She Worked Hard For The Money

Remember your first job? Were you a teenager, struggling to bring money into the family home, or did you just want to make some dough to call your own? Maybe you needed to augment an allowance. I never actually got an allowance per se; my parents just gave me money as I needed it for movies or a bit of candy. I didn’t buy my own clothes with my own money; my mother took me shopping or accepted hand-me-downs from my cousin. Sometimes I got lucky and got some nice stuff, but most of the time it was stuff my cuz was glad to see the back of and I got stuck wearing it to Junior High which didn’t do much for my already slim chances of attracting boys.
When I turned 16, I was allowed to take on a part-time job. The reason I had been held back from doing so, was that my parents felt it might interfere with my education – I might not focus on my homework as diligently as I normally did. I think they were right, but when I finally got tired of my mother selecting my clothes and my father giving me handouts, I set out to get a part-time job. So began my foray into the world of work.
cup 006
A friend at school had a job working for a family restaurant in town called Mother’s Pizza. It was a large establishment decorated with Tiffany lamps and kitschy-Italian tablecloths in red and white check. She had worked in the kitchen and then moved up to waitressing. I fancied that I could do the same thing so one day, I hopped on the local transit bus at the top of the street, and took the 1/2 hour trip to the Dundas Street stretch of Mississauga that was really a “strip” of shop fronts and restaurants, fast-food joints and gas-stations. The bus stopped right in front of my destination.
Miss bus
My Mississauga Bus Route
I remember that I had on my aquamarine trench-coat and my North Star runners. I had my hair tied back out of my face and I was carrying my big purse, crammed with stuff: Kleenex, hairbrush, eye shadow, glasses case, empty wallet, save a bit of change and a library card, a few pens and notebooks and probably a religious medal or card of some sort (tucked in by my father to keep me safe).
Inside Mother’s Pizza, the entrance was rather like an old hotel front desk, where people came in to pick up telephone orders for that night’s dinner and where staff were dispatched into cars with the Mother’s logo to deliver hot and fresh pseudo-Italian fare to those lucky enough to be able to afford it.
I stepped meekly up to the counter and said I was there to apply for a job. A youngish man (about 25) with a receding hairline, handed me a foolscap sheet of paper attached to a clipboard and asked me to fill it in. I sat in a doctor’s office-style chair and made my entries onto the page with the Mother’s Pizza pen attached to the clipboard with a string, as if it were some hot item that was in danger of being lifted. When I finished I handed it back to the guy behind the desk, who was now on the phone taking an order.
I don’t recall that there was much of an interview process. I think if you were presentable, clean and had all limbs accounted for (in order to do the work) you were hired on the spot. It was a question of, “We can use you in the kitchen. Can you start this Saturday?” Followed by my response of, “Uh, yeah. Okay.” “You’ll need to get some white, work-shoes.” Answered by my rather surprised, “Oh. Where can I get those?” With the result being,“Sears.”
workshoe
My visions of what the job entailed were really rather glamourous compared to with what I was truly faced. I knew my way around the kitchen at home – loved to cook and was looking forward to perhaps garnishing foods, stirring sauces and buttering garlic bread. What I was charged with was more like k.p. in an army mess. My first duty involved onions. Lots of onions.
I was handed a spanking clean apron and a hair-net (ugh!)upon my arrival on Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. Fortunately, my dad wanted to drive me in rather than having me on the bus at that hour – very protective of his daughter. Thank heavens for that, because my day-glow white work shoes were hideous.
The head Prep-chef directed me to a large counter, where I was shown a huge cutting board, a massive knife and what looked like a bushel of onions with the skins on. One demonstration followed by a brief period of supervision and I was left to work my way through each of those sulfuric acid-filled orbs.
onion2
After about ten minutes of trying to see the onion-halves–I managed to get that far with one or two–enough to chop them, my eyes were on fire. There were tears of pain, coupled with onion-induced tears and let’s just say I wasn’t doing well on the productivity end of things. They decided to move me to lettuce.
Lettuce wasn’t nearly so bad as onions, but it was tedious in the extreme. This was not really what I had bargained on, but I persisted, chop-chop-chopping away and filling up giant bowls to be covered and set aside to make lots of little bitty salads to go alongside the entrees.
My shift was about 3 hours long. After that time was up, my arms were aching from lifting the heavy knife and hacking away at the heads of lettuce. It was with great relief that I took off that apron and made my way to the front entry to the payphone to call my dad. When he picked me up, I must have looked like Lucy after her day at the chocolate factory. I was bushwhacked! It was only noon. My next Mother’s shift was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon after school. I could hardly wait. I had made almost $12.00. Wow.
On Tuesday, I was much less enthusiastic about going to my new job. At 3:30, I hopped on the bus outside my high school and made my way down Dundas Street towards Mother’s Pizza once again.
This time they decided to put me to work in the outer room where some of the cooking went on. I was to “cook” some packets of spaghetti in what appeared to be a dishwasher, complete with individual baskets, racks and rushing water. I realized then, that I was now privy to some sort of restaurant secrets and it made me feel a little more a part of things although I had yet to make any sort of connection with other people since they were all racing back and forth like market runners on the floor of the SEC.
I was beginning to feel as if I was hitting my stride – doing my spaghetti packets and chopping my lettuce, when the powers that be decided to add another task to my roster: taking the little ceramic dishes of baked lasagna out of the ovens. You might assume that this was a simple enough task and by anyone else, perhaps it was, but not for this kid.
The ovens were housed above the “spaghetti-washers” and opened exactly the same as your counter-top microwave at home. This was the problem. When a timer went off to indicate that one of the baked tomato, meat and cheese delights was done, I yanked on my oven-mitts and pulled open the door. Somewhere in between the timer’s “ding” and another server passing behind me and calling out to someone, I let go of the oven-door and when I turned back, as it was about to shut, I forgot the oven door was NOT a microwave and raised my bare arm to prevent it from closing. Yeeeeooowwww!!! Hot! Hot! Hot!
armburn
(Not my arm)
I’m surprised there’s not still a “v” tattooed on the inside of my left arm just below the elbow.
I didn’t cry–too much, but I did walk away from the outer-kitchen, into the back room, silently remove my apron and hairnet, put my white work-shoes in the striped drawstring bag I’d made in Home Ec and walk out of Mother’s Pizza never to return as a “skivvy” again.
I did go back—many times, but only to sit at a table with friends and order pizza. I never ate spaghetti or salad or lasagna at Mother’s again. I believe I made just enough money to pay for the white shoes which sat at the back of my closet for years as a memento of my first job.
Kathleen Mortensen©2009 Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Here’s a vintage ad for Mother’s from the 80s (a little after my stint with them).

Fireside Chats to date

Just a quick post (still resting my shoulder) to give you a heads up on who has already indulged me in an interview. I will be updating this list as others take part. Please visit these links to support the “Getting to Know the Blog Clan” process. Each interview is different and illuminating.
Don’t forget: if you wish to be interviewed yourself, leave a comment here and I’ll send you some questions.

Here are the interviewees so far. Please visit their excellent blogs and read all about them.

Peggy@Johnstone Journal
Christine@Quiet Paths
Carol@Writer’s Porch
Amanda@One Happy Panda
RachelW@The Waxing Moon
Melanie@Mizmell
Trish@Nana’s Living the Dream

Thanks!

Kat

A pain in the…


Hi Everybody,

This little message is to inform you that I’ll be taking a couple of days off from blogging due to a severe pain my right shoulder-blade. I keep exacerbating the issue by keyboarding and I’m paying for it at the end of the day. I will send interview questions to anyone who has requested/agreed to be interviewed, but will not be posting or commenting.

If you wish to be interviewed by me, please leave a comment in the “Don’t Get Me Started!” post below.

Thanks,

Kat

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Don’t Get Me Started!


My friend Willow of Willow Manor was recently interviewed by a fellow-blogger and it was great fun to learn more about her and the history of the Manor. She invited her bloggy-friends to leave a comment indicating they wished to by interviewed by her and I took the opportunity to do so in order that you, my loyal visitors would be let in on a few histories and idiosyncrasies of my own. Below is the interview resulting from Willow’s questions of me. At the end, please feel free to assist us in furthering this voyage of discovery into the worlds of many of the participants in the Creative Clans of Blogdom. (If you would like to be interviewed, see rules at the bottom of this post.)

1. Your poetry is amazing. When did you starting writing?
I have always had a love of words and rhymes. As a very little girl, my grandmother would sit me on her knee and read to me. My prized possessions were books of verse – Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes, A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and the strange and wonderful books by Dr. Seuss (Green Eggs and Ham), P.D Eastman (Are You My Mother?)and perhaps my favourite – Theo LeSieg’s “Come Over to My House“.
I began writing poetry in grade school and continued through high school and university, though I viewed it only as a diversion – a sideline. My focus was to get a degree in English Literature and become a teacher. I did obtain the degree, but fell out of favour with teaching because it did not align with my slightly introverted personality.
Two years ago, I left my office job to spend more time with my parents who were grappling with my father’s Parkinson’s and dementia. At that time, three career-changing incidents occurred: I wrote a very well-received poem to commemorate my husband’s parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary, I won a competition to name a skunk who had “hitched a ride from California to Ontario, Canada”, and I wrote a poem about the skunk that was published online by one of our national newspapers. As a result, I established a relationship with a mentor-writer out of B.C. who has been a wealth of knowledge, inspiration and a very good friend. I began blogging in May of that year and, as they say, “the rest is history” – so far. (Incidentally, I firmly believe that any talent I have is not of my own making necessarily, but purely as a result of the gift of both my fathers – the one late of Earth and the one in Heaven.)

2. How did you meet your charming husband?
Back in 1993 – before the advent of internet-dating, I was a young woman in my early 30s who had gone just about every route there was to meet a man with whom I would want to spend the rest of my life. Frankly, I was ready to enter a nunnery! You can imagine at that age, that I had had my share of ups and downs with previous relationships. For about a year, I completely stopped dating and spent some time getting to know myself. I also prayed long and hard for some sort of guidance in my life.
One day, I discovered “Telepersonals” telephone-dating on the back page of a Toronto entertainment magazine. I decided to give it a whirl since women had the ability to block phone calls if they chose to do so. I created my own ad and listened to others at my leisure. Apart from the fellow who described himself as a Jesus-lookalike, everybody I spoke to seemed very nice, but just not the “right” one. It was like having two jobs – one regular one by day and another part-time job screening candidates at night.
One day, I was listening to the mens’ ads and I heard one that caught my interest. The guy was looking for “someone born in the 60s, who loved music and liked to people-watch. I could tell he had a playful nature when he spontaneously broke into a familiar Sesame Street song using the word “monogamy”. For this guy, I decided to break my rule of not leaving my phone number and I’m so glad I did. We spoke on the phone (he was drinking a McDonald’s chocolate shake) for over an hour – learning we both loved certain bands, movies, cats, food – met the next night for dinner, and the rest is, again…you know.

3. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
If you’re talking on a personal level – then I would say it has to be working with my husband to move my parents out of their home of 39 years – with its massive accumulation of stuff– in order to bring them to our city (an hour away) and within walking distance of our own home. We singlehandedly shifted all of the unnecessary items – donating to Habitat for Humanity, thrift stores, or dragging to the dump, while keeping and moving their prized possessions and keepsakes to a new, luxury apartment we had found for them.

In terms of my career – probably the most significant thing for me has been to see my work in print in magazines and a national paper, but I really believe the best is yet to come. I hope to publish a collection this year and that I think will be my greatest accomplishment.

4. Who is your favorite male actor and why?
When it comes to actors, I am hard-pressed to be pinned down to just one. I can very easily tell you who I don’t like, but we’d be here all day! I am a great lover of film, as some of my previous posts have illustrated, so my favourite actors tend to be in different genres. My taste does not lean towards the typical male actor. I’m not one for the “flavour of the month”. Usually, I like the scrawny, lanky Brit and my choices definitely reflect that.
When I saw this question I thought, “Who do I make a point of watching? Who will I go out of my way to see on film? Three actors fall into this category – Daniel Day Lewis, Robert Carlyle and Richard E. Grant. I have seen nearly all of Day-Lewis’s films, with exception of “Gangs of New York”, because I have a tough time with really graphic violence. I did greatly enjoy, “There Will Be Blood”, however, despite some scenes. My absolutely favourite role of his has to be as Cecil Vyse in the Merchant-Ivory film, “A Room With a View”. In my opinion, he steals the show.
Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) was first made known to me through the series, “Cracker”. He played a psychotic, racist killer in one of the episodes. He was also in “Trainspotting” with Ewan McGregor (who would be in my top 10 list) but really won me over with the “Hamish MacBeth” series, so much so that I endured the movie “Ravenous” wherein he plays a cannibalistic soldier and really chews up the scenery. He fares far better in “There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble” – a footy (soccer) movie that I love.
Richard E. Grant can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. He plays the down-on-his-luck theatre actor of 1969 London to quintessential perfection in “Withnail and I” – my all-time favourite comedy (be warned: language and subject matter may offend some), and has done justice to Shakespearean roles, television period pieces and other characters. His book With Nails is a real insight into the world of British film-making and Hollywood. (You can find a link to his website in my sidebar under miscellaneous blogs.)

Of course I can’t answer this question without giving a nod to some of my favourite classic film actors: Henry Fonda (favourite role – Frank in Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West”), James Stewart (favourite role – Elwood P. Dowd in “Harvey”), James Cagney (favourite role – Cody Jarrett in “White Heat”).

I would be cheating if I did not admit to my one weakness when it comes to movie actors. I own many of and will watch any of Hugh Grant’s films. Inexplicable, I know, but his twinkling eyes and smirky grin get me every time. I really enjoy him as Frederic Chopin in “Impromptu” and as the has-been 80s pop-star in “Music and Lyrics”, but in my opinion, his finest role to date is the director in a little known film called, “An Awfully Big Adventure” which also features a deliciously smarmy Alan Rickman.

5. Other than your loved ones, what is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession is my Celtic wedding band. I was delighted to be getting married in June 1994. We almost pulled off an elopement to Ireland, but being Catholic, I was determined to get married in a church and the Arch-diocese in Dublin would not allow outsiders to do so on short notice (despite the willingness of a lovely parish priest). We did marry, in Toronto at the church I attended as a little girl. We flew off to Belfast for our honeymoon and though we intended to visit my father’s childhood haunts, were scared off when an incident in a pub during the World Cup of Soccer resulted in a shooting. We made haste to Dublin where we somehow ended up on the wrong side of town ( a little old lady told me to “mind my bag, dear” as we walked in search of a B & B).
I had not desired an engagement ring. To be getting married was thrill enough and I only had my heart set on matching golden bands to signify the sacrament and our enduring love.
We found the perfect gold rings in a shop on one of the sidestreets of Dublin. They are decorated with Celtic symbols and are identical, but for the size. I don’t form attachments to things as a rule, but should I lose my wedding band, I would be very sad, indeed. (Having said that, I’d be really upset if I broke my traditional brown, Sadler teapot).

Here are the instructions if you wish to be interviewed by me:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me”.
2. I will respond by e-mailing you five questions (I get to pick the questions)
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

I will post a list of those who have agreed to an interview so everyone can follow along.