My first job was working at a retirement home in the cafeteria when I was 14. I had to wear a tuxedo, push a giant food cart to each table and I served buttermilk and tiny egg salad sandwiches. The building was behind a Taco Bell near my house and I rode my bike to and from each shift. The job made me realize my own mortality. I quit after three months.
My second job was working at Pac Sun in the mall. I was 16 and thought it would be the coolest job ever, but then I learned that my paycheck didn’t afford me any of the Pac Sun clothes. The managers scared me and I didn’t know anything about credit cards. I was lectured a lot when I took too long of breaks and was bad at cleaning the back room. The store played edited Avril Lavigne songs (“It’s a #$%! Cold Night…”) and made me feel bad about myself. I think I lasted six months and then quit to go to theater camp.
My third job was at the Longmont Rec Center, first in the babysitting wing and later working the front desk at the center, Sunset Pool, and Centennial Pool. I was a senior in high school. I loved working the front desk at the pools because it gave me time to read Harry Potter. I did not like the babysitting wing because I remember there was a older woman babysitter who cared way too much about keeping the room clean and would pick fights with the other girls. It was my first time having “work drama” and all I wanted was my ten bucks and hour and to finish The Half Blood Prince. I worked on and off there for a year.
My fourth job was at the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects Administration (ORSPA) at Arizona State University. I was a freshman in college and found it on a job search site. It was office work and the entire staff was Mormon women. They were all very nice to me. I felt bad that their offices didn’t have any windows. I shredded papers and did data entry. I went to my first office holiday party there. None of the women ate the holiday cookies because they were all in Weight Watchers together. I worked there through my sophomore year.
My fifth job was two summers as a beer cart girl at a golf course in Colorado. It was a lot of fun. I drove a fun, little cart around, smelled the fresh cut grass, friended really nice golfers and got amazing tips. I bought a car off of one summer’s work. There were a lot of beautiful beer cart girls that worked with me. There was also a lot of golf course drama that I tried to avoid. One of my co-workers went on to be a Playboy centerfold with her twin sister. I wasn’t given my job back for a third summer, and always wondered if it was because I wasn’t pretty enough and/or because I wasn’t part of the golf course drama. I miss that job. When I think of carefree summers, I think of that one.
My sixth job was working in the box office at a Arizona comedy club my sophomore and junior year of college. I never got to see the shows and always worked really late. I made a friend named Duncan, my first work friend, and we had inside jokes about the bowl of mints that sat in front of the box office and the song “Everybody’s Working For The Weekend.” It was always the weirdest audiences when Jeff Dunham came to town. I thought working there would be a good comedy opportunity, but all it did was give me stomachaches from breathing the recycled air in the glass box I had to sit in. I quit fall of my junior year when I got a lead in a college production.
My seventh job was working seasonally at Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory in Boulder, Colorado. I started there over the holidays and then returned for every summer I was home and for the brief times I was saving up for moves to Chicago and then later LA. I loved, loved, loved Celestial Seasonings, and still keep in touch with them to this day. I even visited my old boss when I was home last month (SHAWNDA YOU DA BEST!). I started in the Tea Shop and eventually moved over to being a tour guide for the factory as well. It was a fantastic job because, really, how bad is a bad day at a tea factory? If I had no ambition to write and perform comedy, I would still be giving tours today. When I think of home, I think of the Peppermint Room and Sleepytime Tea. I love my Tea Shop ladies!
My eighth job was working at a Chompies Jewish Delicatessen in Arizona, first as a hostess and later as a waitress, during my junior and senior year of college. I loved eating at Chompies. I was terrible at waiting tables at Chompies. Most of the patrons were college kids or elderly Jewish couples. The tips helped me pay for my graduation trip to Europe. One manager creeped me out… a lot. The other was pretty fair with shifts. I liked Everything Bialys with Veggie Cream Cheese and the Cookie Monster Cupcakes. I did not like restaurant culture and the early mornings. My roommate was the one that got me the job, and she worked there with me. I remember us ignoring our tables once to make sure our family got tickets to see Obama speak at our graduation. I was happy to have worked at Chompies, but even happier to quit after graduation and never wait tables again.
My ninth job was as a hostess at a fancy Italian restaurant in Chicago. I had to wear heels. My boss was named Dino. I was certain the place was run by the mob. I lasted three months.
My tenth job was at The Disney Store off of Michigan Ave. A wonderful crew of eccentrics worked there. Everyone was really fun and quirky, and a lot of the younger people were ambitious kids straight out of college. It’s been fun to see what’s happened to them on Facebook since then, they’ve all gone on to do such cool things. We had walkees and ear pieces and were called “Cast Members” and I never had the right amount of money when I closed out my register. Apparently I’m bad at giving change. I was also terrible at folding shirts. But I liked listening to Disney music and I liked being there during Christmas time, even when I had to work at 4am on Black Friday. I worked a lot of Saturday nights and when we closed, one employee named Alfredo would always blast techno dance music as we restocked. I was there for about a year.
My eleventh job was as a nanny to a Chicago family. It started with one kid and then it grew to two. I taught the oldest how to “rock out” to music after we “cleared some space”(i.e. picked up his toys). I took him to the park and stood with a bunch of nannies who did not speak English. It was the first time I held a newborn, heated formula, and learned the phrase “tummy time.” They had a grandmother who I “split nanny shifts” with. The grandmother has since passed away which is sad because was she a wonderful, wonderful lady and I liked her a ton. It was fun watching the kids grow up and to teach them new things and to make them smile. It also fun playing with all the cool toys kids have today that I didn’t have when I was young. I nannied them for two years before moving away.
My twelfth job was babysitting part time for a little girl while I also worked at Celestial Seasonings again in Colorado. It was only for six months before I moved to Los Angeles, but that little girl changed my life. She was stubborn and funny and loved dress-ups and getting dirty and we would go on adventures together. I took her to the zoo, the museum, the library, the pool, and, her personal favorite, the butterfly pavilion. She liked pointing out that my car was dirty and always tried to catch grasshoppers in her backyard. She liked peacocks and had a pet donkey. She was the youngest of four kids, each one cooler than the next, and she had no fear. Her name was Cana. She is my spirit animal. I miss her dearly.
My thirteenth job was working at a production company in Los Angeles. First as a temp PA, where I drove around and dropped off documents and emptied the office kitchen dishwasher, and later I was promoted to receptionist, only to be fired after a month when the office was restructured and nearly half the people working there were let go. I had never been fired before. It hurt my feelings. It was a weird way to start my life in LA.
But there’s a reason we call it La La Land.
I was a casting assistant on a “Wipe Out” style reality game show where I slept for only three hours a night for a week straight. I’ve watched people win cars on the Price Is Right, ate Alton Brown’s cotton candy on The Late, Late Show, snuck in to Bruno Mars’ sound check on X-Factor, and swooned to the Backstreet Boys singing holiday songs on The Talk. I’ve transported fake squid and alien heads, delivered scripts to homes that look fake, and yelled “rolling” while wearing a Burger King headset. I’ve eaten pizza from a fire truck, worn a pregnancy suit in front of a blue screen, successfully ordered Argentinean empanadas for a crew of one hundred, and seen a kid actor completely covered in potato chips.
Suffice it to say, my jobs have been pretty amazing at shaping me into who I am. Each new one brings new stories to tell and new people to know. Even when I was bad at my job, I learned something from it. And a big thank you is in order for all those I have worked with and all those who have hired me. Know that all of the experiences gained from those jobs have aided in my comedy, my characters and my writing.
Or, as I see it: my career.
– One L
“You want a piece of my heart? You better start from the start.” – Loverboy