Scarred By Cabbages

Many thanks to Charles Gulotta over at Mostly Bright Ideas for giving me the inspiration for today’s post.  His “Painfully Employed” Part 1 and Part 2 made me think of my most memorable and psychologically devastating childhood job:  selling cabbages door to door.

It’s okay.  Go ahead and laugh.  I can laugh about it now, too, almost forty years later.

I grew up on a farm in Manitoba.  When my older brother was a pre-teen, he sold potatoes in town.  He did the digging and bagging, Mom drove him to town, and he got to keep the money.  I’m pretty sure this wasn’t his idea.  I’m guessing it was an attempt by my parents to nurture entrepreneurial spirit.  I suspect they succeeded in nurturing a lifelong hatred of all things potato-sales-related.

I was more than three years younger, an impressionable age.  I was staggered by the sheer abundance of wealth that poured into his pockets from this endeavour.  It was probably about five bucks in total, but my allowance was ten cents a week.  Woooeeeeee!

Being the pain-in-the-ass kid that I was, I badgered my mother for equal fiscal opportunity.  Little did I know.

It was a good year for growing cabbage that year.  Breathless with anticipation of untold riches, I trailed my long-suffering mother as she brought the cabbages in from the garden, weighed them, and marked prices on them.  I was too young to carry more than one cabbage at a time, and multiplication was beyond me, but I made up for these deficiencies with sheer enthusiasm.

Reality intruded on my dream once we arrived in town.  I had to actually walk up to a house, ring the doorbell, and talk to a stranger.  And try to sell them a cabbage.

Girl Scouts have it easy.  They’re selling cookies.  Who doesn’t like cookies?  And the cookies are all neatly packaged in attractive boxes.  Try selling somebody a wormy cabbage and see how fast you pay for those new uniforms.

But perhaps I’m bitter.

Amazingly, I did manage to sell a few cabbages.  Maybe my customers felt sorry for this little kid clutching a cabbage bigger than her head.  Or maybe they were just paying me to go away.  For the few cents that I was charging, it was probably a good investment.

I lost interest in cabbage sales with remarkable speed.  And I remain scarred for life by the memory of trying to convince people to buy something that they didn’t need, want, or even like.  I never worked in retail again.  To this day, the words “sales career” send a cold chill down my spine. 

But if some little kid tries to sell me something, I usually buy.

What’s your worst job ever?

6 thoughts on “Scarred By Cabbages

  1. Given that I’m the youngest in this entrepreneurial family I have to weigh in, too. By the time I came along the demand for vegetables must have diminished, or maybe it just wasn’t a good growing season. For whatever reason, when I wanted to earn some money Mom enrolled me as a Regal representative, going door to door with the catalogue selling cards and wrapping paper. As someone who was painfully shy…talk about traumatizing! Oddly enough, as an adult I’ve supported myself in medical sales for the last thirteen years! Can you say sucker for punishment?


  2. Worst job ever? Packing dog biscuit into boxes. The noise from the overhead dog biscuit chute was deafening, and they didn’t give me ear protection. It was on a conveyor belt, (think “I Love Lucy”) and I had trouble keeping up with the other biscuit packers. During the first break, I asked my supervisor what I could do to improve my performance. He said I could “leave.” So I did. I lasted less than half a day.


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