My First Job

My first job was selling sweets (candy) in Standard Trading Company on Regent Avenue in Kitwe/Nkana (Kitwe was the town side, Nkana the copper mining community which supported it; this was where my family lived). The sweets were displayed behind a four-sided curved glass island in the middle of the one-storey building. I was fifteen and could barely see over the top of the counter. It was the Christmas holidays.

There was a grocery section at the back where you brought your list (or sent your servant with a list–everyone had servants, African men from the surrounding villages), and the gruff man behind the counter collected the items from the shelves and stacked them in front of you, kinda like you see in old cowboy movies (did we bring a basket?)

I worked alongside Mrs. Brown, her with the tight lips, helmet hair-do and apron. I didn’t wear one. Not worthy, or did I manage to get out of it? The job didn’t last long, but what I remember was cleaning out what seemed like a hundred glass-fronted sweet sections filled with chocolates off all kinds: cream-filled, hard centres, toffee, nougat and nut, and then there were the Licorice All-Sorts, Mint Imperials, boilings (barley sugar hard candy), butterscotch and licorice. This also included cleaning the glass inside and out. I didn’t mind the task because then I didn’t have to serve customers.

One day I found a cockroach in a corner of the cherry-filled chocolates. Bugs, or as we call them, gogos (pronounced with a guttural intonation like you’re clearing your throat) have never bothered me, but I felt I should point it out to Mrs. Brown. She stiffened, glanced around like arrest was imminent, grabbed a piece of cardboard and with a look of abject horror bent down, scooped up the cockroach and motioned me to continue my task, while she dropped the beast to the floor and squashed it beyond recognition.

This one Friday she sent to me to Kingston’s, the local bookshop to pick up her weekly magazines. I was thrilled to get out of work and planned to pick up the latest Beano, a comic from England. With a glance over her shoulder, she urged me to hurry. I was delayed by a line that never seemed to end. Unable to decide whether to charge back without her magazines (and my Beano) or stay in line, I chose the latter. Tenacity is my worst and best quality. By the time I charged back  in a cold sweat of panic, magazines in hand, she was apoplectic. A week later I left to return to school and thereafter never went back to the sweet counter at Standard Trading Company.



6 thoughts on “My First Job

  1. Hi Rossandra, found you through the Ultimate Blog Challenge. 🙂

    Sounds like an interesting first job. I’m not sure I’d have survived past finding the cockroach! *shudder*

  2. Okay…your first job was seriously way better than mine! I worked for six pediatricians…I got to hear screaming babies and crying children getting shots for two to three hours a day sometimes six days a week! However I was originally hired to scan archived charts onto CDs but ended up becoming the copy machine whisperer. I could fix any problem with the copy machine. Faxed records. Pulled/filed charts. Took nurse messages and made appointment reminder calls. I had very little interaction with people outside of the doctors, nurses and the office girls!

  3. One of my first jobs was at the local Woolworth’s also behind the candy counter, though why they would put a teenager in charge of a candy counter I can’t imagine now. I’m sure I ate most of their profits and a large chunk of my salary went for the purchase of Clearasil.

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