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Published June 23, 2020

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT

Young entrepreneurs give me hope

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

I admit recent events had me worried about our country’s future.

But in the middle of the pandemic, the protests and the partisanship, a pint-sized glimmer of hope appeared at our front door.
Standing there was a scrawny kid who told my wife that he and his partner were starting a business. Right, I thought skeptically.

He looked to be elementary school age, a fourth- or fifth-grader at most. By appearance, he didn’t seem old enough to operate anything but a corner 50-cent lemonade stand.

He and his partner were out in the mid-day heat going house-to-house in our Pearland neighborhood offering to do yard work or handyman chores.

He handed my wife a price list. Our driveway needed pressure washing so the $25 - $40 price range caught her eye.

“How much to pressure wash our driveway?” she asked.

“That will be $55,” the kid replied.

“But the sheet says the price range is $25 - $40!”

“You have a big driveway.”

This kid had already mastered the bait and switch.

My wife agreed to his price, and he promised he would return the next day at 5 p.m. to clean our driveway … and collect $55.
My wife and I chuckled about being “taken.”

I couldn’t help wondering what was driving this kid – as young as he was - to be out in the heat offering to do such labor-intensive chores. According to stereotypes, kids today are supposed to be in their air-conditioned homes playing video games or watching Netflix.

Maybe he was earning money for a bike or the latest video game.

Or maybe, just maybe, his parents were out of work because of the pandemic, and he was helping with family expenses. That was my preferred way of thinking.

The next afternoon I was returning home from errands when I saw the kid and his partner pulling a wagon loaded with equipment.
They stopped at my neighbor’s house and trimmed her hedges.

After a while, there was a knock on the door.

“You guys are early, “ I said.

“We just want to confirm the price before starting,” said the youngster we had talked with previously.

“But I thought we confirmed a price of $55,” I said, slightly irritated but mostly amused.

“Actually, we want to renegotiate the price,” said the youngster I hadn’t met before. He clearly was The Closer.

I felt like I was buying a car and the friendly salesman was referring me to the hard-nosed finance guy.

“How much now?” I asked

“We were thinking $60.”

They agreed to a counteroffer. They would get $60, but only if they did a good job.

I watched from my air-conditioned study as the two youngsters went to work.

On this hot and humid afternoon, they were the only signs of life on the block.

Their small pressure washer was no match for our driveway. They struggled getting the driveway clean but persisted for more than an hour.

Worried about the heat, I brought them water and suggested they could finish when it was cooler.

“That’s O.K., we said we would do it today,” The Closer said.

My wife inspected the work when they were finished and judged it to be satisfactory.

Good enough for $60.

As the kids walked off, I thought we had seen the last of them … and their business. They were clearly worn down, and they must have been thinking a day at the pool with their friends was more fun than starting a business.

But three days later, after dark, there was a knock on our door. Guess who?

“Do you remember us; we did your driveway?” The Closer asked, as if it had been years ago, not days.

“We will trim your hedges for $25.”

We passed this time, but the boys went next door, where they landed future work.

I could tell because they had a flashlight out to schedule work for their latest customers.

As they walked back past our house, I asked how their business was doing. “Great,” they said.

In the middle of all the chaos, this country is still producing youngsters like these two. I felt better, for the moment.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)