Tex Mex From Tubes and Speaking Nicely

I’ve mentioned before that after I left Albania I was looking for a job with the least amount of responsibility possible. I therefore took a job at Taco Tico, a regional Tex Mex fast food restaurant.

Unfortunately, because I was older and allegedly wiser, I was put on a fast track to shift manager. When I started, my uniform was a polo style shirt and a baseball cap and my job was to not muck up orders on the cash register, not mess up giving out change, clean stuff, and speak nicely to people. The people included fellow employees and customers. It turns out that neither was necessarily easy to speak nicely to.

Customers, especially, have this unreasonable expectation that things should be served promptly and that everything should be clean. However, you should not attempt to make things clean whilst any customers are present. I had a guy tell me he didn’t appreciate me slinging dirty water and a mop around the restaurant whilst he was eating, even though I’d been instructed to go out and clean up the ruins of the lunch rush. Oddly, I managed to say something along the lines of “Sorry, sir. I’ll do that later.” instead of pointing out that he was unreasonable git eating ground meat from a plastic tube that looked like a giant frozen turd and had been delivered by a truck driver which meant that some dirty water on the floor was probably the least of his worries.

I was made shift manager without having to take a test, much to the anger of a few employees who’d been trying to get promoted for quite a while. Basically the store manager was using the test–which involved memorizing the exact grams and ounces of each ingredient in each dish–to filter out the employees who worked hard but he didn’t think were particularly bright. As a result of my promotion, I got more money, a short sleeve button down Oxford shirt, a clip on tie and responsibility over money and napkins. Oh, and more resentment from fellow employees–especially when I told one he had to stop ringing up an extra 50 cents worth of sour cream and other toppings on orders in order to run up the bill on obnoxious customers in the drive-thru.

My only “Really? Are you serious? Really?” moment came when I had to teach one kid, whose dad was making him work to pay for the insurance and gasoline on his awesome car (an early 1970’s something or other muscle car), how to wash dishes and use both a broom and a push broom. (I remain shocked that anyone would not know how to do any of those, but he was a fast learner and a good employee.)

I also got a lot more scrutiny from my boss, who seemed intent on the idea of me eventually moving into proper management. I, of course, said, “No, damn you. I’m going to get a Ph.D. in literature. That’s where the real future is.” (That actually turned out to be a better decision than it sounds as that boss was eventually fired for messing about with the menu too much. More on why I don’t have a Ph.D. some other day.)

All in all, I was glad I worked fast food at least once. In fact, I believe every person should work fast food and/or retail jobs at least once in their lives. It teaches you a lot about people and yourself, It also teaches you to avoid ever working fast food again.

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