It was the spring of 2000. I had barely survived my sophomore year of high school. In less than a month I’d be free to sleep in, watch afternoon soaps and enjoy long days on the lake’s shore with friends. There was one element missing. I needed a way to support my ice cream truck indulgences, matinee viewings and frequent trips to Claire’s at Rosedale Mall. My friend Carrie was bragging at lunch about her new job. She was working at A&W for her second summer in a row. Apparently the owners were old friends or maybe her grandparents, I’ve always been bad with details.
Erin got her license that next week. She had failed the first two times. Her parents let her drive their old gray mini-van to school. Five of us girls jumped in after school to go see Carrie at A&W. We pulled up along side of the orange retro intercoms. The place had a 10 vehicle capacity. We were one of 3 cars. We ordered fries and water because all we could come up with was $5. Carrie came out in an adorable orange and white trucker hat, black shorts, an A&W t-shirt, high socks and an apron. She had Melissa roll the front passenger side window down so she could hook the tray over the edge. “Carhop” she proudly said. I’m a “carhop!” And just then I knew that the one thing I wanted more than anything in life was to be an A&W carhop. I closed my hands and asked the Baby Jesus to please, please, pretty please let me get a job there. I promised him I’d study harder, gossip less and leave poor Scott Mitchell alone (even though he NEEDED to fall in love with me, sigh). I casually asked Carrie how she had obtained her prestigious career. She jumped up and down and told me she’d grab me an application and “wouldn’t it be soooo cool if we worked together! Besties at work!” To be honest, I had zero interest in nurturing our infantile friendship and if I had to end our social relationship to climb the carhop ladder I’d do it. That evening I neglected my math and Spanish homework and instead spent two hours carefully completing my application;
Leah Marie Josephson, Experience: Provided exceptional childcare for neighboring toddlers including the preparation and delivery of nutritious food. Also have experience in balancing trays from years of cafeteria lunch dining. Interests: Carhopping, following directions and taking on responsibility. References: Carrie (your present Carhop) who can undoubtedly vouch for my superior character, Christine (my mom).
I received a call three days later. I had an interview! I went after school. I wore shorts, tall socks and a button down shirt to try and add some professionalism. The old lady who may or may not have been Carrie’s grandma asked me a few questions, which I easily answered, and then told me I could start Monday. I hid my excitement with a polite smile and violent twitching of my right leg. She handed me my apron, a t-shirt and a hat.
That night, in my room (walls covered with N’Sync posters and Abercrombie advertisements), I put on my new uniform and asked my mirror, “would you like our signature Rootbeer float with that?” I was a natural. God, I looked good! I’d found my dream job, I was so fortunate. A lot of people had to spend years finding their calling. I wouldn’t even have to go to college! I barely slept that night. I was going to be rich. $4.15 an hour PLUS tips!
I spent my first shift training with Sarah, a small brunette with an annoying mousey voice. She showed me how to re-fill the straws, put napkins on the tray next to all orders and wipe down the tables in the dining area. She finally let me carry out my first tray to a new blue Camry. I balanced the orange platter perfectly on the open window sill and flashed them my practiced, “Don’t be cheap” smile. All was going well until the boss told me that all workers pool their tips. Pool? What does that mean? No, no, no, no! I’m fine with sharing in general, but not when it comes to my hard earned money. Surely mousey voiced Sarah wasn’t going to contribute as much tips into our pool! I reasoned in my head that after Carrie’s Grandma died I’d obviously take over and change that rule immediately.
Throughout the following weeks I became better and better at my job. The other carhops proved to be lazy idiots. I’d assign them straw duty and make sure I was the only one conversing with paying patrons. I let the overweight carhop bring out a couple of shakes to car-slot #3 on a busy Saturday only for her to dump the entire tray into the car and all over the woman inside. My diet consisted of fries, hotdogs and Rootbeer floats. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is what stunted my breasts from fully developing.
I was happy as a carhop, but the hours were sometimes long and my feet would inevitably tire from running to and from vehicles. Three months after my life-long commitment to A&W I visited my friend Bri at our local tanning salon. I needed a good, deep, convincing orange tan before school started in a month. She had started working there a few weeks before and told me she could let me tan cheaper than normal. I saw her sitting behind that desk, golden under the florescent lighting. The intoxicating aroma of burnt skin and tanning lotion filled my nostrils. How lucky that Bri got to sit all day at work AND tan for free! This was surely the best job in the whole world. This was supposed to be my career!
When I gave my notice at A&W, I thanked Grandma for helping me discover my true passion in life, sitting while helping people… not running.
I was very tan my junior year of high school.