A friend and I were talking about the importance of the first real jobs we ever had. Getting our first paychecks, having cash in our pockets, knowing we earned that money on our own. Knowing what it took to earn it. My first job was at a car wash in Darien, Connecticut, where I grew up. I was sixteen and it was the start of the summer. My boyfriend had gotten a summer job there and I wanted to be with him so I went to the owner and asked if I could work there too. There were no girls working there at the time, just guys – one older man named Jimmy (I just now remembered his name after all these years) and a lot of young kids like my boyfriend and me.
The owner didn’t think it was the right job for a girl (this was a long time ago), but I convinced him I could do it. And I did. And it was hard. In the heat of the summer, we had to climb into cars and vacuum the seats and carpets with these big vacuum hoses, spray and wipe the windows, empty the ash trays (a lot of people smoked cigarettes back then), and generally make the inside of the car look good. My least favorite thing was when a mom would come cruising in ten minutes before closing time with a station wagon full of kids. That was the kiss of death. Those cars always had two inches of dirt, sand, gum wrappers, melted candy, Cheerios, and pennies (usually with the melted candy stuck to them) on the carpets. Not to mention windows that were so full of sticky fingerprints you could barely see through the glass. It was a major ordeal to get those cars clean. But at the end of the day when we divided up the tips it all seemed worthwhile. It was hot work and it was hard work, but I was earning my own money and I’ll never forget how good that felt. P.S. – the owner hired a second girl. I was a trail blazer.