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I thought that the pet store would be the perfect first job. In some ways, it was. I wanted a job that would teach me patience, responsibility, and hard work. Boy did it get it. I was a naïve 16-year-old who thought that being an animal lover with some people skills was all it took to work at a pet store. My first day taught me just how wrong I was...
The bell on the door jingled as a costumer walked in. I smiled to see an adorable little girl skip in with her mother in tow. She had obviously reached the age a which little girls insist on choosing their own wardrobes. Nothing of her attire seemed the type a mother would chose. She wore a pink striped jacket over a bright yellow top and blue-and-white checked shorts. On her feet were white tennis shoes and pick frilly socks. The pick clips in her braids clicked every time she stepped.
The girl caught sight of the rabbit display and dashed over to it, releasing her mother's hand.
“Mommy! Wook at the bunnies!”
The mother smiled patiently, “Lillie, darling, I told you we cant get anything with fur. Daddy wouldn't like that... Too much cleaning...”
Lillie nodded knowingly. She obviously understood the gravity of the situation. I then decided it was time for me to make my move. I put on my best customer-service grin and strode to where the mother-daughter duo stood.
“Can I help you with anything today?” I asked pleasantly. The mother turned and began to answer.
“Could you direct us to -”
“The snakes!” Lillie jumped up and down excitedly, “I want a snake!”
Mommy's eyes widened with alarm. “Well, sweetie, I was thinking more like a fish.” She glanced at me pleadingly. I took the hint and agreed with her.
I nodded, “We have some beautiful new fish I'm sure you'd love, Lillie!”
Lillie soon forgot all notions of snakes and bunnies. She ran from tank to tank with endless energy. “They're all so pwetty, Mommy! I don't know which one to pick!”
I watched as she continued her pacing up and down the aisles. I smiled as I thought that I would obviously would make an easy sale this morning... It's funny, how wrong we can be.
Lillie stopped. “This one.” she said, “This one is perfect!” Her little finger pointed to one of a hundred neon yellow and orange colored guppies. I went to the shelf and grabbed the necessary tools: a small net and a plastic bag. The first step was test-book perfect. I confidently filled the bag with water from the tank. The second step was harder. It involved snatching the wanted guppy out of the water and successfully placing it within said plastic bag, preferably without any torn fins or scales. The operative word was “wanted”. How a six-year-old can tell the difference between two yellow guppies the size of safety pins is beyond me. I believe that I grabbed every single yellow fish in that tank at least twice and yet none of them was “the right one”. Finally, I experienced victory. I dipped the net into the water for the millionth time. I snatched a guppy and waited for the verdict.
“That's her!” Lillie cried, not nearly as excited as I. She jumped up and down, clutching her mother's skirt in her elation. I controlled my joy a little better than she did.
“I'm going to name her Ewizabeth.” Lillie proclaimed.
Now, there are times when it's best to just keep your mouth shut. I of yet lacked that discernment.
“Lillie, that's a boy fish,” I said, “All the yellow and orange colored ones are. Girls aren't as brightly colored.”
That was one of those times.
Lillie scrunched up her nose. Her little arms folded and suddenly I realized my mistake.
“I want a gurl.” she stated, “I don't want a boy fish.”
“Lillie, the lady went to all that trouble to get you this fish,” Mommy began to plead, “We can pretend this is a girl fish! It doesn't really matter, does it?”
Oh, yes it did. I silently dumped the rejected fish back into the tank. Mr. Fish was just going to have to wait another day. After wiping my hands on a paper towel, I directed Lillie to a new tank full of “gurl fish”. She was obviously disappointed in the duller colors of the females, but her grief was short lived.
“Which one, honey? Which one do you want to get?” her mother asked as she bent to see the fish at Lillie's level. Lillie scrunched her nose in concentration.
“I want that fishie!” she stated, pointing to her choice. I snatched it before it had a chance to hide.
“Not that one!”
I wanted a job that would teach me patience. Boy did I get it.