Today’s Tom Sawyer: The Summer of Teen Jobbers

Nurse Jill told me that California patients get their infusion port in their arm instead of their chest, you know, because they have to look good in a bikini. I don’t know what level of narcissism (or is it unwavering optimism) one needs to be at to worry about looking good in a bikini after half a year of chemo, but for me, the line would be way the Hell over there. I’m not wearing any swimsuit, not even Hijab swimwear, which to me is a total kill-joy anyway, until I get this thing out of me.

That said, I had to look forward to one whole summer with two boys and probably some tag-alongs, and no plans to frolic in water. How does a mom stave off heat violence without an aquatic oasis? Well, the answer is – give ’em somethin’ to do.

Had we a picket fence, they could spend the hot summer days white-washing the damn thing, but alas, we’re city dwellers – we have a rusting iron gate, badly in need of a new paint job. And so they came to be, my son and his friend, today’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn – sans the river and Injun Joe.

Things were working out beautifully. It was a sweltering 90-something degrees, the work was tedious and grueling – any hotter and the situation may have constituted as slavery. Before they thought to call the labor department, I served them ice cold Arnold Palmers after an hour’s work because no slave driver would ever do that. Although the strip job was spotty and probably caused more damage than good, I commended their efforts and told them to get back to work.

That’s when my son’s friend asked, “If this is work, aren’t we supposed to get paid?”

To which my son replied, “We get paid in food – we eat lunch!”

As a matter of fact, I make lunch everyday – so that statement is out of context. You see, at the beginning of this summer, my son and I volunteered at the Cub Scout Queens day camp at St. John’s University. We enjoyed a tasty buffet lunch everyday, which I told him qualified as payment – who knew he took it so seriously?

Now in comparison, the cuisine’s pay level between the camp and this iron-fence-paint-stripping job is like the difference between working for Google and Nubble Bubble Tea and Internet cafe. Luckily for me, his friend had no idea what the spread was at camp, and instant macaroni and cheese just happened to be one of his favorites, so there were no pay-rate disputes. Then again, they didn’t quite finish stripping the fence, much less get to paint it -which only proves, you get what you pay for.

All in all, it was about five hours of work, which is well within the confines of child labor laws. Might I add, the task was more grueling for me because I had to listen to their constant complaining and their shitty music the entire time. If they kept it up, I’d have been forced to bring out my laptop and show them pictures of real child-labor abuse.

Actually, I bring it up every time they moan about going to school. I’d say, “A hundred years ago, you’d be working in some depressing factory, or shining shoes, or risking your life in a coal mine for maybe forty-eight cents a day instead of going to school to spin a mini-fan blade between your fingers for “stress-relief” and dodging the lunch lady shoving free mystery-food. Would you rather work? Huh?!”

If it were a Wednesday morning, they’d give up the complaint – but Fridays – they might be inclined to say, yeah – I’d rather work. I think they’re curious about Happy Hour, which they’ve noticed starts hopping at 3 pm – at least in Sunnyside.

Now, they can only dream that they’d ever be served at Happy Hour – but even sadder, it’s just as much a dream that they’d ever find summer work. If you thought jobs were limited when we were teens, you have to think, what idiot would hire these greenies?

When I was fifteen my summer job was delivering airline tickets, my best friend was working at a candy store and my neighbor’s son delivered papers. According to the labor review, newspaper routes have been on the decline since the 1990’s. You’d think it’s because more people are receiving the news digitally but no – we print the same amount of newspapers today.

So what’s left – babysitting? Millennials working for Millennials, is that even possible? It would take them all night just to work out the pay rate.

My ten-year-old (which is not considered a Millennial) already got a taste for making real money performing with the American Ballet Theater. After he got paid, he wanted to “invest” that money into creating a Youtube channel. He’s convinced tens of thousands, maybe even a million subscribers will watch him open boxes of Pop figures and Rick and Morty paraphernalia he orders on Amazon.

Now you know why we call him Consumer Boy.

I honestly believe consumerism ruins work ethic. Consumers don’t care about what they do, they care about what they get for it. But I do admire their focus. Yes, maybe they’re entrepreneurs; maybe they’re innovators – they’re what my mom calls “hungry.”

But will they work for Mac n’ Cheese?

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Author: Namzola_Goodness

A Japanese-American who grew up in the streets of New York during the racially volatile 70's, Nami blogs with guts, heart and humor. Dysfunctional parenting, cynical citizenship and...love of beer to wash it all down.

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