Dear young person too cool for school (you know who you are),
School can be a drag. You’re not the first among any generation of students to pick up on this.
Some teachers are good — even Dead Poets Society, oh-captain-my-captain, inspirational good. They will see past your natural teenage assholishness and teach you something in spite of your best efforts not to learn. These are the ones you will remember, maybe even befriend.
In any population, it’s simple math that most will hover around the average. Some will outright suck. You may think there are those who have it in for you, and you’d probably be right. There are teachers whose aptitudes would be better utilized in administering death blows in a meat packing plant.
But even the compulsory years of school are temporary, and someone as smart as you are, well, you really should just grin and bear it. Bear down. Do the work. Make the grade and all that. Because here’s the thing: It matters.
Most everyone will have to do some menial, low-wage work at some point. But for some folks, it’s not just a stage. Maybe they didn’t feel they were Good Enough™ to do anything else. Maybe they incubated these feelings in school when they figured passing… or not… was good enough for them. Shame.
I waited tables for a while when I was younger. For two dollars and a penny per hour. Plus tips. Even if I didn’t work till late afternoon, the fact that I had to work clouded the whole day. I was terrible at it. Go figure.
My manager at that particular job was a nice enough, well-meaning, but blurred fellow. He sat me down one time and explained what a “work ethic” means. “If you’re carrying something to the kitchen, and you see something else that needs to go to the kitchen, go ahead and pick that thing up, too, and make one trip.” Uh, okay. “Like a boss” can mean many, many things. Not all of them good.
There were double shifts. (Yay! Two half-priced meals!) On Sundays the ‘ole bitties would come in after church and leave maybe a quarter. Maybe a scrawled religious note as a tip. After waiting tables, it was time for side work. Fill the salt and pepper shakers on every table. Refill the ketchup bottles that sat out on the tables 24/7. The bottles with labels reading “refrigerate” and “do not refill.” Mop the floor with the same mop head and mop water that goes from the kitchen to the bathrooms and back again. That brass could be more shiny. Why don’t you shiny up that brass? Side work is sometimes just whatever the manager has on his mind at the time. Hey, it’s your birthday? You have a test to study for? A paper to write? You want to go home early? Or even on time? Sorry. Someone else called in sick. Hey, really. That brass… Slow shift? Hardly any, or even no tables? There’s still the sidework.
There was the fun of cleaning the grease trap. (Not as fun as it sounds!) And then there was the night when it was somehow my job to clean the women’s restroom after someone had apparently been either violent or creative or creatively violent with a well-used tampon and diarrhea, the diarrhea perhaps resulting from ingesting bread pudding made at this particular restaurant from previous days’ dessert bar leftovers. Amazing what one can do with one of those Hobart mixers.
I worked at a dealership, detailing cars and Matt the manager threatened to break my “goddamn fingers” for changing the radio station when he’d gone to get lunch. I had failed to turn it back to the Motley Crüe / RATT / Poison station before he returned earlier than usual. He didn’t maintain it as a secret that he didn’t care much for college boys working in his shop. He was maybe five years older than I was and resented the hell out of me for no other reason than I wasn’t stuck there with him.
While I have some sweetly nostalgic memories of these and other starter jobs, I’m glad those were just stops along the way. I’m not sure I’ll never have to work a job like that again, but my message to you here, young Padawan, is you don’t want to get to that stage and feel like you don’t have anywhere else to go.
That homework you’ve been saying you don’t have? It’s really not that hard. In fact, it’s probably no more effort than arguing its existence. All you have to do is start it, right? Even though an extra year or two in public school would give me more time to figure out how we’re going to get you to Whatever’s Next, probably best to just keep on keeping on. So just let’s do it and get it done, hey?
It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up. Spoiler alert: Many grownups don’t! While the future is full of secrets, I doubt there are going to be too many innovations in the food service industry. Don’t close doors to opportunities you can’t even imagine yet.
And don’t make me turn off the Internet.