A Little Trouble in Big Paradise
Hey Babies! Wanna hear about my first job in Ye Olde Las Vegas? It lasted about four hours.
Now if you’re a gig-type-working-girl, you wouldn’t bat an eye at that number. “Hope the cash in hand was nice” or “Got a check on the spot, yeah?” Is what she’d say.
“Umm,” I’d tell her now with an apologetic shrug “I… didn’t burn myself. And I finished the shift!”
Which I did, and then some. I had to ask a kid out on the floor to tell me the time because they took my phone away. I had worked nearly an hour beyond my slated clock-out time, because no one in the office bothered to tap me, and I never witnessed or signed off on a time sheet of any sort. Events, among many, to herald the unfortunate and chagrin-filled tidings of my initiation into a new sub-group of American workforce: Quitters After the First Day.
My heart grew heavy mid-shift as I wiped tables and mulled over the certain excessive anal-retentiveness of some of the patterns I was seeing in the kitchen in an artlessly obsessive effort to avoid any level of waste. Here was this random job in my neighborhood- something with which to get started. Reminding me of childhood and good times spent on any afternoon or evening I could get away with asking my parents for a ride, plus admission and concession dollars so I could go hang with some friends. Work-wise, I wouldn’t ever have to take it home with me, I could walk to and from, and it was active. I was sure it would be easy. And surely it was- easy come, easy go in Nevada. A “right-to-work” state.
The official title must resemble something like “Concessions and Party Hostess.” Birthday parties on Mondays and shifts between 4.5 and 8 hours on a couple other days. Part-part time. Non-negotiable. If you’re already rolling your eyes at this nearly forty year old woman over here thinking for a minute that this was a good idea, you’re absolutely right. I guess I’ll shrug again and say “Hey, I’ll try just about anything once.”
A Friday. I show up early. Boss/Hiring manager and I arrive around the same time. Skate guard shows up and I’m doing paperwork, but there’s no introduction. It doesn’t take long to discover that only men are hired as skate guards and rental clerks, and only women to sling overpriced soda and candy. I have to thank Jara, the other concessions worker, for even bothering to come in. She has just turned twenty-one, has a toddler at home, is newly pregnant (I assume by the same father, who lives in Arizona), and has been nauseated at this nauseating job for just over two weeks, having trained herself on her first day. She was the first of two ladies who remarked to me “You are being watched at all times. It’s no joke, all the owners do is watch the cameras.”
Then, it was only after being made aware of such document and upon request that at shifts’ end I was given a short photocopied “training manual”. A glorified list of rules so jumbled, redundant, mean-spirited out of idiocy and poorly worded, that when I read it later that evening just before bed, it made me miffed enough to scribble all over the document with proofreaders marks and other notes. An outdated entry concerning a hot dog machine no longer in use first refers to the food as “hot dogs”, then calls them “weiners” three times in a row before calling them “hot dogs” again.
Here are a few additional fine examples:
“Shoes must be worn at all time.”
“Pour remaining cheese in a plastic container and seal good.”
“Be as nice to your customers as you possible can.”
Indeed, one after another number the astoundingly coffin-nail-shaped reasons why I decided, after my swift and terrible tenure at Crystal Palace Skating Center of Boulder Highway, that it was time to move on up the dusty trail.
Naturally it’s my own dumb fault for not checking the ratings and reviews on the place first. Not sure what Yelp looks like but more recent Google results have a fair amount of “I would leave zero stars if I could” level choice phrase about it:
I’m supposed to go back there today. The “shift” is 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. They still have my health card I picked up so I could work with food and hospitality, so I’ve gotta swing by and get that back. I don’t expect I’ll get paid for the time I did put in, but that’s not even a concern at this point. One of my fellow “hostesses” asked how old I was and when I wouldn’t say, proceeded to guess twenty-four. So I’m happy my energy and attitude were at least a good fit.
And we got an exposé out of it. Gonzo from the get-go, kiddos. Long live Literate Ape.
A few days before all this, I’m shuffling down the strip and a native Chicagoan working in a shop steps out to pull me aside and compliment my fashion sense. I’m feeling raw, so I confide in him a little bit. “The first year is the hardest, but you just keep at it, you’ll find your niche.” he says. This made me feel a lot better, even though I remain aware of the fact that, although many job opportunities will have me, perhaps it’s better in most cases to not be had.