It’s amazing how much you appreciate things when you’re an adult, looking back at the mistakes in your life, especially during your youth. I know it’s so cliché, but that’s how people grow, learning from their mistakes of the past. At least that’s what I hope for. You wouldn’t want to continue making the same mistakes from your teenage years into your 30s, 40s or 50s. I know I wouldn’t and thankfully I don’t.
There are certain moments in one’s life that shape your perspective in future years. One of these experiences was when I was a teenager. If you’re expecting a Richard Dreyfuss narration like in the film Stand By Me, it won’t be as dramatic. There used to be a pizzeria across the street from my high school, situated within a plaza. We used to hang-out there throughout the day, but especially during lunch hour. The owners of the pizzeria were European immigrants, a couple in their early 50s who still spoke a broken English. They seemed proud to have opened up this food-joint in a seemingly ‘perfect’ area with hordes of teens.
After some time, the pizzeria wasn’t as busy as it used to be. Moreover, big gangs of students would sometimes just hang inside there and if it rained, we’d smoke cigarettes like chimneys. Then when the owners weren’t looking, someone would reach over and steal a slice. The owner would clearly distinguish what had happened and listen to the marauding banter of testosterone filled teenagers and would do his best to defend his business. The last thing this couple expected was to deal with spoiled kids that were brought up with every luxury imaginable. Even though I didn’t participate in the act of stealing, I was there, recognizing the anguish in the man’s face while his wife was in the back preparing the pizzas. I was equally to blame. We all were.
All of us, including myself were first generation Canadians and understood the challenges that our parents faced as immigrants in Canada. Yet, this couple was not afforded the respect they deserved. It’s hard enough surviving in the food industry on any given day, let alone dealing with the mischievousness of a spoiled youth. I never forgot the look of defeat on their faces. The pizzeria closed after only a year, which was likely the result of a lack of foot traffic. However, from that moment on, I made sure to always remind myself of the trials and tribulations newcomers face when they leave their native country and start a new one in Canada.