Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Holy Kroc!

Seeing as today is May Day I figured a story about labor was in order.

Last week, I stumbled onto this little nugget.

By the way if you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I do a lot of stumbling. That's the nature of being a copywriter. Or any writer for that matter. You don't just step up to the terminal and the keyboard and start throwing words on the page. Granted, there's a little of that. But in between well-crafted sentences and solidly-contained paragraphs, there's a lot of dilly dallying. And dilly dallying leads to stumbling. And stumbling leads to blogging.

I'm fortunate to count myself among those who never worked at McDonalds. But that is not to say I  escaped the greasy clutches of the fast food world. I put in considerable amount of time at Jack in the Box, their less corporate, less dogmatic rival across the street.

Not sure if it applies today, but at the time there was a palpable hierarchy in the kind of kids who flipped burgers and stuffed tacos. And in many ways it mirrored the pecking order in high school. This was captured brilliantly in the "C" story line in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, more specifically Judge Rheinhold's painful descent into fast food hell.

McDonalds was the domain of the overachievers. Bright eyed kids with good skin and even better teeth. They smiled a lot. Said "yes mam" and "yes sir". And they all seemed to be bucking for a promotion to shift leader. They were Hitler Youth in polyester uniforms.

The Burger King kids were next in line. They didn't get hired at McDonalds and didn't take that rejection particularly well. They had the same good looks and get up and go spirit, but for some reason they didn't make the cut. The BK company slogan was "special orders don't upset us", but special orders did upset them. And you could see it on the kid's faces. And the cheeseburgers that were missing pickles and onions. Their can-do attitude was bitterly replaced with an up-yours.

Then came Wendys.
Followed by Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips.
And bringing up the rear were the Jacksters from Jack in the Box.

We were the outsiders. The independents. We hated our jobs. We hated our bosses. We even hated the food. It was not uncommon for some of us to have a pizza delivered for our lunch break. But, oddly enough, we also loved each other.

Perhaps because we were not jocks or cheerleaders or in the band or part of the rocket club, we formed a bond and enjoyed a special camaraderie, rarely seen in today's workplaces. We drank together. We went out together. We took mischief-making trips to New York City and almost went to jail together.

Other than folks who worked in the Creative Department, I couldn't name five people who I worked with at Y&R. But decades after the fact, I could rattle off 10-15 names of people who punched the clock at Box #1428, 10 Central Ave., Spring Valley, NY.

Like Armand, uh....I don't remember his last name, but I do remember he was from the shallow end of the gene pool. I also remember the time -- I want to say one time but he might have done this on multiple occasions -- he dropped his tongs in the 450 degree cooking oil to fry the tacos. No sooner did the tongs go in the hot oil than did his hands go in trying to retrieve them.

That's a scream I can't erase from my hard drive.

Steve Shayne, the assistant manager quickly rushed Armand to the hospital which was located nearby. It wasn't the first or the last time Steve had to drive Armand there. But he didn't mind. Because like the rest of us, he didn't care for Jumbo Jacks. And the hospital was just across the street from the McDonalds.


Jeff said...

Around fryers, things happen no matter what end of the gene pool you swim in. One day, when I worked at Fisher's Hamburgers, I was cleaning the fryer where French fries were cooked. We used a strainer to collect fries that'd dropped in the oil. Because the handle was so greasy, it slipped out of my hand and into the fryer. Instinctually without thinking, I reached in to grab it. It took a minute, but then I realized my arm was elbow deep in hot oil. So just as instinctively, I yanked it out of the oil and ran to the ice bin by the drinks and stuck my arm in. Fortunately no damage was done. Armand, wherever you are, I feel your pain.

Hep said...

The fryer story sounds horrific. Did they empty out that grease or did they keep using the grease that reeked of human suffering and third degree burns?

Hep said...

I think I may have had a couple dates with Armand. Or lived with him.

glasgowdick said...

Oh no, Kathy.

Changing the fryer oil is a laborious affair. It was only done once year, a day or two before the visit of our Regional District Manager or Oberstgruppenfuhrer Jim Hargrave, who ruled with an iron fist.

That's when we called in Revered Joseph Lowery, I told you I still know the names. Joe was a tall, skinny black man in his mid-fifties. A preacher at a Southern Baptist church in the neighborhood. He would work the graveyard shift was only one familiar with the complicated oil changing operation.

When he wasn't doing that he would dispense Gospel and SuperTacos to the stoned kids rolling past the drive through.