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Stan's Stuff - Hamburgers and Peanuts

In the 20 January Brisbane paper I read that two days before, four teenage boys shot up vehicles in a country district where just four weeks ago two police officers were shot and killed. Two of them were sent home, but two 16 year old offenders remain in custody. The most amazing thing is that neither of these boys will talk to the police or anyone else. The evidence is undeniable. Their bullets pieced two vehicles. This story adds to the growing outrage about the insolence and violence of destructive teens.

I have lived in Brisbane for the last 10 months, caring for my hospitalised son and his family. For much of this time I have been responsible for my own meals. I have eaten out a lot – fast food I mean. One thing that amazes me about fast food chains is that they are staffed by teenagers – must be fourteen or older. Only occasionally do I see an adult supervisor.

I am amazed how hard these teens work. As for customer relations, based on my experience, I think they are fine. I know they are paid - $12 an hour starting rate, but when they smile at me, and they usually do, it doesn’t seem ingenuous. Iam faced with a conundrum. On the one han, the news media and to some extent the word on the streets, tells me daily of out-of-control teens.  They are a threat to society and to themselves. On the other hand, I see this age group working hard in the fast-food industry (and fitting going to school or university) with what appears to be polite efficiency. 

There has been much research on teens working in fast food outlets. I have read a lot of this data. I am aware of what has been identified as exploitation and negative effects experienced by some teens. My remarks are based on my experience as a user and observer over these last months.  I am sure that for most teens, this work experience is only short-term. When they leave, they will probably have complaints and grievances. All I am saying is that involvement in this industry seems to be a useful ‘stage on the way’ for many of them. It is a world away from the out-of-control teen mayhem that makes the news nearly every day.

On several occasions I have tried to employ a teen to do some odd jobs – mainly gardening. I tried to explain, demonstrate, and work along-side. A couple of these assignments ended reasonably but most did not. I paid the money but I knew we would never try to work together again. This experience leads me to have respect for corporations that are currently employing thousands of teens and have done so for years.

I am a child of multi-national corporations. They have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Every morning I clean my teeth with Colgate toothpaste, eat Kellogg’s cereals and shave with a Gillette razor. All of these are products of huge multi-national corporations based in the USA. Once I did rebel and chose another toothpaste - a Chinese brand. I scarcely started on the tube when I read that this brand contained lead and was immediately banned. That was the end of it. For me now it’s Colgate from here to eternity.

 So what now! Role over and let the corporations steam-roller the world and us in the process. Not necessarily so. 

Take Pic Picot and his ‘Really Good Peanut Butter’. I found it hard to believe that there was a peanut butter factory in Nelson. Peanuts are not grown in New Zealand. Anyone attempting to make and market such a product would be up against the Kraft Heinz Corporation for a start. This is a ripping David and Goliath story.

Starting on this manufacturing journey in middle age, knowing nothing about food production, Pic created an industry which produces (arguably) the best peanut butter in the world. In the early stages of production, he made the peanut butter with nuts from Kingaroy, Queensland, mixed in a chrome plated cement mixer which he towed behind his ute. Now it is produced from the imported peanuts in a modern factory in Nelson. There are daily factory tours. I have taken the tour three times. Among the many things which impress me about Pip is the way he cares for his staff.  He employs many young people. Some told me that working in this factory has changed their lives. It’s not the work but the attitudes that surround them. Industries that care about their young employees can give them opportunity to cool down, make some money and think out a life direction. Adults with non-judgemental attitudes can also help them.

Besides, with our aging population, we are going to have to rely on teens to do more tasks – not just in fast food outlets.

Caption: Bruce "Pic" Picot and his beloved dog Fido.


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