The Worst Things About Parenting, No. 25: First Jobs

At a cousin’s recent eighth grade graduation, there was a moment of pause when dessert came out because no one was sure what to do. So everyone broke into a chorus of, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and ate cheesecake. There’s really nothing that seems right to celebrate this momentous occasion. Maybe the best thing to do when an eighth grader graduates is to hand the kid a stack of job applications.

[Note: I have no idea when kids can work these days, but for me I started working at 15 – perhaps illegally.]

First jobs have such an incredible impact on a child’s future, yet most parents barely know anything about where their kid is going to work come freshman year. This needs to change.

Employers that hire teenagers can be horrible places to work. They can be full of ex-convicts, current criminals, a smorgasbord of teenage deviants and probably the place where your kid discovers their first nightmare boyfriend/girlfriend.

Here’s a quick rundown of my first three jobs and what I learned at each:

1. Fast-food restaurant. This is where most parents ship off their kids to learn the value of a dollar. These places aren’t too picky in the screening process, though, so you get a wide range of delinquents, pot-heads and miscreants. And they’re all preparing and handling food. Awesome. Plus many fast-food restaurant employees are either having sex with one another or buying/selling drugs on site. As far as I’m concerned, a brothel may be an upgrade only because there’s less drug use.

Things I learned: Never in my life have I sent a plate of food back at a restaurant, and I don’t believe I will. I’ve simply seen too much of the food preparation process. Everything is on the floor at some point, so why exacerbate the situation? Just go with the flow, and you can avoid bodily fluids, I always say. If someone I’m with ever asks for food to be sent back, I just start apologizing to every employee I can find.

2. Hotel. I worked at a hotel that had an on-site golf course. I worked in the clubhouse, which now that I look back, was essentially screaming to get robbed. What’s that, hundreds of dollars in cash? Give it to the 15-year-old, working by himself in a tiny wooden hut, he’ll be fine. This was a par-3 course, so there wasn’t much traffic at times. Frequently, I’d doze off to discover that there were several people playing on the course, none of whom looked familiar or bothered to wake me up to pay.

Things I learned: My golf game improved dramatically. This skill is perhaps the most helpful in my everyday life. Oh, and also, people steal hotel towels like crazy. The numbers are staggering.

3. Horse Track. My job as security guard at a horse-racing facility put me in the vicinity of some of the region’s most prominent degenerate gamblers. One of the more fascinating and depressing aspects of international horse racing is the importance of drugging the horses. It can be so impactful in determining the winners that the daily racing program indicates which drugs are being used by each horse. One of my job duties included sitting in a room surrounded by horse urine that was being tested for the variety of performance-enhancing substances available for horses. I don’t recall this being mentioned in the movie “Seabiscuit.”

Things I learned: Complex math (gambling can be educational!) and desperate people steal things like crazy.

The same parents that will pour over a child’s schooling options for months will often let their kid work just about anywhere. This can be a big mistake, considering most fast-food restaurants are filled with fried chicken and sexing. But no matter where they work – it’s statistically inevitable – your kids will probably steal a hotel towel or two.