Dad's acupuncture practice was really a family business. Mom did the accounting and later became the receptionist. My brothers cleaned the clinic, or "office" as we called it. When they left home, I assumed the janitor role and I cleaned just about every weekend throughout High School. I was paid $100 per month to do so. It took me a couple of hours each week to vacuum the waiting room and hallways, mop the exam room floors, clean the bathroom and all of the sinks, and dust. Like most teenagers, my weekends were often packed. Occasionally I'd arrive home from a Saturday school activity in the evening, then drive myself to the office to complete the cleaning by 10 o'clock at night. It taught me to plan ahead. If I was going to be gone an entire weekend I was expected to go over Thursday night before or Monday night after and get it done.
Having kids do the work saved my parents money because adult laborers would have demanded higher wages. Still, we didn't work for free, and we learned at a young age how to save, budget and make purchasing decisions.
One bit of trivia: Vernon, a classmate who made creepy advances towards me in during Mr. Svinth's 7th grade camping trip to Mount Lassen, worked in the Dental Lab that was attached to my Dad's Clinic. I would sometimes see him there on Saturdays. By the end of High School we were good friends!
My Brush with Death
Prior to the janitor job I sometimes worked at my dad's acupuncture clinic cleaning dirty needles so they could be re-used on other patients. This started when I was 11 years old. I got paid about $2 per hour, which was great because babysitting only paid $1 per hour.
I felt very grown up and competent wearing latex gloves and sitting on a real lab stool. I'd pick out the needles one at a time from the basin where they soaked in pink, sweet smelling antiseptic solution. The liquid and the needles felt cold through the gloves. Sometimes the tips of the needles would go through the gloves and prick me.
I would run an alcohol wipe up the needle to remove any blood or human tissue (Sometimes little hunks of human flesh would be attached.). If the wipe caught on the needle it was considered barbed and was to be thrown away. If the needle passed the wipe test I wove it through a strip of cotton gauze. This was hard to do at first, as my young hands were awkward, but eventually I got the hang of it. I could fit about 8 needles on one strip of gauze. These gauze strips were placed in plastic bags and then into a machine called an autoclave, which was supposed to sterilize the needles. I was taught how to start the autoclave myself, which involved the handling of dangerous, yellow-glowing chemicals.
I felt very useful at the office, and enjoyed being around my Dad who often