, my first taxed job was as a server at perkin's when I was a senior in high school. worked 33 hours a week and all on the weekend. don't know HOW I managed the hours that I worked as a young, naive 17 year old, esp. with all of the nasty, drunk cowboys saying completely awful things to me. but it helped me pay for college far, far away from that small town. so, I guess it was overall a good thing.

HOP / February 27, 2009 8:39 AM

I worked for Cargill Hybrid Seeds as a corn pollinator. It's much more complex than detassling, yet sucked just as hard.

anne / February 27, 2009 9:09 AM

Besides babysitting, I was a "tennis court attendant" at my pool and tennis club when I was 15. It was pretty chill, just cleaning up, filling the water cooler, and reserving courts when people called. We helped the lifeguards, who did much more work than we did, negotiate higher salaries since at the time we were both making minimum wage.

Carrie / February 27, 2009 9:27 AM

Like a few others, babysitting.

First taxed job-psychology bookstore clerk.

Val / February 27, 2009 9:38 AM

Bingo the dog at a pumpkin farm. Little children either really loved me... exclaiming "DOGGY!!" or they burst into tears the moment I appeared.

I had to dance in an hourly show in the loft of a barn (which was very very hot) not to mention I wasn't the ONLY person who played bingo... and they never washed the suit.

Also, a older maybe 7 year old boy tackled me to the ground b/c he thought it was funny.

I was paid minimum wage.

mike / February 27, 2009 9:44 AM

I was a co-janitor at a Washington Square, an old folks home in Hinsdale. The head janitor would smoke cigars and tell me to stop working so hard. I didn't think I was working hard at all.

Mike / February 27, 2009 10:04 AM

I worked at a Baskin & Robbins in 1989 for about six months. It was awful. The owners had been ripped off by previous employees (ice cream is tough to inventory so it's easy to pocket some of the money) so they used to park at the Wendy's nextdoor and spy on us. We also had to weigh or scoops and would be scolded if they were over a certain weight. Moms and rugrats wrecked the place in the afternoons. At night the stoned college kids would arrive and order bizarre things like orange sherbert freezies with butterscotch syrup. Cleaning the yogurt machines was almost as complex as rebuilding a transmission. Cleanup in general took a couple hours, and 20 minutes after we locked up, stragglers would inevitably show up and knowck on the window, pleading for us to let them in. Anyone who's ever scooped ice cream can tell you about "scooper's wrist," the painful repetitive stress injury caused by evil concoctions like Rocky Road. All this for $3.70/hour! I soon left for Safeway. To this day, I'm not a fan of ice cream.

Andrew / February 27, 2009 10:06 AM

Other than the occasional babysitting/lawnmowing, my first job was working the concession stand by the baseball fields at the park district. My first day, I had to clean up after one of the other employees, who'd apparently had a comically destructive series of mishaps the day before (which resulted in his firing, but he was brought back on appeal.) I recall having to scrub lots of popcorn oil off the concrete floor; it didn't all come up, so we spent a week or so slipping and sliding behind the counter.

Leah / February 27, 2009 10:08 AM

Dairy Queen when I was 16! I started out on the fryers, but quickly progressed to counter girl, the ultimate goal of any dairy queen employee.

Michi / February 27, 2009 10:13 AM

collected coins on the street, fiddling at the renaissance festival. This must have been in junior high.

Bridget / February 27, 2009 10:15 AM

I answered phones weekday evenings in my church rectory. I'd watch "Friends" and "Sinefeld" and do my homework while eating popcorn. Once or twice the phone would ring and I'd take a message for the priest. It was usually his mom.

Donia / February 27, 2009 10:20 AM

In my little town we had a bar and when I was five, I'd get a quarter for washing cocktail glasses behind the bar. I did about $5 worth of work to play Eddie Rabbitt tunes on the jukebox.

matt / February 27, 2009 10:37 AM

My first job was in the picture frame shop at Michael's crafts store. What a job! I used so many band-aids from cutting glass and those damn mats! I wonder if they're hiring??

flange / February 27, 2009 10:40 AM

i'm tempted to say "hand," but i'll leave that for someone else.

my first real job was at a doughtnut shop. i turned regular doughnuts into glazed.

i trust y'all to find clever ways to connect those two sentences.

Alissa / February 27, 2009 10:40 AM

Arby's drive-thru girl. My favorite day was the day we ran out of roast beef. That was pure magic. Oh, and if I hadn't been a vegetarian already, I'm pretty sure I would have become one after working there.

David / February 27, 2009 10:46 AM

Quality and destructive testing of diesel fuel injectors, to ensure that plasma hardening processes had correctly and fully penetrated form-powdered steel injector tips.

With a muthafuckin' scanning electron microscope. For fifteen bucks an hour.

Irisheyes1212 / February 27, 2009 11:18 AM

At 13 I hung flyers on doors for Domino's Pizza.
At 14 I was a tax paying phone girl for Domino's at a whopping $4.25/hr

Brian / February 27, 2009 12:08 PM

McDonald's. Before they had the microwaves, before they had the 'meat bins' and 'bun bins.' Back when they still put the burgers together fresh (and then stuck them in the bin). Worked there for two years, moving from the grill to the drive-thru to front counter. If I hadn't left to go to college, I was up for moving into 'management.'

Baldeesh / February 27, 2009 12:29 PM

Not counting occasional babysitting for the neighbors, my first job was at a Chinese take out place, and I was paid under the table. While I only worked 3 hours a week, I effing hated that job. Only one guy knew English, and he was out doing deliveries. And if an order got screwed up, he was always trying to take it out of my pay. I think I lasted 3 weeks.

After that, I took a job at a pizza place, where I got more hours, paid taxes on my earnings, and never had to argue when it came to payday. I worked there for a total of 5 years. Not an awful job. Sometimes it tried to steal my soul, but that happens with all jobs sometimes.

Josh / February 27, 2009 12:34 PM

One month after turning 16 I became a stock boy at the Rexall Drug store on Clark & Granville. I worked there until I started college. It was weird that the owner trusted me to make bank deposits and store away incoming drug deliveries, but never assigned me the task of answering the phone or working the cash register.

Roz the cashier was frozen in the 1950s. She was a middle-aged woman with a hairspray-helmet beehive hairdo, prescription sunglasses, and a raspy voice from the constant smoking she did. I was allowed free soda & chips. I had a lot of fun there, and it probably contributed towards my habit of working alone. That place is now an optometrist's office.

R / February 27, 2009 12:41 PM

I suppose my first job was babysitting, but the next big earner was checking coats at a banquet hall where my mom worked. One night a wire hanger broke while in my hand and stabbed me in the eye. No damage, but I blacked out for a few seconds. Lots of drunks, there, too - and a lot of "Let me come back there, I know what it looks like" when tickets were lost.

Spook / February 27, 2009 1:01 PM


annie / February 27, 2009 1:04 PM

I started a babysitting agency with one employee (me) when I was 11 (think babysitters club) and I worked all the time. I spent entire summers working for one family of 3 boys from 7am until 6pm...I can't believe anyone would leave 3 small kids with an 11 year old all day, but they did. I saved $7000 from 11 to 13 years old. It was all I did. Then when I was sick of being a stay at home mom I worked at a frame shop/gallery where I cleaned, decorated the picture windows, washed the owners car, wrapped pictures and ran errands, I was 13 and was making $7/hour. Oh yeah. The owner loved me. Then I moved on to work at an Accouting Software office all through H.S. and seasonally I wrapped presents at the mall. When I graduated H.S. I got an internship for the City and I've been here ever since. Sad.

JasonB / February 27, 2009 1:16 PM

passed out flyers for a psychic.

Zach / February 27, 2009 2:45 PM

Back when I was 14, I asked my parents for an SLR camera and money to buy the latest GnR album. They didn't give me money, but my dad gave me a job at his landscaping company, in violation of about every child labor ordinance around. I spent my Saturdays shoveling mulch, digging holes, lugging around wheelbarrows, and my favorite, driving the Bobcat around. Yeah, you can't legally operate one of those until you're 18, according to OSHA, but if you're the boss' son, it's kosher.

Oh, and my dad paid me right above minimum wage at $4.90. Thank god for small favors.

I've gotta say -- I miss that kind of work. Nothing is more honest than hauling buckets full of stinky mulch in the wet heat of a July day.

Rod / February 27, 2009 3:56 PM

My parents were Serbian immigrants. I spent much of my childhood working odd jobs to help the family pay its bills. I was a shoeshiner and pizza delivery boy before working at a meat packing plant. My-daddy-in-law/career politician Dick Mell hooked me up with a clerkship for Ald. Ed Vrdolyak, where I made necessary connections with Rich Daley. It's all history from there.

daruma / February 27, 2009 4:04 PM

I worked at Rainbow Flowers and Hallmark in the Century. I was a cashier, but 3 of my main tasks were: carry heavy buckets of flowers from the cooler to the showroom; wrap gifts; and strip thorns from roses.

caitlin / February 27, 2009 4:29 PM

An Old Navy.

And no, you can't get inside the truck; No, it doesn't run anymore; No, you can't pull the fake dog out of it either.

PMan / February 27, 2009 5:25 PM

My first payroll job was at McDonald's and it made me a liberal. I was just a high school kid needing entertainment money, but they had adults working there who they abused with split shifts, sudden shift changes, extreme cheapness and generally abusive treatment.

Cinnamon / February 28, 2009 1:02 PM

Babysitting, paper routes, and working for my step-father the locksmith were all jobs I did but didn't get paid for.

In college I got work-study approval but realized how badly it paid and how I still had to find and apply for a job and I needed money asap so I applied at every place near my home (since I didn't have a car) and began working at White Castle. I was the only college kid (most of the staff were adults with no better work prospects) and I was hated for being the uppity kid so I had to clean fryers, bathrooms, the milkshake machine, and the walk-in freezer. It sucked, I smelled awful all the time, but eventually (because I was too stupid to realize they hated me for being a college student not just because I was the new kid) I earned their respect and I moved up to be drive-thru cashier. My first night on the register a guy ordered a small cup of coffee and pulled up to the window with his junk hanging out. I was so surprised I squeezed the coffee cup, the top popped off, and he peeled out getting away. Thankfully I didn't have to pay for the coffee.

p / February 28, 2009 3:20 PM

i garbagepicked the dumpster at a button factory, then sold the discarded buttons door to door. buttons depicting Simpsons characters sold best. enventually they put a lock on the dumpster so the button man was out of business.

fluffy / February 28, 2009 5:07 PM

Baby-sitting and selling ceiling fans on the weekends.

D / February 28, 2009 8:57 PM

Ace Hardware.

D / February 28, 2009 8:58 PM

Ace Hardware. 16.

crystal clear / February 28, 2009 10:15 PM

My first job was a lab aide in a biology lab. I would wash lab dishware for four hours straight, more or less. The work was mundane. I was told I would work on "cooler" research related things, but I only worked a summer. The boss was great and the lab manager was cute and really cool. I don't think I have ever liked my fellow employees or enjoyed the job atmosphere as much as I have at that job. I would have told my college freshman self to have worked there longer. I should have paid my dues and possibly moved on to more challenging tasks.

Cheryl / March 1, 2009 12:26 PM

Clown. At the Ground Round on Cicero just south of 87th. I worked Saturdays and Sundays and made $10/hr in the early 70s. I was let go after a couple of months--the manager told me I wasn't 'clown material.' I thanked him for that summation and went to work at Burger King for the rest of high school.

mike / March 1, 2009 1:23 PM

Woodfield Place Movie Theaters - snack bar. 15 years old, $4.75 an hour.

After two months, I came in really stoned one day and spilled a giant popcorn on a little kid and I couldn't stop laughing...The kid was really cute and snarky and almost started crying....Anyway, I was demoted to ticket tearer, where, I pretty much just continued to be stoned and read novel after novel between ten minute rushes of ticket tearing...Now, I'm an English teacher. Thanks Woodfield Place Movie Theaters....

jj / March 1, 2009 6:49 PM

First job was picking dandelions from the lawn, for a penny a dandelion. I was about five, this was my parents' way of getting me to learn to count to one hundred and get their lawn weeded at the same time. I later became a bit of a businesschild with a variety of schemes including lemonade and snow cone stands, my own clown/magic show for birthday parties, and walking little kids home from school. My first tax-paying job at the age of fifteen was shelving books at the library. I think it was $4.25 minimum wage to start then.

Amanda / March 2, 2009 10:28 AM

When I was 10 I got my first paying job staying with my grandmother all day every Saturday and every other Sunday. I did this for 4 years, until she went into the nursing home. This was 1986-1990, and I got $30/day. My parents made me save half, and the other half I spent on Guess jeans and Esprit bags and Benetton sweatshirts. The half that I saved I eventually used when I studied abroad in college.

Bill Guerriero / March 2, 2009 11:57 AM

My first job led to my favorite job. I worked for Wright Brothers Sports Center "picking" golf balls on their driving range. We would basically pick up the balls that the tractor missed or couldn't get to (there were a lot).

We used "pickers," which are aluminum or plastic tubes of about the same length as a walking cane. You basically just tamped the picker on the golf balls until it was full and emptied it into your basket.

We would work at night after the driving range closed and sometimes in the morning. It was relaxing work, especially at night--plus, I worked with my friends. Also, the land used to be a dairy pasture before it was a driving range, so it was beautiful, also bordered by the town cemetery.

At first they paid us in "strings" (strings/games of bowling at the bowling alley) and a little bit of cash--I think minimum wage was $3.35/hour back then.

But like I mentioned earlier, "picking" led to my favorite job ever. I worked with my best friend in the driving range/miniature golf "shack" (where folks rented the range balls and mini golf putters). I would work there now in a second but Wright Brothers Sports Center is no more--maybe the bowling alley's still there.

eee / March 2, 2009 12:30 PM

My first paying job was doing inventory at a JoAnn Fabrics. I counted zippers. For months afterwards, I hated zippers. And there was a customer loudly proclaiming that she wanted a sewing pattern for culottes, except she pronounced it "koo-latch." She didn't shut up about her "koo-latch" for nearly two hours.

After high school I worked at the College of DuPage library in the periodicals, reference, and personal computing sections. Lots of magazine reading, fixing broken microfilm readers, and giving the evil eye to old men surfing porn. Good times.

CC / March 2, 2009 3:59 PM

Lifeguarding at the local Y. Nothing like rolling out of bed at 5 am, putting on a bathing suit and sweatshirt, and trying to keep your eyes open while a lone lap-swimmer goes back and forth and back and forth...

The shittiest lifeguarding job, a year later, was at a water park. It was stressful and disgusting and I got sunburned every single time the rotation got held up and I was stuck guarding the lazy river for an hour and a half straight. Never did have to jump in after someone in the wave pool though, thank jeebus.

Matt / March 2, 2009 10:26 PM

My first tax paying job doesn't really have a title. I cleaned (vomit and feces off of) wheelchairs before they were serviced at a custom wheelchair shop. It amazed me what kind of conditions parents of disabled, wheelchair bound children were subjected to by their parents. Talk about a life lesson in whole mess of issues.

Annie / March 3, 2009 8:31 AM

I made and decorated chocolate.

DaveDave / March 3, 2009 11:52 AM

1) Delivering newspapers. On Sundays, the paper was extra big so I pushed them in a shopping cart all around the neighborhood. I was so late and so lousy that sometimes customers refused to pay me so I ended up paying the money owed to the delivery services boss out of my own pocket. Conclusion:I was paying THEM to have a job. Not a successful first entry into the business world.

2) Grocery story bagger. This sucked big time. Smarter bagboys would scope out the huge, three-shopping cart orders ahead of time and suddenly go on break, leaving me there to bag $300 worth of groceries. But I got promoted to frozen foods/dairy and had a cold for most of the summer due to going in and out of the cooler all day long.

V / March 3, 2009 2:00 PM


Mowing lawns or babysitting. Then I worked at a mechanics' shop. Unless I worked at a church rectory first. Anyway you spin it those are the irst four jobs I had. Through highschool I delivered The Tribune and sorta cleaned (swept) the delivery warehouse.

bkwyrm / March 3, 2009 3:31 PM

Worked on a visitation database (back in the days of DOS) at the Indiana State Prison. Also did clerical work there, the summer before I went to college.

jennifer / March 3, 2009 3:33 PM

I was an Arby's drive-thru girl!

Jasmine / March 3, 2009 3:44 PM

I helped my parents bundle up fliers/coupons and hang them on neighbors' doorknobs early on Saturday mornings. I was in middle school and no, I did not get paid.

I was a teen model for a day, posing for a picture to be included in a math textbook. Not sure if my photo was actually used.

Managed sports teams in high school (geek!) for a pittance (chump!).

Oh, and I handed out fliers for a club promoter the summer after I graduated high school. If you attended parties at the Intrepid on Thursday nights or went to the Tunnel on Friday nights during the summer of 1994, it's likely that I handed you a flier as you drunkenly made your way towards home (or at least as far as Florent for late night fries).

C-Note / March 3, 2009 4:14 PM

I worked at a car wash in North Carolina for a summer. You had to wear long pants and the company t-shirt. I don't think I've ever been as hot as I was that summer. Imagine it's 95 degrees, 90-100% humidity, you're standing on asphalt, and then you climb into the backseat of a car to clean the rear windows. All day long. They made us wear the long pants so we wouldn't leave pools of sweat on folks' leather seats. And then the white guys wouldn't share their tips with me - they'd just act like the car's owner didn't tip. So then we'd fight.

Steven / March 3, 2009 7:50 PM

Delivering a local weekly newspaper when I was 11. About 300 houses, which was about one-fifth of the town in Michigan. I credit the experience with building up my tolerance for snow and cold. Unless significantly more than a foot is expected, don't bother me with your sissy snow warnings. Please.

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