My mom put in a hard 18 years of parenting before I became an adult (in Texas that’s 17 according to the justice system). I don’t discount the work and stress my dad endured but in a traditional conservative family with a stay-at-home mom, the mom does most of the child rearing while the dad brings home the bacon (and the discipline. One of the Mom-isms that I remember the most from the early days is “just wait until your dad gets home!). I don’t have kids but I have to guess that by the time the young-uns get close to the end of their high school career, the highly contagious disease of senioritis spreads from the parented to the parentor pretty quick.
After I graduated high school, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to be. In my youth I decided on fighter jet pilot and it was time to make that happen (if it was meant to be). My home town has two colleges. One is a UT branch campus and the other is a Junior College with a student population of over 10,000 (which is pretty large for Ju-Co), a Greek system, dormitories, and even an athletics program with football and basketball teams. I took my first class the year I turned 18 and started thinking about what four year college I wanted to apply to. Yup, I said, “college”…singular. That’s not a typo…I was of the mindset that I would just pick one institution and go there, not because I was a great student, but more because I wasn’t putting a whole lot of thought into the logistics of setting up my future. Like I said…I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to be much less a plan for how to get there, wherever there was. As you probably guessed, I wasn’t stressing out over it too much either; not my style. My mom, knowing that I love airplanes, suggests that I consider Louisiana State University because they had a flight training program where you could also study an academic discipline as a backup (she was very faithful in the way that she lived and raised her kids but she was also big on backup plans). If I take her advice, I could go straight out of college into the air force as an officer. That’s a bad-ass career path for anyone raised to take risk, which the Naleid kids were.
My family was middle class and fairly modest in the way we spent money. I was fortunate that I had parents to house and feed me, an adequate level of wealth to provide all of the basic needs that could be bought, and a high quality junior college nearby where I could knock out some course credits at a leisurely pace. What we didn’t have though was nice cars. Our driveway was accustomed to old Suburbans, station wagons and pickup trucks. My friends had cool sports cars when they turned 16, Camaros and Mustangs, a Supra, a 300ZX and a 240SX. Not brand new but way newer than my 1979 GMC Heavy Half pick ’em up truck. So when I turned 19, I really wanted a nice new car. I was working at the Lobster Shack as a server because the country club didn’t have any openings when I got bored with the bus boy job. Those positions were highly coveted and the club servers had all been there for years, if not decades. The Shack was a better deal anyways because 1) there were more people my own age which made it fun, and 2) it’s good to move on after a few years to keep things fresh. Working 20 hours per week during the school year and 40 during the summers, I had saved up $9K which paid for more than half of a brand new mustang. I almost got the limited GTS model which was only $2k more, a steal for young men 25 and up, but for a 19 year old male, the insurance premium was just too high because of the V8, so I settled on the base model.
Soon after I bought the car, I heard that my dad’s brother was planning a trip to Texas from the mid-west. He and my dad are really big into hunting and Texas is a great place for that. A couple years earlier, my dad had joined the No Skill Deer Club in West Texas just north of the Hill Country which had lots and lots of big bucks with 10 point and up sized racks, making it easy to come home a hero with a nice trophy, regardless of your experience level…hence the name. Uncle Tom would arrive in the evening and the next day, they’d begin the trek out to the brush country of Concho County in Dad’s, late model 4×4 pickup. Since I had work that day, I wouldn’t be around when they got back from the airport. Working in food service at that age is cool because people generally get along well, hang out together, throw parties, socialize and just have lots of fun. In general, I also got along well with my managers because they were pretty cool for older people and I had a good reputation for selling lots of add-ons (drinks and appetizers) which is something that the company tracked and held contests on a regular basis to boost sales. But when I first started, there were two managers that no one got along with because they had a terroristic attitude which put everybody on edge. They had a habit of randomly yelling at employees, so somebody drew up a petition that we all signed and they got transferred to a different town. After that everything was cool…until one Friday…when some stuff went down.
In high school, my friends and I had a party place down on the river. It was an old ghost town that had been an industrial hotbed back when the shipping industry was controlled by actual ships traveling up and down the Sabine. The hey day of our party phase was senior year, but the occasional get-together continued after that, and this particular Friday the party was on. Yup, our teenage hangouts involved drinking (for better or for worse, that happens). Smith county was “dry” which means that no alcohol could be sold inside county lines except at private clubs like restaurants and dance halls. The next county over was “wet” so grownups and teenagers with fake id’s drove to the county line to re-stock the liquor cabinet or prep for the weekend festivities. This is a tradition that we called “Goin’ to The Line”. Once you crossed the line, there were beer and liquor stores as far as the eye could see. This was the local industry for most Texas wet counties that bordered the dry ones. Other than the booze business, neighboring cities didn’t really have anything else going on, economically. The staple of the teenage party is the beer keg and sometimes we tapped two different brews simultaneously. The party on this day however was a smaller one, so a keg was not needed. We kept it simple and went with ordinary canned beer. Maybe simple is not the right word because everybody wanted something different which means going to the line was a huge pain. You had to put in your individual order with the guy with the fake id, get him the money, then figure out a way to get your stuff if you weren’t going to the same party, and you can forget about getting back change. I planned on meeting up with our guy and the rest of the crew after work that night and had put in my order early in the week, so by Friday it had all been taken care of. I appear in the kitchen in my black slacks and white long sleeve dress shirt and black bow tie. Mom reminds me that Dad is picking Uncle Tom up from the airport (My work shirts were always freshly ironed and smelled like a fresh spring day, courtesy of non-other than…Mom. My work friends who had already left the nest thought this was funny. But, I looked forward to the jokes because, thanks to mom, I had my own unique thing in the group). As I bail out the back door, Mom reminds that, despite the weekend, I needed to stop in later to say hello to Uncle Tom since they’re leaving for West Texas the following afternoon. “Cool. Later”, I said. The detour meant I wouldn’t get to the party until at least midnight but, no biggie because there was a cabin, so we had a place to crash for the night; no need to drive anywhere.
When I got to work, the business was starting to stack up like a typical Friday night. Only two hours in, we were slammed. Not long after all sections filled up, our manager ran into the service area from the dining room having a conniption fit. He was yelling and wanted to know who had table 19. I said it was mine and “what’s the problem?”. I was confused because I had just brought out the couple’s food in a timely manner. Apparently, the hostess had forgotten to give them silverware and I was in the weeds so hadn’t noticed that they didn’t have it, plus I used my boiler plate question for all my tables when I dropped off their order, “Can, I get you anything else?”. Without looking at me, they had curtly replied “No”. The manager accosted me as they believed that they were being discriminated against because of their race and, ordered me to “go out there and kiss some b____ Ass”. I objected saying, “But, I didn’t notice about the silverware. I didn’t do anything wrong”. He got even madder and threatened me with termination. I was offended so refused his irreverent demands. Then, he says, “You’re going home!”. I say, “Ok, Good!”. He yells, “That’s it, you’re terminated.” I’m like, “Fine, whatever”. He goes, “right now!”. I finish with, “I’m outta here”, drop my bank on the counter throw my apron on the ground and walk out. It’s only 7PM so it’s not even dark yet.
Awesome! It’s Friday. I ain’t got no job. I ain’t got nuthin’ to do….I’m fixin to paaaarrrrtaaay. I call up my guy and tell him, “hey man I got off early let’s meet up so I can get my stuff”. I roll over to the south east side in the stang, pick up my case of beer and throw it in the trunk. Then I re-direct towards home with my system thumpin’ so I can change out of the monkey suit and head out early for a proper Friday night. When I get to the house, I hit the remote and I pull into the garage. I had a pretty decent system in my car with dual 10″s in the trunk running off a 250 watt, bridged, Alpine amp (according to my dad, my neighbors always knew when I was rollin’ up). I was allowed to keep the car in the garage which was strange because my mom was a notorious pack rat. Ever since I can remember, the garage was for storage. Cars never went in there. This was Mom’s territory and nobody, not even my dad, tried to plant their flag there. When I got the new mustang, for the first time in my life, she cleared out half of the garage. I didn’t even ask, she just did it. It goes to show that there are a lot of things previously ruled impossible that moms will do if they decide to. As I pull in to the tune of some hip hop or alternative rock (alternative can thump too) the door to the house opens, my parents and Uncle Tom are there ready to greet me with big grins on their face, no doubt laughing because they had just predicted my arrival hearing the bass getting louder and louder. Of course it was the sound of the garage door that verified it was indeed my mom’s favorite son making an appearance (the favorite son comment was a “Mom-ism” that she used on a regular basis, in jest, because in reality I was her only son. The joke was doubly clever because of the second context allowing another play on words. When a local boy made it big, usually in sports, he would get the nick-name, “Tyler’s Favorite Son”, like Mom’s former John Tyler high school classmate, Texas Longhorn and Houston Oilers running back, the notorious Earl Campbell, A.K.A. “The Tyler Rose”. I never made it that big, so was never given the honor however, in her own words, Mom dubbed me “My Favorite Son”.
I’ve said it before. My dad was horribly O.C.D. This was because his dad had been the head of a corporate accounting department and whatever gene gave Grandpa Naleid his numbers skills, it was passed on to my dad. Avoiding a career in business and neglecting the genetic urge to balance numbers caused the gene to mutate into a compulsive disorder manifested as a fixation on small details that no normal human being would ever notice, much less bring up in conversation. As I get out of the car, my dad says, “here he is. Speak of the devil!”. Everybody’s all smiles. I greet my uncle in my thick Texas accent, “Hey Uncle Tom, long time no see…blah, blah, blah”. In his unmistakable, thick Midwestern accent, he greets me with, Yeah…heyyy, blah, blah, blah, or whatever. My dad immediately starts in on, “here’s the new stang I was telling you about!” My Uncle comments on how nice it is and no sooner than he gets the last word out (Dad’s disorder had chosen my mustang’s trunk as the object of its latest obsession…the same trunk that had just received a 24 pack payload courtesy of a fresh run to The Line). Dad pipes up, “You gotta see this trunk! Blake, pop the trunk so Tom can see!” Mom is hanging back in the doorway to the house leaning against the door jamb smirking and rolling her eyes. This change in subject catches me totally by surprise because I’m prepared to play the game “Why are you not at work”, not “What’s in the Trunk?”. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so eager to collect my party favors before I actually needed them. My parents were not really “cool” parents and alcohol was forbidden. My mom’s dad had been a drinker and I was raised in the big Baptist church so, they were pretty strict about that. I wasn’t shaken though, so with my poker face on I just hemmed and hawed a little in a subtle yet confident play to deflect the request. “Naaahhhhhhhh. He doesn’t want to see the trunk”, I respond. Everyone is still smiling. Dad’s like, “No, no…really…show him the trunk”. (Turns to Uncle Tom) “You’re not going to believe how small it is!”. And I’m like, “Ahhh….Naaaaaah. It’s not that small” (smile real big, shrug shoulders). The Mom power has started to kick in and she starts to sense that something’s up. She tries to interject in a low voice, “Biiiiill”. Uncle Tom is starting to get a little uncomfortable but plays along. Dad isn’t listening. He persists,”Come on…..pop the trunk! It’s soooooo smaaaaall”. I shrug my shoulders a second time with a smile big enough to keep pace with the brothers Naleid and skillfully reprise my objection with the axiom, “Mmmmm….Naaaaah. You seen one trunk, you’ve seen ’em all”. By now the smiles on our faces couldn’t get any bigger and Uncle Tom is starting to squirm. I can see my mom now, standing up straight with her arms crossed. She has the look on her face which means that the voice is soon to follow. I know what she’s thinking….”The kid is 19. When he crossed the stage in cap and gown, the Mom role went to part time. Whatever he’s got in that trunk….I don’t even want to know”. With partially clenched teeth, the Mom voice issues a decisive warning. “Bill”, she says. “He doesn’t……. want to show him…… the trunk“. Dad hemmed and hawed a little and then acquiesced, disappointed that he missed an opportunity to show off the eighth wonder of the OCD world. It makes me ponder what kind of stuff little Bill showed off to little Tom when they were kids.
Now that the game of “What’s in the Trunk?” has been set aside for the time being, we retire to the living room and chat for a spell. I then excuse myself, change clothes and head out to the party not caring one way or the other if get my job back. Within a few days, the GM calls asking if we could talk. I went down to the Shack and the GM informs me that the hot head manager had not handled the situation well and had been fired. I can’t remember what excuse I gave my parents about why I wasn’t scheduled to work for so long, but whatever it was they bought it (not just that time but the other two times I got fired from the Shack plus the one time I got fired from the country club only to return to work two weeks later). I was enjoying my time off but I had a sweet ride to pay for, so within 7 days I was back in action, selling the hell out of the add-ons…. and no one was the wiser.
So, in the end, I got to partake of a proper party night, Dad and Uncle Tom made it out of Smith county and on to the deer lease, the women got a long break from our mananigans (man shenanigans) and a good time was had by all. Sweeeeeet.