Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • I lied about my age to get a job as a dishwasher at the Howard Johnson's restaurant on Keele. The job included bussing tables, fryolator backup, salad and sauce prep, changing the specials on the high sign outside, restroom checks, trash, and grease trap. I was paid minimum restaurant wage, a meal per shift, and no one said anything about slowing down on the burgundy cherry ice cream. Tips were promised.

    My parents wondered why I was doing it. They thought I should be focusing on school. But I wanted to go to concerts and wear cooler clothes, not the standard issue of our cautious immigrant compact.

    After a couple of paycheck sprees—Marley ticket, Ultravox record, 501s—it got weird. Every time I'd reach for money in my pocket, I'd catch a whiff off my hands of that horrific trap. A smell that would never quite go away by the time I was heading for the next long shift under the orange roof.

    Pretty soon, "want it>get it" had become "want it>is it worth the grease>forget it." It was a habit that, combined with my parents' homespun matching grant program, got me through school and to a time and place where there's very little worth buying and lots of good work to do.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.