Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minimum wage leads to maximum experience

(Andrew Grier/Flickr)
(Andrew Grier/Flickr)

Now that summer has finally come to an end, so too have all of our seasonal jobs. Some of us may have scored fun and interesting internships, others toiled away at camp; and perhaps there were even a few who managed to elude the claws of responsibility for another few months. This summer, just like the one before, I spent the majority of my time in the kitchen of my hometown pizzeria.

In all honesty, I would have much rather spent my days going to the beach with my friends and avoiding any and all obligations. Working at a restaurant is endlessly frustrating. But the life experiences I’ve gained over the years at that little pizza place are more than I could have ever imagined.

As college students working on our degrees, we’ll soon be qualified for jobs in the field of our choice. But working a minimum wage job, generally in retail or food services, is an important part of life and, for some, the field they stay in. Not only does it help you to grow a thicker skin, but it also allows you to gain perspective in many aspects.

Through my job I’ve met, worked with, and befriended a diverse group of people that I otherwise would have never known. These are the individuals I would spend over 10 hours a day with laughing, complaining and bonding. I watched many come and go, some who moved on to better things and some who simply couldn’t handle the pressures of a fast-paced kitchen. But the majority were those of us who worked extremely hard because we needed this job and we couldn’t afford to quit when it got difficult or frustrating, those of us who needed that paycheck at the end of the week.

The minimum wage is not a livable wage. This summer, a customer tried to strike up a conversation with me about how ridiculous it is that McDonald’s employees want higher wages. Perhaps he didn’t realize that even though my restaurant is not a fast food joint, I also make the Massachusetts minimum of $10 an hour. And if you don’t think flipping burgers is worthy of a decent wage, you’ve probably never worked in a boiling kitchen with no air conditioning in the middle of the summer.

Once you’ve worked customer service, you learn to treat people with the respect they deserve. A woman once threw her sandwich at me because I put more lettuce than she wanted on her ham and cheese. If she worked in the food industry, she would have realized the error in her ways. Since I started working at a restaurant, I’ve become a more understanding person overall. I know what it’s like to get in trouble with my boss when a customer complains about the food, and I wouldn’t ever want to subject anyone else to that.

A minimum wage job also helps you to be the best version of yourself. You learn to keep a smile on your face and pretend you actually believe that the customer is always right. It motivates me to continue working hard every day so I can be my best self and it inspires me to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to me.

Every fall when I leave for college, it warms my heart to see how proud my coworkers are. My little restaurant family supports each other through everything, especially when we reach out to better our lives. Working for minimum wage isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but we would all rather have a future where we don’t have to worry as much about money.

By working this job I became more down-to-earth, learned a little bit about the value of a dollar and got to see what people are truly like. The job might not be fun and you might find yourself having some pretty epic stress dreams about making BLT subs, but it will be an experience you’ll never forget and one that you’re sure to grow from.

Gabby Vacarelo is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    David Hunt 1990Sep 21, 2016 at 9:31 am

    The minimum wage. Ah, such a lovely thing, leveraging the money of others to feel good about yourself. And it’s a political plus too!