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Silver Key Personal Essay/Memoir -- “The Shop”

By Ronnie Parrillo ’21 
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
Personal Essay: September 2018 - “The Shop”
Ronnie Parrillo: English 10 - G


In a world that hurls stressful situations at every one of us each day, work might take first prize for the place that causes people the most stress, and pressure. For me, however, “work” takes on a completely different meaning, and provides a place where I can both see and feel the comfort, and stress of the world. “Work” is a place that I have been going to at least once a week since I was a toddler. It’s known as SITECON Corporation to the public, but to me, “the shop” is a second home. At “work,” there are pictures of me on almost everyone’s desk that range from when I was a newborn, to last September’s school photo. By now, you probably want to know more about this “work” that I keep putting in quotes. Better known as “the shop,” or “the garage” in my house, it is my parents’ family business. SITECON was founded in February 1993, and is a place where I have grown up, and while many people think this is not the most appealing place to be, this is not at all how I feel. Where people see manilla folders, I see history, as they are like books, filled with primary sources, and the plan for the demolition is like a snapshot of the land to be acquired in the Louisiana purchase. and when people smell cold cuts and vinegar for their lunch, I smell home.

When I go to the shop, I am surrounded and enveloped in hugs and kisses, paper envelopes, office chairs, excavators, tractor trailers, rolloff cans, cube vans, and my personal favorite commodity, pickup trucks! My parents, and grandparents, own a demolition and asbestos removal company, and for the past 25 years, have worked there almost every day, putting in hard work and sweat to make it what it is today. That is why when you walk into the shop, you are greeted with the smell of old tile, a working copy machine, coffee, perfume, cologne, and a hint of gasoline. All of these smells belong to a person who works there, the old tile to the men in the “back” garage, working to replace and fix parts on the machines, and organizing the tools to go out the next morning. The copier to my mother, who works effortlessly to make sure all 70 employees stay on track, and get their job done. The perfume, to my grandmother, who handles all of the billing, from A to Z. The cologne belongs to my grandfather, also known at the shop as “Mr. Ron,” always greeting people with a smile, and making sure our garage is supplied with resources to the brim. The coffee and office chairs, I associate with my father, who is known as just “Ron,” head of all of the jobs. He makes sure that all of the jobs, and trucks are running on time and scheduled, and that everything is under control. In an environment that seems so streamlined and like “just another office,” one might ask why this brings me any comfort at all. Well, it is because this place has both given me comfort, and a wide and tall lens of what the real world is. Being at my family's business gives me the amazing ability to see some of my role models, and how they handle the stress and everyday pressure of life. Comfort comes from the hugs and kisses that I get when I walk in from my mother at the copy machine, and my grandmother at the bookcase. My grandfather and his clipboard, and my father on his phone. It comforts me to know, and see, how my family can be so successful under one roof, and that hard work pays off. While there is always some closeness at a family business, there is also some stress, as well.

These things make me comfortable, I have also seen, in my thousands of times there, people under stress. My mother having to track down an employee’s record, or my father having to hold a meeting with the project managers, when a job’s price is substantially higher than the estimate. This, and many other experiences, give me a sense of what the real world is, how it works, and this has affirmed to me, many times, that the world is not always coddling to us. I have seen many times when a job that is already a challenge, gets upgraded to a full out ball of stress, and goes way over budget, like “Plymouth.” Plymouth South High School was a large project that was both a tough bid, and then, a nightmare of a job. It started by the trucks and excavators consistently breaking down, therefore leaving  piles of sharp debris in the way of progress. Just when things got to their most stressful point, a wall was found that was going to be high over budget and time to remove, and SITECON had another construction company on their tail, anxious to start their project. Through this tiring process, I saw my parents frustrated with it, and I heard the quiet conversations from my bedroom at night about how worried they were. When my parents work, much of the time, the baggage comes home with them, and they cannot just leave it behind. During this stressful point, I was truly able to see a real struggle, and I was amazed at how well my mother and father handled it, sitting as role models for me. Some jobs that have gone better than planned, and are usually followed up by the project managers going for a celebratory beer, and some type of cake entering the office kitchen.

What is important about the comfort that my parents’ business provides me with is the fact that it is a place that I can go, and run to my mother’s arms, and, at the same time, see what the working world is like, where I will, after all, spend most of my life. If there was one word that I could use to describe a takeaway lessons from going to “the office” for almost 15 years, it is perspective, and that sometimes when life makes you want to rip out your hair, or crumble up that important letter, you need to take a roll back in your chair on wheels, and just give it a moment, breathe. And when things go right, it’s okay to enjoy that slice of vanilla cake and coffee, and savor the moment. It is that perfect mix of comfort and reality that comforts me, and gives me a sense of happiness that this is the perfect place to make me at peace with the world.

But, through all of these trials and tribulations each day that take place at a place that I call my second home, I get a very special view. A view of the way that people work, an ear in both difficult and rejoicing conversations, a nose in the back garage, a feel of the steering wheel of the forklift, and the taste of the Italian pastries brought in by my uncle for the whole office to enjoy, all from the comfort of my own second home.
 
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The Wheeler School is an independent coeducational college preparatory day school for Nursery, Pre-K, K-Grade 12 serving Providence, RI, Greater Providence and Greater Boston. The Hamilton School welcomes Grades 1-8 with language-based learning differences.