Patch Pitch: Bringing Home the Bacon
All of this recent talk about what people earn got me thinking back to my first job. Tell us about yours.
This year marked the 30th anniversary of Parade Magazine, “What People Earn” issue. Every year I am riveted by it. But this particular issue was more compelling than usual as it also looked back and explored what some of the same people were doing, and earning, today, compared to when they were originally profiled.
A few of the interviewees chose rather unconventional career pursuits. Such as the Dolly Parton impersonator who at age 44, in 1994, made $25,000 per year and now at 61, commanded $60,000. Or the belly dancer, who in 2006, only earned $10,000. And now, six years later, pulled in $65,000.
And then there’s Snooki of “Jersey Shore” fame. Reality TV stars use to average $45,000. The “G.T.L.” (gym, tan, laundry) lifestyle garnered the diminutive “star”—using the term very loosely—upwards of $1.6 million this past year.
But the majority of the jobs Parade profiled were more utilitarian. Like the lunchroom worker who made $5,300 in 2007 and 5 years later, increased her annual pay to $8,670. Or the firefighter, who in 2005 made $58,000, and after promotion to an eventual fire lieutenant, pulled down $93,190 last year.
Other people highlighted in the issue had started in one profession, only to eventually wind up in something altogether different. Like the former matador who made $30,000 in 1988, and then segued into an art school owner whose earnings topped $157,000 this past year.
Parade also spotlighted a few extraordinarily lucky (albeit talented) people. Prime example: “The Hunger Games” author, Suzanne Collins. Back in 1991, she was a children’s TV writer with a modest income of roughly $31,300. Juxtapose that to her most recent annual earnings—somewhere in the neighborhood (certainly not mine!) of $10 million.
American Idol-ette and award-winning country singer, Carrie Underwood underwent a similar transformation. In 2004 she made a paltry $16,000 as a waitress. Fast forward to today, her current annual salary is estimated at $20 million.
All the talk on salaries and professions got me reflecting back to the myriad of jobs I, myself, have held over the years. Like Underwood (in this one way only, darn it), I too started out as a waitress. My first real job was as a “server” at the old Chi-Chi’s Mexican restaurant (no longer there) in the Springfield Shopping Plaza with the Trader Joe’s and Kmart.
My older sister and I both worked there. Only, she excelled and actually ended up advancing into restaurant management for them. My tenure there wasn’t quite as esteemed.
The first of my many rookie mistakes occurred when I thought it would be an ingenious idea to set a plate of nachos on top of a canister candle in the middle of a table. Believing it would help keep the cheese melted and offer direct access (since it was centered and elevated) for all members of the group, I really thought I was doing my customers a favor. Unfortunately, I failed to factor in the flammability of the wicker holder that the plate rested upon.
Within seconds, the plate of nachos and tablecloth were on fire, and everyone started screaming. In response, I frantically grabbed customer’s glasses of ice water and chucked them towards the flames. I did manage to extinguish the fire but in the process, also drenched the majority of the people sitting at the table. Needless to say, numerous complimentary fried ice creams got handed out that night, and I spent the rest of my shift avoiding the enraged glare of my manager. And rendering first aid to my singed eyebrows.
I’ll spare you the details on my other stories—such as the time a customer found a bandage (the cook’s, not mine) in her burrito, or the time I inadvertently set a plastic pitcher of what-was-supposed-to-be fresh water on the table only to have my customers report back that it was full of cigarette butts! Or the times I witnessed servers take a big sip out of their customer’s margaritas, change out the straw (not always), then still present the drinks.
Bottom line: You want to trust me when I tell you it’s in your best interest to treat wait staff courteously. They can be amazingly creative in their vindictiveness. Consider yourselves warned.
So, Patch readers, we want to hear about your first jobs. Do you have any memorable experiences to share? Any funny encounters? Did you work in a particularly grueling field or industry? Please tell us your stories in the comments section below.