Confession: I Was A Criminal Teenage Car Hop

A college student in the early 1950s, I needed spending money. So I got a job as a car hop (parking lot waiter) at a Happy Days/Fonzi kind of teen hangout. The system: each car hop had a bunch of 8×10 cards with his/her number on them. When a car drove in, we all scrambled like picadors to plant our cards on the windshield. The fastest hop got to serve the car. 
On busy Friday and Saturday nights, there were many cars, but on weeknights we had to hustle to make any money. The speedier, smarter car hops snagged the cars with four or more people in them, meaning bigger orders and higher tips.

Back then, an order of burger, fries, Coke and sundae cost no more than $2. So, a car containing three couples could get a typical bill for $12, and leave a $1 tip. On a busy weekend night, I’d make $30, plus the $1 an hour the restaurant paid for our four-hour shifts.

Sadly for the car hops, some cruel drivers would race away without tipping, as well as toss the tray of empty dishes and glasses out the window. Some took off without paying the bill. Car hops had to pay inside at the cash register for each tray of food before taking it out to the car, as well as for any broken crockery.

Then, clever me, I concocted a sneaky, dishonest, but very satisfying trick to both enhance my tips and recover money lost when a carload sped away without paying. I’d cheerfully deliver the tray of food as ordered, especially when it was to a luxury model full of rich teenagers.

After placing it on the car window frame, I wouldn’t show the bill, but held the paper up to my eyes and recited the amount to the driver, the one who usually paid it. If it was for $18.50, I’d fake read it aloud as $21.50. 

No one in the car ever asked to see the bill, primarily because the snotty guys didn’t want the snooty girls to think they were cheap. In my mind I was a car hop Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to help the poor (me). 

That assured me of car-hopping income, and also helped make up for unpaid bills of evil run-away drivers, as well as broken crockery. Now all just a long-ago memory, I declare today that, ever since I always practiced scrupulous honesty. Except maybe for some income tax deductions, dating info and job application bios.

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