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PinkBaby
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

ooooooooooo you are so right most teenagers are spoiled today. they want the things but dont want to  work for them.:smileyindifferent:
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dhaupt
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

[ Edited ]

 I'm 55, is it too late to get a job at an ice-cream parlor?  I could do with a lifelong aversion to sweets. 

 

Tarri,

take it from some one who's first job was at a bakery and who still can't stand the smell of doughnuts, that would indeed give you an aversion to sweets, ice cream at least. And I'm 55 too! 

Message Edited by dhaupt on 02-27-2009 09:21 AM
Message Edited by dhaupt on 02-27-2009 09:22 AM
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IBIS
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

[ Edited ]

Jonni Waffle customers: zombies, prehistoric and outerspace monsters

 

I suffered miserably at my first summer job as a counter girl in a candy shop. I was a shy, quiet teenager who only wanted to play the violin. I hoped to earn money to pay for lessons.

 

The author captures in delightfully outragous humor the universal fear that teenagers like me suffered at the hands of impatient and rude customers. I wish I had had his skill to defuse my terrors.  His irreverent and fresh analogies of Jonni Waffle’s customers helped defuse his own anxieties. 

 

p.109

Zombies from horror movie analogies. I read a fiercely biting critique of the customers who are driven by their sweet tooth and extreme consumerism. In the Dawn of the Dead horror movie, the zombies attack a shopping mall… “Their brains are gone, but they retain this one thing. I know now that when the living dead come, it will not be at the mall that they gather but at the ice-cream shop.”

 

When I read this, I flipped out.

 

p. 113

Prehistoric reptiles. “Creatures of such affluence that I cannot even speculate about their day-to-day, outside the fact of their sweet tooths. I imagine steaming mud and hairless reptilian creatures swooping down low from between fan-like prehistoric leaves.”

 

OUCH. I flipped out again.

 

Alien outer space creatures…Their exact shape?… “I cannot say, because in order to mingle with Earth people they needed to wear human flesh costumes, for only then couldthey walk among us.”

 

I laughed so hard I choked on my in take of breath. And then I promptly flipped out again. 

 


rkubie wrote:

 

Is Benji's humorous description of the patrons scornful? Do you remember a youthful minimum-wage job, and how you felt about it? 

  

 


 

 

Message Edited by IBIS on 02-27-2009 12:54 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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dg
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

I think the time were different years ago.  People allowed their kids a freedom that they would be afraid to give them now.  My friends often discuss how when our kids were babies (late 70s, early 80s) we left them sleeping in carriages in front of stores in our neighborhood when we went in to shop.  We would never think of doing that now. 

dg
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dg
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

I agree, although I felt the book was so much about the boys that I felt like they were only mentioned when they were needed to complete the kid's stories.
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Deltadawn
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

I agree - I too could use an aversion to sweets, as someone earlier mentioned! haha...

There is definitely some scorn in Benji's humorous descriptions of the customers. 

Benji is definitely growing away from his brother at this time - they are no longer "twins" - no longer inseparable - they are not spending all their time together.

I think that yes, he is starting to grow up through the experience of having a job. He is also forced to grow up by having an "empty house" and parents who resurface only on the weekends - and sometimes not then.

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Deltadawn
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would


Readingrat wrote:
I didn't really think the descriptions of the Jonni Waffle patrons as scornful at the time, just as observant I think.  Anyway Benji leaving the freezer doors open really surprised me.  It just seemed a little too malicious for Benji.  On the other hand if he was to do something to take revenge on Martine, the Jonni Waffle customers, or NP I can see him doing something that no one could pin on him more than an in-your-face confrontation.

 

I was surprised that Benji left the freezer door open, as well. But you are right that he seems to be the type of kid who wants to avoid confrontation - so when he did something vengeful, he did it anonymously....
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SandyS
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

Although I am enjoying this book as a "different" read than my usual, I am getting a bit bogged down by some of the lengthy descriptions.

One example from this chapter that led me to actually "skip" ahead was on p. 112-113 where Colson was describing the customers at Joni Waffle. 

 

Is any one else finding a bit of difficulty with this.  Any suggestions for me on how to better enjoy this?

 

SandyS

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emmagrace
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

Is Benji's humorous description of the patrons scornful? Do you remember a youthful minimum-wage job, and how you felt about it? I do not feel that Benji’s description of the patrons is scornful. I think that all teenagers feel that way when they are working. I had my first job at fifteen at an amusement park and my descriptions were much like Benji’s.

 

Does Benji grow further away from Reggie at this time?

I got the feeling that they are growing farther apart at this time. They are becoming individuals as we all do when we get older. 

 

Do you see Benji "growing up" from the experience of working? Do his relationships with his friends change?

Do his relationships with his friends change? Benji getting a job in the first place to help buy food etc... shows us that he is growing up.

 

 

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valorietucker
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

Benji's descriptions are a bit scornful, perhaps even unfair, because he doesn’t know the people he is serving.  Yet, I remember what it was like to be that age and to work a minimum wage job for rude and ungrateful people.  As a service worker, you begin to be treated as just that: a server.  People want what they want and they can be pretty rude while they get it.  So, in that light, Benji's attitude toward them is understandable... and warranted.

Being a member of the working world, having the responsibility of having a job is a growing up experience for everyone.  It's when you step out of that kid shell and begin making money, making something of yourself.

It was mature of Benji to stay out of the Martine Incident even though he was a key player.  It was mature, but it also reflect his feelings on matters such as race.  After all, Benji was pretty ambiguous about his racial connections, too.  I mean, he was very proud to be black, but a lot of his interests didn't fit into that mold.  Just like Martine, Benji didn't "make sense."
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

I really don't think the description of the patrons was scornful.  Actually, I think it was rather accurate.  He described so many different characters, from the ladies with their poodles, to the "C" stars, the tourists, the preppies, the regulars in their flip flops, to the beach bums.  These are all the people I ran into in my haunts at the beach on spring break. He also mentioned the great tippers.  I really didn't see any scorn, just a busy work day at a popular ice cream shop.

 

I worked at a Shakey's Pizza Parlor in High School and it was the most popular hang out.  I can totally relate to how busy things got for Benjie.  I also know about being put on display,as we (the pizza makers) were placed in the window so the people could see their pizza being made.  It was crazy on a buzy night, particularly when my friends were making faces in the window!

 

Benjies job complicated things for the group, as did all the boys' jobs'; however I think it probably killed a lot of time for them as well.  I think they were running out of things to do and they were in need of a diversion ( and money, to say the least).

 

As far as the Martine incident goes, I can't help but think that Benjie wasn't as bothered by it as the other boys were.  I think he tends to think the best of people rather than jump to  conclusions.  I think his first inclination wasn't so much a matter of "staying out of it".  Rather, it was more a matter of not thinking it was worth a second thought.  It was the other people who thought it was bigger than it was in a similar way his father tended to look at things.

Suzi

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would


Read-n-Rider wrote:

I love the title of this chapter; how very tongue-in-cheek!  It is obvious from this novel, and from the posts he has written on his "own" thread, that Colson Whitehead has a great sense of humor.

 

I don't know if many parents in real life would leave their 15-and 14-year-old sons alone for weeks at a time in a summer house, but I think Benji and Reggie behave very much as typical teenage boys would in these circumstances.  The dirty pot episode was hilarious, and I can fully believe Benji "forgot" to wash his shirt and wore it to work with stains.  I was surprised, though, when he intentionally left the freezer door open; I didn't think he would be malicious like that.  On the other hand, I would not have realized the possible insult in Martine's patting him on the head, so perhaps, if he felt that this was not a gesture of affection and approval, he would have felt justified in his act of revenge.

 

Joan


I can't think of many 15 year-old boys who would think to wash a shirt! LOL

 

As far as Benji leaving the door open, I think he did it out of believing he had to do something out of respect to his dad.  His dad had trained him to fight back if his race had been slightedover issues of race, so even though he may not have wanted to, he did it.  I blame much of that behavior on his dad.  I know he knew better, but he had been so ingrained with the belief that "no on is going to hurt you more than me (dad)".  If Dad found out about the head patting incident and Benji hadn't done something, Ben feared the repurcussions from his dad perhaps more than anything else?

 

 

Suzi

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would


SandyS wrote:

Although I am enjoying this book as a "different" read than my usual, I am getting a bit bogged down by some of the lengthy descriptions.

One example from this chapter that led me to actually "skip" ahead was on p. 112-113 where Colson was describing the customers at Joni Waffle. 

 

Is any one else finding a bit of difficulty with this.  Any suggestions for me on how to better enjoy this?

 

SandyS


I'm sorry you're not enjoying that part.  I really don't have a suggestion as to how to better enjoy it.  Perhaps
it is just a matter of preference and readers like myself enjoy the picture it paints. 

 

 I'm really enjoying the descriptions and those pages were among my favorite parts.  I particularly liked the way he compared the ultra rich as "creatures of such affluence that I can not even speculate about their day-to-day, outside the fact of their sweet tooths.  ...the number of gills in their necks and suckers on their mottled digits I cannot say, because in order to mingle with Earth people they needed to wear human flesh cosutumes..."

 

 

Suzi

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs
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jholcomb
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Leaving Open the Freezer

I was surprised by the freezer incident because we haven't seen Benji do something so purposeless before. He hadn't given any indication that he was angry at Martine. Still, right after this incident, Benji mentions the photo that proved Martine was black. The juxtaposition does point toward the freezer incident being revenge (cowardly, since NP might be blamed) on Martine.

 

Others have commented on the long descriptive passages. It seems to me that we have a narrator who is being deeply reflective about everything except his own motivations and desires. We know all about the history of Sag Harbor and the customers... but not, really, why he left the freezer door open. It's an interesting choice to have this disconnect; I'm not sure I like it.

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Thayer
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would


detailmuse wrote:

nfam wrote:
Benji is a very interesting character. In one respect he looks on at life rather than participates. I think he is scornful of the people who frequent the ice cream parlor, but he also realizes that he wouldn't be able to interact with them even if he were not a low paid employee. I don't think Benji's race is as much at issue here as his age and his personality. Benji is an observer of life rather than an actor. He can safely afford to be scornful.

 

I agree that he's scornful. It's personality, but it may also be race and class. It may be a built-up, mis-directed anger at feeling an outsider, or anger at whatever is going on in his family and his parents' marriage. All those customers were groups of friends, or families, and he didn't really have either. I wondered if he left the freezer doors open to punish the customers (there wouldn't be ice cream for at least a day or two) more so than to punish Martine? And he did it with full knowledge that NP would be blamed.

 

But does he realize that he is not only "punishing" Martine, but the other employees as well. After all, SOMEONE has to clean up all of the mess leftover after everything has melted. And he mentions that he has switched shifts and will not be there for a day or so. To me, this is a telling statement.
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IBIS
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

bikeeyesuzi, I agree with you. I do believe, as you do, that Benji reacted negatively to the Martine's head patting incident, incidentally because of NP's taunting him... but primarily because of the aggressive punching lessons of his father.
 
At first, he did stay out of the NP-Nick controversy... to remain neutral...
 
However, at some point he was challenged by his father's retaliatory lessons... that he has to punch back, fight back... whenever he is racially disrespected. 
 
NP's taunting "So what are you gonna do about it?" propelled him to act. But more importantly,  if his father ever found out that Benji had done nothing about this head-patting incident... Benji could clearly imagine the brutality of that future lesson.
 

blkeyesuzi wrote:

As far as Benji leaving the door open, I think he did it out of believing he had to do something out of respect to his dad.  His dad had trained him to fight back if his race had been slightedover issues of race, so even though he may not have wanted to, he did it.  I blame much of that behavior on his dad.  I know he knew better, but he had been so ingrained with the belief that "no on is going to hurt you more than me (dad)".  If Dad found out about the head patting incident and Benji hadn't done something, Ben feared the repurcussions from his dad perhaps more than anything else?

 

 


 

 
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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Sarita_Li
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

It can be exhausting to serve people who are either rudely ungrateful or passivly ungrateful (not really realizing that you are there, that you are a person, and that you are doing them a service.).

 

Benji is feeling this. Some of the things he says about the customers are: "We served them.... We didn't discriminate, we scooped....  They pointed through the glass and ordered us around." He refers to them as flies.

 

I can only imagine that being a black teenager in this position made him feel it even more. I think that as a young Latina I felt it more keenly than others, than the white boys and girls whom the old white men thought of as the future of America, working at Sears or at Starbucks or wherever else just to make it through college, whereas I must just be "the help," destined to be stuck in retail forever because I probably didn't speak English well enough to finish High School. Some spoke loudly and slowly when they had to speak to me at all, and, although this was NOT the norm, once it's happened to you, you feel like it's always happening to you. You'll notice that Benji is ALWAYS surprised when he is trusted by white people, like Perry at the Tuck Shop. Things have happened to him in the past, maybe not constantly, but now he always expects those things. He expects to be invisible, and to have to fight his way into recognition and into life.

Sarita Li
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jclay26
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

I am so sad that I have fallen behind in my postings. I have been very sick. Hopefully I can play catch-up this week.

 

I don't think his descriptions are necessarily scornful, just a teenager's perception. A first job can be very eye-opening. You being to notice people and their behaviors in a way you never have before. You are required to be civil to them regardless of how they act because your job depends on it. For the first time, you have to weigh actions and consequences. This is much different than many other scenarios in your youth when you can disassociate yourself from the situation (i.e. don't hang with them anymore).

 

In my first job, I worked for a french fry specialty store in a mall. It was quite a learning experience to realize how rude and impatient people can be, how particular they are about their food, and how fast-paced things can get. You realize quickly that you are not appreciated for the work you do and, in fact, you are expected (by the customers) to be nice to them regardless of how they act or how tired and worn-out you might be. They expect all smiles and that you should be grateful they have chosen to spend their money at your store. I couldn't have cared less as a measly minimum-wage-making teenager, but as an adult I know that as an employee you must indeed be grateful if they choose to spend money at your store. I can see how true this is in the way Benji describes Sag Harbor and how quickly the stores go out of business.

 

It is very interesting how this chapter has brought back my feelings and perceptions from back then versus what I know to be true now as an adult. It is a fascinating comparison and one I had forgotten.

What you have to do...is trust your own story. Get the hell out of the way and let it tell itself. - Tim O'Brien; The Things They Carried
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PinkPanther
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

[ Edited ]
Benji's humorous description is not scournful. I find it funny because I can relate to him. My first minimum wage job was an after school teacher in a day-care and I only worked with women who were over 40. I felt sort of out of place, but I was happy. I would spend some time looking at them and wondering how they can stand each other. Some were loud mouths and others would just be mad all the time. Another one always had a tragic story, and another would tell stories of how rich she was in Cuba. I found it hillarious because they looked like a bunch of chickens in a chicken coupe. I am hispanic, and we call these types of groups "el gallinero", and it is really funny to watch them.

 

Benji is growing ever so further from Reggie because now they do not even have the time to talk. When they both get home, they are too tired to do anything together, and on days when they are not tired, the have opposite schedules. Unfortunately they are separating, but this could be a benefit for Benji because they are now considering him as a person of his own instead of like in the past when it was only Benji and Reggie.

 

 I see Benji growing up from his experience working, and I also see him maturing quicker than his friends. He still goes out and does things with them, but he is sort of the old fart within.

 

 I don't remember a time when there wasn't a waffle cone. I was born in 1988 so you could pretty much assume that I have always eaten a waffle cone. I love to get the chocolate dipped waffle cone with sprinkles and strawberry ice cream. 

Message Edited by PinkPanther on 03-05-2009 06:00 PM
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x-tempo
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

On p. 102, "the prep school in Riverdale" that Bobby went to "that had a mix of city kids and Westchester kids" is called Fieldston. It's mentioned in Sheila Weller's "Girls Like Us," her biography of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon. Simon, whose father Richard was a co-founder of Simon & Schuster, attended Fieldston, as did other musical performers from Stephen Sondheim and Gil Scott-Heron to Sean Yoko Lennon.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_Culture_Fieldston_School 

 

James Baldwin attended public schools in Harlem where he was born, but he applied to DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, which at the time was integrated but predominantly white (and Jewish), and he was accepted. It was considered a very good school and he is the only black student on his page in the yearbook.

 

When Scott-Heron attended DeWitt Clinton twenty years later, it was not a good school because teachers there, apparently recognizing his creative gifts, arranged for him to attend Fieldston, where he graduated.

 

Although I have no information to support it, Scott-Heron may have attended Clinton because he knew that Baldwin had. Although Baldwin was unable to attend college, Scott-Heron attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, a historically black school that Langston Hughes had attended in the 1920s.

 

Hughes, born in 1902, had attended Columbia University from 1921-1922 where he experienced racial prejudice. However, I've never read of Baldwin (b. 1924) having had similar experiences at DeWitt Clinton, where at least two of his colleagues on the school's literary magazine became lifelong friends: Sol Stein and Richard Avedon. 

 

The bottom line for me is that even though I can empathize with Benji's experience as one of a few black students at elite schools from primary through high school, it does not seem nearly as difficult as what "Dylan," the character in Jonathan Lethem's "The Fortress of Solitude" experiences as one of very few whites attending predominantly black Brooklyn schools where he suffers physical harassment.

 

Everyone seems to be absorbed in Benji's personal experiences, which is fine, however, I haven't heard anyone yet acknowledge any issues of social class in his very atypical childhood. 

 

In "The Souls of Black Folk" (1903), W.E.B. Du Bois described what he called the "Talented Tenth," a well-educated and affluent cultural elite whose achievement would lead the way to acceptance for all African Americans. The Talented Tenth, which in reality was more like one in five thousand, were seen by many African Americans as just a snobbish upper class. And it's also debatable whether a podiatrist and a corporate lawyer for Nestlé's with a summer home (like Benji's parents) were what Du Bois had in mind.