I took a quixotic journey last night to a bowling alley in a
small town. The purpose? To convince a kid who was already overworked with a full
load of credits, a full-time job, a family issue and more to take on one more
The paper I advise had lost not only its top editor, but
also the guy who we wanted to replace him. After a dozen rotations, I’d filled
every slot but one.
The one I was driving down some back-river road, nearly 40
minutes from campus, to try to fill.
I went with the idea that it was harder to say no to someone
in person than it was to say no via email. Two others had given me the email
brush off for this job. This kid, however, had been my first choice. The idea
of asking, however, seemed cruel.
She was always there in my 8 a.m. class, despite having to
drive from her parents’ house near that bowling alley.
Bowling was a family business: Mom and Dad owned the place
and the kids all worked there. They planned to expand to a building next door
as well. They wanted the kids to take over the business when they retired. As
it was, she worked late, bowled in league and then got up at the crack of dawn
to drive two-lane roads to school each day. Rain, shine, sleet or snow, she was
She wanted to be a writer and would take on features and
opinion assignments to help out her friends who were down there on Wednesday
nights, prepping the paper for publication. She, meanwhile, was tapping beer,
resetting bad ball returns and keeping the grill hopping. It wasn’t a part-time
job. It was her full-time life.
When The Midget and I got there, the place was pretty quiet,
but soon would be laden with regulars. It was Buck Burger night and Buck
Bowling night and she expected to go through about four or five dozen burgers.
No one else was there to help at this point.
We ordered some food while she finished up pizzas for some
other customers and set up a lane for a guy toting a double-ball bag. She
flipped the burger, answered the phone and kept moving. When our food was done,
she stopped over and talked for a minute.
“I’m here to offer you a job,” I told her.
“OK,” she said without wavering at all.
I explained the situation, told her what I wanted and told
her simply that I thought this would be good.
“Do you want this” I asked.
“Yes,” she said without hesitation.
I just stared at her. “What about your folks? I came down
here with the idea that they probably wouldn’t yell at you if I were here.”
“I’ll yell first if I have to,” she said.
As The Midget finished her hot pretzel and started bowling,
I kept telling the kid I could get her some help or that if she was running
into trouble, she should let me know.
“It’ll be fine,” she said. “I can manage.”
She’s one of these kids, the kids of this recently maligned
generation. She lives at home with her parents, writes for the local newspaper,
works like crazy and does better than most. She’s an “A for effort” kid in a
world where results are all that matter. She’s the kid who gets B’s when she
could get A’s if she didn’t have 93 other things going on. She’s the kid who
knows what she wants, but knows that life doesn’t always give you what you
want. She’s the kid who hugged my kid and then ran after us because we’d
forgotten to take our corn dog nuggets home with us.
Simply put, she’s the kind of kid I want my kid to be like.
She’s one of many in this generation who deserve
understanding, instead of lectures.