Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Youth is wasted on the young" ...and Youth are inflicted on me.

With the notable exception of a few very rare and brilliant children (that would be the talented offspring of friends), I don't have any strong desire to have children around me.
This, I am told, is a tremendous flaw in my character, especially given my age. Many men my age are on their second or third set of progeny or whatever they call it. Litters?
Few people avoid the obligation of children anymore, or the personal, property, and psychic damage that the little rascals impose. Gone are the days of the sullen disappointed pair dismayed at their couplings' failure to bear fruit. Now, that very couple can rent children and throw extravagant massively resource-squandering Transformers-themed birthday parties. With real Transformers! Celebrities -- intellectually and emotionally barely mere children themselves -- continually adopt little bundles of joyful magazine cover real estate. Seriously, what good is a $1500 status symbol baby stroller without some brats to toss in it?
Everyone is familiar with the old saw about babies: "They're sticky and they smell bad." This condition only worsens as they mature. Without proper attention, by the time they reach 20 or so, they really are hygienic menaces. I don't even know how Lady Gaga puts up with them.
Children are allowed every occasion to run around willy-nilly in restaurants, irritating patrons, screaming all manner of things and throwing tableware. I understand that some of them are called "waiters."
When I was a child, I was considerably younger and dumber than I am now, thus satisfying two requirements of Childhood. (The third has something to do with height.) I worked for a locally well-known businessman. He was well-known ("Fall River Famous") due to his money and his profitable political connections. As well as for his storied willingness to help children.
He provided his used automobile tires to local families so that they could fashion swings and playground toys. That's what he said as he dropped off tires in poor neighborhoods. He then sold the manufactured tire swings and playthings in suburban subdivisions as "genuine American crafts," and it is rumored that he gave some of the profit back to poor families through a government program that he briefly joined called "taxes." He often donated his outmoded business equipment and office supplies to local grade schools. Some of those mimeograph machines and novelty pens are still in use to this very day. He had his name embroidered on every little league baseball uniform. His own name.
He did these things -- good things -- for the children.
As is usually the case around here with well-heeled successes, many people disliked him. They had their "reasons," but those are allegations still to be proven in court. When these envious curs made their opinions known, someone nearby would quickly respond:

"He does such good for the children!"
As a young person, I felt that I was surely blessed to have the good fortune to work for him. Although, after a while, I felt that my efforts deserved some remuneration. I had worked for him for free, after all, for a few months.
Well, that's not entirely true. He had explained to me -- that first day as I crawled out of the burlap sack and loosened the blindfold -- that he was "dead set against" that "minimum wage" because it wasn't fair to workers like me who had to pay him $6.25 an hour until they finished their internship. Or indenture. He used both words interchangeably. When I said that I felt it would be more fair if he were to pay me for work that I did, he calmly explained to me that feelings had nothing to do with business and that I should just get back down into the pit and keep scraping.
His advice shaped my own business acumen, and I'll never forget him for that. Child labor law violations aside, it was obvious that he was a successful businessman who did a lot for children.
I am glad that he took me under his wing (or whatever that appendage was) and to this day, I stand beside the people who defend him as they compulsively intone that knee-jerk "for the kids" platitude. I stand beside them, but don't actually join in saying anything because I try not to breathe too much around those particular people.
Their kids are usually better conversationalists anyway.

3 comments:

Karie said...

Laughing out loud!

Melissa said...

Same here, on several occasions. Great piece, PJ.

PJ said...

Thanks for hopping aboard!