Just Talking Shop

Susan, Alicia, and David all plan to do something after high school. But what? How do they know what the right decision is?

Alicia considers a job offer and then meets Susan at the Bowl-o-rama.

I never get to see Susan any more. She’s kind of zoned out this year, off doing whatever. And maybe I’m busier, too. But I miss her. She was the first friend I made after moving here, you know? I hate thinking that we’ll lose touch after we graduate. Who’ll I go to for advice then? Cuz that’s what I need. I just don’t know what to do.

Alicia works at a shoe store.

See, my boss Megan offered me a promotion. A big one. I couldn’t believe it. I was stocking the shelves, making sure each box matched the shoes it held and keeping an eye out for any customers, when she plopped down on the fitting stool and said, “Alicia, we need to talk.” Are there any scarier words?

So I sat down on the other fitting stool, and she smiled. She’s pretty cool. I mean, she’s twenty-three and she invited me over to her apartment once. Anyway, I wasn’t too nervous. I know I do a good job; I don’t slack off too much and I never take advantage of the five-finger discount, like some people I know would. So I wasn’t sure what she wanted.

And then she laid it all out. She’s moving up to regional manager, which means she’ll be traveling to all the stores in the region, making sure their displays look right, and checking the books, making sure they’re making money. All that stuff. She even gets paid for mileage, so she’ll be able to buy a new car! So, she told me that, and I’m thinking, that’s great, but what’s that got to do with me? And then she said it.

“I think you should apply to be the new assistant manager. I can pretty much promise you you’ll get it, based on my recommendation.” I couldn’t get this silly smile off my face. I mean, assistant store manager? That’s got to be good money.

“But I’m still in high school, Megan.”

She brushed that off. “I know, and at first we’d both have to juggle things a bit. I’d stay to transition you, showing you the ropes nights and weekends, and then once you graduate, you’d take over fulltime.”

I felt like I’d won the lottery, struck it rich out of the blue. I mean, the money would make a huge difference to my family. Maybe we could finally get a better place. But there was a part of me that didn’t want to say yes right away. “I don’t know, Megan. I’m not sure this is what I want to do with my life.”

She smiled at me. “But you’re good at this! I’ve seen you handle the books, deal with all those crazy customers, and you’ve got a great eye for display!” She was thinking of my latest window art, where I’d taken mannequins’ legs and suspended them from the ceiling, all wearing high heels and flaring skirts. I’ve been working with neon tubing, so I made the background black and set up waves of neon. It looks really cool. People actually come into the store to talk about it. “Yours was the first name that popped into my head when they asked about a replacement. Really, the only name.”

That was so cool. I mean, I could graduate and start making money right away, maybe buy a car instead of bumming rides all the time. And I wouldn’t have to give up doing art; I could always take classes at night, right?


Click here to watch Alicia talk about her art. (dialup OR broadband)

See Alicia’s portrait of Susan below:

So I called Susan. “Girl, I need your help. Wanna go bowling?” That’s kind of a code between us. When we were ninth graders we both liked the same guy, Richard Boles, and we used to talk about him by talking about how much we loved bowling. I think it was her mom who overheard us and thought we were serious and signed us up for a league. We thought that was hilarious – and then it turned out Richard liked to bowl and we started talking and one thing led to another. I never told Susan about Richard wanting to hook up with me, just kind of dropped the bowling league for a while. Now we only go bowling when something’s up. When we need to talk. After all, friends come first, right?

And she’s there for me, just like that, just like she’s always been, sitting in the same old spot.


Click here to watch Alicia and Susan at the bowling alley. (dialup OR broadband)

Meanwhile, David finally tells his father he may not want to work in his dad’s auto repair shop.

David’s not so sure he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.

It’s a slow day today, not much goin’ on. Maybe it’s the rain, but we’ve had two no-shows this morning and not much stop-in traffic. It kills us when people don’t show up when they’re supposed to. Dad’s usually pretty quiet, not really the talkative type, but he goes off about that, how it costs him money when people don’t drop their car off after making an appointment, cuz he’s still got to pay the salary of his technician. And then he finishes, “Pay attention, David. This shop is gonna be yours someday. You’ll have to deal with it.”

Nobody gave my dad nuthin’ when he was growing up. But he went to trade school in high school and worked in a shop with a guy who really helped him get started on his own. Taught him how to run a business. Dad’s got his own shop now, three bays, and it does real good. I’ve been working here since I was a little kid. It’s pretty cool, I guess. I know a lot about cars.

Everybody thinks I’ll end up doing the same stuff Dad does, working with him and taking over when he’s ready to retire. Most days, that sounds pretty good to me, but sometimes I just want a change. I’ve lived here all my life.

I don’t look at my dad when he reminds me about the shop being mine someday. But finally I say what I’ve been thinking. “I don’t know, Dad. Maybe I’ll do something else for a while. Travel or something.”

Dad doesn’t respond at first, but then he turns around, real slow, and looks right at me, hard. I think he’s trying to figure out just how serious I am. And then he grins, deciding I must be joking. “We’ve got everything we need right here,” he says. “Why would you want to go anywhere else? Besides Nashville. Now there’s a town.”

Dad loves country music. He used to take us to Dollywood every summer and he can argue about Faith Hill versus Shania Twain better than anyone. He definitely does not get hip-hop. On Saturdays, I sometimes turn on “Car Talk” on NPR. Those two brothers make fixing cars hilarious. But my dad, he hates them, just doesn’t get them. Says they wouldn’t last a minute in a real shop like his. He always makes me change the station.

“I’m not kidding, Dad,” I suddenly am ready to face him on this. “I don’t think I want to work in the shop fulltime. Not right after graduation.”

“What do you mean?” Dad’s mad now. “Do you realize what an opportunity I’m handing you? All the work I done? And you don’t want it?” His mouth is twitching, just a little bit, as he finishes. “Hell, you could drop out now and start here, making good money. You know that.”

“Dad,” I can’t believe he’s suggesting that. “I gotta graduate!” I hate school as much as anyway. But not finish? “I might even want to go to tech school.”

“School?” Dad’s voice is real loud now. The other technician gives us a look, drops what he’s doing, and backs out the side door. “What do you need more school for?”

“I don’t know. I just thought I could get more training, be a better technician.”

“I can teach you everything you need to know. Right here.” Dad spreads his hands. “You know that.”

“But I don’t want to be here!” The words burst from me. Dad just looks at me, stunned. “I been here my whole life,” I add, almost like I’m sorry.

Dad starts wiping his hands. He’s quiet now, too. “You want out of here that bad?”

I nod.

Jimmy used to work for David’s dad.

He looks like I just punched him or something. “And who’s gonna pay for that, I wonder.” He reaches for the keys to his ’68 Mustang, the car he’s been restoring as long as I can remember. He never drives it anywhere. All these crazy thoughts rush through my head: Is he gonna drive it off a cliff? Sell it? Give it to me?

But he surprises me. “I’m goin’ to see Jimmy,” he says. And he leaves, just like that.

Jimmy used to work here part time, back when he was in high school, and he and Dad hit it off real good. He’s kind of the son Dad always dreamed of. Jimmy went to tech school, though, and Dad couldn’t afford to hire him, so now Jimmy works for the BMW dealership and makes a ton of money. Jimmy still comes by to help Dad out, though. I wonder what he’ll say to him.


Click here to see Jimmy talk about his background and offer advice to David’s dad. (dialup  OR broadband)

If you don’t know what you want to do, why should you go to college? Dr. Friedman, President of Piedmont Virginia Community College, offers some advice.


Click here to watch Dr. Friedman talk about how going to school can help you figure out what you want to do. (dialup  OR broadband)

Check out these Websites to help decide if it makes sense for you to go to college or a vocational school after graduation.

A College Education Enhances Earning Potential

Why Get A College Degree? Knowledge, Skills and More Opportunities

7 Excuses Why Not To Go To College…And Why They Are Lame

Taking Time Off After High School

Why Go To College: Can’t I Get A Good Job Now?

Why Go To College: Start A New Chapter