Questionable Math

MOM, CAN YOU HELP ME WITH MY HOMEWORK? Eli has been pretty self-sufficient since starting middle school a few weeks ago, but he needed a little assist with his math last night. He started reading aloud:

"Ryan earns a paycheck of $52 per day at Bob's Burger World. Complete the table to show how much he earns depending on how many hours he works." When you do the math, it comes out to $6.50 per hour. 

Then my HR head exploded because of everything that's wrong with this scenario.

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First of all: $6.50 is below the federal minimum wage (not to mention many localities, which mandate a minimum wage higher than the federal rate). Granted, if Ryan is below a certain age, he may be paid something less than minimum for a brief initial period on the job, but otherwise, NO. It doesn't say if he's waiting tables and earning tips, so we have to assume he's in the back doing food prep or dishes or something. 

But the worksheet says Curriculum 2.0, which ought to mean this question is not one from 20 years ago, when $6.50 would have been a damn fine wage for our boy to be flipping burgers.

Second of all, his paycheck isn't $52. He does not bring home $52. Even if he earns less than would require him to pay federal and state taxes this year, he still owes social security and medicare.  On $52, his share is $3.98, so his best-case, net actual paycheck is actually $48.02. 

Unless Bob is paying him cash under the table. (Bad, bad Bob.)

Third of all, this table goes from 1-8 hours then jumps to 12. TWELVE HOURS? How old is Ryan? Do child labor laws apply here? If so, is this during the school year, or a summer job? Does he need a work permit? Furthermore, is this 12-hour day on top of 32 hours already worked in the week? If so, Ryan needs to be paid time-and-a-half for the last 4 hours on that 12 hour day. 

I'm also wondering if Bob charges Ryan for meals, or the logo tee-shirt he's required to wear. I start to get annoyed with Bob. I wonder if Bob could use an HR consultant to help him stay in compliance with employment laws. After all, it's complicated running a business.

This is where my HR mind goes, and even more so since I sat through three days of payroll training last week. But I forced myself to set all of those questions aside, since that really wasn't in the spirit of the homework problem.

Until the next question:

"If Ryan needs to earn $390 to buy an iPad, how many hours would he need to work?"

Well, you know they want you to divide his sub-minimum hourly rate into the total of $390. But that's not really the case, is it? First of all, if Ryan buys the iPad in Maryland, he's going to pay 6% sales tax, so he actually pays $413.40. More, if he agrees to purchase the extended warranty they'll try to sell him. You know he's also going to want a cover for it, and maybe a screen saver. And, he doesn't NET $6.50 in his paycheck. Let's say his hourly rate after required taxes is actually $6.00. So instead of 60 hours, it's actually going to to take closer to 70 hours. Unless Bob has him working 12 hour days, and is paying him time-and-a-half for hours in excess of 40 per week. Or he's earning tips. Or….

MOM! STOP! Eli was becoming exasperated. So we went to the next question, wherein Ryan got a raise of $2.50 per hour, and now how much does he earn in an 8-hour workday? 

Well, at least now Bob is complying with minimum wage law! He'll gross $72, but net only $66.49. Because taxes.

I'm starting to feel bad for Ryan. I bet Bob never even had him fill out tax withholding forms, or checked his work authorization. I wish Ryan would look for another job, with a reputable employer, who pays above minimum wage and appreciates Ryan for his work ethic and attention to detail. After all, he's been slaving away in that hot kitchen for months, and yes, he got a raise, but that's probably only because someone called out Bob on that minimum wage thing and he wanted to avoid a wage and hour audit.

Eli rolls his eyes at me and finishes his homework. He doesn't understand all these questions I've been asking, and thank goodness for that. He's still in middle school. He has a few years before these problems jump off the worksheet and into his actual life.

 

 

EEWWWWWUHHH!

When you are five minutes from leaving the house on the morning after a three-day weekend, the last thing you want to hear from the kitchen is

EEEEEWWWWWWWUH!!!! OH! GROSS!!!!! OMIGOD!!!!!

But that’s what I heard Ross say, and when I approached the room to see what was going on, Eli turned to face me, looking stunned, and blinked.

“The cat food exploded,” he said, with that calm voice one uses when one is shocked, and started walking slowly towards me, zombie-like.

As he got closer, my nose detected a powerful stench, so strong I immediately gagged. (This is not unusual for me. I sometimes gag a little bit when I open a normal can of cat food. I invariably get a little bit on my hands and that often sets me off. I also gag when cleaning up cat puke (who wouldn’t?), and I can be counted upon to sympathy-retch if I’m around anyone who is throwing up.)

This was among the worst smells I have ever experienced. It was as bad as a heavily-used porta-john on a warm day. It was at least as bad as the time Mac the dog left runny shits all over the living room carpet. It was even worse than when Chuckie (our old cat) got stuck in the hall closet and sprayed cat diarrhea all over everything (I got rid of the closet’s contents). It was worse than a smelly dumpster in a city alley frequented by guys who piss there. It was as bad as ripe roadkill.

I say all of this without hyperbole. It was really, really, really awful. I cannot overstate how horrible the smell was. From a three-ounce can of cat food gone bad.

Poor Eli: A glob of rotten spoiled cat food projectile landed right on his sweet cheek. And it was on his hands, and his shirt. I walked him to the bathroom, turned on the shower, said HAND ME YOUR SHIRT through my gags, and said, scrub yourself good, son. Slowly and silently, he obliged.

I yelled for Ross to grab the offending can and take it outside. (I knew I wouldn’t be able to get that close to it.) I ran Eli’s soiled shirt to the laundry room and set it to soak. I found a can of air freshener and sprayed it all over the kitchen, then tied a bandana around my nose, bandit-style. Thus protected, I donned rubber gloves and literally Clorox-sprayed the shit out of the scene of the explosion. I sprayed even more air freshener.

Then, I fed the cats. Uneventfully. Just the normal level of grossness one expects with a can of feline “pate.”

Eli got out of the shower, put on fresh clothes, and doused himself in Axe body spray. I told him in all the years I’ve had cats, that has never ever happened to me, and apologized for such a nasty thing to have happened to him!

Having missed the school bus, I said, no worries, I’ll drive you to school. As we got into the car, he announced, I’m NEVER feeding the cats again. And you know what? I will honor that. I don’t blame him. I think he earned a lifetime exemption from that chore.

Off they go (or not)

Ah, August. It's the time of year when many parents deliver their offspring to college. After four years of running the high school gauntlet – get the grades, take the AP classes, participate in extracurriculars, rack up the volunteer hours, collect the honors – your sweet baby child is suddenly all grown up and off on his or her next adventure, and it's one from which you will be largely absent. You spent all that time cheering their teams and listening to their concerts and shuttling them all around town and documenting the whole thing with video and snapshots, and now, it seems, you have made yourself obsolete.

You lug plastic tote boxes into your kid's dorm room, rearrange the furniture, make the bed, hang the twinkle lights, and fret over roommate assignments. After the frenzy of activity, poof – junior is gone. Launched. When will he come home next? Is asking for just one text a day too much? What if she forgets to [insert very important thing here]? Who will reminder her to do all the things YOU used to remind her to do?

These days, my Facebook feed is full of posts from emotional parents sobbing as they bid their progeny farewell, predicting they'll be a "basket case" on move-in day, posting emotional odes to their baby birdies as they leave the nest. Parents wondering how their infant, born just last week, can possibly be gone from the house already.

Moms and dads forgetting, for a moment, that this, after all, was the goal all along. 

Of my three sons, two are college age, and both chose, for a variety of reasons, to attend community college. This means they are living at home and commuting to a nearby campus so they can take general ed classes, probably for their first two years. I'm confident this was the best choice for each of them, and not just because of the significant cost savings. 

And yet, part of me feels like I've been missing something this month. My peers are experiencing a rite of passage that I am not. I joke about how I can't get mine to leave, how I say to them, "Are YOU still here?", and even as I am confident in their choice, I still have mixed feelings.

While the changes my family is undergoing are not as significant as the change that comes when a child moves out, there are changes. Post-secondary education is a big deal. Commuter kids must also find all their classrooms, manage their time, advocate for themselves, and continue to develop their study skills. All of this is challenge enough for the maturest of young adults. But I believe some kids need the extra advantage of being able to do all of that without also having to navigate the unique challenges of residential college life. Some kids just aren't ready to tackle it all at this age.

So, as you adjust to life without your young'un around the house, remember those of us whose kids are still around, and the unique adjustments we're making to accommodate this new phase of their lives. Even as I explain to my kids that my one job is to get them ready to leave home, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that part of me is relieved to be able to give them some additional time to transition. When it's time for them to go, they'll be more than ready in every way.

And so will I.