My very first “real” job was when I was 15. I had been babysitting for years but I didn’t consider it a real job. I remember complaining to my mom because I just wanted to hurry up and get older so I could get a grown up job. My mom tried telling me to enjoy babysitting because, let’s face it, it’s not a difficult job. I got paid very well to sit in someone’s house for a few hours. Most of the time I would only have an hour or two before I had to put the kids to bed and then I could just watch TV and eat whatever I wanted. Yeah, really tough. That was another one of those instances where I should have listened to my mother.
My first job was in a mall in Illinois and I worked at a reptile zoo. (Yes, there was a reptile zoo in a mall.) I was hired to be a tour guide but I had to go through quite a bit of training before I could give tours alone. I observed other guides giving the tours and tried to memorize all of the information. The store had a few rare, albino reptiles along with a snake that was in the movie Anaconda. There was a giant crocodile, cobras and the “world’s largest snake.” This snake was actually in the Guinness Book of World Records (I think another snake has beat his title since then) and his name was Baby. He was HUGE.
While I learned the necessary skills to be a good tour guide, I also got to hold a 10-foot Albino Burmese Python at the entrance of the store. My duty was to draw people into the store and get them to take a tour. The snake's name was Bananas and I just adored him. I have always loved snakes and I loved holding him. I also had a blast messing with the people strolling through the mall. A lot of people thought I was holding a fake snake so they would innocently wander by and barely glance in my direction. Bananas would move and their reactions were priceless. It was funny to see who got scared and who didn’t. I once saw big, giant man run like a baby while his petite girlfriend came over to pet Bananas.
There was also a Navy base close to the mall so we would have quite a few guys come over at the end of the day. Many of them got very excited to see a girl holding a giant snake. (By the way Britney Spears, I totally beat you on that one.) One occasion that sticks out in my mind was when a group of Navy guys walked by and I said, “Do you guys want to pet the snake?” One of them grinned and said, “Do you want to pet MY snake?” Um, no. Gross. I was 15 and did not think that was funny at all. At 15, I still thought sex or anything relating to sex was totally nasty.
A couple of times I was told to hold a baby crocodile instead of Bananas. I loathed that crocodile. No one ever really taught me how to hold him and I was too young and dumb to open my mouth and ask for help. One of the times I was holding him, a group of loud kids walked by and it frightened the crocodile. He started flailing around and scratched the shit out of my arms. He then crapped all over me. The worst part was my manager wouldn’t let me go home to change so I had to walk around with croc poop on me the rest of my shift. I was never asked to hold the crocodile again.
I finally earned the right to be a tour guide and completely hated it. I loathed talking in front of a group of people every day and it became so boring to say the same things over and over. Plus I was still young and flighty so I quit after about five months to move on to bigger and better things (a hostess. Ha!). I still look back on that first job fondly and love to reminisce about the great times I had with my buddy Bananas.