Most people vividly remember their first job, fondly or otherwise. My first job with a paycheck was, as I phrase it, “doing time at Dairy Queen” in Rexburg, Idaho. I can still see the line of customers stretched out the door on nights so cold people’s cars barely started. I never understood why -30F temperatures inspired the urge for ice cream, but perhaps it was fitting to order a “Blizzard” in a blizzard. The owner of DQ, an intimidatingly tall man named Dana, routinely parked across the street in his weathered brown Chevy pickup and used binoculars to spy on us. He would swoop into the store and confront us if he happened to catch us standing around talking when we could have been wiping down counters or restocking condiments. We were also forbidden to take home any “mistake orders” of ice cream made wrong; these were placed in the freezer and tossed in the dumpster after closing time. We couldn’t understand why he chose to waste food. Sometimes we would sneak “mistakes” out in their own separate garbage bag, which ended up in the back seat of our cars. This led to a practice of creating intentional “mistakes” when things got slow so we could enjoy our favorite frozen treats after work. Dana was also known for firing employees on a whim. Before long we developed a code language to alert one another when we spied Dana with his binoculars or when he was headed into the store. We called him “The Count,” as in “Count Danula,” and we would shout “The Count is coming!” or “Count at 12 o’clock” as a warning. I did time at Dairy Queen for 2.5 years before finally turning in my uniform.

My second job with a paycheck was short lived. I had been admitted to law school and was spending the summer working before moving to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah College of Law. Back in Rexburg, I landed a job at a printing company. I was a typesetter and proofreader, charged with typing up wedding invitations, business cards, and the like. The atmosphere at that job was reminiscent of high school—many of the employees had gone to school together and were allied with their peer groups, sharing lunch tables and congregating outside for smoke breaks. I tended to eat lunch in my car. Our mandatory meetings at this company consisted of our manager, Doug, standing in the conference room while we typesetters and proofreaders sat on the floor. Doug towered before a whiteboard where he had posted each person’s error rate for all of us to see. He made a production of firing the person with the most errors. He never offered any help or support with reducing our error rate, but he did hire a quality control inspector named Carl, who, without introduction or explanation, would pull up a chair and spend an entire shift watching each of us type. Carl, smugly sporting his studious round spectacles, held a clipboard and took copious notes, the results of which were never disclosed to us. Doug’s main management perk was taking frequent afternoons off to go golfing. I can still see him headed out with his clubs, gazing at the typists and proofreaders on his way out, with the words “I don’t know how you girls can do this” trailing in his wake. I’ve never been happier to leave a job for school; if I’d been there for life, I imagine I would have taken up smoking too, just to survive. Fortunately, I was able to quit that job when the summer ended rather than being a casualty of one of Doug’s many firings.


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Technical Writing @ SLCC Copyright © 2020 by Department of English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies at SLCC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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