Do You Know What a Dollar is Worth?

Shortly after I turned 15 my first job opportunity materialized. A friend of mine was a dishwasher at a very small local restaurant but needed a sub one night. This was the moment I was waiting for - finally I could free myself from that meager allowance my parents gave me for doing my chores and earn some real money to spend how I saw fit. I agreed to fill in - and couldn't wait to earn my own money.

That evening was the longest night of my life. I can vividly remember the steam from the dishwasher; the cramped quarters; the piles of dishes the servers would bring every few minutes; the staff yelling at me to get them more clean dishes; the sweat pouring down my face as I struggled to get a handle on what seemed like a never-ending supply.

I often remember the fear and despair that I had that the misery would never end. Somehow the pile of dishes eventually got done. I can remember at the end of the evening, in a state of exhaustion standing in front of the restaurant owner eager to get my check. I can remember staring in a state of disbelief at the "$35" scrawled on the check that was handed to me for the 7 hours of sweat and hard labor I had given.

That night was a rude awakening for me. Someone could have paid me $100/hr to be a dishwasher and I would have felt robbed. I realized the value of a dollar that night.

Needless to say I have never worked as a dishwasher again. The next summer I became a lifeguard at a local pool and treated every dollar like one of the "35" I earned as a dishwasher. Maybe this explains why I am such a tightwad.

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Comments (5)


I was a dishwasher for several years as a teenager. I did it because it paid better than any other job I could have gotten. It was tough work and I agree that every job since has been easy. There's no better motivator, or character-builder than scrubbing dried eggs off a plate in a 90 degree room for 8 hours.

Hell yah. I worked at Mc Donalds so I washed dishes while cleaning out the lobby and the outside of the store. That job taught me the value of money faster then anything I have ever learned in my life.

I never did a dish job but I worked for a family business and had a similar experience, 10+ hour days little to no fun and in the end I thought I was being ripped off. Only to discover they were paying their full time worker not much more. Definitely a wake up call.

One of my first jobs was that of a dishwasher at an amusement park for, get this, $16 a day (1972.) That amounted to two bucks an hour for an 8 hour day, which was more than minimum wage at the time. Great deal, right? Guess what. At 17, I didn't realize that a dishwasher at an amusement park never works an eight hour day. Most often it was eleven hours. Not legal? Too bad.

Excelent information. Best wishes from New York.C

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