Working the Corner
Non-sequiturs, prostitution, and teachable moments
My sister Katie is an excellent cook. She often says she should run a soup kitchen, that she is existentially happiest when she is cooking simple, hearty food for large amounts of people. She says it comes from the days when she worked at The Corner, a now long-extinct hippie restaurant from her college days here in Olympia, Washington.
Many old-timers in our small city reminisce fondly about The Corner. I imagine them thinner, hairier, and perhaps more dewy-eyed than they are now, spooning lusty soups and crusty breads into their mouths as they studied, read, debated, and educated their way to an Evergreen State College degree. It was the communal watering hole for the herds of students who graze upon this fertile land, academic year after academic year.
Now for the non-sequitur. I was having a lazy conversation with my 12 year old son, when he presented me with one of those crystalized moments in which he earnestly was seeking to learn, and he casually asked, “Have you ever worked as a prostitute?”
"Heavens no," I exclaimed, as the inner workings of my mind landed on the notion that, in his innocence, maybe he did not know what an abhorrent thought that would be to me. Of course, my brain flitted to all sorts of thoughts, ranging from the socioeconomic and cultural privilege that allowed for it not being an option for me, to the thought that perhaps he doesn't know that in this country prostitution is illegal in all but one state, to the contrast that in other countries it is a bona fide career, with perks like offices, health care, and vacation days.
My mind was so occupied with this tangled web of inner thoughts that I almost missed his next question.
"What’s that, honey?"
"Has Aunt Katie ever worked as a prostitute?" he repeated.
Again, "Heavens no, honey."
"Well, why does she always talk about working the corner? Isn't that another way of saying 'prostitute'?"
Well yes. Yes, it is. (How did he know that?)
Obviously, there is a larger conversation to be had, someday. About socioeconomics, culture, cultural bias, the agency of sex workers, the grossly mismanaged inequity in our country's judicial system vis a vis hookers, Johns and pimps; Nevada, Denmark, and et cetera. Someday. Not today.
Meanwhile, I nipped that particular conversation to a very short bud.
"The Corner was a restaurant, honey. Aunt Katie made soup and sandwiches. She was never a prostitute."