Every kid should work, even if he and she is studying like mad for an education.
Or it may just be that I worked every year I was a small liberal arts college in Iowa. I lived for my $17 Grinnell paycheck from working 20 hours a week at $.85 an hour. In fact, I was proud that I had the highest paying job on campus, 20 cents more than waiters got at the dining hall. I washed pots and pans for a contracted food management service in the 1960s. This paid for my daily quota of coffees at the student union and my 3.2 percent beers at the Rexall bar on the highway that ran through town. (Iowa law prohibited bars serving anything stronger than 3.2 percent beer. In fact, the nearest state liquor store was in Newton, 20 miles away.)
When there was an opening for another pot walloper, I invited my roomie, a nice guy who had run away from Geneva, Switzerland, to join me. Fifty years later, after his retirement as a professor of French at SUNY-Albany, he said, “Walt, that was the worst job I have ever had!” The work wasn’t that bad, except when the cook made scalloped potatoes. Then I needed a putty knife to clean pans of baked-on food. If they’d given me anything sharper, we’d have had a mortally wounded cook.
Kitchen and dining room work might be infectious. The summer I was 18, a college chum from Massachusetts said, “You’ve got to see Martha’s Vineyard. C’mon up and work there for the summer.” It was the summer of Patti Page’s hit song, “Old Cape Cod.” You remember: “If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air / Quaint little villages here and there / You're sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod.”
I was hooked. The owner of a rambling old wreck called the Wesley House in Oak Bluffs hired me to wear a hot, ugly green uniform and serve three meals at day. But when those days were over, oh boy! All the summer workers were in their late teens. Best of all, I had a fake ID that said I was 21. I could buy beer for the beach parties. I could dress sharp and hang out at neat clubs in Edgartown. The beaches were free and the girls were fantastic.
It was the best job I ever had. There were only two downsides to my temporary career: I came away that summer earning only $300. And when I went to get a haircut, the barber would smell me and say, “You work in a restaurant, don’t you?”