Fun / Work

Prompt Me: My First Job

{In an effort to not drown in a sea of dumpster fires, I’m trying to write (at least every other blog) about something light. I’ve found some prompts to get me going}

Here’s today’s prompt: Write about your first job and what it taught you.

 

I don’t remember much about my first interview at Villa Maria Cleaners except that my boss had a gray toned semi-mullet and a severe mustache. I think he asked me about the A&M football team (I literally went to 1.5 games my entire time at A&M) and I awkwardly laughed about it.

I was flexible and I didn’t negotiate my wage.

Boom. Hired.

There’s nothing glamorous about working at a dry cleaner’s. For one, it’s your job to take people’s dirty laundry. People would come in, we would get their contact info, sweep their pile of clothing into a nylon bag, and then toss it into a pile. On busy days, that pile of nylon bags full of people’s sweaty drawers got as tall as my waist.

When we had down time, we would take a nylon bag off the pile, dump the contents on the nipple height (for me) counter, tag and document each article of clothing. If there was a particularly atrocious stain, we would mark it with a sticker so people in the back could see it. Sometimes, my friends, it would be obvious that the person liked to go commando. If you know much about me, you know that any sort of paper trash oogs me out and so any snotty tissues I would have to take out of the pockets. Emptying the pockets was my least favorite part of this process. Once, I missed a cigarette lighter in a pocket which could have potentially reacted with the dry cleaning chemicals and blown the place up. It was the only time my boss ever really got pissed at me.

One time I found pot. I had never even seen marijuana in real life so I had to ask around to make sure it was the real deal. Our policy was to give everything that we found back to the customer (unless it was clearly trash) but I wasn’t sure if that would qualify as drug trafficking. One of my co-workers, the one with the court-issued ankle monitor, offered to take it out back and take care of it. We actually did stick it in a plastic bag and hand it back to the customer when he picked up his suits. Ironically, this very same customer got pissy about something and called me, “Sweetie” in a gross, authoritarian way, which made me want to rip his ugly face off. I took sweet satisfaction in the fact that I could alert the police to his favorite illegal recreational activities if I wanted to.

Anyway, after the clothes were tagged, laundry went into one giant bin and dry clean only went into another. The back of the house was, as you can imagine, quite humid and hot. There were lots of personalities back there. Every so often, I would get called to go help put together larger orders on giant racks and I would get to practice my Spanish or chat with the supervisor back there who had a degree in Biology from A&M (but was starching cowboy’s jeans). She and the delivery guy had a little something something going on but the whole situation was a bit star-crossed.

We had a couple of repeat customers that were real headaches. One woman came in once and complained that we had ruined a very expensive scarf. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise and my manager eventually came and handled it. Literally the next time I saw her, she brought in a pair of crocheted panties. Yes, you read that right. Like a sweater, but for your vagina. They had stretched out and she wanted our alterations lady to stitch new elastic in them. I picked them up between two fingers and carried them back to our alterations room to ask Betty if that was something she wanted to do.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t.

The woman was very disappointed that we couldn’t do something as simple as stitching elastic back into a pair of her saggy sweater panties, but someone with very expensive scarves that have to be dry-cleaned should be able to afford a new pair of sweater panties when they get stretched out, right? My sympathy was very thin.

The name of the dry cleaner’s was “Villa Maria Cleaners”. It was aptly named because it was located off Villa Maria Ave in Bryan, TX. As white Texans are wont to do, although the name is Spanish, no English-speaking people pronounced it the way it’s supposed to be pronounced. In Spanish, you would say ‘Viya Maria’ but Bryanites said it with the full ‘l’ sound, kind of like the difference between the way you say tortiya or tortiLLa.

I liked to mess with people when I answered the phone by pronouncing Villa Maria correctly.

***

ring ring

me: Viya Maria Cleaners. This is Beth. How can I help you?

Customer (in his very best Texas accent): HUH?! I THOUGHT I CALLED VILLA MARIA CLEANERS. IS THIS VILLA MARIA CLEANERS?

{sigh} Yes, this is ViLLa Maria Cleaners. How can I help you, sir?

***

Let’s see. One time, we had a huge pile of nylon bags waiting to be tagged and something something stunk to high heaven. My boss took the bags out back and shook each of them out to see if we could figure out what the smell was. I kid you not- a dead rat fell out of a long sleeved button up. Just the thought of that makes me want to die.

Another time, a woman brought in a comforter and said her kid had puked on it last night. What she neglected to mention was that she hand’t even shaken it out or anything, just gathered the corners and brought it in. My coworker ended up sticking her hand in it.

I learned so much at that job.  I learned about having to work with different personalities. I learned that not everyone wants to work as hard as I do. It was my first friendship with an honest-to-God atheist and someone who had a criminal record (not the same person). I was often the emissary between the front and back of the cleaners because I was friendly with everyone (and the back supervisor was notoriously cranky).  I learned what it meant to be young and female in a customer service job.

Overall, I’m thankful for my time at ViLLA Maria Cleaners. I walked away with probably several hundred dollars (over a year and a half of minimum wage, #amiright?) and lots of good stories.

 

 

 

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