Being a brat means moving around a lot. Too often it means having to leave good friends behind. However, the moves also open opportunities to meet people you would otherwise have missed out on, experience things that would have happened to someone else, somewhere else.
When I was in high school, I had to move from Kingston to Trenton because dad got posted. Dad was happy because it meant he could hang up his teaching hat and put his operational hat back on.
Dad loved aircraft, loved working on them, fixing them. For the past eight years he had been teaching. Communication Air in Clinton, the POET course in Kingston. I think he took solace in the fact that he was preparing so many young servicemen (they were all men in those days, 60s and 70s, I believe) for rewarding careers, but I know he missed working on the aircraft. Trenton was going to change that. He would be working on Boing 707s, Hercules, Buffalo and whatever aircraft came through BAMEO Snags.
It meant I had to leave my high school buddies behind and all the connections I had in Kingston. I was upset.
However, without that move I would never have gotten my job at Times Square Restaurant in Trenton. Now it is the River Brake Cafe.
I loved working at Times Square.
It was owned by a Greek man, Charalampos Christoforatos, but I knew him simply as Bobby Christos. He taught me a lot about business, work ethics, and showing appreciation. Sadly he passed in 2007 and I didn't learn of that until 2018.
I remember sitting at the soda counter, filling out the job application. Bobby then sat with me in the corner booth, beside the restaurant pass-through. I don't recall what was actually said, but I took a liking to him right away. He hired me on the spot and I came back later that day to start working. He guided me through every job he asked me to do.
The job was as a dishwasher, which wasn't very difficult for me to catch onto since I had so much experience doing dishes at home and had done that job at the Amherstview Golf Course in Kingston one summer. He did have a dish washer, but it was more of a sterilizer than a washer. All the dishes had to be cleaned before going in. There was a sink with a sprayer on a long hose that arced up from the tap, leaving the nozzle hanging above the sink.
Scrape any excess food into the garbage can, spray off any residue, load the dishes into a rack, slide the rack into the washer, turn it on, a few minutes later pull the rack out the other side being careful because it was very hot. Let the dishes air-dry, put them away. Easy peazy.
I had to learn everything about the washer. It had a rinsing agent in a bottle that had to be monitored, food traps that had to be cleaned. The top cover had to be kept spotless. When doing pots and pans, and for the weekly grease filters over the stove, a healthy dose of bleach was added to the water.
I skipped school a few times to work the morning shift when his prep cook wasn't available. I am pretty sure my parents didn't know I was doing that. I probably 'forgot' to tell them. I know Bobby appreciated it.
Every Wednesday was grocery day. When I would arrive, the back room would be full of boxes of food. Bobby and I would put it all away, doing some prep like stripping leaves off vegetables and cutting up the ribs with his band-saw.
One Wednesday, when I arrived, Bobby was on the phone. As I walked by he said he would come back in a few minutes and we would do the groceries. I didn't wait for him, I got right at it. By the time he came back, the groceries were all put away. He was amazed I could do that. I wasn't, we had done it together for several weeks and it wasn't a complicated job. It became solely my job after that which was ok with me. The only thing I wasn't allowed to do was run the band-saw. In my years there, he never let me run it. This incident made me wonder about the quality of help he had had before me.
After that, he always called me his "best boy", "Terry," he pronounced it Teddy with his accent, "my best boy." I loved that phrase.
Many years later, about 20, I stopped in for a visit with Bobby, I had my new wife with me. Bobby fairly ran across the restaurant calling "Teddy, my best boy. My best boy." and he hugged me. Such was our relationship.
My wife never forgot that incident. Our dog's name is Teddy. Such is the effect one man, a good man, can have on your life.
So, being a brat means always having to forge new friendships and suffer grieving for those who fall off your path but, sometimes, it is all worthwhile, creating relationships that endure and influence you in positive ways.
I loved growing up a brat. I loved Bobby. Who did you draw inspiration from as you grew up in your brat life? Who took the time to take an interest in you, build you?
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