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"Come work for us, Greg..."

My son, Greg, got his first job a couple of months ago.  He became the newest member of the Burger King team.  After his first day, he came home horrified.

“Mom!  They made me wear a hairnet!”

Yep, welcome to the real world, son.  A place where they make you wear a hairnet.

“It’s so you don’t lose hair in the food,” I explained.

“Mom!  I’m sixteen.  I’m not losing my hair!”

He truly was blown away by this new aspect of his life.  “Everyone loses hair.  Like when you comb it or find it on your pillow.”

“I didn’t plan on combing my hair over the grill.”  He rolled his eyes.  Didn’t I know anything?

“All people in foodservice are required to wear them, Greg.  Look at the lunch ladies.”

That was the complete wrong thing to say.  He looked mortified.  “I thought they just wore those things because they didn’t know what to do with their hair or because of the steam or something…” he mumbled.

So, Day One of being a working man did not go as planned.  I pinned my hopes on Day Two.  Perhaps, he’d have a better day and it would give his outlook a boost.

My hopes were quickly dashed.  The second day, he came back looking tired and frazzled.  “That sucked.  I hate it,” he said as soon as he walked in the door.

His father and I snickered.  “Yeah, well, you’re sixteen.  It’s what you’re qualified to do,” I said.

“You’re supposed to hate it,” his father said with a smirk.  “Just deal with it and quit complaining.  You can work fast food until you hear a higher calling,” he joked.

“Yeah…but…I have to wear a hairnet!”

Hubby walked to where Greg stood leaning on the kitchen counter, arms folded, looking peeved.  He looked into the eyes of his frustrated, youngest son, ready to impart wisdom, to commiserate, to offer words of encouragement.  He leaned in and took a whiff.  “Whoa!  Take a shower.  You smell like a bag of fries and an order of onion rings to go.”

So much for paternal support.

Greg pushed himself up from the counter, brushed passed his dad with a “harrumph” and headed for the shower.

“And get your hairnet off my counter!” I shouted after him.

We soon found out there was another reason for his I-hate-this-job-attitude.  It wasn’t just certain health code hair-covering regulations.  Our poor son spent the entire four hours of his shift standing in front of the grill terrified that the girl he liked would have a craving for a Whopper and find him looking like Doris the Lunch Lady.  It’s a legitimate fear, I guess, if you’re a sixteen-year-old boy.  Having the woman of your dreams see you sweating over a grill, grease settled on your skin in puddles and wearing a hairnet—nope, it couldn’t not get worse than that.  Unless, of course, she comes in with another guy while you’re looking like Doris the Lunch Lady.  Wait.  Shhhh…I’m forbidden from saying anything more about that.

“He’ll feel better when he gets his first paycheck,” his father said.

Two weeks later, he loved his money.  But…he still hated his job.

After a while, my teenage son had enough.  He wanted to put in his two-weeks notice.  He swore he’d have another job before his last day at the Kingdom of Burgers and Hairnets.

“Mom!  Will you come here?”  Greg called me into his room—something he rarely does.  I entered with caution and made a mental note to buy some new Glade Plug-Ins—maybe one for each outlet.  Anyway, I saw him sitting at his desk staring at his computer screen with intensity.  “Mom, I hit Send, but it says, ‘responding’.  What does that mean?”

I looked at the computer.  He’d been applying for a job at WalMart.  Apparently, it’s done online now.  I applauded his self-sufficiency.  However, I also felt a little pang through my heart.  I thought, “My little boy is so grown up, he doesn’t need me anymore.”  Until–

I looked at the screen and saw what he wrote under “Tell us why you want the job”.

I currently work at Burger King, but I heard a higher calling to work at WalMart.

I know you aren’t supposed to laugh at your kids, but that just floored me.  “Uh…Greg…what in the world–?  You’ve ‘been called’ to work at WalMart, son?  Really?”

He looked confused.  “What?”

“Called to work at WalMart?  A Higher calling?”

“Yes.  A calling for higher pay, right?”  He looked at me with his big brown eyes.  He really had no idea what I found so shocking…and funny.

Just then, I saw his father walk by.  If you know either of us, you know we don’t give up an opportunity to tease our children.  They’ll go out into the world confident, knowing how to laugh at themselves and with great senses of humor…or in great need of therapy.  Only time will tell.  We’ve always been willing to take the risk, though.

“Honey!  Come here.  Your son’s heard a calling.”

Greg looked at me with wariness.

“He has?  What’s that?”  My hubby entered the room and stood next to me.  “Calling, huh?”  Because he’d been talking to Greg about getting into ROTC in college, my hubby had his hopes up.  “For what?  The military?”

“No,” I said.  “WalMart.”

“What?”  He scoffed.  A smile spread across his face.

“Yep.  Look here.  He’s put it in writing.”  I pointed to the screen.

My husband leaned over my son who looked at the two of us with circumspection.

Both of us laughed for a moment.

Greg fidgeted in his chair and finally swiveled around to face us.  “What is so funny?  Isn’t that what you said, dad?  I only had to work at Burger King until I got a higher calling?  Like for higher pay.  Isn’t that what it means?  That you want a better job?”

“What it means is…” I said catching my breath.  “…Well, it’s an expression meaning that God has ‘called you’ to do something special.  Like when the Lord calls you to be a priest.  Or, maybe a teacher.”

“Or a military officer.”  (Hubby is really pushing that ROTC thing.)

“But not WalMart,” we said in unison.

“Oh,” Greg replied.  He turned around and looked at the screen.  A message now appeared.  YOUR APPLICATION HAS BEEN SENT.  “Oops.” 

Well, Walmart hasn’t called him for an interview and I’m wondering if they just don’t understand how badly my son wants a new job. I mean c’mon.  He had a calling!  What’s wrong with those people?

Now, if he doesn’t get a job at WalMart, I’m going to wonder what went wrong since it’s been my experience that our local store doesn’t hire any certified geniuses.

In fact, EVERY time I go, I bring my own reusable bags and the cashier tries to scan them–EVERY time.  I keep all of the reusable cloth bags inside a big, plastic, silver frozen-food bag with a handle.  Inevitably, I say, “These are mine.”  Sometimes they get it.  We understand each other.  Communication has been achieved.  Yet, sometimes I get a look of total confusion from the person on the other side of the counter.  Other times, they ignore me, look for a barcode on the side and slide it over the scanner, charging me for it.

For example, this last time, I put the silver bag (full of other bags) on the conveyer belt.

“Hi.” I smiled at the cashier.

“Hi.  How are you?” she asked and picked up the frozen food bag.  She immediately began looking for the scan code.

“That’s mine,” I said with a smile.

She continued to look for the correct place to scan.

“Ummm…yeah, that’s mine.”  She smiled at me and continued to look for the barcode.

“The bag is mine.”

She looked up at me.  “I know.”  She looked back down and after finding the barcode, scanned it and charged me $1.50.

“No…” I tried to stop her, but it was too late.  “That’s my bag.”

“Yes, I know.”

She looked at me like I was a complete idiot.

“But…you charged me for it.”

“OH!”  A look of total enlightenment passed over her face.  I mean you could almost hear the Hallelujah Chorus and see a shaft of light from above shine down upon her.  THAT’s how elucidated she became in that moment.  “You mean you’ve already paid for it?”

“Uh, yeah. That’s what I said.”  I am truly amused by this—every single time.  Hey, I love to interact with people.  Human nature fascinates me.

“I thought you meant it was yours…like part of your order.  You know…yours.”  She gestured to the rest of the items on the conveyer belt.

Yep, folks…it’s like that almost every time.

Another time I got the pierced teen—you know the one I’m talking about if you live here.  Bless her heart; she tried to scan the separator that was placed between my order and the one behind mine.  “What is this?” she said, turning it around—I believe looking for the price.

Yeah…that’s how they hire at WalMart.

Which makes me worry since it’s been five days and they haven’t called my son for an interview.  Haven’t they heard?  He had a higher calling!

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