Friday, May 27, 2005

Minimum Wage

Spurred by a surprise blog visit from a voice from the past, I bring you a glimpse of the Southgate Years.

(Warning: This is certainly of no interest to anyone except 2 or 3 people, including me, but I have nothing else to write about, so there. Feel free to wander about the internet. I won't be offended. I actually encourage it.)

Well, don't say I didn't warn you.

Charles got the job first.

It was 1985 and he and I were broke and in college. Just a hop across the river, in the suburb I grew up in, was the Southgate Theater. Yes, it was part of a chain, including the imaginatively named Westgate and Eastgate, located to the west and east. Southgate was to the south. It had 4 screens, and was completely basic, shaped like a large box, sitting on the main drag, next to the pizza place. But the hours were great for a student and, hey, minimum wage, what could be better. Much better than his last job of washing trucks for UPS at midnight, during December. For that job, as the temperature was in the teens (Fahrenheit), he sprayed water on the trucks, which froze on contact. He then sprayed on the soap, which froze on contact, and then more water, which again froze. When I would go to pick him up, he would be encased in a coat of ice, himself.

So this job, pushing popcorn, pop and candy seemed cake, especially with the fringe benefit of free movies. After a few months or so, I signed on, and worked my way up to that cushiest of jobs: The Box Office. This was truly the best, as all you did, especially after the remodel which put "the box" outside the theater in, of course, a box, was sell tickets. In the summer, you sold tickets and Fun Packs, these coupon books. You got 50 cents commission for each one you sold, so that was even better. During the down time, you read or studied. If you worked on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, there was almost total down time, so you were paid to sit and do your biology reading.

The best part about it, though, was the crew. My sister, Gail, ended up working there, as did Stacy, her best friend and "the little sister Charles never wanted". Of course she was my adored friend, too. Brian, Maryann, Pearl, Doug, Jake, all those guys. We partied together, several dated, and Brian and Maryann got married. All but one of the 8 bridesmaids and ushers in our wedding worked there.

Charles eventually became assistant manager. ("4 dollars and hour, wear your own clothes, looks good on your resume", went the mantra we chanted at him when he asked why he agreed to do it. Never mind you stained all your own clothes with grease from the "butter flavoring" we squirted on the popcorn.) He then moved on to projectionist, truly the best job, as you got to wear jeans and t-shirt, made the same 4 dollars an hour, and didn't have to deal with the public at all. The only down side was when the film broke, but the people usually took it out on the manager, not him. He was safe up in the booth.

According to Stacy the building is empty now, which is kind of sad. I was told it was a dance and cheerleading school for a while but apparently that went belly-up, too. So here's to the old Southgate, we knew you well. Good times, good times.

And my worst job? I think that would be the summer I hostessed at Denney's restaurant, home of the Build-A-Breakfast! where I wore a brown polyester wrap skirt and an orange and brown polyester peasant top. They were grooming me for waitress but, tragically, school started and I really needed to concentrate on my studies. So sorry. The Christmas working for the scummy PayLess doing cashier work was a close second. That was in the days when there were no scanners, you had to key in everything, running the credit cards through the hand-slide thingy, that pinched your fingers. And the stress of balancing out each night. (Shudder)

The worst job I ever heard of was what Charles's friend, Frank, spent doing. He picked up chicken carcasses that these 3 old lady chicken killers threw down on the ground, after they had broken their necks. Apparently they cackled while doing it, one delighted in using her teeth, and they looked like they were straight out of Macbeth. He lasted a whole week, but Frank was made of stern stuff.

So there you have it. Youth jobs. Got me where I am today. So glad I stayed in school.

And you?



Blogger Rozanne said...

How well I remember chipping the buttrisco (butter-flavored Crisco) out of the metal canister with an inadequate plastic scoop. A chisel would have worked much better. The stuff had the viscosity of potter's clay. Can you say saturated fat?

So scary. Aren't we glad we were able to go to college (and beyond)? There are some truly sucky jobs out there. That chicken carcass one sounds surreal.

3:13 PM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

Me? I never.

Why you think these posts are uninteresting I'll never know. It's abt your life. We've established your life is a good thing to have around. Ergo (i'm cultured), your posts are interesting. Entendido?


Now, MORE!

3:17 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

I worked in Collections for Sallie Mae when I was in college. While that really sucked, I have to say that the current job really bites the big one right now. Even McDonald's (in high school) wasn't that bad (cute guys to flirt with, after all)

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Stacy Moe said...

Ahh...I'm glad I spurred some fun memories. Remember the "Coke Combo"?! I also worked a Lloyd Center Theater on breaks when I attended UO. As for the fate of the Southgate, there was a dance/cheerleader operation there which closed about 2 years ago. Then there was a story in the Oregonian about a year and half ago about how it would be torn down and converted into the Tri-Met bus center for Milwaukie. Nothing has happened yet, so there it sits...My favorite Southgate story is when Rocky IV opened and we didn't have the film but we were selling tickets anyway, and the film itself arrived via taxi cab about a half hour after the film was supposed to start and Selena ran upstairs with these huge rolls of film, and then the film broke and I think we ended up giving away free popcorn. That was the crankiest mass of people. But you are right Diana, Frank's chicken job is the undisputed champ of disgusting jobs.

Ahh... what a fun stroll down memory lane.

5:43 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

I agree with Lioness, why would you think this is boring? I thought it was a cool story and made me wish I worked in a movie theater. So cool that I'm going to blog roll you now (please don't mind).

I love my job now because I get paid the most money I've ever made to answer the phone and in between calls I get to read Star Trek: TNG scripts or write things for my blog. And there's no stress. None!

6:03 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Oh, you guys, how fun you are! Kisses!!

Rozanne- And the cleaning of that damn popcorn popper. You'd try to time it so you had enough popped and wouldn't have to do it twice. You'd always get burned because you tried to do it too soon. And if someone pissed you off...a quart of butter flavor in a huge stream only in the center so it was basically inedible (not that it was much good, even with it carefully drizzled and tossed around) and you'd fill the cup with ice to the top so they'd only get about a teaspoon of pop. Tell me our theater wasn't the only one to retaliate.

Lioness- I am thinking that you are comparing this blog to your text books, ERGO, you find them interesting. Entiendo. But you make me feel all warm and fuzzy, so who am I to complain? So what do you want to hear about next? (Somehow, I think I may regret that.)

Cagey- Believe it or not, I never worked fast food! It probably isn't too far from the theater experience, if your fellow crew are fun. And while your job with Big Al sucks hugely, at least it provides good grist for blogging. I mourn the Big Burper. Collections. Wow. I am awed. Big Al is worse? I am glad you are fleeing.

Stacy- Aaauuuhhhh! The Coke Combo! I forgot the Coke Combo! A large popcorn and 2 medium pops for only 25 cents more than the medium size-with-2-drinks. (Did I get it right?) I forgot about the Rocky IV fiasco, too. Then there was Red Sonya, which was so bad it actually played less than its one week contract and got replaced by a second copy of one of the other movies we were playing at the same time. HAHAHAHA!

Dana- You are such a lovely nut! I am honored and will pretend not to be thrilled. Very glad you love your job. I love mine too. I get paid to ask nosy questions, solve a mystery, and giggle with them (usually). Then they go home unless they go to the hospital and then are Somebody Else's Problem. And for this they actually pay me. Essentially no stress, at least for this sort of work. I actually sleep at night (shhhh. Don't tell the Lioness. She would be bitter.) I keep waiting for someone to catch on and fire me, or at least make me wear a pager, but so far, so good.

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Gerah said...

OOOH, OOOOH, I'll have to go with:


...up until my current one. It's good stuff, now.

I picked blueberries and strawberries for a summer as a teen out in the scalding heat...

Waited many-a-table...

Worked in a factory packing many-a-cough syrup bottle into boxes (along with various other mind-numbing tasks)...

Had a short stint as a headhunter right out of college...

Acted as a customer service rep SLASH graphic artist ??? and the job wasn't so bad BUT MY BOSS WAS AN EVIL NAZI BITCH who was born without a heart.

And now, think what a better person I am for all of it. Right? Right?

9:26 PM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

Hey, I'll have you know I'm sleeping nights now thankyouverymuch, and waking up early in the morning. So there.

I would love to hear abt something but if you find it too personal, no worries. I'd love to hear how you and Charles met, you know I'm a sucker for love stories.

[Kindly thank me for deleting a sentence there that would have given you AND your father a heart attack, I almost a cow there but then my good nature won.]

8:26 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Gerah- Horrors All! I did a whole day strawberry picking and made (I still remember, yikes) $3.25. Unfortunately, I forgot about my piano lesson that day, which cost $3.50. So minus $.25 for a day's work. Go me! (To be fair, I don't think my mom actually docked me for the lesson, but the point was made.)

L- Look for that post somewhere around 7/9, our anniversary. I will do a big post O' Luuuuve. It's actually a rather good story. I thank you for your good nature. All 4 parents and various siblings read the damn thing, although Dad and occasionally Gail(sister) and Cathy (step-mom) are the only ones who don't lurk.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Pieces of Me said...

Hey Diana,
I just found your blog from Dawn...thought I would say hey! TTYL

8:20 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Whoof, crappy jobs, I've had 'em. Taco Bell, Subway, Bruegger's, Perkins (I lasted two days...I am the worst waitress in the world!), Krauss's Pizza, plumbing warehouse, grape picking, and retail retail retail. Most of the jobs paid $4-something an hour. The grape picking was $10 because you had your arms over your head all day long and were surrounded by angry bees. Fun! But it only lasted a week every year.

It is amazing how love can (and does) bloom in these environments. I noticed my now-ex-husband gloomily stirring a bagel cauldron in the back room of Bruegger's, and the rest was history...

9:53 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Diana- (How weird is it typing that? I DO love our name.) Very nice to meet you and I will have to stop by and check out your blog.

Jamie- It must have been bad if they shelled out $10 an hour for picking grapes. They just don't show those pictures in the wine commercials. It's all slanted light and not a bug in sight, with the grapes at easy-picking chest height.

8:53 AM  
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7:20 PM  

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