I was 16 years old when I got my first ‘proper’ job. I had been working since I was 14, first in a ‘pound’ shop, then as a ‘nanny’ the following summer, both were crappy jobs and both paid me little and not often.
As soon as we hit secondary school, it was very much expected you’d work through your Summer holidays as my father would arrange interviews from May, for you, which you had to attend.
My father would part some words of wisdom before you left for your interview, which you never asked for and certainly didn’t want~” Ahh,Mack’een, I told this buck you were 17, so act like it” or ” Well if you don’t take that snout off your face, I can’t be held responsible” or “I’m not buying your foddy dolls anymore… I’m not Vincent!”.
I had just finished my ‘Junior Cert’ when my father informed me he had set up an interview for me in our local supermarket, ‘Dunnes Stores’. “I know Ken, and he reckons he could take ya on, bag packing until you turn 16, then who knows!” he smiled while popping out his false teeth at me;trying to make me smile or soft soak me. The last, very last thing I wanted to do was bag pack, let alone bag pack in ‘Dunnes’.
“But Dad, EVERYONE will know me there” I stomped my foot.
“But, But, Germac, I don’t care! ” he saw my stomped foot and raised me, arms folded across his chest.
“Dad, let me find my own work” I tried to reason through gritted teeth.
“And ah, when do you plan to do this? You’ve been off school for a week. Can I, can I, can I, is all I’ve been hearing for the week! Can you find a job in one hour?” he looked me right in the eye, ” ‘Cos Ken is expecting you at 2pm!” he stuck out his tongue, raised his hand in the air awaiting a ‘high -five’, from who? I don’t know. He certainly wouldn’t be getting one from me.
“Jesus Christ! DAD” I turned on my heels, knowing I had lost and would have to got to the stupid interview.
I spent that Summer working in ‘Dunnes’ bag packing at first, then I became a till operator. I loved it. I loved every minute of it. The pay was great, the people were great and the job was so easy. By the time school returned, I continued working, I was trained into the ‘Cash Office’, where I stayed for a further 8 years. My father, of course took full responsibility for my success in ‘Dunnes’ by reminding me ~”I mightn’t be always right but I’m never wrong!”
That first Summer I spent working in ‘Dunnes’, I enjoyed the freedom of having my own money, I went out, I shopped and I bought my own foddy dolls, as my father liked to call them. ( Foddy dolls: everything from sanitary towels to make-up )
I strolled into town to spend my first pay cheque with a group of friends. I had my eye on a pair knee high velvet black boots. They were 50 pound. A lot then and a lot now. I can remember them vividly, standing on the shelf and me jumping up to grab them down, knowing I could afford them was also part of the appeal. I took off my runners and sat. Carefully I unzipped the boot.
“They are nice” Cynthia remarked as she sat beside me, her hands releasing her many shopping bags. I resented her for all her bags. All the shopping she could afford to do because her parents gave her money. I looked at my worn runners then at my velvet new boots. “Make sure they fit” Anita laughed as she pointed at another girl trying on high heels and wobbling. We all giggled.
I shoved my wide foot into the boot. I zipped it up, only halfway. “Ah, I don’t think it’ll go up!” I exclaimed, red faced and annoyed. I wasn’t big. My leg wasn’t big. This made no sense. “Just grab the top and pull hard on the zip” Cynthia advised. “Should I?” I glanced at Anita then at Cynthia, both nodded. So I did. It zipped all the way. I stood up. “Feels good, hand me the second one please Anita”. I sat back down and repeated the little ‘trick’ Cynthia had taught me. “Perfect!” I smiled as I walked up and down the isle admiring my new boots. “I’m getting them” I laughed as I sat to undo the zipper.
“Oh shite” my face flushed. “What?” Anita asked as Cynthia began to laugh. “I, I can’t get them off.The zipper is stuck” my palms sweaty as I tried to undo the zipper. “Ah shite. It’s not funny” I shouted as they both laughed. “Just buy them!” Cynthia shrugged her shoulders. “For what Cynthia! I can’t get them off. And if I do, I won’t be buying shoes that I can’t fucking take off!” I blushed, as a few costumers passed by. “Okay, okay, here let me have a go” Anita, grabbed my leg, pinched my skin and tried to pull the zipper, to no avail. “Jesus. That hurt! ” I giggled as Anita wobbled back a few steps. “You’ll have to buy them, sorry” Anita titled her head as Cynthia grabbed her bags and strolled towards the cashier. “Come on. I’ve a hair appointment” she called over her shoulder.
I bled the whole way home, as the zipper dug more and more into my leg. “Ohhh, look at you!” my father greeted me at the door. “I see you were shopping” he pointed at my boots. “Yes. Yes, nice aren’t they?” I stood in agony as my father admired my horribly torturous,mocking boots. “I’m going to go up and tidy my room” I limped straight up the stairs. “Dinner’ll be ready in half an hour Mac” my dad called after me.
I got the god damn boots off when Puds got home and ripped them from my legs, literally.
Today, I was trying on boots. One pair wouldn’t zip up on me fully, when Queen suggested I stand and hold my leg and the zip should just glide over it, as I don’t have big legs. I looked at her. “No”, I placed the boots back and we left the shop. “You should have tried. I’d say it’s just the zip, it’s probably stiff or something” she commented as we were leaving. I looked at her. “No Queen. No way. Been there done that” I laughed as I began to tell her the story of my velvet black boots. “Imagine if you were like Cynthia, and dad had never made you appreciate the value of earning your own money, you’d have probably bought those boots just then and had to relearn that lesson all over again” she took a sip of her coffee. “True. True.” I nodded, “Can you imagine dad ever giving us money at that age to just go and shop with!”. We both laughed. “He wasn’t Vincent then and he ain’t Vincent now!” Queen added before finishing her coffee.
Again, my father, unknowingly taught me another life lesson~ money is hard to make, be wise in spending it!