This week’s #WeeklyWrites, we’re talking about our first paid job, and what we learned from it. I can’t really recall which paid job I had first in my life. It could’ve been the comic book store, Omni Comics and Cards, my grandma’s restaurant China Jade at a flea market, or Debbie Wong’s, a friend of the family’s Chinese restaurant, but I think it might be one of two others. I’m going to tell you about both of them. These two jobs were the beginning of my experience in the performance & service industries.
One thing you should know is that I’ve never had a job for more than a year consecutively. If I worked more than one year, it was either seasonal, like the amusement park, or I took months away from it for school or whatever, but usually, I’d quit before or after one year, or I was fired.
Back then, I was still having an identify crisis, ha ha, and I went by the name K.C., which is only part of a full alias, K.C. Randall Rick. “K” is the initial for my first name in Chinese, which also happens to be my middle name in English (Ka-Ho). “Randall” comes from the X-Men, one of the guys who were part of the XSE (?), that came from the future with Bishop, and dies immediately, ha ha. “Rick” comes from one of my favorite childhood concepts, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master. Alice was the main protagonist. My sister was Alice. I was Rick, Alice’s brother. I didn’t think “Carl” fit me very well, and used K.C. as the idealized version of myself. Usually I used it with new people or strangers I met. There are people to this day that I use this name with, who only know me as K.C. Over years, the gap became smaller, and then I started combining Carl with K.C., making it K.C’arl. Anyway…. I’m so off track. But, I’ll add that it’s interesting that over the years, as I learned more about myself and got more comfortable with myself, K.C. started to not feel real, and Carl started to feel like the real me. As much as I didn’t like my name, I started to accept that Carl, was who I was.
A Movie Theater
One job was working at the concession stand, and then as an usher at a National Amusements Showcase Cinemas, in East Hartford, CT in the late 80s or early 90s I think. I was teenaged. My name-tag said “K.C.”
The other job was as a performer at an amusement park in MA. Back then it was called Riverside Park, today it’s the Six Flags New England. I started out as a costume character in a kids show. I was a singing dancing bear named Zeke or Zeb or something. Later, I graduated to the main stage show where I was a singing, dancing cowboy! Yeah, it was a country western musical show! It’s funny what I remember from the show. Everyone had a solo, and a romantic partner in the show. I really really liked doing it. “This country’s rocking’!” Eventually, I got to try doing all the other shows too, like the puppet show, and the western comedy street show. Out of performance costumes, we wore an uniform with a name-tag.
Working at a movie theater concessions stand, I started to learn about business. It was my first experience with sales and with food service. It was ALL about money; sales marketing and promotions. We had a script we had to follow to up-sell this and up-sell that. “Would you like to upgrade to a larger size for 25 cents? Would you like candy or popcorn with that?”
This was the start of my experience in the sales industry. Later on I’d get into telemarketing, cold call surveys, and commission based door to door sales. Yeah, I even sold vacuum cleaners! Today, I really really really do not want to work in sales, UNLESS it’s something I’m passionate about.
Back to the cinema, … things like soda cups and popcorn bags were like gold. None of it could be wasted, and all of it must be accounted for. We literally had to always count them like they were cash. It WAS money, so it couldn’t be given out, wasted or used by employees.
A balanced drawer
This was my first experience I think with selling anything outside of selling candy or pencils at school. This is where I learned about balancing finances. I needed to have a balanced drawer and being short was bad.
This was the beginning my work in the food service industry. Later, I’d work in restaurants, and catering. Today, I do not want to work in the food service industry.
Back then we had mostly everything we have today at a cinemas concessions, except for pizza. We had ice cream, soda, slushies, candy, nachos with cheese, hot dogs and of course popcorn. I definitely learned that I LOVE popcorn!! Oh, the butter for the popcorn; boy, did people love their fake butter. Yeah, it was like some oil that wasn’t real butter, and people loved for us to layer it on, applying on their popcorn in sections. It can get really messy. Sometimes, I’d just eat the fake butter, or I’d indulge and saturate my popcorn, which they allowed us to eat during a break, but from a brown paper bag. I think it’s from this experience that today, I do NOT like that fake butter on my popcorn. Today, I like fresh kernel popped popcorn on a stove-top with oil or air popped. I eat it plain, with nothing added, or if I add anything, it’d be herbs and spices or cinnamon and sugar! Yum! I’d like to try it with real butter sometime. OMG, I’m hungry. I really should use my air-popper soon!!!!
I love love ice-cream. One of my favorite ice-cream places is Friendly’s!! At one point, we had a Friendly’s or something at the theater, and I worked there also. I thought, “hell yeah!” ice-cream, but then I learned how hard it was to scoop ice cream. Man did it suck. My arm would go limp from doing it, and it was a mess, with all the topping! I also learned that there’s a company standardized size for an ice cream scoop, cause I’d get in trouble for giving out too much ice-cream. It’s all about money.
I didn’t like cleaning the concessions, but I prided myself on how clean I could get things, and super clean is what they demanded. They checked for streaks on the glass, and metal popcorn containers.
Other things I learned
There were a lot of Spanish-speaking people there, so I eventually learned some Spanish, including how to say the floor is wet, and how to tell someone that they were cute.
Over some time, I eventually moved on and became an Usher. The usher was a position above the concessions. You didn’t have to deal with sales, or food. New employees always started in concessions and work their way up to usher. It’s easier, much easier. I think I still have my usher uniform somewhere. It consisted of slacks, black shoes, button-up shirt, and a blazer.
One thing I learned I guess, as an usher is that, with long hair, people thought I was a girl. Actually, I learned that many other times, as a child, but I think I was surprised it still happened. It made me self-conscious.
We were allowed to watch a certain amount of movies for free, which was nice. If that wasn’t enough, the last thing I learned was that I could sneak into the theaters using the back doors. One time I snuck like 16 people into a theater. I think it was to watch Chasing Amy.
This was my first professional performing job. I learned choreography, lines, and songs. It was a lot of fun!
We’re all professionals
I think it was with the stage show, that I learned that we’re all professionals, so we can change in front of each other. I had never seen so many live breasts before.
It was fun working and hanging out with co-workers. I’ve never had that before. I think there was also a closeness that is usually associated with fellow performers. I met a lot of fun and cool people. Everyone came from different places, and were different ages. It was one of my first experiences of being given a nickname. They liked to Italianize my name and call me Carleone (sp), or something ha ha. It was my first performance family. Later, I’d have many more performance family experiences, from doing other shows, film, and in my experience with the Academy of Performing Arts.
I haven’t seen these people since, except for one, a guy named Dave S.! I actually bumped in him on a NYC subway platform just a few years ago. Back when we worked together, I knew him as “Lucky,”.. of course, now I know how messed up that was, cause he’s Irish. Duh! I suppose I’m lucky my nickname wasn’t Chow Mien, Egg Roll or Kung Fu.
I lived in CT, and the job was in MA. It was a long drive to work, at least an hour if not more. It was during this job that I learned my talent for being able to change my entire outfit from head to toe while driving very fast. I did that way too often. Yeah, even then I was always late. I was very lucky. Multi-tasking can be very dangerous. Don’t try this at home kids, I’m a pro.
As I mentioned earlier, most of the shows had a country western theme. It was here, that I learned to liked cowboy boots. It’s probably where I developed a fantasy to do a striptease or be a go-go boy in a cowboy outfit, hat, boots, holster, chaps and all. I imagined doing it to this song call ‘The Box’ by Orbital or ‘I Want to Be a Cowboy’ by Boys Don’t Cry. Still haven’t done it to this day, but that’s ok ha ha. Though, someone did buy me a kids cowboy kit ha ha.
Show must go on
One thing all professional performers learn, especially on stage, is that the show must go on,… even when you don’t feel like doing it, cause you’re depressed, or tired, or if you or someone else messed up, having to instinctively cover for yourself or for them, or when your costume character’s head falls off.
Speaking of costume characters. The big season for amusement parks were the summer, so it was often hot. Now imagine working in the sun, in that heat, having to wear a head to toe bear costume, and dance around for half an hour at a time. It was hot.
What I learned from both
I really don’t like having to wear an uniform, though, it does help me to be faster in getting ready for work, since I don’t have to worry about what to wear. Figuring out to wear is still something I dread anytime I have to leave the house. Sometimes, I rather just not have to do it, and spend my day in my underwear. If I must be dressed, figuring out a top is the most difficult, and can totally stress me out. If I can go through my day only wearing pants, I would, but then again, I’m really sensitive to temperature and would probably need a hoodie. I wear my hoodie a lot. Even in bed, with the hood up. I suppose I can say that I learned that I should buy multiples of an outfit I like, and just wear that everyday. Then again, that might not address the issue, as wearing something different everyday sometimes is a factor in my indecision. Eat popcorn. My blog is getting worse and worse. I’m not spending the time it needs to be “better.” La la la la la, I’m hungry. 🙂
This post comes out of the #WeeklyWrites prompt: Talk about your very first paid job and what you learned from it.
Here is what others have contributed:
Free-Write: Talk about your very first paid job and what you learned from it.
From what I recall and from my records, I think my first job was one of the following:
1. Usher & concession stand at the National Cinemas East Hartford
2. Singing/Dancing show and costume characters at Riverside Park
4. My grandmother’s restaurant?
5. Temp work.
6. Comicbook store. (Omni Comics & Cards)
I think it’s gotta be either 1 or 2. So I’ll go with those.
What I learned from working as an Usher and concessions stand:
A little something fyi, is that I went by a different name then: K.C.
1. how hard it was to scoop ice cream
2. How toxic the butter flavoring was
3. How valuable cups and bags were; they’re all $ and cannot be wasted or used by us.
4. Some Spanish
5. People thought I was a girl
6. The importance of a balanced drawer
8. Uniforms suck
What I learned from working in various shows, including singing/dancing in a country western show, and an as costume characters in a kids show as a singing, dancing, bear at the amusement park, Riverside Park, now Six Flags New England:
1. We’re all professionals, so we can change in front of each other
2. I can change my entire outfit while I race off to work while in a car.
3. I liked cowboy boots
4. Performance family
5. The show must go on,… even when you mess up, or when someone else does, and you must cover for them, or when your head falls off.
6. Costume characters are hot