Generations Day Care Part Ten: A Sad Ending
One of the hardest lessons a kid learns at his first job is that nine times out of ten, the people signing your paycheck don't give a rat's ass about what you want. Such was the case with the Summer Youth Employment Program, who signed the paychecks I was receiving for the work I did at Generations Daycare.
Heather was the director of the Summer Youth Employment Program. (SYEP) She came to Generations one afternoon after we had moved back to the day care. I was sitting at the sandbox playing with one of the four year-olds and Sarah and Amanda were sitting beside me.
"All the participants for SYEP go to this party at the end of the year.” She explained. “We serve pizza, soda, popcorn and give out certificates of program completion."
I appreciated these people giving me money for what was basically the best summer of my life. But there was this big summer camp field trip at Lake Shaftsburry and at the time, I honestly didn't care about cheap pizza and dollar store soda when I could have been eating hot dogs and burgers with the kids.
"I don't suppose I could duck out of that." I asked.
"Nope, it's mandatory." She answered with casual tactlessness and a smile.
Shooting a look to Pam and Tiffany for help I responded with, "Well, there's this field trip up to Lake Shaftsburry and I want to go up and help out."
"Oh we'll be all right," Sarah said, a little slow on the uptake.
Amanda was a little quicker. "I think he wants to come up.”
"I've been kind of looking forward to this," I told Heather, looking up at her. “The kids want me there, I want to be there.”
"Well, I'm sorry about that. But it is mandatory and you do get paid. And you get a free t-shirt."
She sounded like that annoying opponent in a game of Monopoly who tries to get you to trade your one property that would let her build houses on Pacific Avenue for one utility, all the while acting like you're the one missing out on a deal when you refuse. Unfortunately Heather was more like the banker, with all of the money and all of the property on her side.
"Oh a t-shirt, yeah, well I'm there," I replied sarcastically, hanging my head in defeat.
"Nate," Sarah said in a warning tone.
Heather left, completely unaware of my desire to see something horrible happen to her, preferably away from the children so they wouldn't be traumatized. In the days leading up to the event I wondered if there was some way I could duck out of it and still go up to the lake.
My last big day with the kids was a field trip to the miniature golf course. Whenever a kid sunk his ball I gave them a high five. Larissa sunk hers in the first shot and no one topped her since then. It was a wonderful day but the realization that I'd have to miss out on the best field trip ever loomed over head and it made me sad.
"You really did a great job this summer," Sarah when we were back at the daycare. "It's kind of stupid. They want you to do your job without your personal life getting in the way and yet there they are, getting in the way.”
I agreed with a heavy heart. The kids hugged me one by one and then it was over and I realized that this would be how the world worked when I left high school.
The next day I munched on cheap pizza, drank crappy soda, and fumed over the big picnic I was missing that day.
"You know, you could always volunteer," Heather suggested in that smug tone that people use when they know they have someone on their leash. It's a tone that sums up everything I hate about people and the awful things they do to each other.
“Just shut up,” was what I wanted to say. “People like you don't belong in my life so just shut up.”
George was there. The guy who was the other group of kids that shared the playground with us. I didn't know what exactly his job was but evidently he got fired from it.
"Yeah, these kids were just getting on my nerves," He told me, in the tone you would use to tell someone, “I just got shoes at Payless for fifty percent off.”
“I picked up a bat and just started swinging it at them.”
“You were lucky I wasn't there,” I said, my blood boiling. They knew I hated being there so there was no point in keeping a pleasant attitude. "I would have shoved that bat right up your ass.”
"Oh come on, it's not like you never got upset with them."
"I never said I didn't. But I would never, never, never, NEVER do anything to hurt them."
George wasn't the sharpest pencil in the drawer. It bit at me even more to know that while this asshole was here basically being rewarded even after he did something stupid, I was being punished and I had done everything right. Sarah sent me a letter that week that told me what a great job I did.
So this is how the real world works? I thought.
I saw a movie that day hoping it would lift me up but it didn't. I still wanted to be up at the lake.
If I had a chance to do it all over...I would have skipped told Heather where to go and how to get there. I would have skipped the stupid “award” event and gone to the lake where the real reward would have been waiting for me.