As if sleeping in wasn’t enough. Eventually I had to get up. It was the summer and all I wanted to do was to sleep all day and wake up at night but no, I felt obligated to get a job, a quick ‘n easy one. Summer sun fun? No, sickening summer job hunting. I ended up at fast food feeling embarrassed because of the stigma around the fast food business. My mom would always assure me, “It’s a good job! I’ve worked there before.” Thanks mom, that makes everything better. If you have guessed McDonalds, you’re ridiculously right. It wasn’t just McDonalds, it was McDonalds in Wally World! Everybody is at Wal-Mart. People I know practically live there which would mean constant run-ins and a friend shouting out, “Hook me up with a free Big Mac!”
Anyways, back to bewailing about sleeping in. I had to wake up around noon every day. I must’ve been working there for over a month now because rising up from my bed like it was my grave and doing a zombie walk to the bathroom for a shower became all too familiar. Since Wal-Mart was about three, long, humiliating blocks from my house, I had to walk. I walked on 24th Ave, one of the main busiest streets in West end Billings, uniform and all. When I arrived, usually about five minutes late every day due to bad timing, I clocked in, washed my hands, sanitized, then asked whoever the manager was what they want me on. Once situated, I longed for the end of the shift. The ending of the shift was the worst because I closed, so I couldn’t leave until everything was in shipshape. I looked forward to walking my aching feet home where I would be greeted with my nocturnal, older brother and his friend asking me how work went. I would find them out in the back patio with a half-full case of beer. Miller Lite it was. He would say, “You worked hard, have a beer,” and handed me a cold can.
I told myself that the common cold will never be cured so I worked through one. In fact, I always worked through the occasional illness. Rising from my bed that noon took a lot more energy than usual. I woke up with toilet paper as my blankets and empty shots of cough syrup on my bed side. “Just a couple more days of this unfortunate sickness” I cajoled myself. It became my daily mantra before I headed to the Golden Arches.
I despise congestion but not as much as a runny nose in public. My nose felt inflamed to the point where it was numb from being squeezed by cheap Kleenex every other second. I squeezed hard when I blew my nose, mostly out of anger towards the cold. The runny nose symptom had me constantly checking my workstation for napkins just in case I needed to dive for one. Because of my furious squeezes on the nose, leading to numbness, my fingertips became the detector of the liquid nuisance. I had the till that day and a different manager, Mai. She was from Gateway McDonalds, on the other half of West end Billings. I’d like to think of her as a soft bitch because she brutally followed the work manual and anything not done the “right way” would be corrected immediately in the kindest way. Therefore, she was a soft bitch. I wasn’t too by the book. It was obvious because of my black Vans high tops that I wore instead of black gripped tennis shoes and there’s reason for that rule; the workstation floor was blanketed in a thin layer of grease.
Handling customers with a cold was a hassle but taking care of customers in general is a bitch.“Kill them with kindness”was another mantra I often used with the most unruly customers. I’d prefer to just kill them. I felt myself automatically sniffing extra to prevent leakage from my face. When I caught a break, my fingertip detector dabbed at the numbed nose. Caught off guard after the dinner rush, Mai called me over. Some managers are always counting money from the tills off to the side from view. A rickety old stool at a table by a safe, files of papers, and the clock out machine was the area for a manager most times. I walked to that station and addressed Mai. I gave her eager eyes that asked what?! She looked at me and said, “I’ve noticed you’ve been touching your face a lot. You know that you handle food so that’s unsanitary.” I replied honestly. I mean what other excuse could I grab out of my ass?
“Yeah, I know. I have a cold and I’m trying not to let it show.”
“I know a cold can be hard but if that comes about, you should really move to the side.”
There wasn’t much I could say after that so I apologized with a nod and headed back to the till, rolling my eyes. A nosy co-worker of mine overheard and said, “I usually use my sleeves like this.” He demonstrated by putting his forearm up to his nose. I nodded, “I’ll make sure to do that next time.” Who asked you, I thought but I still took his advice. “Kill them with kindness” I told myself again. No need to snap at a person who I had to see almost every day.
Since I was a “closer,” it meant being at the fine establishment until the dreadful closing of shop. Thursday through Sunday was Ruth’s days. My first manager Ruth, was a kind older woman who had some medical problems, but still felt like she was in shape to be the closing manager. It actually took longer than it should to close with her. Sometimes I wouldn’t get home until 1 a.m. even though we should have gotten out at 11pm. At first, I couldn’t understand why other employees disliked her so much, but after closing with Ruth, I could understand why co-workers found her so frustrating. I just thought she was the best because of how easy-going she was. Pitiful, petty work drama.Coming in as a new person, you had to figure things out by yourself. Mostly everybody who worked there had been working for years.I tried to keep my job as impersonal as possible but Ruth made it impossible. She always told me information that was unnecessary for me to know. Gossip, gossip, please stop it. Especially because sometimes it would be just the two of us closing. If it wasn’t gossip, it was about her health issues. She talked of her MRIs mostly. She talked of them so much that every time I passed an MRI clinic, I thought to myself that she might be in that clinic right now. It wasn’t until three weeks of working there that the store finally transferred her. That’s when Braden took over.
Braden King with the initials of BK: I thought he was working at the wrong fast food joint with such a name. He was creepy to me, but I favored him. At the age of 25, he was dating a girl in her senior year of high school. That makes everything better. I know “age ain’t nothing but a number” but really? Older and oddly creepy. Why I favored him could have been because we had a lot of inside jokes and sometimes cried over some of the worst customers together. There were many regulars that were Wal-Mart employees. One had to be this elderly lady who was never satisfied. Something was always wrong with her food. What’s wrong was that I forgot to spit in it. I had the assembling line that day. Braden came over and told me to throw out the last hamburgers even though they hadn’t been chilling too long because we knew that this old sassy lady was coming by. Still,I knew she would complain about it anyways.
“That lady’s here again. She always says the hamburgers are too old.” As he was speaking he was multi-tasking between the grill and fryer while I assembled previous customer’s orders.
I suggested that he needed to tell her, “The hamburgers are too old? You’re too old!” He laughed then continued working knowing that she wouldn’t be complaining that time.
I was fascinated by his character switch. He would approach me with a face that insinuated he wanted to burn down the place. When he took care of the old lady, he was the friendliest guy ever. I’m sure he told himself too “Kill them with kindness”. That was a definite skill needed for customer service that I slacked from time to time. I just knew I wouldn’t be working there for long. School was approaching. Soon I was going to quit.
After I quit working at McD’s, it changed my outlook on the corporation in a positive way. As much shit is given to fast food, it didn’t prevent me from respecting many people who work in a similar industry. I actually never complain at fast-food anymore. I don’t think I ever did. I find myself sympathizing with the employees instead. I knew they had to endure fucking, folly, fast-food. I knew they had to endure radical customers, gossiping co-workers, and uptight managers. I will always remember. I was once in their shoes. I was once flipping burgers and salting fries. I was once showcasing my fake smiles. I was once repeating to myself “Kill them with kindness”. And I too once wanted to shove a greasy hamburger down an old lady’s throat.