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.
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!