The Gross Reality of Dreamy Teen Jobs

Written By Jessica Clover, Staff Reporter

Indulging in free crispy fries, making creative coffee drinks, whipping up spicy steak and salsa, or just hanging out with dogs all seem like glamorous ways for teens wishing to gain independence, making some pocket money (or extra cash for college) and looking to escape Latin’s bubble. However, beneath the savory aromas and the roasted coffee beans often lie rude customers, strict and unreasonable bosses, and lazy coworkers. The dream job often turns into a nightmare.

Jessica Clover ’22 gives two boarders, Izzie and Millie, cuddle time!

When I was offered the opportunity to work as a kennel assistant at my local vet, I was excited because I love animals and I wanted hands-on experience before I went to veterinary school. However, after my first day, I realized I had jumped into a very deep pool without knowing how to swim—and I was sinking fast. I asked myself, What did I get myself into? I felt like a burden to my other co-workers because I was so slow. I signed up for this job thinking I would be able to hang with the dogs all day. However, after my first day, I quickly learned that I would have to walk more than 18 dogs all by myself and clean the animals’ accommodations, or boarding areas. Sometimes the accommodations are absolutely disgusting with animal excrement covering every surface, (including the ceilings of the small, four feet long by four feet wide “condos,” or 7 feet long by 10 feet wide “master suites”). When I started working, I think it’s fair to say that I was completely clueless; I didn’t even know how the washing machine worked, and I always needed my co-worker there to tell me what to do, and I felt lost when he wasn’t there. Thankfully, my co-workers motivated me to keep going. I improved with every shift, and I have even helped the shift leader restrain animals to administer medication.  

Working as a barista seemed like a dream job to Sharanya Ravi Kumar ‘22, who felt compelled to join a local coffee shop because of the friendly staff and environment; however, soon after she started working, she realized that her job was not going to be as relaxing as she hoped. Kumar recalled an incident where a customer became not only verbally aggressive but also used her food order to convey her rage.  “The customer was being racist towards my coworker, and after we gave her the drinks and our boss spoke to her, she threw the drinks at the window of the drive thru,” Kumar said. Because the woman became physical, they had to call the police to intervene. This particular incident left Kumar worrying about her safety in the workplace. “I felt a serious lack of security and felt concerned for my safety. I also felt racially targeted because the customer was being racist to everyone,” Kumar said. Kumar also stated that maintaining a balance between school and work was difficult because her manager had unrealistic expectations regarding the number of hours she could work during the school week. Kumar said, “After I turned 18, the company expected me to work 16 hours over weekends and 12 hours during the week, and they didn’t take into consideration that I am still in high school.”   

 Throughout Laura Han’s ‘22 time working at a popular Mexican fast food restaurant, she came across her fair share of rude customers who absolutely needed something. Han said, “When a customer says ‘I need something,’ it really bothers me; you don’t need anything. I have given you your allotted portion, and there are portion sizes for a reason.” Han also talks about the challenges of customer service while serving an older couple who came into her store. Han said, “The husband was walking along the line, and after I was done making the wife’s food, I asked her if her husband would like any. That’s when the husband said, ‘Why are you asking her? You should be asking me,’ and eventually the couple left without getting the food because they said I disrespected them.” 

Han and Kumar are not alone in their complex experiences with customer service. While working at a popular chicken sandwich shop, Sam Strawderman ‘22 experienced a frustrated customer when he could not get through the busy drive-thru line. Strawderman said, “We were really busy and there was a guy leaving the line. We were trying to make a hole so he could leave. My coworkers and I apologized repeatedly, but he still gave us an attitude when he was finally able to leave.” 

Not only do Latin Hawks deal with rude customers, Donovan Sanders ‘22 also has to handle coworkers who try to micromanage him at a grocery store and handle differing opinions when a task has to be completed.

Sam Strawderman ’22 gives a thumbs up as he takes orders at a chicken fast food restaurant

Sanders said, “Some of my coworkers don’t do their jobs, which means that I have to work harder. Also, some of the managers tell me to do things that don’t really need to be done at that moment.”   

Whether we’re working with dogs, making custom burrito bowls or brewing fancy coffee drinks, Charlotte Latin seniors were all captivated by the dream of chill jobs where we could indulge in free food or even relax with some furry friends. However, it didn’t take long to realize that the reality wasn’t as glamorous as our social media feeds like Instagram or TikTok led us to believe it would be.