Dinnertime: Family conversation. Out of nowhere, Sophie announces her career change: “I’m going to get a job at Olivia’s.”
My first response: “Who’s going to drive you to Olivia’s every night?”
Sophie already has a job. She’s a babysitter at the Y. When parents with young children come in to exercise, Sophie’s the girl who watches their kids. The pay is good… it’s the hours that suck. Actually, only the Saturday hours suck. 8:00 – 12:00 every Saturday morning. This completely interferes with Sophie’s schedule. She’s supposed to sleep until noon on Saturday. Sophie’s a teenager.
The Y is a half mile from home. It’s a perfect job for a girl with no license. She can walk when she needs to. But to my dismay, we usually wind up giving her a ride. Olivia’s is five miles away. There’s going to be some effort involved in that one.
There are a couple of other barriers. Olivia’s, a Mediterranean restaurant, operates at night. Fifteen-year-olds in Pennsylvania can’t work past 7:00. Plus, Olivia’s is a bar.
I’ve been to Olivia’s only once. Twelve years ago, Susan, Sophie and I went in search of some decent kabobs. It was a cold, early spring evening. We endured a forty-five-minute wait for a table–crammed in a tiny hallway with a couple of wooden benches and tons of touristy flyers. Sophie was three-years-old at the time and bored out of her skull. A cheesy band played cheesy music too loudly, and there were no kabobs on the menu. The meal was fairly expensive. The night was a total bust.
My overall impression of Olivia’s is that it’s a welcoming environment for middle-aged people who want to drink. Sure, a meal is generally involved, but the focus of the evening seems to be the booze. Olivia’s even has a large outdoor deck that turns into a nightly party whenever the weather is warm.
“You’re not going to work in a place that serves alcohol.” This is my second (and final) response to Sophie on the subject. This is when the fighting started.
As a teen and young adult, I worked at Shakey’s Pizza in Rockville, Maryland. Shakey’s is long gone now, but for decades, ending in the eighties, Shakey’s was a reliable evening party establishment. Live music—bluegrass or Dixieland—played on weekend nights. A jukebox ran the rest of the time. Long picnic table seating facilitated meeting and hanging out with the people in the party next to you. Shakey’s was reminiscent of a German beer hall.
From the time I was sixteen until after I turned twenty-one, I spent my summer nights in the restaurant. I cooked pizza, I did dishes (we called that scullery), eventually I managed the kitchen, and nightly, I was one of five or six employees who cleaned up the restaurant to get it ready for the next day. This cleaning always included drinking beer late into the night. It was a fun job. It was a formative experience. In fact, it helped me form my alcoholic tendencies.
Shakey’s was a moderate-sized operation. We employed up to a dozen people each night—kids aged fifteen to twenty-two years old. The managers were men in their early-twenties; the kitchen staff, primarily pretty girls still in high school. In my later years at Shakey’s as one of the few adults working in the restaurant each night, I was undeservedly elevated in status. Most of those pretty, high school girls thought I was “cool.”
Eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, I drew no distinction between those my age and those still in high school. The late-night beer runs and stolen pitchers from the bar were for everyone, not just those over the legal limit (which was still eighteen in Maryland). I saw all the employees as my peers, even the fifteen-year-olds working their first job ever. As an adult, a three or four-year difference is the same age. But when four years is a quarter of your life, that age difference matters.
This isn’t the environment I want for Sophie. I don’t want her hanging out with nineteen-year-old men: men who are good looking, witty, and seemingly loaded because they work full-time and live in their parents’ basement. I don’t want her at a disadvantage while flirting with guys with magnitudes more experience that she has. I don’t want her navigating beer parties and learning how to hold her alcohol around adults. I don’t want her restaurant manager hitting on her because as coworkers, she seems like fair-game. I don’t want drunk tourists at Olivia’s leering at her and making lewd double-entendres.
I know that in three years, Sophie will be on her own in college, finding her way in an adult world. But right now, those three years equal twenty percent of her life. She’ll have loads of experiences between now and then. She’ll mature and grow in her self-confidence around adults. In three years, she’ll be better able to take care of herself.
Right now, I just want her to be a kid.