Swamped by my first job
Kathleen Donahue | Thursday, April 6, 2017
We all have those first job horror stories, so when I was asked at the last minute to do this “Insider” column this was the first idea that popped into my mind. My first real job was at a “paint your own pottery” store in my hometown. On an obnoxiously humid summer day, I walked into work only to have the girl who had the prior shift meet me with complete panic in her eyes. She said, “The event space is flooded!”
The event space was not attached to our shop and was three shops over. My co-worker said, “I called the manager who’s in Canada and she told me she wants you to clean it up and for me to watch the store until you are done, but I have to leave so you’re going to have to do both. So, here’s all the tools I could find to help you clean up.” She proceeded to hand me two sponges, a bucket, a mop and a carpet cleaner.
Obviously, I started to freak out a little but the other girl didn’t care at all, grabbed her bags, and ran out leaving me in a state of utter shock not knowing how I was supposed to clean a flood three stores away while also watching over our store and its customers. I begrudgingly grabbed all the equipment she gave me and walked over to the event space. As I stepped into the room I froze. Almost the entire 500 square foot floor was covered with an even two inches of water. I looked down again at the materials she had given me and realized that I, an 18-year-old girl, was in no way equipped to clean an actual flood. I frantically tried to use the carpet cleaner to vacuum up some water but every two seconds it would completely fill itself and water would spill out and refill the spot I had just cleared. Nothing was working. So as any young girl in a crisis would do, I called my dad.
I asked him to come over to asses the situation and see what exactly I was supposed to do. I watched the store front as he tried and failed to use the completely inadequate equipment I was given. We both were at a loss. Then suddenly we remembered that my uncle, a carpenter, might have a water vacuum and thank goodness he did. So together with my dad, uncle, mom, brother and three young cousins who were visiting for the weekend, we worked together to save the event space.
Thankfully, after a couple of hours, at least 20 water vacuums worth of water had been cleaned out of the space. I had not so singlehandedly saved the store from having to pay a couple hundred dollars to clean up the flood as perhaps a couple thousand dollars if we hadn’t.
To make a very long, stressful story short, my manager never recognized the fact that I had done this or the fact that she asked an 18-year old girl to do a job that not many people of any age are trained for. This wasn’t my only horror story from that job but it certainly was the worst. Everyone gets through the bad jobs to make good jobs seem even greater. The experience also can give me a great response to that typical job interview question, “tell me a time when you overcame a challenge.”
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.