I worked minimum-wage summer jobs every summer during my high school and college years in the nineteen-eighties. If only I had invested a portion of those paltry paycheck in a retirement account I could probably retire now. As it is, I wasted all my money on adolescent ephemera and now must work until I die.
But at least I have the memories. My favorite summer job was at Quick Lobster, a fast food seafood emporium long since vanished from the boardwalk. There is absolutely nothing "quick" about lobster, of course. But logic did not deter the owners from establishing franchises in several New England coastal towns. Employees wore badges demanding that confused customers Ask Me About Our Thermidor! Nobody ever did, obviously. The average Quick Lobster customer just wanted lobster meat mashed up with mayonnaise and celery on a roll. They didn't even care about lettuce leaf garnish, never mind a concoction of brandy and gruyere cheese.
Counter jobs at Quick Lobster required wearing a white shirt. I usually sported a short-sleeved cotton polo; occasionally a crumpled button-down dress shirt when all my polos were dirty. Once, when all my white shirts were in the laundry after a particularly messy double shift, I even wore my old prom shirt with ruffles down the front and cufflinks. One of the cufflinks got lost while I was rushing around organizing a Big Lobster Casserole. For weeks afterwards, I hoped the customer would come back to complain about a broken tooth and I'd get my cufflink back. Alas, I hoped in vain.
My strangest memory, however, is how my nineteen-eighties minimum wage job easily afforded me the ability to pay rent, feed and clothe myself, go galavanting at night with friends, buy books and records, and even purchase a new white shirt when necessary. I feel I can barely cover similar expenses today after thirty years of earning a professional salary. Such is the suspended reality of youth, I suppose.