Lots of learning, earning with first job

June 29, 2021
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By Delilah McMasters

Mansfield Record

Mom, I thought you said you had to send something to Amanda.

Lila, I think you should mind your business. Everything I’ve written in the last month seems forced or blah. And I saw this thing on Pinterest where you can shine your silver jewelry with tin foil and baking soda!

Stop! I used the baking soda, we don’t have any! Write about me. Write about how awesome I am! You’re procrastinating and it’s unattractive.

And that’s how this starts:

Lila Marie Cheyenne. Lila Cheyenne. Sixteen years old and she graduated a week and a half ago. She immediately started applying for a summer job, got three, made a quick decision and decided to work at Cane’s, because they pay well and she likes chicken.

She’s confident and excited. $10 an hour is a fortune when you are 16.

When she told me she would be working some evenings and closing, I was a little apprehensive. My baby coming out on a parking lot in the dark? Then I remembered: She doesn’t have a car, which means she’s relying on me and others to take her back and forth. Oh, what a cruel, unjust world where we can try to keep her safe a little while longer.

My first job was right out of high school in an IT department making about $4.50 an hour, $1.15 more than minimum wage. I was 18, no car, cocky and mouthy. A woman I babysat for recommended me. I came in from 3-8 p.m. during the week, and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. I worked a microfiche/microfilm machine making records of all the accounts for a company for rent to own stores and the owner’s personal finances.

It was BORING unless I was going through invoices for hand-made shoes and shopping trips to Neiman’s. There was no internet, just lots of wonderful descriptions of things I would never be able to afford, yet fueled my imagination. Eventually the IT department gave me some simple answers to memorize, and I was allowed to answer the phone after hours and help stores dial up and download their daily business to the office’s two mainframe computers,  which were big enough to lay between and take a nap.

It was a good job, I got to dress up, got paid, and the guys in the department did my college algebra and programming homework. At 18, I was looking at cars and trying to figure out the fastest way to get a degree and dressing fabulously cute.

Lila has been working a couple of weeks and is proud of herself for not using her phone when on the clock, for getting there early and for staying any time they need her for the next shift.

Having a job has made her more outgoing, she’s smiling more, is showing more independence. Having a little money in her pocket she’s had to earn has made her think twice before spending it. Don’t get me wrong, after she puts half her check in savings, the other half burns a hole in her pocket, but at least it’s her pocket now, instead of mine. At 16, she’s making plans, dreaming, adding up her hours and anticipating her savings.

1985 and 2021 are worlds apart, yet some things are the same: Minimum wage still doesn’t get you very far, but when you’re a kid it makes you responsible and opens your imagination to the possibility of a lifetime of achievements and pride.

And just because I’m sure all of you are dying to know, yes, tinfoil and baking soda cleaned my silver jewelry to a perfect shine.

Delilah McMasters is a local resident and the mother of six. Reach her at BlessYourHeart76065@gmail.com.

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