Friday, August 05, 2005


The Resume (A Random Anecdote)

Job #9: Golden Arch-Enemy

The summer before my junior year of college, I was a victim of circumstance.

I was living at home--this was before my parents had moved back to New Hampshire for good, although they had put the house we were living in up for sale. As soon as it sold, my folks could move back to New England, where my mom would oversee the opening of a new fabric store in the chain for whom she worked. But meanwhile, I was stuck. I had no car. My mother was taking management training every week and her schedule was too erratic for me to hitch a ride with her and work at the mall. And so I was forced to the conclusion that I would have to find a job within walking or biking distance of my house.

Two miles away, down a busy stretch of road, I found my only opportunity. A new McDonald's had opened.

I don't remember the interview, but I'm willing to bet it consisted of nothing more than me filling out an application and handing it to the manager, a man who was, I would learn, about two years older than I. He hired me on the spot and did nothing to conceal the fact that he was desperate for bodies to fill the kitchen. And I could certainly work a grill; had done for weeks at a snack bar a summer or two before. How hard could it be?

"Okay," he said smiling, as he handed me my uniform: a scratchy polyester number with a jaunty yellow vest and matching plastic visor. "We'll see you tomorrow at 4."

I knew I was working eight hours shifts and the place closed at 11, so this sounded off. "Wait," I said. "I didn't know you guys were open til midnight."

"We're not," the manager said. "You're on the breakfast shift."

I waited a beat for him to crack a smile and tell me he was joking. But no smile cracked.

"FOUR...A-M?!?" I asked, a bit too loudly and with probably more incredulity than the manager would have liked.

"We open at 6," he said, his brow creasing. "It takes two hours to prep the kitchen and get enough of the breakfast menu ready for when we open."

I was reeling at the news. I was heading into my junior year in college. I was 19 years old. I was at the peak of my sleeping ability. I was such a world-class slug-a-bed that mattress companies were seriously considering me for corporate sponsorship. Even my uncle David, as hard a boss as you could want, never forced me to drag my ass out of bed and start work at 4 A.M.

I tried to recover. "Listen," I said, leaning in toward him in a conspiratorial sort of way. "That-- that is-- that's probably not going to be the best time for me. I thought you needed help in the afternoon or evening."

He shook his head. "Those shifts are full. It's the morning shift where we really need help."

"I'm not surprised!"



The manager grimaced. "Look, that's the job. If you want it, great. Otherwise, I don't think we can help each other."

Crap. Crappity-crap-crap, I thought. I really needed a job, at least til we sold the house.

So I went home and tried on my jaunty vest with the matching plastic visor. At the time, in addition to money, I was also sorely in need of a haircut. Unlike others in my peer group, my hair didn't grow long. It grew big. And so I stood there, looking at myself in the mirror, the visor squeezed down on my head, an enormous poof of red hair sticking out of the top of it like a fright wig. My mom looked at me, at the familiar golden arches emblazoned on my vest.

"You know, with some white makeup and big red shoes, you would absolutely look the part," she said.

I'm sure there have been days in my life when I have felt more like a block of lead than the next morning, when the alarm went off at 3:30, but none of them leap to mind just now (and indeed they haven't leapt to mind over any of the past 18 years either). I was so mad at me for having agreed to take this job, I punished myself by not taking a shower. I simply threw on my uniform and felt my way through the darkness to the back door, where my ride waited for me.

Through the good graces of our next-door neighbor, I had managed to borrow their 1960s era 3-speed bicycle. The kind with the giant Road-Runner-Coyote-Acme-brand springs under the seat, that provided absolutely no shock absorption whatsoever. It had no headlight, and no reflectors to speak of, so no one could see you in the dark. It did, however, have the compensating virtue of making one hell of a lot of metallic clattering and banging when you rode it, which I did now, carefully piloting the juddering bike down two miles of narrow breakdown lane on the dark stretch of highway leading to my new job.

There is pretty much no way I can spin those rides as fun--or even interesting in an anecdotal sense. They were pure misery, highlighted by occasionally blundering into a pothole or veering too far off the tarmac and onto the soft shoulder, where I would zig-zag for a few eventful seconds in the manner of a bear mounted on a tricycle, before regaining control and clattering on into the darkness.

For most of the ride, there were no street lamps to speak of, but I could see well enough, thanks to the headlights from the regular procession of tractor-trailer trucks that traversed that particular highway in the pre-dawn hours. Sometimes, the trucks would pass so close, I imagined they were taking errant threads of polyester off my uniform as they went by. Often, I was forced to stop by dint of the air these trucks displaced by the cubic ton. WHOOOM! And I'd wobble around in the breakdown lane, only to be nearly pulled into the road as the 18-wheeler passed and the suction yanked me along. Eventually, I worked out a pedaling system where, whenever the road was clear, I'd crank like a mad bastard. As soon as a truck got near, I'd just coast, my feet out, ready to brace myself to keep from falling over. As soon as the truck passed, I'd pedal like crazy again.

In this manner, I managed to cover the two miles to work in about 30 minutes, and so arrived right on time for work...


I remember a conversation I had once with a District Manager for McD's and he was bragging that one in five Americans have worked for The Golden Arches at one point or another in their lives.

And the rest of us eat there!

Waiting for more...

T. :)
This makes me want to go pedal my bike up Highway 9--just for the sensation of the after-semi vacuum.
Hilarious! Oh, bike...oh, arches.

My husband worked there for a brief fraught while when he was 16. After one episode where he was made to change all the garbage can liners - even if they were empty - and then found out that there had been a bomb scare and the police had been there, he was ready to snap. Then late one night the manager wouldn't let him go home when his dad was waiting for him in the car, and the snap came. He was squirting ketchup onto a row of Big Macs, and then just kept on squirting, right on the ol' manager. An abstract edible letter of resignation.
My sister worked at Mackie D's when she was a senior in high school. One time I was standing in line with my son on my hip when he reached over to this HUGE black gentleman, ran his finger over his arm and tasted it. The look of surprise on both of our faces.. I said, well you are a very pretty color of chocolate. He just grinned. Your stories always remind me of mine. Thanks- had not thought of that one in years.
I'm looking forward to the ending of the story. Fast food resignations are the best.

I worked for Subway in highschool and I used an overseas trip to quit. The sad part was that they were upset because at the ripe age of 17 I was one of their shift leads and their best employee.
It is cruel and unusual to expect someone to hand out all of those FREE smiles at such an ungodly hour of the morning.
Thankfully, I have only had to work in the food service industry for one day. Now, as good as that may potentially sound for a story, I just got a better job at the perfect time.

I started Friday morning at a lunch spot that specialized in home fries and deli sandwiches. Home fries as in my very first task that day..."Go peel that 50 lb bag of potatoes over there."

I finished the bag (with 10 finger!) in time for the lunch hour rush, when they put me to work making sandwiches I had never even heard of before.

I hate to think that I played a part in the demise of that place, but it didn't stay open very long after I left....
oh jesus...that sounds like the 7th circle of hell...
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