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Rachel-K
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

Benji begins a new stage of his life when he steps into a minimum wage position behind the counter of  busy, gourmet, beach-side ice-cream parlor.  The shops feeds him breakfast, lunch and dinner when he's there, and he comes to be a bit of an expert waffle-maker when the tourist busses roll in.  The job also leaves him with a lifelong aversion to sweets.

 

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

 

Does Benji grow further away from Reggie at this time?

 

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

 

How did you feel about Benji's staying-out-of-it-attitude to the Martine "incident?"

 

(We also have another thread starting to address questions that Martine's character and actions give rise to!)

 

Is this sort of gourmet chain-shop a product of the late 1980's? Do you remember the first time you heard of a "Waffle cone?"

 

 

 

 

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

I enjoyed Benji's descriptions, I volunteered at the Salvation Army when I was a teen and the homeless people were anything but kind.

 

Since the electricity is out and they have jobs in different places, Benji and Reggie are spending less time at home with eachother. And when they are with the group, Reggie hangs with Randy.

 

Benji doesn't participate in the Martine incident, which makes me think he is kind of growing up. Plus he is preoccupied with Meg, the girl no one else is interested in.

 

I would've stayed out of "it." That is not a good question to ask anyone, especially over a pat on the head. And in the end they find out the truth, with out having to ask.

 

The first waffle cone I remember had frozen yogurt in it, yum!

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aprilh
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Registered: ‎09-25-2008
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

One of my favorite scenes in this chapter is what I like to call the "Taco Pot Incident". I found the description of them searching the house for the smell hilarious! Then to find the maggots inside the pot and try to figure out whose responsiblity it was to clean it sounded a lot like me and my brother and sisters when we were young!

April
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bookloverjb85
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Registered: ‎10-12-2007
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

While I was reading the description of Benji's job I was reminded of the first minimum-wage job that I had.  It was at a bagel shop and I remember when we would get a wave of customers, we would do the same thing, say "here we go..."  I just had to laugh because I could relate so well to the situations that Benji had to deal with at Jonni Waffle.

 

During his time at Jonni Waffle, Benji also grows further away from Reggie.  I realized this more towards the end of the chapter when I thought 'Reggie wasn't mentioned much.'  I believe that Benji and Reggie having different jobs "pulls" them apart a little.  Benji is meeting new and different friends, and even a girl whom he likes.  He doesn't seem to hang out with his other friends as much anymore.  He works with NP, but you don't see any of the other friends in this chapter.

 

--Jen--

"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
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kren250
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

I didn't feel that Benji's descriptions were scornful coming from a teen. Seemed like a typical 15 year old's reaction to being stuck behind a counter when he'd rather be out having fun.

 

Yes, I felt that having separate jobs and different schedules probably made Reggie and Benji grow further apart. If they had both been working at the same place, I think we would've seen them growing closer again as the summer went on.

 

I think Benji did grow up a bit from working and having more responsibility.

 

I think Benji decided to mostly ignore the Martine incident, probably because he wanted to keep his job and could risk losing it if he offends Martine. I think leaving the freezer door open was his sneaky and subtle way of "getting back" at Martine.

 

I don't remember the first time I heard waffle cone. I remember eating them though:-).

 

Kelly

 

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DSaff
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Re: If I could pay you less, I would

[ Edited ]

I think Ben had mixed feelings about the job. He liked having the money, but hated the lack of free time. It was also hard to get everyone together because of job schedules. Ben didn't seem very invested in the job, as shown by his lack of washing his shirt. But, he did love the icecream - at least for that summer. Was he being scornful in his descriptions of the patrons? He seemed to be responding to what he was seeing, so I don't think so. At 15, he was noticing the people who kept him inside. It was like they were responsible for his loss of freedom, yet also responsible for his paycheck. (I remember feeling similar feelings on nice days when I was stuck at the drive-through window. LOL) Ben is growning up without really realizing it, and also drifting from his brother at the same time. Time marches on.

 

I don't think he liked Martine, but didn't want to rock the boat overtly. When he left the freezer doors open, and checked to be sure they wouldn't shut, I thought he was quietly saying, "Take that, Martine!"

 

Message Edited by DSaff on 02-23-2009 08:26 AM
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
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BDonnelly
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

I loved that too!  It was such an accurate description of the negotiations I would have with my Irish twin sister.
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LisaMM80
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

The 'taco pot incident' and the whole Even Steven thing is the kind of stuff that went on growing up in my house with my sister.  There was no fighting about who would do what, it was just an announcement- it's not my turn, that's not my pot, etc.  Loved that part.
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dhaupt
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

[ Edited ]

I don't find Benji's descriptions of the patrons scornful, I remember from my first job as a teenager using similar things to describe certain patrons as well, I think it just helps you get thru the boring day of working for peanuts.

 

Benji definitely grows further apart from Reggie here, but I think it's just because of time issues and not by choice.

 

I think we all grow up a little from our first job, unless like some of us we didn't show up or didn't do well and couldn't keep one. I think Benji does grow up from his experience and made a good impression on his boss and his peers.

 

As far as the Martine incident goes I don't think Benji thought he had any other choice but to stay out of it.

 

We have a chain of frozen treat places called iggy's and that's the first place I heard of the waffle cone.

 

Message Edited by dhaupt on 02-23-2009 10:01 AM
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booksJT
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

I think Benji's humorous description was his way of making his job easy. He was making up his own characters in his mind.  I think Benji had a wild imagination for a teenager his age. I think he enjoyed making the money but not the time it took  from him to be with his friends. I had a job working for a group called youth in action. We went around cleaning up parks and lots during the summer. 

 

I think Benji grew apart from his brother because they had different jobs. They met different people and there time off was different.  They also wanted differetn things , Benji was working to make sure they had something in the house to eat. 

 

I think most teenagers who have jobs learn to be more responsible with money. They will carry this experience into adulthood. I don't think his relationship with his friends changed that much. I think he did the right thing by not getting involved with the Martine incident. I remember the Carvel chain shops having the waffle cones.

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biljounc63
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

I really don't know what to expect from Benji and his job at this point in the book. He does seem to find the nitch of being an expert waffle maker but he seems to take little pride in his appearance or job. He tries to go as far as he can wearing the dirty uniform to work on a regular basis. I'm surprised that he get's away with it. To me it would turn off customers to see the person making thier treats covered in stains.

Part of the blame goes with the parents again they are out of the picture most of the time. They are not around to ensure that he goes to work in a presentable manner 

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
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thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007

Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

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?

Although I was not working in a youthful minimum-wage job, I was working for nothing for my son, behind the counter, in his gourmet food shop. It doesn't matter what you are paid, many customers tend to treat the person behind the counter rudely. They are often haughty as well. I can only imagine how the white customers treated him.
I think his descriptions were a way to deal with the customers on a daily basis. Otherwise, truthfully, there are times you want to jump over the counter and usher the customer outside, giving them a time out until they learn some manners! Very often you just wanted to shout out "just whom do you think you are?", but you didn't, you just smiled and went on serving and then talked about them when they left to soothe your hurt feelings. The negative, sarcastic comments were a release for me, so maybe that was what it was for him.
twj
 

 

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

rkubie wrote: 

Does Benji grow further away from Reggie at this time?

You know, I thought that it was Reggie who grew further away from Benji. It was Reggie who seemed to do things first. It was Reggie who set out and got the job first. It was Reggie who forged a separate friendship within the group which was separate and apart from Benji. It was Reggie who kept secrets from Benji about his singing and shooting. Benji was often surprised that although he thought they discussed everything together, there were parts of Reggie's life he knew nothing about.
twj
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thewanderingjew
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Registered: ‎12-18-2007

Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would


rkubie wrote:

How did you feel about Benji's staying-out-of-it-attitude to the Martine "incident?

I was surprised by Benji's revenge against Martine. I was surprised that he deliberately sabotaged the freezer and the ice cream. I wondered if his reaction to Martine was exacerbated by the comments of the others about Martine's color, about him not being black, and therefore the offense of patting him on his head seemed far worse.

When I thought back to his dad's reaction to him when he didn't hit the kid in class who made negative inferences, I thought he might have felt he had to do something. In the end, it turns out Martine is black so I wondered how Benji felt then if that was his reason for destroying his stock. He also caused a lot of extra work for his work buddies.

Also as a white person, I would never have thought that patting someone on the head was a negative inference about them being your pet. I would have thought it was a mark of affection. I often pat my own grandchildren on the head. I never think of them as animals. There are so many misunderstandings between races.

twj

 


 

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Bonnie824
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

This chapter certainly brought back memories of my (thank God) brief experience as a waitress and my kids fast food experience stories. I don't know many people who do take care and pride in those jobs- I know I didn't. I wonder if a middle/upper class kid might take these jobs less seriously and feel more overworked, underappreciated than one who had seen his parents work in poorly paid jobs. Trying to get as much as you can (food) and doing as little as you can get by with seems the norm.
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CathyB
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

 

I do not feeel that Ben's desciptions of the customers was scornful. He was a teenager. When I was younger I worked at KFC (it might have still been called Kentucky Fried Chicken at the time - not sure when the name change occurred) for minimum wage. It was a horrible job!!! Like Jonni Waffles, you were allowed to eat the food without paying - with one exception - the chicken - you had to pay for that. I didn't eat any of the food as I did not find it appetizing. When you left for the day/night, you smelled like chicken and grease. Most of the kids I worked with couldn't care less about either the job or the customers. Several of the cashiers intentionally gave the customers the wrong change because they never counted it. The cook mixed the chicken batter incorrectly one day - it was purple and I have no idea how it became that color - and we were forced to serve it. One purple piece and two normal colored pieces.

 

I do believe that Ben and Reggie are maturing at this time. Not necessarily growing apart but learning to cope/exist by oneself. His relationships with his friends change to some extent. They do not spend as much time together.

 

I can not remember the first time I heard of a 'Waffle cone'.

 

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

I don't think Ben's descriptions were scornful.  I think that is exactly how the patrons looked to him from his side of the counter.  I don't think he liked the job, but he needed the money because he and Reggie were running through their food supply too quickly.  I think his descriptions were just a way of getting through the shift.  This reminds me somewhat of my first job experience; waiting tables at Howard Johnson's restaurant.  This job was less than minimum wage because we were supposed to be able to make money from tips. Some of the images of the customers from those days ( that I remember) are pretty much inline with Ben's descriptions. 
"Sow today what you want to reap tomorrow"
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Sassy398
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

   Ah Yes, the first job experience is quite the memorable. Benji really handles himself

   well for being his first time in the work force. Yes, it seems that he and his brother

   are drifting apart, which I can relate, in my family I am the oldest, so I can remember

   getting a job and not spending too much time at home. It appears when teens get

   the taste of the work force along with a weekly pay check, there definately is a

   difference in the maturity department.

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Read-n-Rider
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

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

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READERJANE
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Registered: ‎01-21-2008
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Re: If I Could Pay You Less, I Would

His description of his first job was priceless. I remember mine, it was in a 5 & 10 cent store, and the feeling were the same. T he money was nice but the lack of freedom ! Oh, that one hurt. We felt the same way about the patrons that Benji did and I don't think that it was scornful at all. Just part of a process

 

I think that teens do grow away from siblings and friends when they have their first job. They try to impress the "boss", be grown-up, and feel important. They have money, after all. In many circles, they may be the only ones that do, so they act differently.

 

I felt that the brothers relationship changed, they were both growing up and did it in a different way, the way that most brothers and sisters do.

 

I attributed his "staying out of it with Martine" as part shyness, and part interest in some one else. Although, not flirting took a lot of restraint on his part.


rkubie wrote:

Benji begins a new stage of his life when he steps into a minimum wage position behind the counter of  busy, gourmet, beach-side ice-cream parlor.  The shops feeds him breakfast, lunch and dinner when he's there, and he comes to be a bit of an expert waffle-maker when the tourist busses roll in.  The job also leaves him with a lifelong aversion to sweets.

 

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

 

Does Benji grow further away from Reggie at this time?

 

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

 

How did you feel about Benji's staying-out-of-it-attitude to the Martine "incident?"

 

(We also have another thread starting to address questions that Martine's character and actions give rise to!)

 

Is this sort of gourmet chain-shop a product of the late 1980's? Do you remember the first time you heard of a "Waffle cone?"