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The Plot Thickens

Photo: Genessa Gutzait · The Sentry

Over the summer, I worked as a busser at a pizza restaurant. On my last day, I began thinking about what other summer jobs I would’ve liked to have. My top pick was working at a video store, like a Blockbuster during the 80s or something. My love of movies would be an asset to my work ethic, as I deeply enjoy browsing the DVD section of stores and libraries. 

There are plenty of movies about summer jobs, and I thought about writing about American Graffiti since it revolves around people getting ready to leave for college. I decided, however, to mention here The Flamingo Kid (1984). It tells the story of a teen from Brooklyn who gets a summer job working at the El Flamingo Club, an upscale beach resort that caters to the wealthy. It’s an extremely good dramedy about the differences and clashes between socio-economic classes. 

I’ve seen the movie probably only twice, and what resonates the most with me is the idea of waiting. The protagonist is stuck in this awkward phase of waiting that is made possible thanks to it being summertime, but also being between the ages of 18 and 21, when you’ve got some freedom but not all of it. That’s what sucks about being college-age: the semi-freedom. This is also what sucks about summer: all you can really do is wait for it to be over. I’m not much for waiting, and I expect that nobody really is.

There’s a metaphor presented in the film about people in this age group being like boats that sail between the port and the lighthouse, making sure everything is in working order. This is called “boxing the compass,” and if you think about it, that’s sort of like college. People in college have some freedom but not all. They’re mostly waiting to be on their own but also testing the waters, boxing the compass, to see how it all might work out or even if they’re ready. At least for me, it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in this waiting.

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