Since I was 17 years old, I’ve held a job. As a society, you’re viewed as lazy, or labeled as someone not to be respected if you don’t work. Like so many people the idea of finding a “great job” was instilled in me early on. Where I grew up, transportation is king among those who don’t go to college. Most people of color look to high paying blue collar jobs such as, BART, Muni, VTA, CalTrans, or some other government municipality.
Making $30+ an hour sounds great for someone with only a high school diploma. Thing is, jobs such as these are subconsciously viewed as secure. It’s what I call majority rules thinking. However, nothing in life is guaranteed. Nothing.
My first job came when I was at John F. Kennedy high school in Sacramento, Ca. It came through a program the school had, called R.O.P. Basically you skipped out on your last 3 classes to go work. That was fine with me, I spent all 4 of my high school years having a teenage sized attitude about my family leaving my native Oakland, Ca. I was amongst a bunch of ritzy, Benz driving, bratty fucks (in my teenage mind), I wanted to be where the action was. So I wasted 4 years (that I regretted until my 30’s), being angry — so making a little money while skipping class legally, sounded great to me.
So, the Sam Goody era began. Yes, the music store. I chose that over working at Foot Action, because i didn’t want to be Al Bundy. First dumb decision of my young adult life.
I spent most days organizing C.D.’s in the pop section, and by organizing I mean alphabetizing artist by last name. Then finding albums that were thrown in random places — disregarded by someone who was too lazy to put it back where they found it.
Perfect job for a teenager who didn’t even organize his own room right? I can remember my first time getting a paycheck, which was also my first lesson in finding out how hourly pay really worked.
My first check was $500. It took about a month to get that check. Until this day, I still have no clue what took so long. But there I was, with my first earned check in my hand, feeling rich, smiling from ear to ear. Trying to get my buddy Garry to come with me to the Ford dealership because I was going to buy a brand new 2000 Ford Expedition. I hadn’t a clue what it really cost. Not once in my life, did someone sit me down, and explain to me how much things really cost in the world. So, imagine my surprise when he openly laughed, ( for about 10-15 minutes) about my bold proclamation.
Turns out, I needed quite a few of those $500 paychecks to even sniff that SUV.
Time for Plan B. I needed something to show for all my hard work at the music store. So I did what most black kids from the struggle do when we get any amount of cash in our hands. Went on a mission to spend it all, on things to show off. Or as they say where I’m from, stunt.
First stop was Foot Locker. I needed these Nike Penny Hardaway sneakers I was in love with, that moms couldn’t afford. Shit, Sam Goody has plenty of checks they’re dying to give me. Besides, I deserve these shoes, right? I got $500 smackaroos in my pocket! At 17, that kind of money makes you feel like no one has got it like you.
I’m good, the Allen fortune has plenty left in the tank. Next stop, the pager store.
We leave Florin Mall, and head west down Florin Rd. to the strip mall. There I proceed to purchase a clear blue, Packbell Pager. I didn’t even know that many people to begin with, and the person I was around the most was with me. But 17 year old Dave could’t be told anything. In my young head I was a grown man. A soon to be sought after grown man, with a new pager, and some Penny’s on his feet. All I was thinking was, these cats better hide their girls.
Funds looking kind of low. When is that next payday again? Well maybe I should think about what my next move is over something to eat. As with any growing young man, I was hungry — often. I preceded to blow tons of money on fast food “Value” meals, and an assortments of snacks. Maybe a shirt, a video game and a few magazines. I was broke within 2 days. I had about 12 more days until payday so what was I to do? Well, I had one bright idea. I decided to clean to the Penny’s until they looked brand new, and of course never worn, and brought them back where I got them. After close inspection, they granted my return, and I had $175 back in my pocket. Lesson learned. Well, not really, I spent that money well before my next payday. Money in hand was money spent. Something that I would repeat for nearly two more decades. ✌🏿