Independence was a running theme in my household when I was younger. There was no such as privacy when I was growing up. Telephone calls were measured because they somehow affected the electric bill. At that point, we lived in a two bedroom house. My uncle slept in one room and my parents and sister slept in the other room. I felt the need for independence, so I slept in the living room on a mattress I brought out every night from underneath my parents’ bed. I did not mind except that my dad would wake me up to show me how early he had to be up.
My father’s biggest pet peeve was summers and the ten weeks I had off compared to his forced intervals of manual labor. He absolutely hated coming home and finding me on the Sega Genesis hitting virtual fly balls over a virtual fence in a virtual stadium. The amount of hate would be compacted if he came home and found me on the same mattress. I remember one morning when it all got rolled up into one conversation.
One morning my father woke me up and pulled up a chair for me at the breakfast table. My mom set up his breakfast, as my father and I made uneasy conversation. He asked about the Dodgers and their place in the standings even though he did not really care. He took a long sip of coffee and a longer drag of his cigarette so that he could get to the point. He wanted me to get a job.
I did not even know where to get started. All the jobs I had before that paid under the table and there was no need to file paperwork to receive a W-2. In the past I had been that kid that charges you spare charge in exchange for taking your groceries to your car, a reader for hire who would read for the blind and the illiterate. However, my most glorified position was my time as a participant at car washes that served as funeral fundraisers.
My mother ended helping me out by taking me to an office of the Archdiocese. They absolutely loved me during the interview. Essentially all I had done was give my best Dan Quayle impression. My hair was combed to the side with a gravy stain on my clip-on tie. I remember impressing the man on the other side of the table by claiming that I was there looking for an opportunity rather than a paycheck. I figured all they wanted to hear was something that sounded like an honest answer rather than the truth.
I passed the audition and was placed at the YMCA as a babysitter for the parents who were busy working out. The job was simple enough. All I had to do was play “The Little Mermaid” or “Aladdin” and walk away for a couple of hours. It got so bad, that I was able to memorize the dialogue like some sick Rocky Horror Picture Show sideshow. Furthermore, since I was the lowest man on the totem pole, I had to wash the windows and set up snack for the kids. The weird thing was when I was left in charge of someone who was my age, if not older. I only lasted a couple of weeks at that place because I could not handle going to school and working there.
My father was disappointed because he felt I had found my true calling. Why return to school when I could spend all day finger painting with toddlers for a cool five dollars an hour? My mom was disappointed because she was secretly taxing me for a third of my earnings. Most of all I was disappointed, because I would be forced to miss the latest edition of that virtual baseball game.[Photo by aarongilson]