So this guy walks into a grocery store…

…and says to the oh so bored goth at the only open register, “Where can I find a light bulb for my oven hood fixture?”

She pops her gum and without even looking at him says “Try number four.”

So the guy goes to the fourth aisle, finds out the light bulbs are actually on aisle six, scrounges through the mislabeled and mismatched racks, and finally finds the last two bulbs in the store that will work for his appliance.

When the guy goes up to pay at the goth chick’s register, she obviously has had her sense of irony removed since she actually says “‘You gotta go to the customer service desk, I’ve already counted out my drawer.”

So the guy goes to cust serv, pays for his lightbulbs, and leaves the store, never to return.

My kids will NOT be that little goth chick. My kids are going to have jobs as soon as they can. They are going to pay for their own clothes if they don’t like what I buy for them. They are going to pay for their own gas and car insurance or they won’t drive. They are going to pay for their own dates, haircuts, jewelry, tattoos, and chewing gum. Because if they don’t, they won’t have these things.

I think I mentioned here before that I worked at lawn work and fast food joints since the time I was ten or eleven. I was working a grill at a steakhouse by the time I was twelve. I also bussed tables, washed dishes, swabbed decks, took out trash or anything else that needed doing. I have never had a job that was beneath me, because no HONEST job is beneath anyone. And I expect my kids to learn that as well. Hazel and I were talking just the other day about how we need to get to know some of our farmer neighbors so that we can get the kids out in the field picking strawberries or oranges some summer soon. I fully intend to make sure that my kids understand the value not only of hard labor, but of responsible spending and the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting that very first paycheck.

My Patriot’s Journey has led me from a tiny little town in Lower Alabama, through numerous jobs that I didn’t think I could or would ever do, to a comfortable home with a great job where most of the time I sit in air conditioning and never punch a time clock. But I was able to do them all because I knew that nothing good was ever easy, that accomplishments are rewarded, and that self-respect makes digging ditches to feed your family just as important a job as baling hay, or picking pecans, or marching in a straight line, or even designing a multi-billion dollar freeway project.

This is a Patriot’s Journey post. Remember to check out the other Patriotic Journeyers: Drumwaster, The Bastage, Inessential Musings, and The Edge of Reason



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7 Responses to “So this guy walks into a grocery store…”

  1. David Says:
    June 2nd, 2008

    Funny story: I pretty much grew up in a “if you can’t pay for it yourself, you can’t have it” situation. I learned to live without a lot of stuff and how to make do with what was available. I have neither style nor taste. I wore a shirt to the office today that I’ve had since college. Which I graduated in 1994.

    I’m just saying there’s two ways for that conflict to resolve. You might want to be more specific.

  2. Hazel Stone Says:
    June 3rd, 2008

    Remember that *I* have influence in this sphere as well…

  3. Blackwing1 Says:
    June 3rd, 2008

    One of Heinlein’s quotes goes something like, “Keep your children short on pocket change, but long on hugs.” My parents would never have read his work, but practiced that approach assiduously. We always had to earn our own pocket change.

    One of the funnier things that my buddy and I did as kids was to go out into the swamp behind our place and catch frogs. We’d gather up as many as we could plop into the bucket without squashing ‘em, and then trundle down to the boat ramp at the resort on the lake. We’d sell the frogs to fisherman, for use as bait (this was before red-leg disease wiped out most of the frog population, of course). We’d do the same thing with night-crawlers, going through the compost pile. But the really funny part is what we’d do with the money we earned. We’d go down to the local bait shop and blow it on artificial lures so that we could fish like REAL fisherman, not those silly “bait fisherman”. Using live bait was like cheating, to an 8-year-old. If you were panfishing, worms were sort-of okay; but bass fisherman threw lures.

    Picking up empty pop bottles to turn in for deposits, or doing odd chores for cash, or (a little older) de-tassling corn for the seed companies. All driven by that funny urge to have some money, since it clearly didn’t grow on trees, and begging from our folks didn’t work too well.

  4. Madrocketscientist Says:
    June 3rd, 2008

    Lessee, my folks were not awash with dosh, so my sister & I both had jobs pretty early. Before I had my drivers license, I worked as a paperboy, setting pins at a miniature bowling alley, seasonal farm work (picking rocks from fields, humping hay bales, etc.), handyman work (painting, fixing fences, landscaping, etc.) and even one summer doing odd jobs at a feed mill/mink farm (and caring for minks is a thankless job as mink are mean and smelly). After I got my license and a car (a ’78 Dodge Aspen that I bought myself for $150, it had “character”), I worked mostly as the night custodian at a local butcher shop, along with milking cows on the weekends and other odd jobs I picked up from time to time.

    I was unskilled labor and I knew it, gas money was life, and no job was too low to provide me with gas money.

  5. Ted Bronson Says:
    June 3rd, 2008

    David, you also paid off your student loans early, bought your first house years before I did, and can hare off to St. Louis to see a play just ‘cuz you want to see a particular road company perform. I would have no problem at all if either of my kids followed that example.

  6. Morgan Says:
    June 3rd, 2008

    Ahhhh … brings back memories of my first proper payday – name in the farmer’s records and all. Age nine, after a full six-day backbreaking week of potato picking (and it is seriously backbreaking labour). After picking was finished – sent out gleaning the potato fields by parents. Did this every year for years as I grew up.

    Not the first money I earned though:

    One of my uncles used to do odd jobs for a fair number of rich people in the surrounding area; also ran a chicken battery. From about age four he’d take me to work with him when I wasn’t at school. Filling buckets with feed then going around feeding the chickens – a set amount in a scoop daily. Collecting and packing eggs, keeping a record of which hens laid which days (I could read, write and do basic numbers well before starting school). I knew the significance of the record-keeping because every now and again there’d be a cull of those not laying too good any more. I wasn’t strong enough to actually stretch their necks – but I’d help with the plucking, though I could only pluck the softer feathers – not strong enough to do the wings. And though I didn’t have to gut them, I’d be there keeping company while my uncle did it – then emptying the full buckets now and again. He used to take me gardening too – routine stuff: weeding loosening earth, planting seedlings, raking gravel drives. But – and I loved him for this – he taught me how to use the motor mower, and would let me mow some pretty big lawns unsupervised while he did other stuff. Hell, I had to reach upwards just to hold the handles. Never had an accident and always got my lines straight. He always gave me two shillings or half a crown at the end of the day.

    For a few years between age 7 and about 12, in season, I would be up about 5am, walk a couple of miles to, between and around fields where wild mushrooms (eating not tripping)grew. Permanent wet feet (dew). Call at rich people’s houses on the way back home asking if they wanted to buy fresh mushrooms. Soon had a few regulars, and I learned early on that I got paid more if I let them set the price – they always erred on the generous side; after all, I was only a little boy. Then it would be off to school, of course. Back from school – down to the well for two buckets of drinking water. Also wash the dishes before bed – never got a penny for nothing in my home. No work, no four shillings pocket money.

    Also used to go around knocking on doors asking if they wanted anything from the shop (a fair way away). That was always good for thruppence (three pennies) a throw – and a couple of people would regularly give a shilling. Also, as someone mentioned above – collecting empty bottles for the returns – thruppence a bottle for those that had deposits.

    Like that all through childhood up to about 13. Then I got a REAL job. Helping on the baker’s delivery round – in early, loading the vans, delivering, collecting money, keeping books. Got paid in paper money on that job – IN AN ENVELOPE. REAL wages. By now was also strong enough for loading hay bales in season, in the evenings. Would always get a few shillings every night, and always a slap-up feed in the farmhouse. Some of the best meals I’ve ever had.

    Another little earner, in the tourist season when times were busy, was serving petrol at the filling station. First come-first served for that job. Whoever just happened to be handy when the man needed some help.

    Different boys had different jobs with different people – but we all did things to earn our own money.

    Then at 15 I enlisted.

    Sounds a lot, but most of the time was spent playing – rough, as country boys do … or at least did. A good hard physical upbringing as it was in the fifties and sixties in rural Wales. It certainly didn’t do me any harm, and I’m the same weight now at 55 as I was the day I enlisted. Got no money now mind – got divorced a few years back. C’est la vie.

    Ought to write a book about it. When I was a postgrad student, in my forties, whenever I set myslf down for a while for perhaps a cuppa and a smoke, in no time at all I’d find myself surrounded by a bunch of the younger age students, young men and young women both – “Tell us a story about when you were young”. Didn’t matter to them if I talked about the work I did, The play we got up up, the mischief, the – to them – primitive nature of it. They were amazed at the life I had led – unimaginable to them. What I think they couldn’t quite understand was the liberty. They were definitely envious. That’s a sad reflection on the upbringing so many youngsters have to endure today.

    This post of yours has given me some real pleasure – sent me rooting around in my memory and brought up some wonderful stuff. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you.

    Who needs a television when you’ve got a memory … am I just getting old?

  7. Ted Bronson Says:
    June 3rd, 2008

    Morgan, sir, if I may… write the book. Nostalgia sells. Dads across THIS country are having a hard time explaining to their kids the whys and wherefores of growing up to kids who think that an allowance is a right and that Nintendo is their best friend. Write the book. Kids might not read it, but their parents would, if no other reason then to tell their kids exactly how good they have got it made. Write the book. History is being lost. Culture is being lost. Even in Wales I’m betting there are a boatload of kids who never had to milk a cow or any other of the things that you did back in the fifties and sixties. Hellsbells, the things I did in the seventies and eighties seem like a different planet away.

    I know I would read it.

    Write the book, sir.


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