As Independence Day approaches, a lot of Philadelphians—as well as visitors to our fair city—are grateful to Wawa, what with the giant hoagie, and the fireworks, and the Taste of Philadelphia down at Penn’s Landing, and the Roots concert on the Parkway, and, as they say, much, much more! But no one is more grateful to Wawa this holiday season than me, and for a simple reason: They gave my kid a job.
It’s not that he’s never worked before. Back in high school, Jake was a soccer referee with my husband Doug for a number of years. In fact, when Jake went for his interview at Wawa, the interviewer asked him: “How are you going to deal with the pressure when the morning coffee rush is on?” Afterward, Jake reported to Doug and me that he really hadn’t had a good answer to that, whereupon Doug said, “Jesus Christ, Jake! Why didn’t you tell them you’ve managed to maintain order among rabidly enraged bunches of grown men in cleats who don’t speak English with nothing more than a whistle?” I guess Jake’s non-answer didn’t count against him, though, because the next thing we knew he had a Wawa visor and apron and a Hoagie Fest shirt and was ringing up endless packs of Newports (“For some reason, everybody smokes Newports”) from 11 at night until 7 in the morning four or five nights a week.
The night shift is great for Jake because it means he and I hardly ever see one another, which really helps us get along. We can almost always remain civil with each other for the approximately 1.35 hours per day when we’re both awake. But what I really love about Wawa—what’s made me so unspeakably grateful to the sign of the goose—is that this job is teaching Jake that there are actually people in this world who are more irrational than his mother. Lots of them.
Take, for example, the woman who came in recently to buy a soda and some cigs. Jake rang up her purchase and inquired politely as to whether she wanted a bag. Whereupon the woman launched into a lengthy tirade about how she used to have a job as a cashier at Wawa, and she never asked the customers if they wanted bags, and why the hell should he have the job she used to have if he’s just going to go around asking customers if they want bags? (“I can’t imagine why she lost the job,” Jake’s manager noted sotto voce as she finally left the store.)
Or take the woman who pumped gas and then came in to pay for it with her credit card, only the credit card machine was down (“There were signs ALL OVER THE PLACE saying the machine was down,” Jake reported), and then flipped out on Jake, telling him she had her autistic child in the car with her and was going to LEAVE HIM THERE AT WAWA just to show Jake what she had to put up with every day. (He theorized she was likely on her way to Parx.)
“Can you tell what people are going to buy when they come in?” I asked Jake recently. He shook his head no, then reconsidered: “You can tell when somebody’s going to buy a cigar to smoke weed in.”
“Because they’re high?” I asked. He nodded. “Well.” I thought about it. “I guess generally people who are high are pretty chill?”
“Not really,” Jake said.
So, lady who used to be the cashier at Wawa? And lady with the autistic child in the car? And all you kite-high stoners stopping in for cigars at 4 a.m.? I want to personally extend my gratitude to you for making me seem sane by comparison. And Wawa? Thank you, more than I can say, for taking a chance on my kid, and for teaching him responsibility and patience and all the other virtues I couldn’t manage to instill in him. As God is my witness, I’ll never, ever buy an egg salad hoagie anywhere else again.