(Art by spoon+fork.)
For no practical reason I laid out five rock-hard frozen patties on the grill like the die face for “five.”
The customer had wanted some of them medium and some well done, but I was going to cook them all the same and put pickles on the plates of the “well done” ones.
Howard was slowly peeling off lettuce leaves and putting them on the open buns.
“I could have gotten into Ridderman,” Howard said to his shirt collar. “I could have transferred there after I was done with Sack.” Ridderman was the four-year college next door in Monmouth County. It was private and was Whole Foods-expensive.
“Why would you want to go to Ridderman?” I asked Howard.
“I’m just saying I could’ve gotten in–I didn’t want to go. After my first year at Sack, I had a summer job at Ridderman, in the bookstore. I even went to a few classes. I didn’t register or anything, I just dropped in.
“It made me depressed. All those professors are there to train you how to get a job up in an office skyscraper, take a train there and back everyday. There was no nurturing of entrepreneurship. Colleges just train students how to be good employees. Bill Gates had to drop out of Harvard to become the richest man in the world. And he did it right where he wanted to, back in Seattle. When I have my own business, it’s going to be within walking distance to the ocean.”
I didn’t say anything because I had the opposite goal. I had the “office job” sign above my bathroom mirror. I nodded and pressed the spatula hard against the hamburgers on the grill to help them cook faster. Howard kept talking.
“Now Sean, I don’t see the entrepreneurial spirit in you. That’s fine. Being a boss isn’t for everyone, otherwise who would we hire? But let me give you some advice.
“You don’t have to work in the city or Philadelphia for a full-year job. Probably the best jobs–in terms of pay–are in automotive repair because we’re in the 50-50 zone. Everybody has to use their cars.”
The 50-50 zone ran across Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer counties. It got its name from being about 50 miles from New York and 50 miles from Philadelphia, so you got the best of both worlds. But it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have a car, like Howard and me.
“Automotive repair’s too hard. It would be more fun to work on the boardwalk,” I said. Howard shrugged.
“If you want a job at one of the stands you pretty much have to marry into the families. Those skill stands like Frog Bog and the spinning wheels are like in the third and fourth generations running them. The food and souvenir stands don’t want to hire Americans because they’re too unreliable. They hire Mexicans and Bulgarians.”