Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Come With Me

Son1 started his first job today. He is officially a fry cook at Sonic. I know this because he came home wearing their shirt and hat. I hope that he learns many wise lessons from the experience that will carry him forward in life. I know that restaurant work did that for me.

The worst job I ever had, bar none, was a hand-me-down.

I was hanging out one summer day thinking long and hard about all the ways I could misspend my youth when a friend, or rather more of an acquaintance dropped by. Mostly folks like him came over when they were looking for a buzz, and I was usually able and willing to accommodate.

A toke or two, I’m kicked back on the bed and he’s sprawled out against the wall on the opposite side. Bear in mind that my room was not eight feet across, so it wasn’t such a stretch to share a bit of herb.

“Want a job?” he asked in a stifled voice.

“Sure,” I said, “where?”

“You can have mine.” Long exhale.

I should have known this was a red flag, but at sixteen you don’t always see things so clearly. Forty-eight years of living and working tell me that you don’t pass your job off to someone else. I know that now.

Timex had their world headquarters in Little Rock and in those days they actually made watches here. They had a huge operation out by Adams Field, now the old airport. He explained to me that I should show up at the back door of the cafeteria at the appointed time, tell whoever answered the door that I was there to take his place. I’m still not seeing anything wrong with this picture.

I show up, tell dude why I’m there, he smiles and escorts me inside. Big, giant red flag. I don’t see it.

Inside, he shows me three or four really large pots. I’m thinking they come up about to my chest. Memory may exaggerate somewhat, but I do know that I couldn’t reach the bottom of them without climbing down inside them. They were designed to be used with a behemoth floor mixer and had stuff like mashed potatoes crusted on the inside. He handed me a large brush, a coffee can full of a viscous soap substance and a hose with a nozzle on the end.

I scrubbed and hosed out the pots into a floor drain until they shined as well as you can get aluminum to shine and I called my new boss over to inspect. “Great!” he remarked, “come with me.”

At this point I was given a cart stacked higher than I was tall with bundles of paper napkins and shown into the dining room. The dining room was cavernous, maybe the size of fourteen or nineteen football fields with rows and rows of tables all with little metal napkin dispensers that needed filling. My mind is a bit foggy about this point because I think I went into autopilot for that one. Autopilot in those days consisted of daydreaming about sex and nekkidness with various and sundry girls I went to school with, mostly Cheryl Honeycutt.

After finishing the napkin filling, I learned to my horror that those bastards had gotten the large pots all dirty again. Brush, scrub, hose, towel, inspect.

Just as I feel that nothing could get worse, the boss smiles and leads me to a large stainless steel table that butts up against a little window. Easily 150,000 people begin shoving dirty dishes through the little window. As fast as fast can be I have to hose off the dishes, fit them into neat little green racks, run them into a large stainless steel box, close the lid, hit a button, repeat steps one through twenty while machine makes noise, then take scalding hot dishes out and stack them in the kitchen. I'm replaying an I Love Lucy episode in my mind.

This goes on for what I’m sure is three or seven days, but I’m no quitter. I finished the shift, whipped like the proverbial redheaded step child and fall into bed at home.

I light up, take a couple of quick puffs and lean back to ruminate on the events of the day. What the hell am I going to do now?

“Hey man, how’s it going?” It’s Ron Nelson sticking his head in my room through the open door.

“Pretty good, man. Come on in and get a toke. Say, man, you want a job?”


Sandy said...

Excellent story...

Nixon Casablanca said...

One of my best friends in High School paid his entire family's living expenses working at Sonic after high school, which was the only thing that kept him from being Valedictorian, and caused him to give up football and wrestling. He barely missed out on going to West Point, and went to OU instead, and is now an electrical engineer.

Anyway, since high school, I've always tipped Sonic workers very well.