Why every teen should have to work at the mall...
Parenting, Whims and Fancies

Working in Hell, I Mean, The Mall

When I read this post on scarymommy.com yesterday (hilarious, read it), it brought back all kinds of suppressed memories of my first (and worst) job at Limited Too (now Justice) in the mall.

The job was awful, but it taught me a lot about life.

Things like the importance of getting a good education and being a hard worker.

Also things like never have children and don’t be an a-hole.

It was the summer of 1999. I was fifteen, and my parents made me get a job so I wouldn’t spend all day gossiping on the landline.

I thought it’d be cool to work in the mall, albeit at a little kid’s apparel store. Surely I’d be styling mannequins and personal shopping for wealthy tween girls, right?

Wrong.

My main responsibility was actually helping parents find their lost children, who were usually playing hide-and-seek in the clothing rounds.

Retrieving hidden children required a lot of crawling on the crumb-laden carpet, and bribery in the form of spinning Spice Girls lollipops or light-up Hanson key chains.

I also spent a great deal of time straightening the panty table.

Now, organizing 500 pair of hot pink sparkly underpants, tiny enough to fit the butt of a 7-year-old, is no small feat.

Without fail, juuuuuuuust as I would finish placing the final pair atop the leaning tower, a rogue toddler would run up like a rabid dog – snorting through the pile with his juice-stained face and sticky fingers.

Which leads me to another important life lesson.

Anger. Management.

The absolute worst day on the job was the day a mother asked if her son could use the restroom while her tween daughter tried on clothes.

I informed her that unfortunately our restroom was only for store associates and that customers had to use the food court bathrooms.

A few minutes later I recognized a strange yet familiar smell coming from the back of the store.

The mom had let her son poop in the dressing room.

I shit you not.

“Well I told you he had to go,” the mom said blankly.

It was then I decided motherhood wasn’t for me. Retail wasn’t for me. People in general…not for me.

In college, I had another life-changing position at a promotional gifts company where I had to dress up like a gift.

I wore a giant turquoise Tiffany-style gift box and distributed pamphlets. I couldn’t sit or put my arms down. I couldn’t go to the bathroom. I was always sweaty.

And that’s when I decided I better actually graduate college, lest that be my future.

I think it should be required that every teenager work at least three shitty jobs before they turn 18.

We could make it like the military draft. Kids would sign up and get deployed to some dusty hell hole for a while.

Nothing like an 11-month tour at the Cinnabon, or Perfumania, to get your head right.

They would be forced to take pretzel orders and work cash registers. Smile and nod. Waddle around in ill-fitting sandwich boards.

I think we’d have more college grads and fewer teen pregnancies. And I’d like to think we’d be a little kinder to store associates and burger flippers.

If nothing else, we’d have more appreciation for clean dressing rooms and neatly folded panty tables.

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