This unexpected sighting brought back fond-ish memories:
When I was in Library School, I worked at a struggling 2-screen independent cinema (and really, is there any other kind?). I’d work the box office or I’d work concessions, depending on who showed up vs. called in Strunk*. The box office involved selling tickets from a laptop hooked up to a receipt printer and never having enough ones to make change for a twenty…and explaining to screaming @$$holes that we were a cash-only business, which never went over well. Concessions involved making popcorn in a giant popping kettle, running up and down flights of stairs carrying buckets of ice, and looking granddaughterly enough (not too difficult; I still look about 15yo, and not in a good way) to coax tips out of elderly customers — mostly so that I could afford my weekly veggie burrito from Cosmic Cantina, the $3 miracle that, nutritionally speaking, was the highlight of my week.
I also sold, among other confections, Mike & Ikes…well, until the day we ran out of them, and didn’t get any additional shipments. As the weeks turned into months without a single shipment, we all came to the conclusion that they’d stopped making Mike & Ikes back in the mid-1970s but that we, as a species, had only recently made our way through the backlog…nearly 40 years later.
But now I wonder if I was wrong. Or perhaps I was right and that market forces and nostalgia have only recently brought them back into production — Lord knows why**. As far as I’m concerned, they’re tied with Good & Plenty as the #1 most disgusting movie theater candy you’d never, ever want to put in your mouth, because they’re almost certainly made of rodent feces with a hard coating of dried toothpaste and carnauba wax.
Concessions aside, however, it was a wonderful job…even though I made about $5 an hour at it.
The primary reason I loved the job was not the free movies*** OR the free popcorn, but the fact that everyone brought a book and everyone read. As I said, it wasn’t much money, but since I didn’t have to do very much to get it, I felt rather wealthy. Every twenty minutes, I could look up from my book and think, “I just earned a dollar.” Have you ever been paid a dollar every twenty minutes for reading a book? It is one of life’s greatest pleasures, I assure you.
Ok, I am not saying that low-wage jobs are good. Mostly, they are kind of criminal. There is no health insurance, except the $#!++y kind that’s like the insurance industry’s version of the check-cashing businesses — you know, the kind that makes it especially easy for you to become homeless if you ever get seriously ill or injured. You can get fired if your babysitter quits or if your car breaks down or if, God forbid, you depend on public transportation. (Bear in mind that if you don’t drive, they may outright refuse to hire you. This has happened to me at least four times, even when the job in question was literally ACROSS THE STREET FROM WHERE I LIVED.***) You have no recourse when your bosses flout — and they flagrantly do flout — both state and federal labor laws. You have no recourse when you are sexually harassed or experience discrimination for any number of reasons including but not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.
Sorry, I have to mention this because I suddenly worry that I’m feeding into the mostly false notion that anyone with a little pluck and a strong work ethic can rise to fame and riches, even if they come from humble beginnings. That is not my intention. We live in a highly stratified society where social mobility has more or less come to an end. Fight that. I mean it.
But yes, sometimes life requires you to work a shitty job. And yes, even it is not possible to change your situation, it is possible to endure it.
Anyway, all of this reminds me of how happy I am in my current gig, and how fortunate I am to have it. I know that there are so many worse things I could be getting paid for — and I mostly know this from firsthand experience. So…huge sigh of relief from this girl.