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Ten Things I Learned From Working In A Fast Food Restaurant

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In June 2010, I was chosen to be part of a school trip to Japan, and much running around and screaming ensued. But then, I needed more money to print Cinderelliot, so there came some complications. I got a job watering flowers in the summer for two old ladies, and made about $600 from all that. In October, I was in the middle of a desperate search for money that left me working at an A&W.
You can't just get hired to a nice place without a first job on your resume. Everybody has to work at an awful, greasy place once, and this ensures that your soul is crushed by the time you move up to a good job. I went for A&W because it makes me think of a cool old grandpa in a 1964 Strato Chief, one that drives you around and tells you cool stories. In comparison, McDonalds is like that gassy and bitter great-aunt whom you can't talk to with your Pakistani friend around, Burger King is a middle-aged man who thinks he's cool and tries to skateboard, and Wendy's is a senile and incontinent hippie. This analogy makes no sense, but the point is that I applied to an A&W because it made me feel the least ashamed.
Of course, it was fun at first, being able to tell people I had a job, but after three days into actual work it became evident that I had entered the first circle of hell.
1. Everybody is hungry and hates you
If you get a customer at 9 P.M. or later, they kind of know what they've gotten into. They're there because they maybe got back from a movie or a game and wanted some food, and they're prepared to wait ten minutes for the kitchen to make something fresh. But during 4-7 P.M., or even 8-11 A.M., that's hell. There's no other word for it.
You'll be standing there by the till, in that starchy brown and beige uniform, pretending to know what the hell you're doing. The restaurant would have maybe two people eating at a table, but then, the clock would strike five. And then, the front doors would open, and six hundred people come in all wanting the same thing. But the kitchen's been goofing off because you've had no customers for twenty minutes. So, you've got to yell through the food rack for "that Uncle Burger", that one, like it's a fugitive, only to hear that "the sirloin is a wait". Meanwhile, you take another order with two or three, maybe even more people waiting off to the side. And they glare at you. They want you dead. Where the hell is their Papa Burger? "How dare you keep me waiting, I'm an accountant, and you're just a teenager who works in a restaurant!"
One time, somebody bumped the order for this guy who wanted like three burgers, and to bump an order means to delete it off the Orders Pending screen because you're an idiot. This guy comes up to me after watching me give a happy couple their food, and he's infuriated at me, despite me being the only person working that shift who's genuinely concerned for everyone's safety. I immediately turned to the girl at fault working the food rack and she calls for the food from the kitchen. The guy had drank an entire milkshake, and he slammed the cup down in front of me, demanding a refill because I made him wait.
Apparently food tastes better when it's dowsed in the fear of a terrified seventeen year old girl.
2. The scheduling is awful
I said my hours of availability were 4-10 PM on weekdays and 9 A.M.-6 P.M., but according to the manager, "We need people who can work all hours." If so, what the fuck are we doing here, Andrea? I wrote on the piece of paper that your assistant used to hire me with that I couldn't work past 10 P.M. or any earlier than 8 A.M., and you insist that you absolutely need to train me to work until one in the morning?
I wrote those hours down for a reason. I do not function properly beyond those hours, and I do not have the means of getting around beyond those hours. If you need someone to work until one in the morning, why don't you just schedule in someone who can work to one in the morning? Oh right, because you've scheduled me to be the only cashier to work past midnight, which means you're making Hakim the fry guy show me how to close a restaurant. No, no, I understand perfectly, you bitch.
If you got hired to that location, were a girl, and were under twenty, it was most likely that you'd be working with other girls (and maybe one boy) under twenty into the night. Apparently if you work that late and can't be driven home, someone else will drive you. This implies that I'd be getting into a car with Assistant Manager Shane, A.K.A. "Shane stop throwing stuff at me through the food rack while I attempt to bag this order, I mean seriously, I'm seventeen and you're like twenty-four."
I took the job hoping to diligently work six hours every weekday, piling on the money for my trip until I had what I needed. But, Shane would schedule me to work a Wednesday and a Friday, a Saturday the next week, maybe nothing the next week, and then Friday-Saturday-Sunday the next. All the while, Shane and Andrea would be playing with my hours. Once, I was scheduled to be the only non-management staff member behind the counter for two hours, albeit with no prior breakfast training.
I hated the job deeply, but I knew I could get used to it if I worked enough days in a row. That never happened.
3. You will lose your mind
I was "trained" for cashier and garbage duty, but I liked being assigned to the latter much more. It was because I knew what to expect and it was at a less frenzied pace, and thus, it had come to a point where handling used mugs and garbage was more enjoyable than explaining to a man that a combo is a meal, sir, so please order something before the man behind you becomes so mad at you that he chokes the life out of me.
In addition, I was doing this godawful roleplay with some kids and Astronomical Girl, whom you may remember as the creator of this slimy piece of text. If I were gone from the thread because, say I was working eight hours at a bloody restaurant, Astronomical Girl would go, "Waaaah, where is she?! I can't do anything if she doesn't play with us!" and it would continue until I popped back in and posted something. I lived in fear of work, I dealt with work, and then I went home to entertain an idiot child for her self-indulgement vehicle.
I would also try to strengthen myself while I was taking out mugs and garbage by thinking, "What would Professor Go do?" He's the homosexual super-scientist from Giant Robo, a character I really respect, and somehow asking myself this actually helped. All right, I have to clean this giant-ass stack of trays AND take out the garbage because no one thought to do either cleaning during my half-hour break! What would Go do?
Okay, my only options are Cry and Bawl. Darn...
4. They are probably not going to train you properly
I was given access to an online training course for the restaurant, but all I really took away from it was how every video with this blonde guy had him smiling forcedly, and that you're supposed to empty the register if you get robbed. I had maybe two days in-store when they showed me how to use the register, followed by chucking me into the job. I kind of had to figure out how everything worked on the job from there.
I mentioned before that I was chucked into working the breakfast shift. I had two people who were trying to help me, but she walked off to work the drive-thru, and he took his break. So I was there when this lady ordered something...
"Welcome to A&W, how may I help you?"
"I'd like two eggs sunny side up, and brown buttered toast."
"I..." (Searches register keypad while panic sets in)
Quickly though, I got help, and it turns out that the breakfast options are all within one button that displays certain options. Shane found this hilarious when he came in to work, and hey thanks man, it's probably even more hilarious that no one thought to help me do breakfast orders in the three weeks I've been here.
5. Some people are total dicks
Now, I had some pretty awesome experiences while working with people. One time I had this gay lawyer tip me like two dollars, and another time, I helped this poor lady and her son organize a decent meal for less than eight dollars, making the boy's day when I gave him free root bear candy. One time a frenzied young mother needed help carrying a few trays, and another time, a group of people were on the way to a football game and came to my till because I understood they were in a hurry.
But then other people are dicks.
Aside from the general bunch hate that you, you get to talk to a special breed of people that have been chemically engineered out of American stereotypes and oxen feces. One morning, this woman, her much older husband, and their five-year-old son came in after church. She yelled at the boy to sit down, fought with her husband over what to order, and ordered an omelet thing for her son that required replacing every item included. This includes asking for more than three eggs prepared in a different way, and getting mad at me for saying that it would cost more. And then, it comes back from the kitchen, who's fucked it up spectacularly.
Four fried eggs and a piece of bacon sticking out of it.
So she starts yelling at me. All of our up-front staff are suddenly dealing with her, trying to get her to relax, and I'm moved to the back of a crowd. I catch her saying, "I thought she understood me..."
Hey, here's a wacky idea. Why don't you go buy a carton of eggs and a pack of bacon, look up a guide on how to cook either, and go home and try to make some eggs for yourself? This ensures you can make your favourite Prebyterian Bitch Bacon without holding up a line at a family restaurant!
As well, there's the crusty old men that will order coffee (if you're unlucky, they'll ask for more than one, paying individually) and ask for the senior's coffee. You save like thirty cents by being old and asking for it, but there's some people that act like they've got secrets of the bible. They'll lean forward, ensuring that you meet their eyes through any means possible. They'll grin at you, and add to their order, "And a senior's coffee." They smirk at you to remind you that you're some greasy, scared teenager making their coffee, while they're a wise, experienced septogenarian who can get cheap coffee. It was revolting.
6. It's not really food anymore
An unheated bag of Mozza Sauce looks like creamy orange Playdoh with chunks of glass in it. Just thought I'd let you know.

All written material here is 2007-2011 Fauna Crawford, along with any images identified as such. All other copyrights belong to their respective owners and creators. Permission is required to use any original material from this site.