Wednesday, March 14, 2007

confessions of a former fast food employee

I’m not sure why, but from the age of 16 to 21, I worked in fast food restaurants. I started working at Burger King, which was right up the road from where I was living. I probably was paid $3.35 an hour, and of course all the infinite crap I could eat when the manager wasn’t looking. Most of the people who worked there were about my age, except the managers and day shift employees, who were solid examples of What You Can Become If You Drop Out Of High School. While employed there, some of my co-workers and I put a variety of food and non-food products through the flame-broiler, including (but not limited to) Ketchup packets. They come out almost exactly like they went in, but black and hot. One caught on fire once, and came out of the grill conveyer belt flaming, but was quickly put out in the bulk container of pickles. Since we were all working the swing shift, after it would get dark, we would get onto the roof and fire chicken nuggets onto the cars waiting in line in the drive thru (which was backed up as a result of the employees on the roof and not helping customers). We’ve made every kind of milk shake imaginable, including ketchup, mustard, syrup and BBQ sauce shakes. Difficult customers requesting “extra” items got the wrong extras, and in such a large amount it was comical (well, at least to us). Working at the BK Lounge was fun, but short lived as I learned quickly about the demand of the job market.

I only worked at Burger King for 6 months; I left that job to get a better paying job across the parking lot at Kentucky Friend Chicken. That began a Kentucky-Fried adventure that would continue until I was 21 and moved out of state. At first, I did my best to be a conscientious employee, quickly expediting drive-thru orders and pleasantly asking all of the customers if they would like extra biscuits today or a refreshing beverage to wash their chicken down with. Not too long after I became a jaded, bitter, and passive customer service representative, and behind the polite façade was the longing to relieve boredom and have more fun.

It started with chicken nugget people. I would take the expired chicken nuggets, and insert twist ties and corn skewers to make arms and legs. Then I strategically hung them from shelving, curling the twist-tie arms like those Barrel of Monkeys most of us played with as kids. After that, it was all down hill. We would play biscuit hockey with frozen biscuits, using brooms and deck brushes as hockey sticks. That was fun, and we were all competitive, so non-reported injures were in abundance for a while.

I’ve had several friends get jobs there and work with me, and not all of them worked out. One friend of mine was fired because she didn’t understand you needed to handle other people’s food with tongs, she just haphazardly cradled a dozen biscuits in her arms and asked the customer, “did you want a box for these?” She was let go shortly after that. This one kid named Hobie worked there, and during the rush periods, he would be non-existent, until you heard him yell to the manager, “I’m hiding, come find me!” He was hiding in an empty box that once contained Styrofoam cups, and it was a great hiding spot. They couldn’t fire him because the secret mystery shopper came in and Hobie waited on him, and received the highest rating ever for any KFC employee, 3 points above 100%. How Hobie managed that I’ll never know, but that encounter brought him up to gold star employee status, and as a result he got away with more crazy antics.

Pizza hut was nearby, and we would often trade buckets of chicken for pizza and breadsticks. Those were fun times. One time I went into Pizza Hut and programmed the juke box to play “We Are The World” like 17 times in a row. I still think that is funny, and It’s been about 15 years since I did that.

One guy named Brian was fired for washing his car on the clock. He had the hose hooked up to the inside sink we do dishes in, and dragged through the entire restaurant and out the wide open back door. While he was in mid-park, the regional manager pulled up and fired him immediately. Prior to Brian’s firing, he ground up a box of cabbage covered in small slugs for coleslaw.

I dated someone I met at KFC while working, another cook named Alan. Alan was the poster boy for anger mis-management. He was fired for showing up to work drunk, but made sure he threw a brick at the manager’s car before leaving the parking lot. Suffice to say I broke up with him shortly thereafter; I wanted to keep my job and so embarrassed by his actions I was trying my hardest to implode.

I’ll tell you what, my brother Ryan worked there and for the brief overlap we worked together it was great. We would watch training videos and taped Ren and Stimpy while we prepared racks and racks of chicken. I became a master at changing fryer oil, a skill I don’t list on my resume. I think the funniest thing my brother ever did was put cellophane on the toilet bowl in the rest room. He pulled it so taught that it seemed as if there wasn’t any cellophane on it. I’m not sure if anyone used the toilet like that, but just thinking about what he did was enough to induce a lot of laughter.

I’m sure there are many other fun things to share, but these are off of the top of my head. I’ll have to add an addendum.

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