Now, I have never claimed to be much of a parent. My lovely wife — “She who must be obeyed” — is far better at child rearing than am I. She has well-defined expectations and holds the children to them. I, on the other hand, respond to matters of propriety and conduct with questions like “will the scar show?” or “how much will it cost?” As long as there is no permanent damage and no laws broken, I am pretty much good to go.
My helpmate, however, is much more careful in what she allows and forbids, and because forbidding is more often than not her response to their plans, she is known around our house as the “fun-sucker.” (The fact that her offspring’s plans are usually, how can I put this kindly, stupid, is never a factor in their reaction to her decision.)
One of the things we agreed on, parent-wise, concerns summer employment. Although both of us worked during our high school summers, we decided that going to school and making good grades was job enough, and that summer should be set aside for recreation. (Of course, the fact that a summer job might interfere with our summer plans had nothing to do with this decision.)
So it followed that except for a few odd chores, which he carried out inefficiently and unenthusiastically, my son, the scion of the family, our only hope that the Jackson name might pass on to future generations, had his summers more-or-less free.
Until this year.
This year he was told that it was time for him to enter the world of real work and get a summer job.
His reaction was not unexpected, and he quickly adopted a strategy of passive resistance — the old “if I ignore it, maybe it will go away” approach that had served him well in the past. That plan had a lot going for it. With the economy as it is, jobs are hard to come by. And there was the matter of location. We would be down on the Gulf Coast, so his summer job had to be there. This meant he had to apply and get hired without actually being able to appear in person and plead his case.
Obviously, with minimal effort, he could remain in the ranks of the unemployed.
However, working against him was the fact that his girlfriend had landed a summer job down there and was determined that he should do the same or suffer the embarrassment of failure — which she would rub in as only a woman can.
At this point, the boy was blessed with what his father has been blessed with — dumb luck. At the suggestion of a friend, he applied at Big Daddy’s Bike Shop at Blue Mountain Beach, a few miles down the road. And what do you know? He got a job.
With it, he is getting lessons on the importance of being there on time, of following directions, of meeting and greeting the public, of smiling and being nice, and of paying attention to the details of running a small business. He is also getting a taste of an appreciation for the grease-under-the-fingernails work that is the real world for so many folks.
He also got a neat T-shirt.
His coworkers are a marvelous mix of coastal citizens who have found a way to combine labor and leisure into an occupation that people who spend their days in front of a computer (like this one) can only envy and admire.
His day is spent delivering rental bikes, picking up rental bikes, cleaning rental bikes, learning to repair rental bikes and helping around the store when customers come in to pick out and purchase.
And you never know who might show up.
Like the other day when a man came in the store. The first thing my boy noticed was how big he was — not big as in fat, but big as in fit. Broad shoulders, muscular arms, legs like tree trunks and movements that were more graceful, smooth and fluid than you would expect in a man of his size.
He looked familiar.
He never spoke. The lady with him, an attractive brunette, asked questions while he just wandered about.
Meanwhile, whispers went around among the staff — “who is he?” “Where have I seen him before?”
Then one of them made the connection — Brett Favre.
Shopping done, the customer in question headed for the door. Once there, he paused beside what my son described as the most “girly bike” in the shop — all sunshine colors and sugary sweetness — smiled and asked, jokingly, “how much for this?”
That was it. Then he and his lovely companion went out and, according to my boy, “got into a white, chromed-up Cadillac Escalade.” As they drove away, the Mississippi license plate was plainly visible.
Yep, Brett Favre.
Not your normal day at the office.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. E-mail: email@example.com.