SOMETIMES HAVING a part-time job and being a high school student can be a strain. Either I have no time for my homework, or the job seems monotonous. Worst of all, it can cut into my social life. But most of the time working as a drug store cashier- stockgirl-janitor-lottery puncher is enjoyable, especially because of the people I encounter.
I wanted a job for several reasons: change of pace, extra money and college money. Most importantly, I wanted some financial independence. I was sick of asking Mom or Dad for money to go to a movie or to McDonald's. I didn't want to beg for my allowance. Above all, I was tired of asking one parent for money to buy the other a birthday present.
But I also wanted to meet "other" people. Going to a predominantly white school in a middle- to upper-class neighborhood does not afford one great opportunities to meet people of different social or economic backgrounds.
At the pharmacy, I certainly meet a cross-section of people: rich, poor, typical, unique, black, white, pleasant, unpleasant, bus drivers, doctors, lawyers, mailmen, businessmen, Pacman-oholics and lottery customers. Of course, I have my favorites as well as my, well, not-so-favorites.
I look forward to the call from Mrs. Boyd, who always reserves a paper and unfailingly and sincerely asks how I am feeling. I look forward to Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Jones, an elderly couple who are always smiling, acting young, holding hands and teasing me about my perpetual inability to find a pen. I look forward to the Brazilian doctor who is always cracking jokes, and to Mr. Brightman, the grouchy-looking man who really isn't grouchy.
But most of all I enjoy the lottery customers. Most of the lottery people are black, friendly and unhurried. I like hearing how they "just missed by one digit" or "almost played it" or "played that number Monday but not Tuesday." I eagerly anticipate the arrival of "the regulars."
Cliff, a vibrant, 76-year-old man, is my favorite. He comes with several long lists of numbers and a different hat every night. Sometimes he'll tell me what he's doing that night or buy me a candy bar or tell me what it "used to look like around here."
Another favorite is Slyvie, a large woman who's always talking and always laughing. When I hear her walk through the door I know the greetings will be fast coming. "Hi, Lisa, babe. Hey Trapper John," she says to the pharmacist (who really does look like television's Trapper John.)
I look forward to the man with a hook, who explained his World War I injury to me; to the man who lets me listen to his Walkman; and to the lady who leaves tips if she wins big. But most of all I just enjoy the friendly atmosphere of the lottery and the lottery customers.
It's also nice to have that independence. Not only do I enjoy having spending money, but I like to save part of my earnings. I am always very pleased with myself when I give my father money to put in my money market fund, and I relish the first day of the month when I receive my statement telling me how much I've accumulated. I'll never forget my sense of gratification at finally breaking $1,000.
Something I didn't particularly enjoy -- but something I knew "would be good for me" -- was learning to ask for a raise. After working at the pharmany for a year, 15 hours a week, for the minimum wage of $3.35 an hour, I felt I deserved a raise. So several weeks ago I finally got up enough nerve to talk to the boss.
My prepared speech was off to a good start -- "Ellie, could I talk to you about a raise?" -- but before I could start running down my list of why I should get one, my speech (and my hopes) were dashed.
"You can talk," my boss replied, "but you can't have a raise."
After delivering my speech anyway, I picked my pride off the floor and went home. After several days of thinking about the unsatisfactory answer I had received, I decided that I deserved better treatment, so I went back to my boss. "I'd like to talk to you again about the job," I began. This time I wasn't interupted.
After explaining that I could not work at a job where there was no chance of moving up or getting more money, I told her that I was prepared to quit. To my astonishment, I was told, "Okay, the best I can do is $3.50."
So I've got my raise and my pride back, and I'm enjoying the people more than ever.