Yes, she's strange and different...but not THAT different.

22 May 2007

Can I get that "To Go"?

Long ago - in fact, not long after the automobile was invented and paved roads became the norm in the big city - I worked at a drive-thru [that's how it's spelled!] "restaurant". In this context, "restaurant" is in quotes because this particular establishment where I worked did not have indoor dining facilities. You could either drive up, order and then drive away with your bag of food to eat elsewhere, or you could walk up to the front window, order and then eat your bag of food at one of three concrete picnic tables. Although, as a concession to customer comfort, the tables were under a roof. OK, they were under a fiberglass cover but it kept most of the rain and some of the sun off. I'm not going to mention the name of this fine establishment as it was in its infancy then, but today it's a nationwide chain and the name of its spokeshead is sometimes associated with a hand-cranked child's toy that often plays "Pop Goes the Weasel" and has a surprise ending. Need I say more?

During my tenure at this establishment (months and months), I worked my way up from lowly peon to assistant manager. I know that sounds too good to be true but in this case, "Assistant Manager" is simply another name for "Peon that the Manager trusts enough to open up the joint in the morning because said Manager is too hungover or too drunk to come in at that ungodly hour." And sometimes - when said Manager had a hooker drunken binge business meeting scheduled in the evening - I got to lock up at night, total up the day's receipts, count all the money and then have the memorable experience of going to the bank's night deposit with a big bag of cash at three in the morning.

Why do I even mention this? Well, I do it because I believe that others should have the benefit of the wisdom I gained from the time I served in the Box business. First, any time you're waiting in your car at that big colorful menu board with the crappy speaker and everyone in the car is talking and trying to decide what to order, the people inside can hear you! If they're not talking to you, you are talking to them - whether you know it or not - and that's one of the major sources of entertainment for the "restaurant" employees. Second, decide what you want before you get to the damned speaker. It's not a complicated menu: these places mainly sell hamburgers, stuff to drink and fried crap. The place gets rated on how fast they can get cars through the drive-thru [yes, it is!] and when you dawdle with your order, their numbers get screwed up and they get pissed. Which brings us to my final point: always treat the people working at these establishments well. I cannot stress this enough. Do NOT piss them off under any circumstances! The customer may always be right, but in this case the customer will always be screwed, too. Think about it: anonymous, usually immature, people with a high-school diploma (at best) working for minimum wage in an unseen environment will be preparing cheap food for you and then wrapping it up so you can't see it before handing it to you in a bag prior to your speeding away. I speak with experience when I tell you that you do NOT want to know what can be inserted into a fried pie without any outside traces. (Do you know how a grease gun works?) And just about anything - and I do mean ANYTHING - can be deep-fried or disguised inside raw meat before grilling. Salad fixings can be washed with other fluids besides water. And there are plenty of fluids, artificial and natural, that mix up real well with just about any fountain drink. Like those little crunchy toppings on your ice cream or baked potato? Know where they came from? Check the dustpan next time you sweep the kitchen; look familiar?

So, while I've gone on to more lucrative employment since those early years, the lessons I learned about the fast food business may have stayed with me longer than those from any other job I've had. It's a tough and thankless business and I don't miss it, although I will admit that I never had another job where I could shoot rats with a pellet gun when things got slow late at night.

  • On 5/23/2007 4:30 PM, Blogger Sher said…


    I was a Shoney's girl and although not a drive thru, we could be cruel when needed.

    BTW, now that I know the Mom reference makes you nuts, expect to get Mother's Day cards.

  • On 5/24/2007 2:00 PM, Blogger Jami said…

    Nah - Mom references don't make me nuts ... but OLD references do! OK, not really that, either. I've never hidden my age; in fact, I'm quite proud of the fact that I've managed to survive as long as I have without any of the major damage showing. FWIW, I'll be 59 on the 20th of June (not that that's a hint or anything), so I guess I could be your mother - especially in North Carolina.

  • On 5/24/2007 11:25 PM, Blogger Hammer said…

    I'm always real nice to the drive thru folks until after I get my food. I've heard the stories about pee in the pankcake batter and loogies under the lettuce.

    I think the people that get their food adulterated probably deserve it for being a-holes

  • On 5/25/2007 12:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I managed a number of restaurants, back when I still had knees. The only one that's still is business is the one that is famous for its golden arches, bozo mascot, and hamburgers made from Soylent Green.

    Yes, believe me, the employees in the restaurant find customers' in-car conversations, and sometimes their choice of talk radio or music, interesting indeed. Or used to, back in the days when they actually spoke English.

    We definitely adulterated food from time to time, but we didn't use anything dangerous. The motto was "special orders upset us", and those with weird special orders could get special food, indeed, but I saved my best for those special idiots who'd hold up the drive-thru line while they acted important on their early-model cellular phones. I kept a jar of pickled jalapeno peppers in the walk-in cooler, and when one of these clods would keep me waiting for their burger, I'd make sure it was good n' hot for them with a bit of special sauce.

    Watching a fool rip the styroshell off his Big Mac, and rip into the burger in between yells into the cellphone, was worth the pain. They'd bite, the heat would grab their throat and render them speechless. I'd be dying on the floor of the walk-in cooler at that point.

    Polar Bear

  • On 5/31/2007 2:24 AM, Blogger Michael said…

    Folks, just treat people with the respect they deserve for being fellow human beings and add a little more respect (and maybe a tip) because they are doing a low paid and frequently thankless task that you wouldn't dream of doing unless you absolutely had to and you'll be fine.

    Oooo...word verification...well I came this far...

  • On 6/05/2007 5:14 PM, Blogger Denise said…

    You, my dear girl, are simply disgusting.

    I have also worked at similar restaurants -- a burger joint and a taco joint -- AND arose to the mighty ass't mgr position! But, I NEVER saw anyone do anything to food. I'm not saying it doesn't happen. I'm just saying that I didn't need to read about it happening. Thank god I don't eat at those places any more.


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