My very first job was working as a waitress at Farrell’s Ice Cream store in the brand new Brookwood Mall. Birmingham’s first big city story was Rich’s, and at the other end another store called Pizitz.
I could not drive at the time; I was 15 years old. I don’t remember or I wasn’t privy to the reasons I was allowed to work. My mother or father had to drive to the mall to pick me up at 10:00 pm when my shift was over. I learned how to take orders and parse my time between this table and that table. I memorized the menu. In return for very low wages, we were given a free meal on shift of a certain value and I remember the clandestine feeling or ordering a banana fudgeana for my meal rather than something more balanced.
There was a great deal of pride in that bucket of change that I brought home on the nights I worked. I had earned that extra money; I learned to smile through a complaint and not argue or defend myself with a customer. I had watched my mother and grandmother in the kitchen for 15 years at that point, and I could imitate what I saw. At my house, the cooks, not the patrons, were always right and mostly they were.
Learning how to negotiate with people who were not related seemed easier to me. The bruises and bumps of the past seemed easier to ignore. Those ghosts of arguments past were not clinging to my sense of being right. Plus there was currency involved. I could be wrong for a tip.
The job never had a chance to get too old because my grades began to slip and I began to gripe and complain about getting up in the morning. So for one Christmas in 1974, I was flush with cash and the luxury of being able to spend it on gifts. My brother got a skateboard and a blue jean jacket for Christmas. I was thrilled with the new mall and my newfound wealth