My First Job: Not a Bowl Full of Cake


This is a re-post. My daughter asked me about my first job today and I was happy to share all the sordid details.


It’s time,” my mom announced at the dinner table, and I knew just what she meant. For months, she’d insisted I look for a job and that evening over the phone, her church buddy told her the Jelly Bowl Bakery needed a counter girl. Being 15, I felt sure I’d never get a work permit, but somehow it never mattered, and so a few days later, I applied for the job.


The bakery’s owner, a drained mother of two with frizzy hair zinging from beneath her hat, and red eyes, and clogged pores, took my application and told me right then that I could start tomorrow. Her husband, similarly as exhausted seeming, grunted, and that was the only sound I ever heard from him my entire employment.


My schedule included weekends, and I spent all day Saturday and Sunday taking orders, filling ice cream cones, showing cake designs, packing donuts, and sweeping sprinkles. After the shop closed, I mopped the floors, cleaned the back kitchen, washed the baking equipment, took out the garbage, scooped buttercream frosting from enormous vats and into pastry bags I stacked in one of two stainless steel fridges. I remember thinking that I did the work of three people, and I still think I’m right.


Throughout my illustrious employment, my boss remained exhausted and pissy and stressed and hormonal. I hated staying so late on Saturdays because it cut into my social time, and friends would routinely meet me in the shop after closing to help with my chores. I regularly worked two hours past close just to finish the extras my boss put into my expansive job description.


I knew the shop owner didn’t care for me much. After all, I had some life left in me, and hers was all but sucked out. The contrast must have killed her. Her husband lurked in the background, and seemed a nice enough man, but around her, his mouth stayed sealed. I looked forward to her absence from the bakery because her presence lent it such despair, and when she was gone, I’d dance with the mop or chatter to myself.


On the nights I worked, I was permitted to take some extra pastries home (the others went to a rescue mission, picked up by a disheveled volunteer), and one evening when I thought I was alone in the shop, I preemptively shoved a cupcake into my mouth, positioning myself on my knees and over the garbage can because goldangit, I was sick of sweeping up sprinkles.


I recall the speed with which I wolfed that cupcake down, because I wanted to finish it before Soul Sucky Drainersen came back, and about 5 seconds after my first bite, I stood up, satisfied, to wipe the remaining non-pareils into the trash. Of course, as you might guess, I was not in the least bit alone and I looked up to see Draino’s husband staring at me, usually glued mouth agape. To his credit, he pretended nothing happened, but I knew deep within my muscle fibers, that it was the beginning of the end.


Sure enough, about a week later, I’d left the front door unlocked all night after joining my waiting friends outside the shop. I didn’t even look back as I scrambled into the car that was to whisk me from the bereft Jelly Bowl Bakery and to a lively high school football game. Of course, I didn’t do it on purpose, and was sorry to hear that a bum had wandered into the store and helped himself to a doughnut or two.


i never even knew it happened until my next shift five days later, when, after not seeing my time card in its usual place, I asked Draino about it. I believe she actually felt a little bad letting me go, but we both knew it was the best thing for me. I don’t know about her, though, I think she’d run out of best things a long while back.


And for the record, doughnuts don’t always make you happy.


4 thoughts on “My First Job: Not a Bowl Full of Cake

  1. Young workers have a lot to prove. On one hand, it’s one of their first steps in building the career of their dreams. It is never too great to start off on the wrong foot. They have to put in their best, prove their worth and impress their employers.

  2. Loved this! Of course, I was sucked in by the photo alone (I’m hungry, yo), but your descriptive recollection was wonderful. Made me think of a couple of my own first jobs. And now I want a cupcake. “Soul Sucky Drainersen” — LOL!

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