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I don’t know about you, but where I lived in the mid-90s, there weren’t many places for a high schooler to get a job, or so I thought, anyway. Close to me was the world’s most perseverant Hardee’s of all time, McDonald’s, a Bruno’s and a Winn-Dixie, the last two both grocery stores.

Well, it just so happened that my best friend, Tra (R.I.P.), was working at the McDonald’s right up the street from my house the summer of 1996. I only remember this because I remember he’d get off work and come through the house, and we’d catch up on the Olympic happenings occurring in Atlanta. We even took off for Atlanta to engage in activities towards the end of the Olympics, which I remember because my sister was working at the Gap at Underground Atlanta for the summer. Good times.

Anyway, at some point during the summer, it dawned on me that I should probably get a job. I didn’t have any money though I wasn’t struggling; at 16 I had access to a car that my dad put gas into; I was set. But you know, all of the homies were working in some capacity and it gets boring waiting for everybody else to get off of work, and I didn’t have any video games or anything. Honestly, when I wasn’t in Michigan or Atlanta, I have no idea what I was doing at home in Madison, Ala., during the summer of 1996.

Since my boy Tra worked at McDonald’s, I figured that I would just go up there and get a job. I also didn’t think it would take much to get a job there. It’s McDonald’s; it’s the great American first job for so many. I figured maybe I’d start out mopping floors, but if I did a good job, then I’d wash lettuce. After that maybe the fryer. And pretty soon after that, assistant manager or something, you know, where the big bucks start to roll in.

So I dropped Tra off for work one day and picked up an application, filled it out, and dropped it off with the night manager when I went to pick him up. And heard nothing for like a week. That’s cool, it’s McDonald’s, they’re busy. Tra told me to call up there and ask for somebody specific. I did and an interview was scheduled. I was on the way to assistant manager!

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On the day of my interview, probably a few days after I called, I made sure to wear my best Chaps polo and khakis. I’m pretty sure I had on some K-Swiss or something real fancy. I was set. I got up there for the interview and the manager sits me down in the back and began an interview that seemed way longer than it needed to be for McDonald’s. We legit talked for almost half an hour.

I remember him asking me about where I thought my talents (no lie) would be best served and I said, without a smile, working the cash register since I like talking to people. Despite being grilled about my ambitions in life (no lie), that ended the interview. He said, “Thanks, and we’ll call you.” They never did call me back. I called up to ask about what happened. Again, to me, it’s McDonald’s. You don’t not get hired at McDonald’s. I mean, Calvin got a damn job at McDonald’s, everybody gets a job at McDonald’s.

When I called, I was told that they didn’t think I was the right person for the job. At McDonald’s. I was not Calvin. I was dumbfounded. Even my dad was confused, which to me, was entirely understandable. My pride and ego took a hit but I’d already got my soul prepared for the fact that I was going to get a job so I went right on over to Sonic and got a job that I kept for a whole-ass three weeks, before eventually ending up working my “high school job” at Papa John’s.

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I’ve spent many moments in life wondering what it all means and largely have come up with nothing. Apparently, I’m not then nor was I ever McDonald’s material. My only disappointment was that at none of my jobs did I ever make it to assistant manager anywhere.

Because that’s when I hear the big bucks roll in.