My First Real Job

What you are about to read is 100% true.

Not many people know this, but I had a job before I ever worked in the Worlds of Fun Games Department. I started in games in 2001 at the age of 14. My first job was actually in 1999 at the age of 12. I didn’t mow lawns, or deliver newspapers, or sell lemonade on the street corner. I got up at 3:30 am with my Dad, rode with him to a hangar at Kansas City International Airport, climbed into the belly of airplanes, unloaded bags of freight, used a device to scan the bar code on the packages, and sent them down a conveyor belt where they were re-bagged and loaded onto trucks and vans for delivery. I did this for two summers, and some weekends when school was in session, before ever working at an amusement park. This is 100% true.

I learned a lot of things working at the airport. I got no special treatment. In the winter, I froze to death on the bitter cold mornings out on the runway. My hands turned black from the dust and dirt layered on the packages. I rode the TUG towing vehicle out to just-landed jets, climbed inside the belly of the plane (because I was small), and pushed, heaved, and shoved over-sized trash bags full of packages out the door onto the carts to take back inside. It was exhausting work.

We were scanning what was called “lab packs.” They were referred to as “lab packs” because they contained blood and urine samples being sent out to the various Kansas City based medical labs for testing. If I recall, most packages said the word “hazard” in big red letters, or something to that effect. They were small packages, a little larger than an old VHS tape, with an airtight plastic covering surrounding them. The bar codes were on the plastic covering, and the scanner had to physically glide over the bar code in order for it to be registered into the system. This proved to be difficult if a package was dirty, or the bar code was in a strange spot, or it had been folded over onto the adhesive section of the package. I was told to watch out for leaky packages. The worst only happened once as a small stream of urine flowed out the corner of one of the packages onto my pant leg.

I know that sounds absolutely unreasonable, ridiculous, maybe a little awesome, and in all honestly, it is all those things. It could also be considered “child labor,” but all of that was bypassed in some way (don’t ask me how), because my Dad was the boss of the operation. But the truth of the matter is, from the ages of 12 to 13, I was making an hourly wage, working right around 20 hours a week, getting a paycheck, and I saved all that money and bought my first car when I turned 14 (*).

*When I went in for my first job interview at Worlds of Fun, they were confused as to why I actually had employment history listed on my application. They got scared and told me I was breaking the law, even if I was technically working for my Dad. Also, I made more per hour working at the airport then I did my first four years as a seasonal employee at Worlds of Fun.

Looking back on that job, I think it prepared me in more ways than I ever realized. I’m not sure I’d ever do it again, but as a kid, making money, working alongside adults, it was an experience I won’t forget. In this day and age it’s not something that I think other individuals will ever get the chance to do at such a young age. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.

What was your first job?