Labor Day has been around as a National Holiday since 1894. With all the Labor Day sales and cookouts, we may have lost sight of why we celebrate the day (or weekend) to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States.
Labor Day is a good time to think about the different jobs I’ve had.
- Babysitter: Age 10-19, 50 cent/hour. My first paying job. It’s kinda difficult to believe that people actually trusted multiple children to the care of a 10 year old. I saved my money in a Baid-Aid box for something important. I don’t remember what, but I do remember counting it each time I got paid and reveling at the mounting bills.
- Collator: Age 15, $10/day. My friend Diane asked me along to help her collate papers for a home business. We worked for one day in the basement of the business owner. Hundreds of papers stacked on a table. Our job: walk around the table, picking up one page from each stack and stapling the neatly together. That job lasted one day.
- Burger assembly: Age 16, $1.50/hour. Diane already worked there. My job, put three pickles on the Quarter Pounder or wrap the assembled burger. I lasted one day at that job, too. Diane quit school to marry the manager, she is still very happily married to him.
- Waitress/Car Hop: Age 16-19, $1.50/hr plus tips. I did love these jobs. From carhop to upscale restaurant, I loved meeting people from all walks of life. And, I introduced one of my regular customers to my sister. He’s been my brother-in-law for more than 50 years.
- Typist: Age 20 (pay forgotten.) I typed term papers for people in college. I learned a lot about a variety of things, most as forgotten as the pay I got.
- Mother: Age 21 to present. Payment in unmeasurabe dividends. This has been my most challenging job. The one that prepared me for every paying job I had after that. And the one that I enjoy the most.
- Sanitarian: Age 29, $7.00/hour. I loved this job. I worked for the county health department inspecting wells, septic tanks and restaurants. I loved meeting people, explaining non-compliances and figuring out reasonable ways to meet compliances. I learned a lot about how people think and how what they say is not always what they mean.
- Microbiologist: Age 33, $8.50/hour. I loved this job, too. My main job was growing bacteria that made compounds used in artificial sweeteners and heart medication. I trained other people how to recognize a sick tank and how to use sterile technique. I wrote lots of instructions. I suppose this was the beginning of my writing career.
- Chemist: Age 34, still $8.50/hour. This job was fun and scary. I worked with pilot plant equipment trying out new manufacturing methods to see if they worked. Often they did not. Once I had to jump off a ladder to avoid a boiling over reactor, making my supervisor laugh his hardhat off.
- Microbiologist/Sanitarian Age 35-40. My first Salaried job, still pretty labor intensive. In the words of my teenage CeCe, “She does the same thing at work as she does at home: walk around and tell everyone to clean.” Pretty close. I taught people how to wash their hands, how to clean equipment, and how to keep their environment clean so the food we made stayed healthy and disease free. I loved this job, too, although I’ll admit is was sometimes frustrating. I wrote lots more instructions at this job.
- Trained Tongue: Age 35-40. Okay, this was actually part of my job #9. Still, worth mentioning as a separate job. At this job, I rated the taste of food on things like slipperyness, astringency (champagn as a standard,) driness (cornstarch as a standard.) I learned how to tell the difference between the flavors of vanilla and vanalin, and discern cocoa from chocolate. I also learned how to spit discreetly.
- Manager/Director of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs. Age 40/57. So much fun. So much writing, so much editing, so much logic, so much science. So many people to deal with. Yes! I loved it. This job was probably not characterized as labor. Still, I did a lot of walking around, talking to people, and watching how they did things. And, I did a whole lot of explaining in written word and in person.
- Photo/journalist: Age 57-66. I wrote for two different newspapers. Mostly human interest stories, a little local governments. I love, love, loved this job. So many people with so many stories to tell, every one interesting as all get out.
- Author: When did I not think about, work at writing something? As someone put it about writing: I do it for the same reason I breath. It’s true that I got a story published when I was eight years old. I am so happy that I finally finished a novel, a children’s book and I’m working on more. Maybe I’ll be like Grandma Moses.
Wow! Fourteen different types of labor over the course of a lifetime. That’s worth celebrating.
Labor Day is special to me, too, because I rested from my labor after Wrestler #1 (born Sept 3) and I was in labor on Labor Day with CoCo ( born Sept 6.) I can’t rest from this post until I mention the most important type of labor of all.