Robert Herman has spent much of June wandering up and down Rockville Pike in search of a job. The 17-year-old Montgomery High senior has been to Toys R' Us, Herman's World of Sporting Goods, Shakey's, Lum's, and Howard Johnson's -- all for naught.
"They all say they don't need anybody," said Herman. "I'm getting really discouraged."
If his joblessness persists much into July, Herman will turn to Montgomery County's version of the employer of last resort. He'll work in the office of his father, a Rockville doctor.
Herman's situation says much about the way the recession of 1980 has affected the children of Washington's affluent suburbs. Like their inner city counterparts, these high school and college students have discovered that there are fewer summer jobs out there. Unlike their poorer peers, they have comfortable options.
The fact that county businesses are offering 950 fewer jobs this year than last simply means that more of them are turning to their parents -- or to summer schools, or to the family country clubs -- for help or diversion.
"There just aren't many kids around here who aren't doing anything this summer," said Jeff Steinbach, a recent St. Alban's graduate headed for Swarthmore College this fall. "Either they're talking lessons or their parents are farming them out to summer camps or they play tennis for 12 hours a day.
"But even if they don't need a job or want to work, they're still doing something. A lot of kids are in Europe this summer or their parents have summer homes in Maine and they stay up there."
When Steinbach is not in his two-hour-a-day typing class, or behind the counter of the St. Alban's snack bar, or singing with the Washington Cathedral Choir, he is immersed in the self-assured, laid-back atmoshere of Bethesda's Mohican Pool.
While seemingly genuinely self-conscious of their acquired affluence, Steinbach and his young friends at Mohicans still take full advantage of it.
"What am I doing this summer? I'm being rich," said 15-year-old Bentley Nolan. "How did I get my job here (at Mohican)? I know the right people."
"If you grow up around the pool, you always think, 'Wouldn't it be great to work at Mohican'," Steinbach said. "You're in the sun all day, near the water, not behind a desk, but after a while you get tired of it."
"It's called 'pool rot,'" added Eve Mulvihill, a 17-year-old blonde and very tanned Immaculata High School student. "There's really not much to do, so we sit around and eat Fritos and get fat."
Mulvihill, who's starting her third year working at Mohican, said, "It's not that hard to get a job here because most of our parents are members and everybody knows us."
"When I wanted a job here I just told Eve to tell the boss when she went," added Eileen McGrath, whose family has belonged to Mohican for eight years.
"A lot of our older students go to the beaches -- Ocean City or Rehoboth -- to work for the summer," said William Hauptman, assistant principal at Bethesda's Walt Whitman High. "And of course a lot of them are in the fastfood places; they're pretty big with the kids because of the high turnover. f
Kathleen Jones, 16, worked without pay as a junior counselor at Camp Olympic, in Derwood, Md., last summer in order to become a paid counselor this year.
"It was more or less fun," she said, "so I didn't mind not getting paid. I have a horse at the camp, though, so I had to take a part-time waitressing job to pay for most of its upkeep. My parents pay for some."
A senior at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville, Lisa Imperial, is looking for outside office work, but in the meantime will work a few days a week at her father's electrical engineering firm.
"I can go in whenever I want to," she said, "but I'm still looking for something else. It's getting really frustating. Some of my friends have construction jobs with their fathers because they couldn't find anything else." c
Of the eight high school students employed at the Chevey Chase Club this summer, most are children of members or refered by "someone known to the club," according to the controller.
Bill Harper, a busboy at another exclusive area country club, got his job through a friend already employed there.
"I've got a lot friends who work here. It's not that hard to get a job at the club, but you've got to know somebody. There's always one of us [his friends] working here."
One Wheaton senior, though, is dependent on his summer job for tuition. He's got the grades to attend his choice school, the University of Chicago, but lacks the funds to go there. Although he searched for weeks for a daytime job that paid over minimum wage, Ajit Gadre had to settle for a 6 p.m. to midnight job at a local High's convenience store.
Gadre's father said: "We are not happy with this, but we had no choice. Both my son and daughter looked very hard for work. My daughter works at Tommy's Restaurant part-time, but that's okay for her because she just needs pocket money. But my son, he is the serious type and wants to save money."
Summer school at Wheaton High will be Nicole Joppy's alternative if she doesn't land a job soon. "I've been going out to two or three places every day, and if I'm lucky, they'll give me an application. I can get along without a job this summer, but it would be good for the experience."
The impression of one youth employment coordinator is that this summer high school kids are competing with college students for the same jobs. Older students, he believes, now are taking the minimum wage jobs that in earlier years they would have ignored.
"It's a very tough time economically for small businesses," said Glenn Maurer, the youth employment coordinator for the county-run Middle Earth Youth Services program. Maurer has been scouting the Wheaton-Kensington area in search of summer job commitments from local employers.
"The businessmen say they're having a hard time just keeping the people they've got busy."