First Job

Today is the last day of school for kids in the Houston ISD and other school districts across Texas. A lot of high school kids will be out looking for summer jobs.

I thought I’d reflect on my first job. (And ironically, while taking a break from my present job — 20 years ago I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing right now!)

My first job was as a PBX operator for the then-largest Chevrolet dealership in San Antonio, Texas, Mission Chevrolet. It was the most fun I ever had working and got paid for it. I was young (16) and cute. It was 1975. The salesmen were young and cute (well, most of them). It was a teenage girl’s dream come true! I worked from 3PM to 9PM Monday through Friday and from 9AM to 6PM on Saturdays. My salary? A whopping $1.95 an hour. That summer, I managed to sock away over $500 and spent most of the rest of it on music (8-track tapes) and clothing.

The salesmen were nice; some of them were very flirtatious. But I never could tell if it was because they wanted favors from me (whoever was lurking at my desk when a “new car sales” call came in usually got to their phone first, so I started discouraging them from sitting there in fairness to the rest of the salesmen) or because they liked me. I think I was right the first time!

1975 was the year of the shitty car. We had the Chevrolet Vega and Monza. Only the affluent could afford the Chevrolet Corvette and the Bricklin SV-1 (which had a Ford 350 engine in it and was manufactured in Nova Scotia, Canada by an Arizonian, so why Chevrolet dealerships were hawking it remains a mystery to me!).

Of course, being the switchboard operator, I got all kinds of crank calls. Even though I was only 16, I got clued in pretty quickly about crackpot calls. You know the ones:

Operator (Me): Mission Chevrolet.
Caller: Hello, can you page Mike Hunt for me?

Operator: Mission Chevrolet.
Caller: Is Lollipop there?
Operator: Sir, there’s no one here by that name.
Caller: Oh, so you mean I got the wrong sucka?!

One sad call came around Christmas. A young girl called to speak to one of the “fathers.” Apparently she thought this was a real Spanish mission and didn’t realize it was a car dealership.

I even got a call once from an irate wife wanting to know if I had been paid that day (it was Friday). I told her I couldn’t speak for the people in the service or parts department, but I had gotten my paycheck. I waited on the phone for the string of expletives to subside. She apologized and then hung up. I only wonder what happened to her lying dog of a spouse when HE got home that night. Apparently his story was that payroll wasn’t cut that day. (He probably spent it on some floozy…. Who knows?)

There was even one salesman who was blatantly carrying on an affair. His wife would show up on the showroom floor from time to time, storming in every office like a raging bull looking for him. He was always out with his chickee-poos. He even told (not asked) me once that “if my wife calls, tell her I’ve taken a customer for a ride.” I refused to lie for him. He hated my guts after that. But I’m not going to lie for him. He can look her in the eye and lie to her face for all I care. I wanted no part of that. I knew he wouldn’t do anything to me. Since what he was asking me to do was wrong in the first place. He had no choice but to shut up and just give me the silent treatment the rest of the time I was there.

Later, I found out he died in a bar room brawl. Somehow, that didn’t surprise me.

So, what was your first job like?

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