The way I spent my July 4th’s during my elementary and middle schools’ years were the best. It was well spent in selling overpriced candy, soft serve ice creams, and cigarettes. It was exciting because I got to “break the rules” and my classmates didn’t have the same luxury.
My sister’s then boyfriend had parents who owned a Chinese restaurant at the in Marina Del Rey and they would invite my brothers and I every year to help out on this holiday. It was the busiest day for them and they didn’t mind the extra help. I looked forward to going every year because it was an opportunity to make $40 and have access to unlimited junk food and Chinese food with the view of the ocean at my peripheral.
I strolled through the plaza and carved between clusters of people during my break. My favorite pit stop was an ice cream shop where I would intently study the menu and brainstorm which item to purchase at the end of my shift. Other times, I would join my brothers to catch wild crabs at a river that was not far from the Marina. We would return to the restaurant with a bag of live crabs to show my sister and her boyfriend’s family. Depending on our mood, the crabs would either be kindly released or vigorously thrown back to the ocean.
While I worked, customers looked at me suspiciously as I handed their cigarettes and change. Many would do a little investigation and asked questions like: “How old are you? Are you old enough to sell cigarettes? Are you even old enough to work?” Although I did not meet the state’s age requirement, I always said I was 18. Maybe I was a bad liar or maybe it was my underdeveloped body that gave it away, but not a single person believed me. I didn’t mind lying after one person to another. After all, I was there to break the rules.