Facts of Life

by Jay Nordlinger

Today’s Impromptus is the second part of a cruise journal. I’d like to share a reader letter with you. It’s in two parts.

The first part relates to a friend of mine, whom I write about in today’s journal (journal installment). He is Cuban-born and appreciates America as much as anybody does. More than almost everybody. When a boy, he was sent to a summer camp in Long Island. Later he became a counselor. The owner of the camp doubled his salary every year, because he worked so hard, and well.

My friend always wanted to be part of this country — where no one blocked you, where you didn’t have to have connections. Where you could simply prove yourself and flourish. “When I was 18, I had married men working under me!” my friend marveled.

Anyway, our reader writes,

I am younger than your Cuban friend and not an immigrant, but my summer job during my college years (in the late 1970s) was literally life-changing. I was a janitor for a company that had deep-cleaning contracts with some of the biggest retailers and banks in Pittsburgh. I, too, had older, married men working under me.

In my final summer the owner, a wonderful man and terrific boss, took me along to bid on jobs. It was then I realized that he was charging the customer over four times my hourly rate. I was making $6.00/hour, and he was charging $25.00/hour. On the spot, I knew I would never work for a fixed rate, hourly or salaried, and never have. I send the owner a Christmas card every year thanking him for the education.

That’s the entrepreneurial spirit. Missing in many. (As Chevy Chase said, I believe, I resemble that remark.)

Okay, the second part of our reader’s letter. This relates to the bit in my journal about boys — about how modern society tries to drug the boyness out of them. On the cruise, Norman Podhoretz discussed this, brilliantly.

The reader writes,

One of my sons was the perfect candidate to be drugged into submission. All boy. Attended a private school. The owner of the school, who was also his teacher, did all she could to drive him out of kindergarten when my wife and I refused to sedate him. We had him tested every which way and he came up negative for all the usual culprits: ADD, ADHD, autism, you name it.

At one time, this boy saw a child psychologist, who labeled him a “moron.” The reader continues,

Needless to say, he is not a moron. He is earning straight A’s in a Catholic school, and is a happy, well-adjusted boy. He has lots of friends, and his teachers adore him. I know there are many boys who are not so fortunate. But, in an effort to end on a positive note, I know many families with similar stories who also refused to take the easy route, and generally it is the moms who are the fiercest advocates for their boys.


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