Rudest Customer Ever

I was sixteen years old. This was my first customer-service job. I’d worked since the age of 12 under the watch of one parent or another. So I’d do filing or copying for my mom, babysitting or pet-sitting for neighbors, or work for my dad’s department at UK, helping with documentation of experiments and running errands across campus in the summer.

But once I had my driver’s license I could use my mom’s car to work evenings and weekends. (I lived way out in the country. No mass transit options.) I filled out a half-dozen applications in a single day, and got hired by Burger King. Those were the days when EVERYONE had a salad bar, and Burger King was all about “Have it YOUR way!”

As with all fast-food places, it was feast or famine. There was a movie theater across the street, a high school nearby, and WAY too many people running through our drive-through as their last chance for hot food for a solid 15 miles north. At least.

I was (before dealing with constant pain became one of my tasks) a fabulous multi-tasker. So, as a well-brought-up Southern girl with a nice smile, I easily worked both front counter and drive-through with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Nowadays this takes three or four people if they’re good. I’m not bragging, that’s just how it was. And the register didn’t tell me how much change to give. I had to figure it out myself. And I don’t think we had debit cards then, either.

AND I had to wear brown polyester. A tunic and pants, with shoes that had great tread, ’cause that tile floor was seriously greasy 24/7. And work for $2.85 an hour (yes, sub-minimum wage in 1985 – still not sure why). Pic clearly not me. I’ve never learned to apply eyeliner.

So when this smarmy guy comes up and orders his Whopper without mayo or pickle or whatever, I put the order in. While I’m putting in orders from drive-thru. And those automatic drink dispensers? Not invented yet. I had to stand there and hold the cup against the lever to fill it up. And I by God made SURE everyone in drive-thru got the correct number of straws and napkins, and only the requested condiments. Because my boss was a bit scary and I’d already pushed open the employee door too hard and sent him flying head-over-heels into a stack of five-gallon pickle buckets. On the first day I met him.
So, Smarmy Guy. He’s middle-aged and his gut is stretching the buttons on his shirt. But he can carry a tune. He steps to the side, waiting for his order, and starts loudly singing the latest commercial jingle.

“Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce,
special orders don’t upset us.
All we ask is that you let us serve it your way.
Serve it your way at Burger King.
We serve it your way, at Burger King!”

Yeah, that got old after about the second time he sang it, arms crossed over his chest and big grin across his face. He eventually got his food. If this experience made him feel good, then. . . I can only imagine what he was doing a decade later. But I know what I was doing a decade later. I’d graduated from the selective BSN program at UK with a 3.5 GPA, taken a job in a cardiac critical care unit that hadn’t accepted a new grad in a decade, married that intimidating boss, and was living in Louisville – a happy mom to my first son. And I was being head-hunted for a position with the largest cardiology group in town. Happy times!

I started writing this as an answer to a Quora question, but decided it was too wordy and turned it into a blog post instead. Quora is my new Pinterest. Thank God for my timer, or I’d be down the rabbit hole for sure!

The Aftermath

My disability hearing is over. I think it went much better this time, in that the judge actually looked in my direction and allowed me to talk when I had something to say.

I’d pre-medicated for the hearing, because I was afraid if I threw up or passed out they’d make me come back and try again three years later. That didn’t make the pain of a one-hour hearing any less brutal. I hadn’t been able to keep food down for three days, so I doubted I’d do any real damage, but if I was going to puke it was going in the general direction of the adjudicator in the green suit. Really, his suit couldn’t have looked worse.

This judge actually met my eyes and smiled, and looked at me rather than down at his desk when asking me questions, which made me much more comfortable. Nonetheless, my hearing took a full hour, maybe more. I don’t usually wear a watch, so I’m going by Michael’s count – he was in the waiting room.

I think it went well. I was horribly embarrassed when I couldn’t find a word I was looking for, or provide a place in time where a certain change occurred. But since it was MY hearing, no one could jump in and save me except the judge, who did so on a couple of occasions, giving me options. It was to my own benefit that I not be able to answer questions, but I was frustrated and in horrific pain.

So the third time I forgot my own lawyer asked me the same fairly simple two-part question, then retracted it because I’d answered part of it and asked to have it repeated twice, I slapped my hand on the table and said, “Ask me again, this is important!” He did, and I replied. I have NO idea what we were talking about. It could have been the appropriate time to plant turnips for all I know.

I just remember that it was incredibly difficult for me to even stand (with my purple cane) to exit the courtroom. My lawyer had me perch on a windowsill near the exit while he signed me out and grabbed my husband to take me to the car. The lawyer was all smiles.

We found out it would be three months or more until we received a verdict (WTF?), and then thirty – sixty days after that until I was actually awarded disability. AND that if they wished they could backdate my disability not to the day I last worked (April 2011) but to when I turned FIFTY (December 2016). Seriously? Seriously.

Really? Did fifty feel like some magical age for any of you who’ve passed it? I am DONE with birthdays (of my own). They can just pass without recognition from now on. I’ve hit the age, so pay me. I know it’s supposed to be 50% of my pay, but I’m sure it will be less. Just pay me so I can go on with my life. I am SO done with jumping through hoops like a dog. Not that dogs who jump through hoops aren’t great, but I want the details of the hoop before I jump through it!

I’m Still Here.

Just in case any of you thought I’d gone off the deep end to one end or the other! No, I’m still here. I made it through the disability hearing (just barely). Without the help of my purple cane and my lawyer I wouldn’t have managed standing up and walking three yards to lean against the wall outside the courtroom. My lawyer offered to sign me out and bring my husband to me, so I didn’t have to walk any further. His name is Phil Rich, BTW, in case you are ever in need of his services. If he’d had a tail it would have been wagging once the trial was over. The judge smiled, met my eyes, and asked very appropriate questions, unlike the reptile I had last time. But the hearing alone took a full hour of sitting. In a hardback chair. I ended up in bed the rest of that day and for two days to follow. I’ve had invasive procedures that took less recovery time!

Long story short: they don’t give out results at the hearing anymore. It may be three months or more before I get a decision. And after that 30-60 more days until I get paid. And even though I’ve been in constant pain since 2009 and off work since 2011. . . odds are the only back pay I’ll get is to December 2016 – when I turned fifty. Of course that won’t even cover the debts I’ve taken on to keep a roof over our heads and our youngest in college once you consider the fees for Allsup and my attorney (both WELL worth the price!)

But I’m staggering slowly back into Social Media, so bear with me. I didn’t check my e-mail for three days, and everyone knows I ALWAYS check my email. My brother (when we were still speaking) emailed me with a request to call him at 4:30 am. This wasn’t a problem, because I checked my personal email before going to work, and I got to work at 4am. This was before cell phones were common.

Anyway, I’m here. Made it through with my dignity intact (no crying) even when my attempted suicide was mentioned. Not sure what’s to come, but it will certainly include family, food, and fur-babies!

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