Working for the Man: Part II

Think of this post as a follow-up to the original, which appeared in August 2020. In that post I described some of the part-time jobs that I held as undergraduate as a way of supplementing my income. Mainly, they were rich – figuratively speaking – learning experiences. (For many, they are way to make a living. Period.) For some reason, perhaps because of another spin around the sun, I thought of my first job in high school.

I was a senior at Concord High School in Wilmington, DE when I decided to apply for a part-time job at Admiral’s Inn, a nearby seafood restaurant. (Admiral’s Inn has been Harry’s Savoy Grill since 1988.) I felt like such an adult without all of the attendant responsibilities. It took me a grand total of 10 minutes to drive from my house to my new place of employment in my 1967 Malibu.

I started off as a busboy. What I remember are the hard work, low pay, and virtually nonexistent tips from the waitresses my “associates” and I served. It was up to them to decide how much should trickle down to the people without whom their work would not have been possible. Most embraced greed over fairness. (I can even remember what the worst one looked like: a loud-mouthed, perky, middle-aged woman with bleach blonde hair.) I was later “promoted” to kitchen help. Instead of busing tables, I made appetizers and desserts. This was my first formal introduction to neoliberal capitalism in all of its glory.

A co-worker hated his job and the boss, a big, brash Italian-American guy in a suit, so much that he cleaned the parfait glasses with his tongue. We always knew when Fran was coming because his (cheap?) cologne preceded him if it was a breezy evening. One of our favorite activities was to hang out in the walk-in fridge to cool off, cold drink in hand. (Unhappy workers find all kinds of ways to stick it to the boss. They usually deserve it!)

Here are some other random memories:

Tony the chef (still remember what he looks like – tall, affable, Italian-American) told me I could train to become a chef and earn $1,200 a month. ($1,200 in 1976 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $6,344.60 in 2023. In case you’re counting, that’s $76,135.20 a year, far more than most US Americans earn. Last year, the per capita personal income was $65,423.)

I remember the occasional well-fed rat running through the restaurant usually at the end of the evening when it was quieter sans customers.

A Chinese cook lived above the kitchen. The fact he was paid in cash confirms my suspicion he was an illegal immigrant.

After work, my showers took longer than usual in order to rid myself of the stench of working in a restaurant.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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