I never had what most would think of as a summer job when I was a teenager. I mowed enough yards to fill Neyland Stadium with grass cuttings, but I never had to report anywhere on time and complete tasks under a watchful eye everyday.

I don’t think I ever even contemplated a summer job. I don’t remember filling out any applications, and I certainly wasn’t a member of a family where you could be handed a job as a favor to someone.

I did know other teenagers who had jobs and while they had more money than I did, I didn’t really envy them having to bag groceries or take people’s orders in restaurants. I know, a job at such a young age helps with personal growth, teaches responsibility, how to manage time and so on. Trust me, mowing yards for perpetually unhappy 70-year-old widowed women will teach you a lot of those things, along with how they think $5 is a huge amount of money.

Believe me, even in 1982 $5 was nothing to get excited about.

A story on the Forbes magazine website recently bemoaned the fact that teens aren’t doing any kind of work anymore. Apparently, in 2000 around 8.1 million teens had jobs while in the summer of 2017 only 5.7 million were punching a time clock. Why are 2.5 million less teens working even though there are more of them than in 2000?

Believe it or not, the main reason seems to be that summers are much shorter, school wise, than they used to be. Back in our day, you’d get out school around May 20, maybe a few days later if it’d been a snowy winter, and not go back until the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Now they get out around the same time, but they’re back in school anywhere from Aug. 3-8. That’s basically a two-month summer. I realize they get more time off during the year (I wouldn’t have known what a fall break was and spring break was the Friday before Easter), but if they’d tried a schedule like ‘70s or ‘80s, we’d have rioted in the streets.

Go back to school at the start of August? Don war paint and hunt down school board members!

Other reasons for no summer jobs include having to go to summer school, doing volunteer work that will help with college applications and even unpaid internships to give them a foot up in the real world.

For the kids that are still grinding it out in the summer, hotels and restaurants are where they head while working in stores is becoming an almost non-existent trade. I’d guess this is because family-owned stores, where most of those jobs were held, are going the way of the Dodo bird.

Which is kind of sad, because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing the most popular guy in school looking totally humiliated as he bags your mother’s groceries, while you stand there smirking (unintentionally, I assure you), then loading them into the family car while you stand off to the side.

Granted, his daddy-bought car was much better and newer than the one your mother drove, but he was, by proxy, having to work for one of the biggest losers in school and he HATED it!

Ah, memories.

But I digress. Of course, we can’t let the parents get away without any blame. As you know, everybody in my generation, and before, was driven relentlessly by our parents while this generation is babied and coddled and allowed to sit inside and play video games all summer. It’s true. Look it up.

We had our distractions way back when, but at last we had to leave the house and go to the arcade to play video games. Now they just kick back in front of a 65-inch TV screen and play while in their pajamas, pajamas they wear to the store, by the way, where they stand off to the side, sulking, while mom bags her own groceries.

Does not working during the summer hurt teenagers? Probably not. You’ve got your entire life to work a thankless job. What difference does it make if you start at 18 instead of 16?

But if you think it’s a problem, see if you can find a cranky old woman who hasn’t been assimilated by the grown men pulling three giant mowers on a trailer behind them, and have her hire a teenager to spend three hours mowing her giant yard and then hand them a $5 bill while looking like she expects change.

That kind of experience will straighten out a lot in a person.

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