I'd met the rickshaw boys the summer before. I worked in the fast food stand on the corner, sweating over the deep fryer in my company-issued apron and ball cap. They parked their rickshaws across the way, at the mouth of a pedestrian alley in the tourist-filled heart of historic downtown Ottawa. They came by a few times a day to refill their water bottles, flirt and beg for free slushies. We both stayed on our feet until bar close—I fed the drunks and they hauled them home—and once I got my fake ID I started joining them on their Monday nights out, the only night of the week that they took off work.
During the few college summers that I worked at the Meijer One-Hour Photo Lab, I left the house each day in khakis and a white T-shirt. Upon arriving at work, I would retrieve my mint-green, black-collared jacket from the floor of the car and slip into it as I walked across the parking lot, fastening the last button as I cruised through the automatic doors.
The first dog was named Gucci. As Justin, my trainer (as if I were some kind of dog too!), told it, it was because Gucci's owner wanted to advertise that she'd spent as much on him as on a designer handbag. Gucci was definitely cuter than a handbag, but a lot less practical. Bernese Mountain dogs are built to survive in the Alps, and a high-elevation Financial District apartment in New York City is hardly the same thing. Coaxing Gucci into the elevator, and keeping him from barking long enough to hustle across the marble lobby and out the service entrance, was an act of sheer will that I tried to muster and brute strength that I certainly lacked.
I met Emily Reese when we worked together at Kickstarter. At the time, Emily, 24 and newly out of grad school, was working on the support team and struggling to find what she was great at and excited about doing. Then a few months I heard that Emily moved to the product team and was hired as a full-time engineer. WHAT. Luckily, Emily agreed to talk to me about she managed to teach herself programming on nights and weekends and then change her career without leaving the company.
In the Times, Alina Tugend has a piece on people's first jobs straight out of college and some of the mistakes they've made while figuring out how to be a functional working adult.
Women have always faced the additional hurdle of being at the mercy of their reproductive systems, as well as by what society expected of them in terms of selflessness. Virginia Woolf famously said, not that long ago, that, in order to write fiction, "a woman must have money and a room of her own." Time and space, in other words. Drive, talent, and luck are pre-requisites too. That's such a high bar it's a wonder women ever put out novels before 1963. When they did, what did they get in exchange? Let's take the example of Jane Austen, one of the few pre-Woolf women who managed to unite all five attributes, and see how the world rewarded her for writing some of its best fiction.
I got paid $9 per hour plus commission. I also learned a series of lessons that have dogged me at every job I’ve had since. Some of these lessons have been very good. Others, I wish I hadn’t learned.
You probably have an idea of what a bike messenger’s job is like, either based on the many media depictions of the job, from "Quicksilver" to "Premium Rush," or on the fact that in many cities, messengers do seem perennially hurried to the point of madness. Your impression is not wrong, because most messengers work for messenger companies doing piecework—they are paid by the job—so they have an incentive to do as many jobs as possible. That was not my job.
Here is an excellent piece in The Washington Post looking at an opening of a new plant in Ohio, which is looking to hire 40 people and give them a decent salary plus benefits, and how difficult it is to find the right people for the job despite a slew of resumes arriving.
It's a rare opportunity, but here's the thing: It pays very little, with no room for negotiation and little room for advancement in the company (it's a startup). I'm afraid that after months of applying, this is the best I can get and I shouldn't turn it down since jobs are so hard to come by, especially in New York media.
After doing the quintessential work of babysitting and accompanying choir soloists at auditions, Cheryl is my first real boss at my first real job—obnoxious state taxes, name tag, and all. The first weeks I am deferential and easily spooked by weekend rushes, realizing that I will always be battling to show up on time in the mornings.