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Clash of Cultures

When I was 15-16 years old (1983), my mom and step-dad owned a small fast-food restaurant. The building was about the size of a city bus (not that we had city buses to compare it to in my hometown), with all seating outdoors, under a permanent awning. I worked there a few nights a week and some weekends taking orders, running the cash register, and doing some cooking and cleaning as needed. It was my first real job outside of mowing lawns in the summer.

The place was in a completely different community than I was used to. At the time, we lived in an essentially all white subdivision outside of town (in the county, surrounded by farm land). The restaurant was in an all black inner city neighborhood — I was the only white boy within a couple of miles when working at the restaurant.

The restaurant patrons were the hundreds of black boys, girls, men, women, and families living around the location. As the token white boy in the neighborhood when I was working, I got attention that I never got anywhere else in my life. To some of the locals I was a despised outsider, and to others I was an intriguing curiosity. As an inexperienced 15-year-old, I didn’t know how to handle either reaction.

Where I went to high school (in the county) was well mixed racially — I always thought it was a 50/50 white-to-black ratio, but I later came to learn it was really around 70/30 white-to-black numbers. But school had a culture I was used to.

When I worked at the Chick-a-burger, (as the hamburger stand was named — it served primarily fried chicken and hamburgers), I saw a whole different culture — the 80s small-town inner city culture. I saw one or two classmates from my middle school days in the neighborhood, but I don’t know if they recognized me. I was in a stranger in a strange land.

I have a few stories to tell about my experiences during my many months working at the Chick-a-burger. Some may be offensive, but that’s not my intention. They’re all true, but admittedly, the truth is from my point of view — the POV of a skinny white teenager of the 1980s.

Continued: Clash of Cultures – Flirting


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