Everyone remembers their first!
Mine was junior beat reporter for The Montgomery County Sentinel (where Woodward & Bernstein cut their teeth). I was in 11th grade. I worked three days a week after school and the occasional evening covering such exciting topics as dog-walking bylaws and Rockville City Council meetings. I might have made forty bucks a week. What I learned as a kid working in a grown-up environment was priceless.
My firstborn, Ben, is fast upon his senior year. Open your ears, read the news, listen to anyone and the word on the street is that he should be in a forward-thinking internship, digging irrigation trenches in Botswana, or at the very least working on someone's political campaign to build that resume. I will not get all high-handed and say we didn't consider it.
Of course jobs are hard to come by, internships even moreso, and those college level immersion classes on campus are more costly than a summer house in Tuscany. Had to ixnay that, too.
So where did Ben end up?
"Bar-back" at a midtown eaterie, thanks to a good friend's recommendation, working 4-9 for the Grand Central/Hamptons pre-train/jitney crowd. Glitzy job? Not exactly. He's hauling ice, stocking bar, tapping Sprites, lugging kegs, juicing limes and lemons, and otherwise doing anything he is asked. Grunt work is the word we're looking for. And he is loving it! Making friends. Meeting interesting people (apparently the Commish of a major sports league was served his burger by my son last evening). And experiencing his first 9-5 in the middle of a steamy NYC summer, and pulling down a paycheck to boot! He was on the bar schedule five straight days last week. And in his spare time? He's volunteering in Harlem, coaching a 5-7 year-old kids summer baseball league for eight straight Saturdays.
Yes I am kvelling. And no, Ben does not pop out of bed at 7 a.m., fold the laundry, vacuum the apartment and unload the dishwasher. He's still a teenager, thank goodness. But as my wife will attest, I was freaking out (maybe just a little?) about what my big guy was going to do this summer. Especially with the all-important college application season coming up.
I'm not sure any of these jobs will fuel a Krakauer-esque essay. On the other hand, Ben's "How I Spent My Summer" experience may open his eyes about what work feels like and where he wants to go. So I helped my kid get a job in a bar. Probably won't get voted Parent of the Year (for the 16th straight time!), but I could not be happier about the unexpected result. He's learning a little about pour time on a Guinness and an awful lot about life.