What My First Job Taught Me!
When I was 16 I got my first job. A friend of mine was working at a bakery and said they were looking for part time help. I went in, black pants, white button up shirt thinking I was about to be interrogated on how well I know my Italian pastries. A older man, wearing a frosting covered shirt and pants came from the kitchen. He said hello and asked me my name. I told him.. "oh, you're Italian?" I laughed and answered "…yes". I guess that sold him because he told me he would put me on the schedule for later that week. You know, us Italians gotta stick together. I was so excited, I called my mom (5 minutes after calling her the first time to get my "good luck baby" wishes) to tell her I started work that Thursday.
I worked at Patsy's Pastry Shop for 4 long years. I started out working 3 days a week. Once I graduated high school I picked up a few more shifts. Before I knew it I was working close to 50 hours a week. I didn't mind it, I loved being there.
I'm so lucky that Patsy's was my first job. I learned so much, way more than anyone (including myself) thought I would learn from working at a bakery. I learned things that made me laugh, I learned things that made me cry, but everything that I learned will stay with me forever. Here are some of my favorites.
1. "Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see" - This was a popular one for Sal (my boss, one of the brothers that owned the place). Anytime you said "so and so said this" or "I saw this one do that" you can bet that was the reply you would get from Sal. For me, this pretty much just meant to stay out of the gossip. If you hear or see something, chances are it's not true. And if it is true, it's none of your business. Don't feed into the gossip, it'll do nothing for you.
2. Every girl needs a best friend that's older than her - From day one at Patsy's, Ligia kept me sane. I couldn't remember her name during my first shift so my friend said to call her Cookie since she was going through the infamous Patsy's girl M&M cookie diet. It stuck. She called me Cookie and I called her Cookie. Spending 10 hours a day together can really bring you close to someone. We would talk all day long, which would sometimes get us in trouble. I'm not sure how we had so much to talk about, but trust me.. we did. The reason I say that every girl needs a bff that's older than her is because they know so much more than you. I would come to Cookie with an issue I was having and she would know exactly what to tell me because she had already been through it and got over it like 3 times before. She taught me things that I didn't even know I would need to know. Having an older best friend is like having a sister that isn't gonna tell on you. They pretty much know everything. What you should do, what you shouldn't do and everything in between. Fast forward 5 years from meeting each other, we are working for the same company again and I really couldn't see my life without her.
3. Good work ethic - Short and simple, Patsy's taught me how to bust my ass. I learned how to work quick but efficient. Knowing my two bosses, Sal and Vito put in 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week for 40 years really put things into perspective. How could I, a then 20 year old complain about being tired or sore when my then 69 and 71 year old bosses were running circles around me? I wasn't gonna let myself fall into the lazy stigma that my generation has.
4. Not everyone takes their job serious - Going off of #3, some people just don't have the same good work ethic that I luckily picked up at Patsy's. Like I said my generation tends to be a little lazy. Being counter help at a bakery is definitely not the hardest job. You usually don't need to use all of your brain power to get you through a shift. I think some of the girls took that as a chance to slack off, thinking "it's just a bakery". And yeah, it's just a job to us, but for Sal and Vito, this is their life. They like things done a certain way and when something is half-assed they, along with the customers, can really tell the difference. At first this would make me mad.. But I learned to live with it. And that just means I go around fixing all the things people slacked off on. *shrugs*
5. The customer isn't always right, you just have to pretend that they are! - It was always so frustrating when you would take an order for a frosting cake let's say, but when the customer comes in to pick up the cake they insist that they ordered a whipped cream cake. You KNOW they ordered a frosting cake, you are POSITIVE they ordered a frosting cake. What could you do? You can't sit there and argue... You just have to pray that Sal just made a batch of whipped cream and he has enough for one more cake. Now I don't work with customers and cake orders anymore but I still have to remind myself of this every once in a while. It's definitely a life lesson. Sometimes we have to take a loss as a loss and move on. Sometimes we have to do things that we don't wanna do. But that's life!
6. "Don't push things off to tomorrow that you can do today." - This is another good Sal quote that I stuck in my pocket for a rainy day. And when I say rainy day I actually mean every day of my entire life. I am such a procrastinator. I will push something off until the last possible minute. This saying has definitely pushed me at times to woman up and just get the job done. Like when you leave a pot in the sink to "soak overnight" yeah, no that's procrastination. Just clean the pot. (boy is my mum gonna throw this in my face)
7. Holidays were best spent at Patsy's - let me just start by saying, no Thanksgiving will ever be the same without a slice EACH of Vito's pumpkin pie and pecan pie. Ugh I can practically taste it now!! I've never felt an exhaustion quite like a Patsy's holiday exhaustion. The 2, maybe 3 weeks leading up to a major bakery holiday (Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) were brutal. There wasn't really a calm before the storm. It was like a hurricane and then a tsunami. The store was busy, but the kitchen? Psh, forget about it. The week of the holiday, you were lucky if you remembered to put on pants before leaving the house (2:30 in the morning alarms will do that to you). There was something so fun about the holidays. Everyone wanted to rip each others heads off, everyone had 9 million things to do, everyone was running on no food and 7 cups of coffee. But some way, some how, the holidays were a blast.
8. Being appreciated goes a long way - Whenever the guys were gonna be short a girl or realized more orders were coming in for the next day than they thought I would get the "so uh.... Are you around tomorrow?" I never really said no to them. Not because I felt like I couldn't, I just loved saying yes. That's probably because the hug and the "what would we do without you" or the "ahh, that's my girl!" made me feel better than a day off in bed would have felt. There was never a moment that I didn't feel appreciated by Sal and Vito. They truly acknowledged everything you did to help out. With their appreciation came reliability and loyalty that all of the Patsy's girls have towards them. No seriously, there were girls that grew up working at Patsy's that had moved on to other full time jobs but would still work at least one day a week just to help out the guys. More bosses need to realize how important this is. I've worked for people that show no appreciation towards their workers and the difference is so evident.
9. Family doesn't always have to be blood - this is one that I don't really have to explain. Everyone from the bakery knows how true this statement is. There were plenty of times that we would see each other more than we saw our own families. A lot of relationship were made at Patsy's that will last for a life time.
Patsy's closed in May of 2015 after almost 50 years of business. It was a sad day for all of us and all of our loyal customers, but I've never meet two people that were more deserving of retirement than those guys. I'm extremely grateful that I got to work with these wonderful people. We were all spoiled by the relationships we had with Sal and Vito. I'm sure I'll never have a relationship like that again with any of my current or future bosses. The world really needs more people like Sal, Vito and their wives Maria and Rose. I don't have the words to tell them how much they mean to all of us. It was truly a pleasure guys!
I'll finish with this. You say it's okay…. IT'S OKAY!
Until next time.