August 4, 2010

Kids These Days

What's with work ethic these days?  Here's a picture of Jack, trying to make some cash so he can go skating with his brother tonight. Look at his face: he's about to cry, I think. In the end, he did a fabulous job - better than I had hoped for, even - but getting him out there was a bit of a chore.  You'd think he'd want to get it done so he'd have the moolah in his hot little hands, but no. He is so freakin' lazy sometimes I can't stand it. Oh, did I have something to do with that? Did I pamper and coddle him to the point that work of any nature is painful? Woops.

Evidently, I didn't do that with Matt.  When he was little, he would do anything to make money.  To this day, he is a hard worker who never complains. He gets stuff done. He helps around the house without a word. If you give him a job, he does it to the best of his ability. Maybe I have to give a little bit of that to his Dad, whose neuroses and OCD made him a really dedicated employee and I think he passed that ethic on to our kid. I wish Matt would pass it on to his brother.

When he was about eight or nine, Matt would take his Radio Flyer out of the garage and fill it with a bucket, some sponges, soap and towels.  He'd pull that thing around the entire neighborhood, going door to door, washing cars. He had a whole price list, which I must have kept a copy of, I just can't find it. He had different prices for different kinds of cars/trucks/SUVs. They were pretty reasonable prices, if I remember, but you had to find the right category into which you fell. Like SUV's with a trailer hitch were extra.  And, if you had a truck, you had to help him with the roof.

One summer, he passed out fliers for a carwash he was going to hold in our driveway. The flier listed the time, the day and the prices, but that wasn't all. He also promised a "comfortable waiting room with magazines and Kleenex." When I asked him about it, he told me that's what all good waiting rooms have: magazines to read while you're waiting, and Kleenex.  In case you sneeze, I guess.

The Saturday came and he was out there, bright and early, getting his carwash set up. He placed three or four lawn chairs in the front yard with a little plastic patio table between them, on which he neatly fanned out several magazines.  Promptly at the opening hour, my dear neighbors, Mary and Leon, both then in their late 70's, arrived for their carwash. Matty showed them to the waiting room and offered them a magazine to read. Mary looked around and said,

"Hmm...I need a tissue. I thought you were going to have tissues here."

You should have seen his little face; he was stricken to have forgotten something.  He raced into the house and came out with a new box of Kleenex and apologetically handed it to Mary. I knew she was just messin' with him, but I learned on that day that he took his work - and his customer service - very seriously. I was laughing my ass off (all of us were) but deep down, I couldn't have been prouder of him. No way was that nice Mrs. Copeland gonna sit there in the waiting room without a Kleenex!

Leon is long gone now, but Mary remembers that day and I get a kick out of sharing it with her on occasion. They probably gave him a 50% tip, not because he was a stellar car washer, but because they believed in kids who had "spunk".  They came from a generation that taught them if you worked hard and treated people nicely, you'd go far in life. I think they liked that there were still some kids around who believed that too.

Of all the things he's good at, I really hope he holds on to that.


  1. What a great story! Loved it. Both my kids are good workers, better than I am. Of course, now they are in their late 30s, but it's comforting to know they are successful enough to take care of me in my old age, if it ever comes to that!

  2. That's a story worth repeating! What great memories!

    I think Jack looks like he's smiling, so you could've fooled me. :) I'm not letting my kids read this though. They still think washing my car is a treat. When it's hot I tell 'em to suit up and spray the hoses on each other... and oh - here's some soap and sponges to add to the fun.