I started working as a kid. I had a newspaper route when I was 12 or 13 years-old. I rode my bicycle and threw newspapers, ideally on to front porches, but more often into shrubberies or the occasional gutter. I think I earned about $30.00 a month and because this was a daily paper, I suppose I was making about $1.00 a day. I had several other part-time jobs while in high school which according to my parents would build character and net some savings. No real savings were ever realized and as for the character, well let’s just say that I met a few characters along the way.
As an adult, I’ve had some less than stellar jobs but the absolute worst job was as the T.V. man at our local hospital. Deb and I had just had our second child and her part-time job became more part-time. Because we had a new baby and a not quite two year-old I decided to take a second job and work a few evenings a week to make some additional money. I found a job in the ‘Help-Wanted’ ads and the “no experience necessary but a clean appearance and a good personality, a plus” seemed tailor-made for me.
Because our local Catholic hospital didn’t have the funds to equip rooms with televisions, there was a company that provided this service for a fee. My job was to “sell” television to the patients. Let me explain: for $2.00 a night I would turn the television on in the patient’s room with a special key. It was the 1980’s and this was not cable television just the 4 or 5 local channels. Maybe 6 channels if you counted UHF. The lady that owned the television business was scary (think Cruella Deville) and because this was a CASH ONLY business I was responsible for any shortages which would ultimately be deducted from my paltry paycheck. Further humiliation resulted from the gold blazer that I was forced to wear which was 2 sizes too big. This blazer made me look a theater page but identified me as THE T.V. GUY. Many of my customers in fact looked forward to seeing me. I suppose recovering alone in the hospital without your soap operas or “Price Is Right” or “Dallas” would have been a struggle. Of course there were some sad nights, like when someone didn’t have the $2.00 and my ‘magic key’ would have to darken their room. Or any night in the ‘Psych’ ward. Truth be told, I sometimes turned on T.V.’s for folks that couldn’t afford the fee.
Because this was the local hospital in my hometown I often encountered people who I knew. Trying to explain why I had sunk to such a lowly position in life could be quite humiliating. One particularly awkward evening was when I encountered my best friend’s wife in labor (the fathers-to-be were always good customers – they looked forward to any distraction from the business at hand). I will always remember the night my friend’s son was born with a smile.
I only kept that job for a few months. We figured out how to better manage our meager incomes and I got to spend more time with our little boy and our infant daughter. Thinking back, I believe that the greatest benefit of that job was the lesson in humility that I learned. Certainly we needed the money but that was soon gone. The lesson in humility remains to this day.