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The Power of the Paycheck


Most people would say the biggest danger working at a dessert bar in New York City would be the weight gain. You must try everything to know what to recommend, and your discount means a cookie is $4 versus $7, not to mention the distribution of only-slightly “used” goods left at day’s end that can’t be sold to full-pay customers.


Jack was not concerned about any of this. He was thrilled about the sugar.


But he was nervous as he started his first paying summer job yesterday – nervous about the people who would manage him, the teammates he would work with, the training schedule which was more full-time than the half-time he was promised. And most of all, he was worried about doing a good job because Jack is just that kind of kid.


Jim and I left town yesterday, but we were anxious to hear about Jack’s first day. We finally nailed him down around 8PM, and as Jack is the ultimate sharer, we heard about everything. He loved his manager; he had trouble punching into the time clock; he had a new hat with the company’s logo on it, and there was a funny tagline on the back of his new company-logo tee-shirt. He was horrible at making soft-serve ice cream look swirly, but he had mastered the milkshake machine. If he could just find a way to keep his hand from freezing, he would be delighted to make milkshakes all day.


And in pure Jack fashion, he also had lovely comments reflecting the kind person he is. His manager was so nice that when he showed up in the morning with purchased coffee, she was mad because she wanted to make it for him. He could not fathom how he would move to a new location after training because the people were so friendly at his current one. He had grabbed a slice of pizza for his lunch break and did work for his class while he ate it (that one was for me).


But most interesting and ironic (though not unexpected) was Jack’s conversion to worker bee. After a week of my prodding and pushing to look for a job in the easiest minimum-wage economy of our lifetimes and after worrying about working too many hours because he would need free time to recover from freshman year, the power of the paycheck had already prevailed. Jack was too busy calculating how much he would make on 35-40 hours a week versus 20-25 hours to worry about free time. Not only was he having fun, but someone was paying him for it, and as long as he could complete his schoolwork, a larger paycheck would speed the path to that new camera lens he wanted.


Surprising us, Jack didn’t proactively reach out after work last night. We waited until his shift was done and then texted, assuming he’d respond right away. But he didn’t – he was radio silent. We were a tad concerned it had not gone so well. Our first communication was a picture – and it came from Emma. It showed several different kinds of cookies divided into 16 pieces each, so she could try all of them while keeping her calorie count at 200. Then came more texts: the cornbread cookie is amazing, so is the compost one, etc. All from Emma, nothing from Jack.


As it turns out, he was just busy cutting the cookies. In his excitement about the new job, his priority was to share his day with the person who could taste everything too.

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jim.whitehurst
Jun 15, 2021

I hope the cookies keep coming… And the paychecks!

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