Lo and behold . . . the child is employed!
She’s wanted a job for I can’t tell you how long.
At first I put her off. I’d started working so young and later decided that the work was part of what screwed me up. The paper routes at 4 a.m. The ads for babysitters in the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner that landed me in San Jose with the creepy single dad and the prostitute sometimes-step-mom and the kid who wanted only to watch interviews with serial killers. He was 8. I was 12. We weren’t afraid of the rats in the house.
Later I tried to help her. I showed her how to write cover letters, resumes. She filled out applications, waited by the phone. Weeks passed. Months.
At some point a light bulb must have brightened in her mind. My mom is helping me to find a regular job. My mom hasn’t had a regular job since the Reagan administration.
So she started asking her friends who DO have jobs. And it turns out that here now in our town cover letters and resumes and applications and waiting by the phone are SO YESTERDAY. That’s not how you get a job. What you do is you call the youth employment center. You show up for their orientation. You show up for their training. You wait for your appointment with Kenny. Kenny asks you where you want to work. You say Nordstrom. Kenny says forget it. You’re too young and anyway you don’t have any retail experience. He doesn’t care if your mom worked at Nordstrom once, after the creepy single dad got super-creepy. She was older then. And those were the ’80s. Those were like, ancient history, man. Next thing you’re going to tell me that your great-grandmother worked at the May Company. (She did). Ancient history. And anyway both of them were older. So here are your options: Dairy Queen or the taco shop. You know you don’t want to be a DQ girl and the taco shop doesn’t sound that much better so you say Thanks, maybe I’ll call you when I’m older. But when you’re out on the curb a few minutes later you get to thinking: I really don’t want to be a DQ girl, but maybe, just maybe, I could work at the taco shop. Minimum wage is seven-dollars-and-something. I don’t really like tacos and that’s good. Everyone who worked at Baskin Robin’s says it ruined ice cream for them. The taco shop could only ruin tacos. And so you call him back from your cell phone. You tell him you’ve thought about it. You were MADE to work at the taco shop. Kenny says he’ll set up an interview for you. Four o’clock on Thursday. You show up. On time. But the manager doesn’t seem like he was expecting you.
You say, I have an interview?
He scratches his head. Hmmm. Kenny sent you?
You smile. Yes, Kenny sent me.
He nods. Well, good enough. Any friend of Kenny’s is a friend of mine.
Next thing you know you’re wearing the taco shop uniform. You get two dress code violations oin the first day, but no matter. You’ll wear jeans without holes starting tomorrow. You’ll wear close-toed shoes. Promise.
And now you’re clearing tables. You’re serving lemonade. You’re scooping salsa out of buckets. Tomato paste out of buckets. Ground beef out of buckets. Shredded lettuce out of buckets. You’re rolling tortillas that will be deep fried and become some menu item you can’t remember the name of. You’re scooping beans out of buckets. Cheese out of buckets. Lard out of buckets. Shredded chicken out of buckets. And you know what?
It’s damn satisfying.
Or at least the paycheck is something to look forward to.