During college (circa 1974), I worked at Carson Pirie Scott & Company, at the time one of the major department stores in Chicago (all of which are now either gone or been renamed). While I was there, the company decided to replace all of the old mechanical cash registers with new electronic ones. The idea was to convert all the registers in the suburban stores first, then to convert the ones at the main store on State Street.
We were the first store to convert to the new registers, starting in June. I had just changed my major from Math to Computer Science, so I was really interested to see the registers and see what they could be made to do, and had all kinds of questions about them. I guess they figured that the best way to keep me from snooping and hacking them was to make me a trainer. I helped train most of the associates at my store, then was asked to help them train the people downtown.
I learned a lot that summer, most of which had nothing to do with the registers or the workings behind them. The associates at State Street were generally older and more set in their ways, and a lot of them had a chip on their shoulder about having to learn how to use a totally new machine to ring up their sales. There were some touchy moments and short tempers, and it was my job to not only teach the people I was training how to ring up sales and returns, I had to be patient and reassuring, encouraging them that they would learn what they were doing just as they had learned the old method. It was a hard sell for some of them, but none of them blew up at me or ran out of the room screaming.
A couple of years earlier, I told my mother, who was a Chicago Public School teacher, that I was thinking of going into teaching. She told me that if I went into teaching, she’d disown me. That summer I learned that there was teaching kids and teaching adults, and that pointed me in the right direction career-wise.