Earlier this week, Bailey wrote a heartwarming piece on working in the fast food industry. This post is nothing like hers.
The activity that ate up 90% of my high school career was marching band. You would think I loved the sleep and tranquility that followed the end of my senior year season (and I did. For a week.) but darn it, I really wanted a job.
After turning down a super sketch job as a waitress (at the first staff training the owners were shouting at each other trying to decide if they should open the next day or wait a week) I accepted an offer from the sandwich masters: Subway.
Allow me to take you behind the counter, next to the bread, and inside the freezer. Let’s begin.
The cookies are delicious. They’re Otis Spunkmeyer. Sometimes I’d just take a frozen cookie out, set it on a napkin on a back table, and eat it throughout my shift. (Yes, I paid for it). Worth it. Always worth it.
Best part of my job was the 50% discount. That’s a dozen Otis Spunkmeyer cookies for $2.50. For two cookies at school it was approximately $37.99. Spending part of your paycheck? Worth it. Always worth it.
One has little hope of starting the job with a positive attitude when one has just coughed up $80 to buy a few pairs of black pants, a black belt, and new, super-solid-black-never-gonna-let-you-slip-on-nothin-but-really-ugly work shoes. The I thought I was going to be making money not spending it mood will only worsen once you arrive at work and see that employees shrug off the shoes and pants rule.
“It’s only important if the regional manager shows up,” I was told. Ah. Thank you for explaining.
While we’re on the topic of work uniform…
When the dress code is that you have to tuck your shirt in, it’s hard to always remember to zip up your pants. If you don’t, you just might make sandwiches for three hours with your fly down. But I’m sure that’s never happened to anyone. And if it did, they wouldn’t be foolish enough to write about it.
But let’s take a positive turn for a moment…
Eventually, I liked working at Subway. I had the sandwiches memorized. I formed that awkward semi-friendship with regulars. I assisted sweet old men with determining which sandwiches were within their cholesterol limits. I was fast. Sometimes I raked in the cents in tips. I helped train the newbies. (Really though, how much training does it take to scrub the toilet?)
Which brings me to…
If you are new at a fast food place, you’re at the bottom of the food chain, sweetheart. You gotta serve your time as the peon just like everyone else did. So no hard feelings when you’re the one that has to do the tasks no one else wants to: scrub the toilet, clean out the microwave, take out the trash, mop the bathrooms, go make a sandwich for the guy who always hits on the employees.
Ah, yes. The customers.
Some customers are really, really creepy, and us employees just don’t like you. I’m only talking to 0.5% of the sandwich eating population though, so odds are you don’t need to worry.
If you lean on the sneeze guard like some hot shot and try to have a five minute conversation with me before you’ve even told me what kind of bread you want, it’s creepy.
If you don’t stop full on, all teeth, brighter than sunshine smiling at me from the time you walk in the door to the time you leave, it’s creepy. (Note: It happened. Twice. Bro sat in a booth facing me as he ate. I know the customer’s always right, but dang. How am I supposed to refill the jalapeños without getting heeby jeebies?)
If you have a conversation like the following…
Employee: What can I make for you today, sir?
Hoodlum: What would you get?
Employee: I don’t know…probably turkey…
Hoodlum: That’s what I want.
Employee: What kind of vegetables on that?
Hoodlum: Put whatever you would eat on there.
Employee: Sir, please just tell me what you want.
Hoodlum: Make that sandwich like you would make it for you.
Employee: Are you sure?
Hoodlum: Yeah. You been working here long? I’ve never seen you before, and I’m in here a lot.
…then it’s creepy.
Being a closer is the worst, especially if you work at a store that only has one person close and lock up at night. On one particularly unenjoyable closing shift, I drove straight to Wal Mart to buy pepper spray only to be told they didn’t have any. After a different creepy customer encounter, I actually went to the police station later to report it.
IMPORTANT: Did you know that if you work somewhere like a fast food franchise, your manager can have (essentially) a restraining order put on any person they want? It’s private property, and even if someone so much as makes you feel uncomfortable, report it to your manager, supervisor, or boss. Better safe than sorry.
I don’t mind running around getting a huge order together for your 30 nursing home residents. I don’t mind that one of them wants pickles and mayonnaise on half and just one jalapeño on the other half. I don’t mind, because it’s incredibly sweet that a nursing home or assisted living organization would give them a lunch that’s a bit out of the ordinary for them. A small day brightener. Keep doing that. That’s awesome. Here are some extra napkins on the house.
On the other hand…
You look like a shy fourth grader when your wife asks you what you want, you tell her, and she repeats it to me. Use your big boy words to get a big boy sandwich.
One time I bought a soldier his sandwich and said, “Thanks for your service.” He gave me some of his medals earned in Afghanistan and Iraq. I thought we might get married and have this lame story that would start out “Well kids, turns out women do need to make men sandwiches.” It didn’t work out. And I’m very happy.
If you’re a policeman and we see your patrol car pull up (and we always do), we’re in the back pulling straws or doing “nose goes” to determine who has to go make your sandwiches. Others (read: I) would plunge their hands into soapy water and start doing dishes so we’d (read: I’d) have an excuse. Nothing against cops. I just don’t get paid enough to have the jitters while making sandwiches. Please don’t tase me if I put spinach on when you asked for lettuce.
That’s just scratching the surface, folks. I could whine more, I could explain things, I could tell heartwarming stories, but those are for another post, another time. For now, be grateful for your job if you are in fast food, because it’s money. And hopefully someday you’ll be able to look back, laugh, and write a blog post about your experience.
Have any of you worked in the fast food industry? What chain? Tell us something nobody but an employee would know about it!