My first job: Public Library of Des Moines

While not my first job, per se, it was my first pay check. Before that, all jobs were cash paying gigs that vacillated between babysitting, lawn mowing, and sidewalk shoveling. Even my state fair job was a cash on departure position of $213 for 10 days of work, most likely 80 hours. How pitiful is that? I don't even think that equates to minimum wage!

My first fill out a W-2 (incorrectly), pay taxes, and report to the public job was as a page at the Public Library of Des Moines. Sadly, I still wasn't paid the going rate. I earned $3.34 an hour at a time when minimum wage was $3.35. Yes, a public entity paid me 1¢ less per hour than any other position would have. Sadder still is that I accepted it and stayed for 5 years. Yes, 5 years as a page in a position where I was NEVER going to go anywhere. Obviously my brain was out to lunch during that time.

I worked in the reference department shelving materials (books, magazines, newspapers, microfilm and government documents) while "helping" the public. That meant, mostly, dealing with the daily clientele from the Y across the street. Needless to say, they really were neither young nor necessarily Christian. Men, well they were male.

As I recall our regular visitors included Swishy, Gerald, and Hoarder. Daily updates might be, "Don't get to close to Gerald. His underwear is drying on the radiator in the bathroom." or "Look out for Hoarder. He borrowed a pretty expensive book." (He was often hissing at me to "F*ck off!). Of course, there was the ever popular, "Don't pick up anything near Swishy. He's not wearing underwear." Swishy wore VERY SHORT 1970s jogging shorts which hid NOTHING, especially when he decided to go commando.

I always thought that I would end up being a reference librarian. I obviously was pretty well prepared for it, since I was used to the seedier side of public service. Instead, I'm putting those good skills to use as a teacher. Plus, I'm experienced at making less than other people using their skills in similar ways.

Maybe I wasn't pitiful and out to lunch after all. I was just in public service training.


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