Pythagoras and Odd Jobs

What do we do when we’re kids who need money for college? First, my parents would not let me work until I was 16, I had to pay 1/3 of my college tuition that included a small scholarship. I taught gymnastics. I made four times what everyone else made working minimum wage. Then in the afternoons I recruited federally subsidized kids to college.

At my college I was not allowed to work so I could study. My roommate worked (subsidized) in the development office and they had parties for donors so I used to volunteer to hang coats and pass trays. Afterwards the director would take us out to our favorite diner and we’d have fries and a coke. Much better than cafeteria food and that was my payment. The recognition was worth the work.

Summers in college found me in a new place with my family, Dad was new there and the leader so couldn’t pull his weight to get me a job. I found one as the cashier at an upscale “cafeteria” where women got the crummy jobs and guys got tips for tray service. The only reason I got that job was because my father was new and head of the organization, so I couldn’t steal from them because it would make him look bad. I worked seven days a week for less than half of minimum wage because they took out food costs and boarding even though I never had more than water there and lived at home.

Pythagoras comes in the first three weeks I was there. We were tasked to re-surface eight clay tennis courts, which I’d never seen before. Our “boss” was a year or two older than me, a neighbor, and made my sister and I pull thousands of weeds, carry and distribute thousands of pounds of clay while he said only an expert can drive the roller. He came up with the tape requirements for the lines. They were correct, but off on the diagonal by an inch.

One day a friend showed up and said, “You don’t remember the Pythagorean Theorem?” I did and Boss Man was on the job from then on. We saved him. Aretha, can you hear RESPECT? That’s what it means to me.

I did spend one winter sitting in a chilly, empty grocery store answering the phone and making room reservations for an historic hotel. Also personing a golf club for XC Skiing where few visited and I’d just start the fire in the morning (my only implement was the top half of a golf club) and keep it going so guests could warm up with a cup of cocoa. That’s when I started reading the 400 books. Keep up the fire, make sure there’s water ready, and talk with guests, the last two I’m good at, I learned the other but never wish to do it again.

The worst job I ever had shortly after college, was correcting applications for state high school scholarships. These kids didn’t know how to write their own names, much less place the letters in boxes. I could tell how good the school/education was by the number of invalid entries. My high school alma mater had one mistake. Many schools had hundreds.

We were only allowed pencils, which we had to purchase from the state, and were paid minimum wage and had defined break and lunch times. Ned was full-time, strange and had a plethora of pencils, sharpened and in a container, tips up. Every government-paid for pencil had Ned’s name on it as his mark and no-one was allowed to touch them.

This was a short-term job, six weeks. At week five I had an interview for a job across the street and asked if I could take my 1/2 hour lunch and use my 15 minute break. NO! I took the time, the interview and instead of pencilling in names and addresses…

I ended up being a legislative analyst for the Speaker of the NYS Assembly. I went back to the sweat shop and quit, immediately. To this end last week my husband took a mechanical pencil I bought years ago, to use the graphite to fix the lock mechanism on our front door. Yea! As for pencils, I don’t really use them much, but to this day we call them Ned-Cils. I never worked fast food or waited tables or have driven a motorcycle for pizza delivery.

There have been worse jobs later on but that move got me into the game.  Thank you Ned and your boss for me wanting to get out of something so bad, as I rarely break the rules but now do when necessary for me and my family. I also take pro-active steps but Ned, you wouldn’t get that.

Age 21. Just a kid. I was a smart kid and can still love a genius husband. Shhhh, he and dogma (Zoe) are sleeping. Dee



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