Maynard G. Krebs Cringed When He Heard The Word WORK!?!!
Join me on a journey through the wonderful world of work as I revisit those places I once toiled at - Wally's World Of Work!?!!!
My first real job was at the Murfreesboro McDonald's located at 106 SE Broad Street. I started sometime in the spring of 1985. I still remember the first night with vivid cold clarity. I was paired with another first nighter and our only job was to clean out the indoor walk in cooler. I spent 4 hours scrubbing the stainless steel walls while trying to strike up a conversation with the other dude. He was beyond spaced out and could barely be bothered to nod or grunt. I returned home that night with sore muscles and a weak mind. Still I returned for my next scheduled shift.
Soon I was learning all of the grease splattered truths I would need to survive as a Mickey D's grill man. This was before the advent of the clamshell grills and I had to sear and flip the burgers. Sometimes it was slow and there wasn't much art to baking the buns, grilling, and dressing the burgers, but usually we were on a 12 and turn routine. You'd put 12 more burgers on the grill after flipping the first 12. One person could manage this handily even allowing for some spins of the bread shovel after scooting the tops of the buns off in one fluid motion. This rotation typically involved a subset of Big Macs like 12-6 and 6.
During the serious slammed times (like every Sunday lunch when a particular church would descend like locusts at our door) emergency measures were enacted. It would be 24 and turn with the assistant manager pitching in on buns and a wandering back person dressing the burgers between fish sandwich and Nugget deep frier runs hoping like hell they didn't run out of apple pies. During hamburger or cheesburger specials they might even spill into Quarter Pounder territory. Then there were the other kinds of specials: special orders.
They never bothered me since I've always preferred my burgers plain or just with cheese, but some of my cohorts would go crazy when requests for ketchup only or extra pickles made there way back to us. I never witnessed anybody doing anything super horrible to somebody's food while there, but there was this tradition of putting extra salt on a burger that got extra pickles. The usual way of dealing with a special order was just to take one's sweet little time. I did drop burgers on the floor as did others and they always went promptly in the trash. The grill men I worked with took their jobs seriously. It wasn't too much unlike All-American Burger from Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
If there any ladies reading this that might have stopped by that particular McDonald's back then and heard a loud "grill check" yelled from the back take it as a compliment. It was the standard way to let everybody know that a pretty woman was ordering at the front counter. A sudden need for napkins would arise if you heard the phrase while in the breakroom. You could be up to your neck in dirty trays with soap bubbles stuck to your polyester pocket less pants and you'd just have to go peek over the grill because not only do fast food utensils need a good cleansing, but so does one's tired spirit.
I worked the grill, front counter, and some drive thru during what would not be my last stint at a McDonald's. We only had one drive thru window back in those primitive times and the best job was to be a runner during lunch or dinner. There was always a pretty girl taking orders and the money and between rushing around packing bags full of food I'd do what every guy did when they got the rare chance to run - I flirted with the drive thru girl. Sometimes I'd even look forward to working especially if I knew I was going to be runner on a Sunday afternoon after working the truck in the morning.
Working the truck was the best. Two of us would be assigned to the job and you would not have to do anything but wait until the truck came. Once it arrived the work was fast and rough grabbing boxes from a conveyor and then stacking and storing them, but it beat grilling burgers. The best part was stocking the freezer which was outside the restaurant. Boxes and boxes of cardboard entombed cow meat went into the frozen vortex - a prize treat to go fetch during a hot summer days work. The extra payoff for working truck happened toward the end of the freezer stocking. A McDonald's birthday cake would get damaged in transit and we would take one for Ronald as we scarfed down the offending pastry.
Folding Happy Meal boxes, using carbonated water to clean the grill, making pancakes on the breakfast shift, chowing down on my standard break meal of plain double cheeseburger and fries, sweeping the parking lot, or cleaning the dining area will always be a part of my life. As will the quiet of a closed restaurant save for the complaints of those chosen to clean the restrooms and my pruned up hands after a few hours diving at the end of a shift. It's the place where I first heard the saying, "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean" and thought that the person saying it was an idiot.
It's the place I was at while Live Aid was happening. I'd peek into the breakroom every chance I got to see who was on stage. It was the summer that "Walking On Sunshine" was a smash hit and I can still see the assistant manager Linda come in one afternoon practically dancing as she sang the song. She invited me to a party that summer where I promptly ruined the festive mood by putting Rubber Soul on her record player. The late and great Smooth worked there too on his way to becoming a manager himself while attending college at the same time.
I was bound for Memphis State in September. At least that was the plan. I had even toured the dormitory I would be living in earlier that summer. So I put in my two weeks notice. I worked those last two weeks in a bit of daze. I spent the last day doing much of nothing. It was a tradition of sorts. Then right on the eve of moving to Memphis I learned my parents either didn't have enough money for it or just didn't want me to move away. I had covered my living expenses. They were supposed to have come up with tuition. So I ended up at M.T.S.U. that fall which is quite the novella of disillusionment and pseudo artistic angst that I'll post here soon.
I should have gone back to work at the McDonald's in Murfreesboro. But I didn't. I viewed such a move as a failure. So I decided to try the Smyrna Mickey D's instead. It was closer to where I lived. That was my justification. The story of that job is short and almost violent, but it can wait until another time along with a short story I wrote during that era featuring a cast of fast food miscreants and other friends and enemies. Remember; don't work too hard.
Do The Arches!