Being remote means that the typical watercooler discussion of the office tends to be reduced to sharing neat links and cute dog photos in our Campfire rooms. This is another reason I enjoy our company meetups: it’s a chance to learn a little more about your coworkers. It’s much more rewarding when we share snippets of daily life, like our current workspace status.

One thing we definitely all have in common is a first job. That moment you get a check (or money under the table) for hard work is one you won’t forget. I can guarantee there’s great and hilarious memories behind each first job as well.

I asked everyone at 37signals what their first job was, and I was impressed by the range of jobs, including movie theater projectionist, sign painter at a butcher shop, and even a search engine submission monkey. We even had several programmers and web designers right out of the gate. Of course, the lion’s share was what you would expect: cashiers at drug stores, office suppliers, copy shops, ice cream cone slingers, waiters/waitresses, and grocery baggers.

The best part of this discussion was the amazing stories that came out of it. Here’s a few:

When I turned 14 I got a job cooking french fries. I lasted there for over a year before quitting on-the-spot after a ketchup mishap, the details of which I won’t elaborate on. Suffice it to say I stormed out covered in 3 gallons of Heinz, never to return.
One of my fondest memories to this day [as an ice cream seller] is being given a metal rod and told to “defend the product” overnight during the Taste of Chicago. [...] We drove around Buckingham Fountain in a golf cart and did donuts in the middle of Lake Shore Drive while the rest of the city was asleep.
I worked at [a video store] when I was about 15. I learned about how humans can be cheaper than robots, chased off the local hooligans who attempted to steal things daily, once attempted to ring up someone’s groceries because I wasn’t wearing my glasses, and had my bottom pinched by the elderly lady who also worked there.
My first week on the job I brokered a deal between my school and the [smoothie shop] for thousands of dollars worth of smoothies each week. They cheated me on the bonus! (Great business lesson learned.)
I sold TVs. It taught me how to sell a product, and accessories, insurance, and the like. It was also a great playground for social experiments. I would take on different accents and personalities to see if it affected the way a TV was sold. I had way too much fun with it.

What was your first job? Do you know what your coworkers’ first job was? Ask, and I bet you’ll learn something new about who you work with.

Thanks to Jeremy for feedback.