July 8, 2013

Unsung Hero: Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy

Sometimes you see people working really, really hard at a really, really tough job making a really, really low wage (presumably). These are among life's unsung heroes, and they deserve a hand or a tip, or both.

I saw one of these amazing unsung heroes the other day at my daughter's friend's seventh birthday party. I didn't catch his name, so I'll have to refer to him as Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy. He looked to be about 16-years old with a very slight build.

The party was at one of those loud venues that makes an introvert cringe. You know those places where you buy (or in this case, the birthday girl's family bought) game cards and then kids can wander around a huge way-too-noisy parlor playing games and earning virtual "tickets" to claim cheap prizes. And, of course, next to all this "fun" is an all-you-can-eat pizza, pasta and salad bar.  (For the locals, this place was called Austin's Park & Pizza.)

Don't let my dramatic description get you down. All the kids had a great time. And after partying and playing the indoor games, they ventured over to the outdoor attractions. Just our luck, it was 104 degrees outside. Among the outdoor fun events were two different go cart tracks- one for older kids and adults, and a "junior" track for the smaller ones.

Not long after the girls got into the junior go cart line, I identified Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy as an unsung hero. He was the lone employee in charge of this entire track on such a sweltering day. When time was up and the previous group of kids finished, he helped my daughter and about nine other girls and boys in line get into their go carts and strap their seat belts. Then he gave them each a quick lesson on how to drive and the rules of the track. Well, actually, I think the only rule was you were not supposed to crash into other cars.

Honestly, as the cars started, I was hoping my kid would not be the one who couldn't figure out how to work the go cart. Fortunately, she did great and drove flawlessly around the winding track many times. Taking a cue from the cautious nature of her parents, she drove especially carefully. Yes, other kids passed her cart a few times. But in some cases, she passed them later after they hit the safety wall and got stuck.

Okay, back to the hero of our story. While the carts are going around, his job was to run all across the track and help any kids whose cars got stuck. This happened several times. To make his job even harder, one girl out there stopped right in the middle of the track and couldn't figure out to get her cart moving again. So Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy ran out there, careful to avoid oncoming traffic, sat on the edge of her cart holding on for dear life and pressed the pedal for her for a while until she got the hang of it.

After the guy helped a few other kids who wrecked (the carts don't go in reverse, so once you're stuck, he had to help push the carts back in the right direction), the poor little girl who had trouble with her cart stopped again.

Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy ran across the blistering sun-heated track and sat on the edge of her cart again. Suddenly, another kid in an oncoming cart failed to swerve out of the way and rear-ended the stalled car. The safely seat-belted kids were fine. But Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy didn't see the crash coming, so he was quite surprised and, judging by the look on this face, slightly wounded. But that didn't deter him from doing his job.

Several more times he kept having to run around the track and help kids who were stuck. Have you ever had to run around an asphalt go cart track in the direct sunlight when it was 104 degrees? Neither have I, but this guy did it over and over and over without showing any hint of complaint. I wonder how long his shift was and if he ever got a break?

When it was time for this group of kids to return their go carts to the starting area, Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy had to explain to them how to drive slowly and one at a time. I think there were only a few minor collisions at this point.

By now, I really felt bad for Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy. Sure, it's probably just a summer job to raise a little spending money. But I thought he ought to be better compensated for how hard he had to work on the hottest day of the year (so far).

I rarely carry cash, but this must have been my lucky day. As my daughter and other kids were getting out of their carts, I glanced in my wallet and spotted a five-dollar bill. As Mr. Junior Cart Guy came over to let the next group of kids through the gate, I handed him the five and said, "Here, you've got a hard job, man." He looked very surprised and said thanks.

Unortunately, I don't have a picture of him to show you. But if you look closely at the end of this short video clip, you'll see him in the distance on the left side, wearing a red shirt and directing kids on the track. Way to go, Mr. Junior Go Cart Guy



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