Cotton Candy Pride


In light of the fact that Mother’s Day is this weekend, I’d like to share with you one of the best pieces of advice my mother ever gave me. She said, “Any job worth doing, is worth doing well.” Think about that. If something needs to be done, it deserves to be done with consideration and effort.  I can’t think of a single job that requires only half-effort. What’s the point? Where’s the pride?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a ton of different ‘jobs’.  Some of the more unique jobs I’ve had in my life were, juggler’s helper, show skier (water), ‘reader’ to a blind man (Wall Street Journal), amusement park concessions and I once gave hydrotherapy baths and wraps in a resort salon.  I’ve also done more normal jobs, like retail sales, office worker/file clerk, and I waited tables, which I think everyone should do at least once if you are physically able.  Talk about perspective when dining out!

There are some jobs I’ve always wanted to try, like grocery cashier, flight attendant, tour guide, like at gardens or at an old castle. And, I think it would be a blast to run those Segway tours.  Oh and I’ve always dreamed of being the female version of Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men.  I want the truth!!!

The other day, writer and instructor extraordinaire, Mary Buckham posted an interesting article on Facebook about famous authors and jobs they once had. I also heard a story on the radio about some well known music artist (I can’t remember the name, which won’t surprise anyone who knows me) who sometimes dresses in sort of grubby clothes, complete with ball cap, and hangs out at a park tending to the landscape. The point was that during that time, he’s ignored. I thought this was interesting on many levels but for purpose this blog post, I thought it was telling that as a landscape worker—helping to make a park clean and maintained, he was ignored, but as a singer/musician, he’s idolized. I’m not trying to put down musical artistic talent.  I’m a writer, I can’t wait to have my artistic work be enjoyed and appreciated. But that doesn’t make the fact that I also have the job of my gym, or as a homemaker, any less important or vital. It certainly doesn’t mean I should give less effort to those jobs. Cleaning toilets is less glamorous that writing books, some days, but they still have to be cleaned and quite frankly, I believe they should be cleaned well.

So often we place some perceived value on jobs, making some more worthwhile than others.  Take the restaurant business.  From your hostess, to your server, to the cook, to the dishwasher … all play a vital role in the process.  Trust me, you don’t want that dishwasher to do a half-butt job because he’s ‘just’ a dishwasher but wants to move up to waiting tables. He needs to believe his job is just important.  Note to servers out there — tip-out well to your dishwashers, host/hostesses and bussers! Your tips wouldn’t be as good without them!

One summer, I worked for Sea World in the Food Services department. That was the fancy name for concessions. See, even they knew that people would likely be more proud to say they worked in Food Services.  Anyway, I turned 20 that summer and my coworkers who were 16 and 17 considered me old.  Like ancient. Most of the summer, I was assigned to work in the cotton candy hut.  I had never made cotton candy before. I don’t even like cotton candy.  In case you don’t know, basically you spin sugar in these huge metal drums until that fluffy sugar comes out.  Then you ‘hook’ an edge of the sugar-ring and flip it around the paper cone, sort of patting into the desired shape.  There are different speeds on the machine too. At first, I used the slowest speed and I had to pause the machine to catch up or to bag my cone of lopsided fluff.


Eventually, like I do in most things, I made it a challenge.  Could I keep it on the high speed? Could I make uniform, awesome-looking cones?  And the ultimate challenge, could I stay at warp-speed, spin, flip, and form cones AND bag, twist and tie my masterpieces without ever skipping a beat?

Oh, yes I did!  My hand to God, I’m still proud of that.

I’ve always taken my mom’s advice to heart. Every job worth doing is worth doing well. To give less than your best is not only short-changing the job, but in the end, you’re cheating yourself because your best effort is always worth it.

What about you?  What unique, off-the-wall jobs have you had?  Who wants to have a cotton candy making contest? Of course, I’ll have to brush up on my skills, since I do like to win.


About Ginger Calem

I never met a notebook I didn't want to buy. Pens speak to me. Sticky notes are dear to my heart. Some of my best friends are those clambering in my head trying to get onto the page. And when they have their stories told, and I release them to the world, I hope they'll be your friends too.

Posted on May 11, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. Great advice from your mom – she must TOTALLY rock, right? (Love, Mom)

  2. Too fun Ginger! I’ve found that writers tend to 1) have a lot of jobs [I think we can get bored easily] and 2) tend to have very different kinds of occupations. Not all writers but enough to have met a worm farmer, a gooey duck farmer, a bodyguard [for a bull] someone who tied the bows on teddy bears, someone who painted the stripes on running shoes and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And yes, your momma’s advice was spot on. What a perfect thought before Mother’s Day.

  3. Shannon Esposito

    I think it’s great for writers to have all sorts of odd jobs, more experiences to write about! The oddest thing I ever did was drive a school bus…and hit a goose. The goose lived, thank heavens. Oh, I also did one of those weird modeling gigs with a friend back in the 80’s where they pay you to stand in a bikini like a mannequin in the mall clothes shop window. We were brave back then!

    I love cotton candy, I would have died from a sugar coma if I worked there! hehe

    • Ok, totally choked on my sparkling water when I read that you hit a goose! My grandma drive a school bus back in the day. A live window mannequin! How cool! Your mention of ‘driving’ reminded me that I’ve also thought it would be fun to drive the beverage cart on a golf course. I love driving golf carts. 🙂

  4. And here I thought i’d had an interesting career. Now I must restate – I’ve had a varied career. Yours is interesting. and yes, I agree with your mom’s advice.

  5. I haven’t had any unusual jobs, just ordinary boring jobs. I was a hostess and food server at a couple of restaurants, I worked one summer at a bed and breakfast, which was kind of fun, but mosty I’ve had office jobs. My mother thought they were glamorous so when I was growing up she emphasized learning those skills. The last time I took a typing test, on a typewriter no less, I typed about 80 wpm with only 2 mistakes. I’m pretty proud of that.

    Spinning cotton candy sounds like fun. Unlike you, I love cotton candy. That would not be a job for me. I’d be huge.

    Happy mother’s day, Ginger!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • That’s some impressive typing skills. I believe mine were similar, back in the day when I applied at a temp agency and they tested it. Hey, that makes me think that you might have been a great court … what do you call it, report/stenographer or something …. the person making the transcript! Now I know that’s all code but doesn’t that sound cool. And you could listen to the whole trial. Ooh, I’m adding that to my list! Which reminds me, I also left off that I want to be the female version of Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men — I want the truth!! I’m going back to add that in. haha!

  6. I agree that everyone should have to wait tables at least once in their lives! I hated that job but learned MANY valuable life lessons. Also as a Subway sandwich maker. 🙂

    • Yep! I’ve mentioned this waiting tables things many times to people and usually get weird looks. It’s such a valuable job for so many things! Efficiency, organizing, coordination, customer service … etc etc. If nothing else, if you like to eat out, you need to know the ‘other side’. I also worked at Taco Bell for about 4 months. My kids still ask me to roll their burritos because ‘I do it best’. That was another job that I took as a personal challenge to see how fast I could expedite those orders down the line. Fun times! Smelly and a bit gross, but still fun and valuable!!

  7. interesting post. i’ve also had some unusual jobs, well sort of , they don’t seem that weird to me but here goes: stagehand at college theatre, nanny in albany, ny, and mental health tech at a private psych hospital (most fun stories from that job, i tell you!).

  8. I certainly agree with our Mom’s advice 🙂 Nice post Ging…..always good to see all perspectives and respect them.

  9. prudencemacleod

    I fully agree with your mom, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. A few years ago I had a part time job delivering flyers door to door. Through rain, wind, snow, hail and blistering heat I made my rounds. I never miss a day and always made sure the flyers got placed properly where they could be easily reached by the homeowner. It didn’t pay worth beans, but I agreed to do it, so I did the best job I could. It was interesting to meet all the people and I lost nearly thirty pounds in the process; not all bad by half.

  10. I’ve always tried to do my best but once I had kids the level of energy I am willing to poor into my job is different. Until I started to write.

    • Low energy take the wind out of anyone sails! But I bet even if you don’t poor tons of energy into your job, you still do it well. And the writing, well, that’s personal, isn’t it? 🙂

  11. Which Sea World? I worked at the San Diego park in ’92. So long ago! But definitely not the oddest job I’ve held. That has to be working at an upscale lingerie/sex toy shop, some very interesting stories came out of that job!

    • Sea World San Diego. I worked in Food Services the summer of 1990. Then the following spring, I worked for the Ski Show and was there until the following spring 1992. That’s where I met my husband. In spring ’92 we ran a water ski show in Germany for 2 years.

      Oh my — I bet you DO have some stories from that shop!!

  12. Karen McFarland

    “half-butt job” LOL Ginger, you had to get the word butt in there, didn’t you? 🙂

    I hear you on this one girlfriend. My mom said the same thing. And why do a half-A$$ job? Just sayin’. Do a job. Do it right or don’t do it at all. That was what I was told. We clicked our heels. She is German. Need I say more? LOL! And yes, I have had many jobs. And like you, I gave it my all. With some of the jobs, as I look back I wonder, “Why did I ever do that?” But no regrets. Why? Because I gave it my best shot. So now, I need to give writing the same attention and attitude. And get off my butt! LOL! 🙂

    Have a wonderful weekend Ginger!

  13. Your mom is right. Great advice!
    My first job was in retail on commission at a women’s clothing store when I was 15. On Sunday and Monday nights no less. I made very little money and I didn’t know what I was doing. I lasted 3 months. My next job was at McDonald’s and I had a blast for two years!
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    • Commission retail is cut-throat! I love it that you had a blast working for Mc D’s for 2 years since most people would not think that was possible. I believe you can make anything enjoyable if you set your mind to it.

  14. I totally agree. Even when I did jobs I didn’t like, I still did them as well as I could. There is a sort of pride in doing something the best that you can. Even if it’s vacuuming the carpet at the cardstore in the mall. That was one of my college jobs. And, honestly, it was much better than working in food service. I worked at the on-campus restuarant, Hammy’s my freshman year before I got the job at the card store. At the time I was a vegeterian. 🙂

    • Yep, there absolutely is pride in doing something the best you are able. I believe this so completely. You make me think of when I waited tables in a popular BBQ place around here. We had recently moved to TX from San Diego (where I’m from) and one of my first jobs here was waiting tables. But I didn’t eat red meat, still don’t. I didn’t know a half-rack from a brisket plate. I made a lot of mistakes. haha! But I had fun with it and got great tips.

  15. I’m posting from my Grandma. She tried to post a comment and it wouldn’t go through so I’m doing it for her. I think you’ll all get a kick out her jobs … all while raising 3 kids. Oh, she’s 86 … or very close, haha! 🙂

    From Gram:

    During high school, I spent my summers working for a vegetable farmer who did all kinds of gardening and took the produce into town to sell. The best part for me was picking raspberries and strawberries because I got to eat some of them. Part of one of those summers, I lived with a farm family during the week; got up at 5 AM and went to bed at 9 PM after doing all kinds of household jobs including taking care of their baby. I also worked in our local newspaper office where I fed the very large sheets of paper into the machine that printed the weekly news on them.
    My brother ran a small taxi business in our town, and I drove taxi for him once in awhile. After I graduated high school, I worked for a couple of years in the payroll department of Cargill, Incorporated, based in downtown Minneapolis. When we typed the payroll sheets, I used a typewriter with a carriage about two feet long. Then I got married, and my husband and I ran a gas station in the days when we’d fill their gas tanks, check tires and the oil, etc. Then I worked over 35 years for the U.S.Postal Service as a substitute rural carrier, then a clerk, a supervisor, and finally as a Postmaster. Also for a few years during that time, I drove a school bus.

    • She is 86 – and she’ll be 87 in August! 🙂 And, when people used to say that she was the postmistress – she would say – I’m the POSTMASTER — I’m a mistress to no one!!! She’s a pip, that girl! I believe that Ginger may have gotten a little bit of spunk from her.

      • Um, says my mom! 🙂 My family has infiltrated my blog. haha!! Doesn’t everyone wish they’d hang out here more often. Now, if my husband posts a comment on my blog, I will pass out from shock!

  16. I love cotton candy (even though it’s pure sugar), so that would be a job with many temptations for me. I’ve only had three jobs aside from writing and editing. I started out working in a horse stable mucking stalls and grooming and exercising the horses. Then I worked as a technician’s assistant at an animal hospital (that was one of the least glamorous, most disgusting jobs ever). Finally I became a private gardener for a 90-year-old lady. Lovely, lovely lady who I learned a lot from, but I hate to garden 🙂

    • Wow, only 3 jobs! And they are all pretty unique, if not ‘messy’. I’m kind of cracking up at you being a private gardener when you hate to garden. Since I’m trying desperately to find my green thumb, (even a pinkie would do) I’d like some tips! 😉

  17. Love it, Ginger. I’ve had lots of odd jobs. Sitting on a gigantic dog dish and wrapping people in plastic may top the chart. At least we have great stories to tell, right??

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