I got a job at the Jewel Food Store as a bag boy when I turned sixteen. I still remember my first day on the job. It was a Saturday and it was busy. It seemed that the line of shoppers at the checkout aisle would never go away and their whining would never stop.
"Double bag that young man. Make sure you don't put those eggs on the bottom. Don't mix the meat with the soaps. That's not my corn, get that out of there."
"Would you like me to help you to your car ma'am?", I'd cheerily ask every customer, hoping the answer would be yes. It gave me a little break in the drudgery of shoving groceries into paper bags. It didn't bother me that there were large signs all over the parking lot that said, "No Tipping The Bag Boys". I was just happy to get out into the fresh air. On those rare occasions that a customer would try to tip me, I'd tell them that I couldn't possibly take a tip, that It was my pleasure to help them as I slyly palmed the quarter they proffered. There was one lady who drove a gigantic pink automobile. It was generally understood that she was the richest woman in town and she tipped the bag boy every time, one dollar. A bag boy's hourly wage was one dollar and twenty five cents, so when the pink car lady would show up, the bag boys would literally shove each other out of the way trying to bag her groceries.
Twenty five years ago, when I first moved to the town I live in now, I started patronizing the Publix Super Market a few blocks away. It was very much like the old Jewel I used to work in as a kid, right down to the pimply faced teenage boys bagging groceries. Lately, when I go up to the Publix, I've noticed that there are no teenage boys bagging groceries anymore. Not even a teenage girl. All the people bagging are old, some older than me. I'm not sure exactly when it all flipped, when jobs that were traditionally for teenagers became jobs for old folks, but I'm just about to turn sixty five and I'm scared. Is that my future? Is that how I'll be making up for the income that I will lose as of next year? I might have to be a pimply faced grocery bagger again. One thing had better have improved since 1966. The tip had better be bigger or the eggs are going on the bottom.