I remember my first real job.

Sure at 40-something, I now have morals and high standards and expectations, but 25+ years ago, I didn’t. I don’t know an 18 year-old that does. I flunked out of the first semester of college as a sophomore. I hated the new setting as I had moved from a community college sized town and campus to the University. Partying was what I wanted to do. My oldest sister got me my first "real"job working in clothing retail. Real meaning not scraping left-over food into gallon containers and washing an endless sea of dishes.

The shop was this hole in the wall store of a dying downtown shopping center. I remember it had wooden panel doors that had springs to pull them closed on the dressing rooms. The clothes were ugly and it was owned by a husband and wife couple who I suspect were trying to hold onto their youth by marketing to teens.

My transportation to work a Foxi moped. It was ridiculous. Rain, shine, snow, etc., that was how I got around. I even considered driving it to Kansas City, a four hour drive by car. That’s how stupid an 18 year old is, people. So one day I wore a skirt to work and who the hell wears a skirt on a moped?! Now it wasn’t a flowy skirt so it didn’t blow up and show the world my business. Oh no, it was tight. It was too tight. At the first stop I had to put my leg down to balance the moped, it ripped right up the center seam. It wasn’t an obvious tear, but still I didn’t want to make it worse by wearing it on the way home.

I did what any "sensible" 18 year old would do: I went through the store’s sales rack and picked out a pair of shorts and a matching shirt. After locking up the store, I walked across to the public bathrooms and changed clothes. This sounds like a rather obvious way to solve a problem except that I did not pay for the clothes. No, I did not forget to pay for them. I just didn’t buy them.

The next day I came into work and the owners were there. The husband pulled me aside and told me he had something to talk to me about and we headed to the storage room. Inside waiting was a police officer and a tiny television. I don’t remember thinking something was up until they turned it on and there recorded was a grainy black and white video of me walking over to the bathroom wearing the skirt outfit and walking out again a couple minutes later wearing the shorts. I didn’t realize there had even been a security camera.

Needless to say, I had been busted. They asked me if I was also responsible for a number of other inventory items that had gone missing (specifically some underwear), which I adamantly denied. Should I even mention they fired me on the spot? The most humiliating part of it all was realizing they would of course tell my sister who got me the job in the first place as they were friends, especially since they also pressed formal charges (even though I’m sure at the time the value of the two items was probably less than $20).

After I lost that job, I had to find another. That’s what led me to the dance studio a few weeks later: Now Hiring Dance Instructors. No Experience Necessary! The shorts? They were hideous. They brought back such horrible memories that I got rid of them soon afterwards. You would think I’d learned lesson, wouldn’t you? Except I was only 18…