Early in my adult life, a mentor said to me…

“The best job you’ll ever have is the one you just left or the one you’re going to next. Never is it the one you’re in right now…“

I can’t overstate how many times that has been true for so many people I have known. For me though, the best job of my life will always be my first job — sandwich maker and deli clerk.

It was the first weekend after I turned 15 years old — the legal age to work in Colorado at the time. My father directed me to put on a nice shirt, a nice pair of pants, tuck in the shirt, and to ride my bike up to the Bagel Deli, roughly a 1-1/2 miles up the street. My bike, was actually hand-me-down from my brother — a green Columbia 5-speed touring bike.

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Paul Weiner, the Bagel’s owner, would be waiting for me, My dad explained. My father, having dined there earlier that morning, had prearranged the meeting with Mr. Weiner after seeing a Help Wanted sign in the window. I would be applying for a part-time dishwasher position.

The Bagel was a regional institution — a place were Rocky Mountain Jews regularly met to eat good food, speak fractured Yiddish, and play the game of suburban oneupsmanship over lox and creamed herring on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

After completing my application and turning it in to Mr. Weiner, he gave me 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes he didn’t ask me a single question.  I’m not sure I even spoke except to say things like, uh-huh.  Mr. Weiner simply told me what he expected of me and as importantly, what he didn’t want to see from me. My first official offer of employment would be Mr. Weiner telling me I would be starting the following Tuesday at 3 PM.

Scared shitless, I got on my bike and rode home — this time, with my shirt untucked.

For the next 3 weeks I was the apprentice dishwasher. Paul referred to me as “apprentice” as often as he could, to employees and customers alike. He smirked every time he said the word apprentice in his thick Austrian accent. I must have done a fair job too, because after 3 weeks I was promoted to sandwich maker and counter clerk.

I got to use the meat slicers.

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The other deli clerk‘s were much older than me. Rick Cornblatt, the deli manager, was in his mid-20s with a wife and a small child. Craig Walker was in his late 30s, and when he wasn’t slinging corned beef, he was a bassoon player for the Denver Symphony Orchestra.

I was just 15 years old, and I got to use a meat slicer and hang out with these guys. Not only that, but Mr. Weiner had a very liberal employee benefits program — we could eat as much as we wanted to during our shifts, so long as nothing went home with us at night. Having already discovered the weight room at age 15, all the protein I could eat for 5 hours a night would surely be the down payment for my ever-growing guns.

The Bagel Deli was built around its regulars. Of course strangers and first-timers came in every day, but within a month of working there, I knew who all the regulars were, and they paid the rent. The regulars were like a continually visiting Board of Directors, checking in on me and the others, and making sure we were doing a good job. If  we weren’t doing a good job, they would tell us about it.

The most notable regular though, was legendary concert promoter Barry Fey. Fey, who I would go on to work for in a separate incarnation of my young adult life, rarely just walked in. He often called ahead requesting preferential treatment for the guests he’d bring. Fey often brought the managers of bands who were passing through town such as the Rolling Stones, the Jefferson Starship, and even Bob Dylan’s manager. On rare occasions Fey would bring musicians such as Ian McLagan, Craig Chacuico, and John Sebastian to name a few. I made sandwiches for all of them.

Another deli clerk and coworker was Paul Gordon, a washed-up talk radio host who was the first openly gay man I ever met. We called Paul Gordon “PG” so not to get confused with Paul the owner of the deli.

One evening, while working alongside PG and while slicing roast beef, I cut the tips off of the index and middle fingers of my right hand. I never felt a thing, but I quit slicing when I felt the blade grinding into the bones of those 2 fingers.

I hadn’t been using the finger guard.

PG packed my fingers in a cup of ice and drove me to the emergency room. Stopped at an intersection enroute to the hospital, and along side an older couple in a long Buick, I pulled my fingertips from the cup of ice and showed the couple in the Buick the flow of blood pouring pouring from my fingertips. I don’t think they were impressed. The emergency room doctor took a skin graft from the side of my hand, and the 2 fingertips were stitched and sealed closed. I returned to work within several days.

Working at the Bagel Deli was, hands-down, the best job of my life. There’s hardly been a day go by that I haven’t reflected on it with fond memories and wishes that I  still worked there. Rick Cornblatt, who was my first boss, never left. It’s the only job he ever had. Craig Walker, the other full-time clerk and bassoon player, continued to work there until he was in his 60s.

I have no negative memories of that job, none.

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Of my favorite memories at the Bagel, and the one I reflect on most, is of entering the walk-in refrigerator on hot summer days, cutting open 5-gallon buckets of dill pickles, and eating 3 or 4 of them at a time.  As the customers would say, delish…!

Of course the job I have now is amazing. I work in bare feet, my commute involves stepping over my dog on the way into my studio each day, and I get to enjoy conversations with interesting people all day long. If a genie showed up tomorrow though, and gave me a chance to start over again at age 15 and make a career of working at the deli, I’m sure I’d think twice about it.

I worked at the Bagel on and off for nearly 3 years. In the 40 years since I clocked out for the final time, I’m not sure a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about that job and wished I was still there.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 6
184 miles
7,800’ climbing
15.4 mph avg
11,000 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Army Navy. Enjoy…

12 thoughts on “Best. Job. Ever.

    1. As always, thank you for taking the time! It was really a lightning in a bottle situation. I had thought many times about going back to Deli work, but I knew that scene could never be duplicated, so it stays alive in my memories…

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  1. That’s a great story, Roy! I’m glad you have that memory.
    I’ve said the happiest time in your life is when you know you are going to get married, but haven’t yet. Not exactly the same, but a related thought.
    My parents opened a business several years ago called the Bagel Place. Even though my dad is a world famous surgeon, I think some of his happiest moments were when he was working the board there making sandwiches. My mom was in heaven going around and talking to the customers. Alas, the person who they hired to run the business never or under-paid IRS taxes, and after a few years, the tax man closed them down and dad had a big bill to pay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry about the tax thing. Very sad actually. There’s something about making a living with people all around you eating, that makes the stresses of food-service stimulating but not overwhelming.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There were several guys that made up the team that ran the place. They all seemed like really nice people and all the bagels were made from scratch. They even had a pizza bagel, You would have liked that, lol It was a real surprise when the IRS came calling. Of course my parents should have paid more attention, but my dad just did his doctor thing, and my mom haloed them as perfect. Yes, it was sad. The place had real potential, not only as a business because of the apparent good values of everyone involved.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember you sharing that first job story to me on our CA to CO road trip. Love that trip and stories,We never turned on the tunes,talked all the way. I appreciate that Deli Story,never get tired of it and I learn from it each time. What a character builder in many ways, interpersonal skills,serving others,earning a buck. Many most Millennial’s won’t grasp or experience. At the age of 14 My old man set me up to work a summer hire job with
    ” The Stars ans Stripes” Military News Paper living in Darmstadt Germany.Off loading Sea and Land freight containers shipped over from the States,and Warehouse for the Print Shop. Talk about back breaking,learning to communicate and team work. Up at sunrise,riding my ass back and forth on my trustworthy Raleigh. Then had Football Practice.Fast forward to 16 years Corporate Medical Device Co, Over 20 plus Odds n Ends JOBS, Many life lessons learned. Now in this stage of the game of life, I’m Thankful I do Work that I Want To Do. Not work that I Have to do. Thank you again for this Story. Be Well My Brother.,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember you talking about that Stars And Stripes job and the Raleigh too. The things our dads pushed us to do.

      On a sidenote, sorry I missed the show last night. After I was done riding I had to submit an RFP to a local nonprofit for a fitness trail that I’m trying to get put into town. Got it in just under the wire. Hope you guys had a good evening!

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  3. Really loved reading this story, Roy! I never cut my finger tips *off* during my days behind the meat slicer, but I certainly sliced into them more than once while cleaning it! I drove to Subway today to pick up a sandwich and stumbled into a crowd of customers that had walked over from the adjacent hotel convention center. There literally must have been 50 people in line. 25 in front of me and 25 behind. The line stretched out the door. The four employees were working like a well-oiled machine. It gave me flashbacks to my years at Arby’s when a bus load of people would arrive unexpectedly. As a worker I remember it as an intriguing mix of both stress and the serenity of focus that comes with the flow of everyone working separately and together in a sort of fast paced, intricate choreography. As a customer today I was patient and pleasant and rehearsed in my ordering (I had 20 minutes in line to prepare) , so as not to disrupt their flow of choreography when it was my turn. Though not the quick trip to pick up lunch that I expected it to be, it was certainly worth my time, if only for my reminiscing alone. Thanks for telling your story, and by extension, giving me a chance to relay my lunch time story from today. Perfect timing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For as much respect as I have for you, Shannon, it just grew by leaps and bounds to know that you were once a Beef & Cheddar maven.

      The timing of my post, relative to your day, reminds me just how well the universe works. I’m glad your patient while you waited in line.

      I was thinking about food service today, when after a lunch at Denny’s with my mother, the waitress had seen that I had already stacked the plates, tableware, and trash in separate piles for easy removal. She asked if I had worked in food service when I was young.

      Of course, I said. She smiled.

      As always, thank you very much for taking time to read my shtick and thank you for your reply!

      Liked by 1 person

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