On Friday night, Abby, Krista and I worked the concession stand at the Greenville High School football game. As a member, coach, and “booster” of the girls’ tennis team, it was our turn to give just a little back to the organization that raises money to support the different athletic ventures of GHS – including the girls’ tennis team. Let me hasten to add that as a “booster” it was my role to clap every so often, holler “Nice shot, [fill in here with name of subject tennis player]!” and/or pace and moan like a man passing a kidney stone while my offspring was competing.
But back to the concession stand. Krista, after a long day at work interacting with a demanding patient load, desired duty which involved a minimum of human contact. Voila! She was assigned to the back section of the stand where she made vats of coffee and hot chocolate and then poured her concoctions into Styrofoam cups for the wet and freezing horde of fans who needed liquid warmth.
Abby, unlike her mother, wanted to interact with as many people as possible, though she might not have been consciously aware of it. She is energized by human contact. She thrives on it. She seeks it out as often as she can. Her face glows when she’s talking with friends or meets someone new. When asked what she wanted to do during the four-hour shift, she responded predictably, “Well … can I maybe stick close to my dad? Help in front … selling stuff?”
Given the green light, she let out a sigh of relief. Abby would have been unhappy relegated to a position where chatting with customers was unlikely if not impossible. Krista was thrilled to be in precisely such a position, and both were happy they were under a roof and protected from the rain and wind.
We opened the gates and began fielding customers and their orders, a process which began slowly but picked up considerable steam by about 6:30 p.m. or so. Our team of about seven teenagers and an equal number of adults gradually developed something of a pattern – a quasi-division-of-labor, that for the most part served us well. A few of us greeted customers and took orders – “I’ll have three hot dogs, a slice of pepperoni pizza, a Mountain Dew, and a Snicker’s bar,” for instance. Others filled popcorn bags, carted drinks to the front, doled out the pizza slices onto plates, or counted change. Maneuvering 14 or so bodies around the tight quarters of the stand was a challenge, and reminded me just a little of a Keystone Cops routine or the traffic patterns on the Via Appia Nuova in Rome during rush hour. We collided gently from time to time, and consequently the most commonly heard and delivered utterances were “Ooops, sorry!” and “No problem, you’re fine!”
A few overarching observations from my shift: (1) I was excited I could add and subtract on the fly pretty well, and dole out the proper amount of change without a cash register or calculator. A couple of the teenagers (my daughter included) struggled with this just a little (“Dad, it was $6.75 and they gave me a twenty…?”). (2) Teenage boys, in particular, can eat quantities and combinations of food that God never intended. One young man bought and consumed before my eyes three slices of pepperoni pizza, a hot dog, a Pepsi, a bag of popcorn, a bag of peanut M&M’s, and some disgusting and dangerous conglomeration of sugar, corn starch, citric acid and food coloring that goes by the name of “Sour Patch Kids,” and he did it in less than 10 minutes. (3) Some folks are pretty careless with money. About half a dozen paid for and received their snacks, but left into the evening without the change they were due. Someone else dropped nearly $20 on the soggy pavement just outside the stand. (4) A high school football game is much more than an athletic contest; it is an enormous social gathering, for children and adults alike. The kids connect and flirt with their peers, while the adults catch up with friends or acquaintances, swapping stories about the latest events in their lives – focusing primarily on their children or aging parents. (It’s also a good place to gather intel on your children from their friends. It’s amazing what a teenager will divulge for the small bribe of a free candy bar). (5) The adolescents I had the pleasure of working alongside were hardworking, focused, intelligent, and fun. I have renewed hope for the future. (6) And, finally, I have great admiration for those of you who work on your feet all day, every day. Three days later and I’m just now recovering from one brief shift. I don’t know how you do it, but you have my gratitude and respect.
Timothy Swensen is the author of the column series Virtue and Mischief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.