Saturday, December 09, 2006

Fast Food Times(Guest Post by Barb)

Working at a national fastfood hamburger chain was a very pivitol experience in my young adult years. Therefore, this is probably going to be long.

I started working at the fastfood job at 18 when I was in my first semester of college. I consider it to be my first real job. I was so nervous! In high school, I had so much anxiety about my future and could not envision my sucessfully holding a job due to my spacey nature.

I remember being trained to make hamburgers in the back and thinking it was cool when I learned how to fold the paper around them. They did not keep me in the back long. I was quickly moved to work up front.

Shortly after starting there, I waited on my grandpa and his lady friend of many years. His lady friend remarked how I looked just like my grandpa's grandaughter. They did not know I was working there. Finally, I said something like, grandpa with a tone of endearment and they knew it was me. We would have a good laugh over that through the years.

I gained a reputation as a somone who tried to stay busy. However, I was not noted for my quickness in filling orders. Once a co-worker saw me move faster than usual and said she never saw me move so fast. I was so surprised the first time they called me in for over-time. They actually wanted me around! There were a few weak areas such as the fact that when reviewed, I did not smile when waiting on the customers. I was very polite though. They liked how I was constantly picking up in the dining room when it slowed down enough. I think I was forever giving too many fries. I may have given too many napkins too. We had a slow volume store and managers were very edgy about profits. The owner owned a few in our area and one elsewhere. Once he came in to let us know that he just bought his son a BMW.

Having the owner around made me uneasy. I was even more nervous when the person who I think was the district manager would come around. He would stand behind my shoulder and I would feel so tense. The managers were usually pretty satisifed with my work and did not give a lot of feedback. There was a manager who started to work there a little while after I did. She was a nice person. However, she followed me around constantly. She had a pointer for everything from how to do the fries to cleaning the window. Finally, it was just too much and a stream of tears started falling and falling. I waited on the customer and kept going until I was composed again. I think she made an effort to be more laidback from there on out.

I was very shy and quiet in those days. I would apologize for the smallest things. If someone was mopping, I would say I was sorry if I happened to be in the way. I was also very meek when I needed to ask the back workers about the status of an item. I would be just audible enough for them to hear me. I think I was incapable of raising my voice in that setting.

I did gain skills such a dove-tailing as I had to stock things up and also start shutting down the salad bar between waiting on customers when I was on the closing shift.

Sometimes they would have me do the prep work on the salad bar. I always felt very inefficient as I had to ask a lot of questions of the regular prep person. One day day I was doing dishes and had the bright idea to make sure I got the tomatoe slicer very clean by taking the cloth against the blade. Don't try that one at home as I had to go directly to the doctor's office to get stitched up. Upon my return, they told me to take my break and get back to work. While my fingers were still in bandages, I worked a holiday when it was slow and had to try to find cleaning projects to do that I could manuever.

I consider myself to be one of the least mechanical people on the planet. I was so impressed when I was able to take the shake maching apart and later learn how to put it back together. When I closed, I would wash the parts. I liked the order of having an indented place in plastic to put the parts.

Closing was fun for me because we would play the popular music of the day into the front microphone. It could get to be long on my feet though. I think I started at 5 pm once and we did not get out of there until 5 am. That is not supposed to happen.

They had trouble getting me to take my breaks as I was supposed to as I was such a nervous type then that I did not like sitting out there. I was always worried if I was doing a good job. I also would not order their regular food, which was related to my shyness. I would order a shake. It was weird. They thought that I did not like the food when in reality I often had their food at home with my family.

Then, it came time to quit. Not to many months later, I had to return as I could not get the schedule I needed at my other job to work around my school schedule. One of my former managers hired me back on the spot. I so did not want to work there. My home life was stressful at that point to put it mildly, school was stressful as I wanted high grades, and this job was stressful. I think I had a break when I did not work and cocentrated on my studies. I had liked the job that I worked in the interim. It was telemarking- my niche in life.

Then, I quit again and vowed never to go back. After my mission, I was not able to get Sundays off at my telemarking job where I had worked previously. I had gained weight as a missionary and thought this would be convenient as it was close enough to home to walk and also that I would get exercise on the job. This was during the break between my first semester and second semester back to school after my mission that I started working there.

I was abysmal as usual in the back. I was moved up front and the one supervisor said kindly how things should be easier as that was what I was used to doing. I was all confused. The cash register was different. I do not recall having difficulty reading the print out before. In addition to combos, they had dinners. I had trouble reading the print out and also remembering what went with a dinner or a combo. There were only combos before. Ironically, I had thought that I would concentrate so well when I returned to this job that I would outshine my former performance and fill the orders so efficiently.

There were new health regulations and also a video about food safety that was new. I had episodes of ocd. One of these caused nightmares for me. This was when it all started spiralling out of control.

I couldn't go on. All the managers were different than my previous two times working there. One of the managers was rude and sarcastic in the little sampling of the week that I worked there.

He was on duty when I walked the frigid walk from my home. Oh, how bittter cold it was. I don't think I was scheduled that day. I don't think I told my parents I was quiting. It felt like one of those windshields and temperatures that were dangerous to be out in for more than a few minutes and I had a strange feeling about me like I almost didn't care if I were being marred for life from the damage of the low temperature. It was a strange and surreal determination. I told the manager I was quiting and asked him if he wanted me to work the next day I was scheduled. He said yes. I worked that day and one of my duties was to mop the floor, which was something I was never very good at as I got it too wet and probably sudsy. It was really a back staff duty before when I worked there so I may not have had a chance before. I did my time and left.

When my grandpa found out I no longer worked there, he said that he did not go there anymore. They went to the other hamburger chain just a few blocks away. The coffee going downhill at my place of employement was the reason that he offered.

Sometimes we go through the drive thru there. That was a position that I worked there quite often that not all the register people could do. You had to be able to do the math in counting back the dollars. There was a coin maching that would give the change. After working there so long, I often knew without even thinking the amount of change on some items. Yes, I gained a lot of confidence there. As you see, I also lost a part of myself there that I have never entirely regained. My worries multiplied in so many directions starting at that point. What started as isolated incidents became every moment of my day on some level of having ocd part of my being. I didn't know as I quit that my life was turning that inside out. It was like up was down and down was up.

I like to imagine that there is a disembodied me in there. The part of me that was able to function and somehow if I were to go in back there that I would get it back.

But how I hope that I never have to go back!


Stephen M (Ethesis) said...

Bless your heart, that was an experience.

annegb said...

This isn't my post, I think Barb did it, it sounds like Barb.

Barb, if that is you, I worked in fast food as a teenager. I actually loved it, because I got to meet boys! I was totally irresponsible, unlike you.

I think fast food is a good insight into the world and a good first job. Thanks for sharing this.

Barb said...

Oops! I forgot to say it was a guest post by Barb.

Annegb, I did get to meet guys a little. But I was so shy.

Barb said...

There were some funny experiences too. One time the top of the cash register came off when I lifted it to change the paper roll. One of my male co-workers started calling me She-ra. He said he tried to take off the top of one and could not do it.

Another time, I was losing my voice and sounded like Minnie Mouse. People liked teasing me. I think at that time that they sucked in some helium from the ballons that we had so they could sound like me.