Sunday, September 28, 2014

You're hired

I love it when teens get jobs. For money.
A teen with a job can buy her own hot lunch. She can buy all the makeup she wants. She can get fake nails. She can go on a spending spree at Forever 21.
A teen with a job means Mom is no longer the bank, and we moms love it when we stop being the bank. Last week I started with $17 in cash in my wallet. At the end of the week, I had $15. It’s amazing how much money you can save when you’re not handing out dollar bills like Kleenex.
The Huffman girls have had a variety of jobs. They’ve worked at toy stores, chocolate shops and gourmet food shops. They’ve walked dogs, babysat kids and houses and watered plants.
One Huffman girl got a job at a cupcake shop. What a cushy job. She doesn’t actually make the cupcakes. Sometimes she cuts little flowers out of fondant and puts them on top of the cupcakes, but she doesn’t stir batter or pull heavy trays in and out of a hot industrial oven. She simply sells cupcakes to tourists who spend a reported “forever” deciding on which $3 morsel to buy. For this, she gets paid more money per hour than I was making in 2004 as a reporter.
Getting a teen a job seems pretty straightforward to us moms: You see a “help wanted” sign at the movie theater/Kohl’s/McDonald’s. You tell the teen. They apply. Hopefully they get the job. Mom, teen, FICA and Social Security are all happy.
But some teens have very particular ideas about which job they think is worthy of them. One Huffman teen once said she didn’t want a job where anyone she knew would see her. Another teen didn’t want to make coffee or fast food.
That’s fine, I said. Next time your car needs gas or we get the cellphone bill, let’s talk about your requirements for an employer to hire you. And yeah, I did say it like that.
Earlier this summer, one Huffman girl went job hunting. She came back an hour later.
I filled out an application, she said, as if she was done for the day.
Keep going, I said. And if anyone asks you about cleaning the bathroom, say yes.
A friend told me story about her teen who, when filling out an online job application for Starbucks, wrote that he would not clean the bathroom.
Add indignant snort here.
Us grownups know very well that when you’re filling out a job application and they ask you about cleaning the bathroom, you say yes. Yes, I can clean. Yes, I can mop. Yes, I can take the trash to the smelly industrial compactor machine. Yes, yes, yes.
I’ve cleaned bathrooms at jobs. I’ve cleaned bathrooms at jobs where my husband owned the business. Teens, at some point in your employment history, you will have to clean a bathroom. If you want that job, you will clean that toilet. Just make sure you wash your hands after you’re done.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Holding tight

It’s been more than three weeks since Napa’s earthquake but I’m still discombobulated. Like most of us, I’m convinced every creak or crack in the house is the next you-know-what. I wake up at night and blame it on imagined — or real — aftershocks.
The books are back on the shelves next to the bed but I still eye them when I go to bed and imagine them toppling during the next quake — and we all know there will be a “next” quake.
We also now know that we happen to live on a newly discovered fault that pretty much runs right through our neighborhood in west Napa. Congratulations, neighbors. We hit the seismic jackpot (three tumbling rocks in a row?) and have the broken dishes to prove it.
Earthquake insurance is looking better and better, isn’t it? From what I know, earthquake insurance usually pays off only when your house pretty much falls into a million pieces. But it might be better than nothing. We’d be covered. For total destruction.
Then again, if there’s total destruction in Napa, I have a feeling that earthquake insurance is going to be the least of our worries.
I’ll cling to anything that gives me a sense of control at this point. California Earthquake Authority — give me a call. We’re all yours.
Last weekend, my husband ordered all sorts of nifty earthquake safety gadgets like TV screen holders, LED flashlights and furniture straps. Why not tether down every piece of furniture we have? Someone should invent people-sized Lego furniture and flooring. Have you ever tried prying apart two tiny Lego pieces? Pretty much impossible. On Aug. 24, throughout Napa, entire kitchens and collections of knickknacks were smashed to smithereens but those Lego Harry Potter castles and Star Wars models? Solid as a rock.
My parents’ kitchen in Napa came with those earthquake-proof cabinet latches that we always fumble to pry open. Pre-quake, I always thought of them as so inconvenient. Today? Genius.
Thanks to those dorky catches, my parents didn’t lose any dishes on Aug. 24. At our kitchen, with cabinets that swing wide open, we lost most of ours.
After seeing the remnants of our kitchen, the day after the quake my mom brought over an extra set of dishes for us to borrow. I looked at them glumly and left them on the dining room table. Why put dishes into cupboards that are obviously so not earthquake-safe?
Then, last week, my in-laws sent us a set of new dishes, an early 25-year wedding anniversary gift.
I almost don’t want to put them away, said my husband. I’m afraid we’d be asking for it.
A few days later, he installed magnetic latches on our kitchen cupboards. Now every time I go to open the cabinet, I feel like I’m in a tug of war with a piece of laminated plywood.
Now let’s unpack the new dishes, my husband said.
We opened the boxes. We put the new plates away.
I’m hoping they’ll last at least 25 years.