A REAL CONVERSATION WITH A BMORE TEEN

Pope Ron Swanson

Hello CTB Family,

Your friendly neighborhood self-appointed Bishop here.  In my line of work I spend a considerable amount of time with the youth of Baltimore…which terrifies me for the future of our city.  Below I offer you a sample of a typical conversation.

The following story is true…some details have been changed to protect the innocent kid.

Enjoy.

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The sweaty nineteen-year-old careened through the open door and crashed onto the couch in my office. Reflexively he shoved his hand into the candy jar on the coffee table and retrieved a monstrous amount of Skittles. “Hey Bishop,” the boy said out of breath, “I need ten dollars.” He slammed the entire handful of candy in his mouth and began munching.

I sat at his desk typing on my laptop. My back was to the teen, but I didn’t need to turn to know it was Bernard. The boy had a signature way of entering a room. “Mr. Johnson,” I greeted the boy without looking up. “What do you need ten dollars for?”

“You see, my friend Matty got me this awesome job. It’s going to pay like two hundred bucks an hour. All I have to do is hose down buses at the end of the day.” Bernard paused to pick the remnants of a Skittle from one of his molars. “It’s going to be like super easy.”

I continued to type. “There is no way anyone is going to pay you two hundred dollars an hour to hose down buses.”

“I know right?” the teen affirmed in excited disbelief, “It’s crazy. Matty said when the jobs come open they get snatched up super-fast ‘cause of the high pay. I mean you are supposed to like go through each seat with a trash bag and like wear a big white suit with these rubber gloves. But Matty said all his sister would do when she worked there was just spray the inside of the bus down and wash all the stuff to the back. It totally took her like an hour to do and BAM! Two hundred bucks.”

“So this person, Matty? He told you they were going to pay you a huge amount of money for doing a half-ass job?”

“I know right? I’m tellin’ ya. It’s crazy. That’s why I need the ten dollars.”

I swiveled in his chair to face the teen. “What about your job at Wendy’s?”

“Oh, I got out of there. You see, what happened was, I was working the assembly station. You know, where you put all the crap together and wrap it.” Bernard took another heaping handful of Skittles and crammed them into his mouth. “And Tony was at the cooking station. And he went to pick up a patty and hand it to me, but he dropped it on the floor because it was hot. But then he totally tried to pick it back up off the floor. Off the floor, Mr. Bishop. Off. The. Floor. And he totally tried to hand it to me to put in somebody’s hamburger. Off the floor! I mean, that’s disgustin’ ‘cause I wash those floors, so I know how gross they are. So I took the patty from him, but then threw it back on the floor. And I squished it all dramatic like with my boot. And I looked at him in the eye. You know? Like you tell me to do.” Bernard sat up straight and mimicked my voice. “Always look people in the eye when you speak to them.” Then the teen returned to his slouch. “And I was like, ‘You can’t serve shit you dropped on the floor! It was ON THE FLOOR!’ Have some standards, right?”

“Tony is your manager?”

“I know right? I mean he of all people should know better. But he was all like, ‘You can’t talk that way to me.’ And I was all like, ‘You’re the one trying to serve messed up shit.’ And so then I like scrapped some of the patty off the floor with my fingers and showed it to the people in line and was like, ‘This is what the manager over there wants to feed you.’”

“Wow,” I said completely amazed by the insanity of Bernard’s behavior.

“I know right? And Tony was all like, ‘Get out! I don’t want to see your face here again!’ And so I left and there is no way I’m going back.”

“Huh.”

“I know right? So I wouldn’t go back and eat there ‘cause they ain’t got no standards or nothin’.”

“So who is Matty?” I said leaning back in my chair.

“Matty lives below me.” Bernard took another massive handful of Skittles. “He’s the cab driver that’s been giving me rides to school. This job is going to be awesome. He is totally hookin’ me up.”

“Is Matty a supervisor there?”

“No,” Bernard said confused and frustrated by Tim’s apparent ignorance. “He drives a cab.  You need to listen better Mr. Bishop.”

“How is a cab driver going to hook you up with a bus job?”

“His sister used to work there but she is going to quit today and give me her job ‘cause she’s like crazy pregnant and needs to have her baby and stuff.”

“So what is the ten dollars for?”

“I need to get lunch before I go out there ‘cause I don’t want to go to work on my first day on an empty stomach. ‘Cause you know how I get all cranky when I haven’t got food in my belly. But I’ll totally pay you back after I get paid today.” Bernard again reached into the candy jar and stuffed his mouth. “You think they’ll pay me in cash? Wendy’s was always givin’ me checks. I hate checks ‘cause I have to go to the bank and stuff.”

I sat quietly in thought. I looked at the clock on the back wall. My next appointment wasn’t for an hour and a half. The project I was working on wasn’t urgent. It was lunch time.

I stood and removed my jacket from the back of my chair. “Come on. Let’s walk to Subway. I’ll buy you a sub and you can fill me in how school is going.”

Bernard sprang from the couch. “Awesome. Does it have to be Subway though? You know their meatballs give me gas somethin’ fierce. And nobody wants that. ”

“I know right?” I said with a grin.

  • SixNipples

    Very interesting. I am glad you hooked the kid up with lunch. I totally thought he was going to say that the $10 was some kind of fee for the job or something you’d be able to use as a teachable moment about these oft-rumored high-paying, low-skilled jobs.

    Would love to get a follow-up after his first day on the job and the $200/hr for washing buses.

  • leftwingcon

    So was the bus job legit? No way anyone gets that much for cleaning busses that way. I wonder if the chick that was giving him the job was turning tricks in them at night. She got preggers somehow…

  • The bus job was not legit. Like most to-good-to-be-true schemes it was highly exaggerated.

  • Great slice of life story.