Commentary on the younger generation?

Summer jobs for the bit too rich

Summer jobs for the bit too rich

June is a month for -well, June is a month for many things, including Fathers Day. Fathers are people who rake leaves, cut lawns and ring friends to say their children are looking for summer jobs. It's actually their grandchildren by now, as often as not.

"Don't tell me little Alexis."

"Little Alexis is six foot tall," one grandfather tells me, "and his name isn't Alexis. It's Bob. You're thinking of Thistlewhite's kid. His name is Alexis and he already has a job, the pushy brat."

"Bob, yes, of course." I've no inkling what my friend is talking about. Bob? There used to be hordes of rug rats milling about Georgian Bay cottages during summer barbecues, eons ago. I've a vague recollection of an Alexis, but a Bob?

"I've already hired someone to look after the garden," I start apologetically, but Bob is after bigger game than my turf. "That's okay, Bob doesn't do lawns," my friend replies. "Believe it or not, the kid is interested in show business."

I believe it. Most grandchildren seem to be. It's either show business or doing something meaningful. In some cases, it's both.

"Bob's happy to work for minimum wage," my friend adds, which is also very today. Boy, how times have changed.

There's nothing wrong with meaningful jobs, of course, not even when they're in show business. Working for the minimum wage -or for nothing, literally, as an "intern" -is also fine. But my buddies and I used to view summer jobs from a vastly different perspective 50 or 60 years ago. For us a "meaningful" job was one that paid the highest wages relative to the qualifications required. In Ontario, in those days, it was picking tobacco.

Some disputed it. They said picking worms, if you were good at it, paid more. In any event, the contest was between those two. The rest were slim pickings, in comparison.

We liked meaningful jobs, all right, but interpreted the meaning of "meaning" differently. What seemed meaningful to us in the 1950s was saving five or six hundred dollars during the summer months. Those were big bucks when Elvis Presley and Harry Belafonte were topping the charts. Meaningful money made up for a menial job more than a meaningful job would have for the minimum wage. Whether this was because we were more materialistic than our grandchildren, or merely not as rich, is hard to say.

Someone may object that most youngsters seeking meaningful jobs today are far from being rich -to which I reply that to have the attitude of the rich it isn't necessary to have their wallets. Anyone who searches for meaning before he knows where his next meal is coming from has an attitude one might describe as a bit too rich.

Although meals must come before meaning in point of time, meaning-seekers tend to feel superior to meal-seekers. Parents who supply meals so their children can look for meaning are making sure their grandchildren will be looking for meals twice as hard. At least, this is what my father used to say.

Father's Day always reminds me of father's views, which were numerous, firmly held and often confirmed by time. It was his opinion, for instance, that liabilities are assets in the hands of the right people. "Pathological obesity usually leads to social oblivion," he used to say, "but I knew people who parleyed it into stardom as comedians, operatic tenors or Sumo wrestlers."

"Who was the Sumo wrestler you knew?" I asked him once.

"Never mind."

Father passed away long before encountering one of the best illustrations of his thesis. A chronic hissy-fit that would make most people unemployable has turned former family court judge Judith Sheidlin into television's Judge Judy. Well-tempered colleagues are hacking away at the daily grind of New York's family court system, with no prospect of being nominated for a single Daytime Emmy Award, let alone 13. Talk about turning a handicap into an advantage.

The corollary to Father's thesis was less fortunate. If he was right, it meant all assets were capable of becoming liabilities. When I pointed this out to him, Dad said: "Yes, of course. So?"

"So nothing. I just thought I'd bring it to your attention."

Dad didn't approve of kids looking for summer jobs in show business. "The thing to remember," he used to say, "is that to make a buck from playing the fiddle, you must do it nearly as well as Jascha Heifetz, or almost as badly as Jack Benny. Both are tall orders. For most people, getting a day job is easier."

OK. Some say it's unnecessary to explain that Jascha Heifetz (19011987) was a violin virtuoso, and Jack Benny (1894-1974) a famous comedian. I hold with those who say, oh yeah? Most grandchildren looking for meaningful jobs would never have heard of them. Mind you, they probably wouldn't read this column, either.

When I mentioned to a friend what I was writing about, she said: "Hmm. So what did you pick, worms or tobacco?"

Neither. I had a meanngful job. I was pushing a cab.
A job is a job. Sadly its next to impossible in many places to get one over minimum wage while a student.
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