Top 7: Jobs

Top 7. Because 5 is never enough, but I’m too lazy for 10.

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. Like many, I started my work career at age 15-1/2, which was something of a labor-law rule back in the 80s. Is it still? Anyhoo, ever since that first job bagging groceries (with the title of “courtesy clerk”), I’ve moved around through a lot of workplaces. Retail? Restaurant? Outdoors? Office? Hospitality? Been theres, done those. From customer service to bank teller to webmaster.

But of all of my jobs, there have been favorites. Heck, there are some that I’d go back and do right now, if I could. Not that I don’t love my current job, but some of these remind me of a lot of fun times.

7. Intern, KJR Radio

Back in the 70s of my youth, KJR was the biggest, bestest radio station in Seattle, playing all of the hot hits. So when the time came for me to do a college internship for my broadcasting degree, I jumped at the chance to work at KJR. It also helped that, at the time, the station was trying out a new “greatest hits of the 80s” format. Yes, it was unpaid work, but I got a priceless look into how radio worked in the real world (None of the vacuum tube-driven machines, like we had at school!) and it eventually led to my first post-college full-time job at KJR’s sister station KUBE. Plus, even as an intern, I got to do occasional voice-over work. (One of my voiced ads was even nominated for a “Soundie” award.)

6. Bass Ale Ambassador

This was a hilarious part-time job I did in my mid-20s. A group of us went around to local bars, speaking in fake English accents, talking about the deliciousness of Bass Ale and giving away free Bass Ale merchandise. The thing is, in most states, the ambassadors were able to give out free samples of Bass. But Washington state had (and probably still has) draconian liquor laws where nobody was ever allowed to give away free drinks. So our program was much changed from the other programs nationwide, and the Washington program was shut down pretty fast. But it was good while it lasted, and our leader always bought us a Bass after our giveaways were done.

5. Children’s Theater Usher

I worked day shifts at the Seattle Children’s Theater, ushering for the school shows. The job was basically meeting up with busloads of kids, making sure they got to their seats, keeping an eye on rowdiness during the shows, and knowing where the huge barrel of kitty litter was kept in case a kid puked. Nobody else ever wanted to sit in the auditorium during the show, and I LOVED drawing that particular straw, so I ended up seeing Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse at least 30 times, and The King of Ireland’s Son maybe a few times less. What a delight to watch kids enjoying the theater.

4. College Cafeteria Pizza Chef

I worked many a job in my dorm’s cafeteria — cashier, grill cook, sandwich maker … but no job was more pleasant than the late-night pizza chef gig. It was a prized job, because it paid a little more due to the late hours. Fortunately, I had prior experience from cooking at a pizza place in high school, so I got the choice gig. From 8pm until Midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, two of us had the entire cafeteria kitchen to ourselves. We turned The Police up loud on the stereo and made pizzas for our hungry peers. Since I wasn’t exactly a dating machine at that time (my idea of fun was playing Pinochle in the dorm lounge with a group of like-minded geeks), I didn’t mind working on my Friday and Saturday nights. Easy, fun, and all the pizza I could eat. No wonder I gained more than the freshman 15.

3. Summer Camp Arts & Crafts Counselor

Every summer while I was in college, I worked at a city-run day camp. The first year, I was a regular counselor, in charge of a group of 10 like-aged kids every week. But the three years after that, I moved up in the world. My title was a huge combo platter: “Arts & Crafts Counselor / Assistant Camp Director”. For the assistant part, it meant I got to do fun things like shop for snacks at Costco and arrange use of the 15-passenger van, but the director herself got to deal with irate parents and permission slips and such. Perfect. As for the arts & crafts part, every group of kids came through my craft room once a week, where we worked on a one-hour project. I loved researching and putting together activities — we did everything from tie-dyed shirts to paper bag puppets to homemade ice cream using coffee cans, ice, and rock salt. And when I didn’t have any official duties, my job was to go find groups of campers and join in whatever fun they were doing.

I’d totally do that job again, but I’d be the odd duck now. At the time, the bulk of us were all college kids, but we’d usually have one or two counselors who were older — substitute teachers, for the most part. A couple of them wanted to party with us, but it was always awkward. I don’t want to be that creepy older person. But what a great job that was. I had a fantastic tan, got more exercise than any time before or since, and got to work under an assumed name: those kids still only remember me as “Charlie Tuna”.

2. Casino Party Dealer

I went to casino dealer school in my early 30s. It seemed awesome, and turns out, it was. I worked in a real casino, but I also worked for another company that did casino events and parties. I prefered the fake-money parties; they were much less stressful than having someone dump hundreds of dollars at me. Screw up with fake money, and nobody cares. I dealt all of the stand-up games: Blackjack, Spanish 21, Three-Card Poker, Four-Card Poker, Red Dog, Caribbean Stud, and others I’ve probably forgotten. I also learned Roulette from the party company, although I never chose to deal it — too much math for me. I also dealt all of the popular poker games: Texas Hold’Em, Omaha Hold’Em, and all of the various Stud games. The pay was awesome, I always had a great time, I got to wear a name tag with a fake name along with my suave tie and cummerbund, and a surprising number of people tipped us real cash for dealing a fun fake-money game. If only the big casinos weren’t an hour away, I’d love to deal again part-time (fake or real money).

1. Comedic Actor/Improviser

I’m lumping two workplaces into this category: Jet City Improv, where I worked for ten years (the longest I’ve spent with any company), and Walt Disney World (One more year until that 5-year Pluto pin!). Actually, if you tack on the group I was with for a couple of years before Jet City, it means I’ve been improvising for about seventeen years. That’s crazy! Jet City was where I honed my short-form chops, but I also had the creative freedom to develop and direct a show, as well as work on side projects like Twisted Flicks, a show I still miss like crazy. And thanks to those skills, I got to work at WDW’s Comedy Warehouse for the last 18 months of its life. That place was an amazing high-pressure improv machine — I did more shows in that year and a half than I did in the 14 years before. And the great job is continuing now, in my role as a game show host (part scripted, part interactive/improvised). When we took those “what will your career be” tests in middle school, actor was always the first item on the list. (Writer came up frequently in second place.) How cool is that? I’m doing for a living the thing I’ve been inclined to do since before I was a teen. And I love it!

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2 Comments

  1. I would be hard-pressed to come up with 5 or 7 or 10, but I do remember working concessions in our local 6-plex movie theater when I was in college as being one of my BEST JOBS EVER. All the popcorn you care to eat (seasoned the way YOU like it, of course, because you’re the one popping it) and free (high-fructose corn syrup-laden) soda as long as you had your own cup. My manager was only a little older than us, and when Tom Cruise and his entourage came in to watch “War of the Roses” while he was filming “Days of Thunder” in town, I was never more proud of a boss… when he REFUSED to allow the entourage to order pizza from outside… he was simply upholding the “no outside food or drink” rule that was (and probably is to this day) in effect, and he wouldn’t be bullied by the people who wanted to throw Tom’s celebrity around to get what they wanted. What a great job!

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