Walk down memory lane with me for a moment. . .
What was your most memorable summer job?
Just like shaving, babysitting your younger sister, and staying up as late as you want, having a summer (or seasonal) job is a rite of passage. The middle ground between the chores of childhood and the daily grind of adulthood, the summer job years bridge the gap between allowances and mortgages, pocket money and bills, bills, bills.
This weekend, as you enjoy an ice cream cone served by a high-ponytailed teenager, or ask for assistance in the hardware store from someone young enough to be your son (news flash. . .he's probably younger than your son), spend some time remembering the good ole days when you came home after your day's labor, smelling of homemade ice cream or freshly cut grass, knowing that you were saving your cold hard cash for pizzas, books, and gas money instead of 401Ks, insurance premiums, and unexpected car repairs.
Here's one of my most memorable tales from those bridge years, featuring an old man, a hot dog, and a MURDER. Read on at your own risk. . .
SCENE: Concession stand at a State Fairground. The odor of wet animals, fried food, and disinfectant fill the air. My 16 year-old self has wrangled a high ponytail under a ball cap, and I sport a very stylish hardware store apron containing loose change, straws, and extra (clean) paper napkins.
He ambled up to the counter, stared straight ahead and gruffly demanded,
Where are the fixins?”
I shyly pointed to the condiments assembled adjacent to the concession stand as I retrieved the hot dog from the small heated windmills rotating its oily counterparts. My customer was small, yet robust, a wizened, bearded, gray-haired man with motor oil under his fingernails and a face that was weathered and worn, like a much-folded map of the world. As I returned toward him, offering him a hot dog encased in a stale white bun and a flimsy paper wrapper, he dug deeply into the right pocket pocket of his ancient overalls to present his payment.
First, he slammed a pile of crumpled receipts on the counter.
Then, out came a pocketknife and a quarter roll of Tums.
He paused briefly and held my gaze while I still proffered the hot dog in my outstretched hand. With a twinkle in his eye, he slammed a formerly fluffy, sweet, tiny yellow chick on the counter.
RIP little chick.
I sprung back, recoiling from the sight of dead poultry emerging unceremoniously from the pocket of someone’s old grandad and SLAMMED on the counter of a concession stand. Where you serve, you know, FOOD.
He looked at me again, smiled a %*@+ eating grin, and unearthed an assortment of coins from the depths of the ahem, chick coffin.
His fat, life-worn fingers counted the coins, then slid them across the counter to me as I stared, dumbfounded. Slowly, I handed him his hot dog and watched as he refilled his pocket, first with the remaining loose change, then the chick, the pocketknife, followed by the Tums and the smattering of receipts.
I thanked him with a wan smile and gestured toward the condiment area.
He grinned, flashing me his discolored jack-o-lantern smile, then winked, and said,
“The chick? I’m saving it for later. Heh heh heh.”
Chuckling at my shock and horror, he shuffled over to the condiment stand, shoulders still shaking with barely suppressed laughter. He dressed his dog and meandered away, disappearing into the crowd and out of my view forever.
SHARE YOUR SUMMER JOB MEMORIES! I'd love to hear your stories.
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