Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Working fast food

I wrote a bit on Monday about Antoine Wilson's novel Panorama City, and while I praised Wilson's eye for detail and care for his characters, as well as his nicely turned sentences, I don't think I made clear just how funny the book is. So today I'll share two passages that made me laugh, both from fairly early in the novel, when Oppen Porter has just taken a job in a fast food place.

On his first day, he meets Roger, his manager, and his new colleagues:
Roger had a bushy mustache, an unruly mustache, and he wore his shirt unbuttoned one button too far, which showed off his rough throat and dry Adam's apple, and where you would expect a hairy chest was a mysteriously hairless expanse, which my fellow employees spent much time speculating about. One the first day I was introduced to Melissa, who was round and black and a mother of two, Francis, who had thick glasses and was going to become a filmmaker, Ho, who was a refugee, and Wexler, who talked about cars and nothing else. Whenever Roger told my fellow employees to do something, they always said his name twice, after which he'd threaten to make them call him Doctor Macarona, he wasn't actually a doctor, but he was way the hell ahead of the rest of us in the school of life, his words, and we couldn't call him bachelor because he was married and we couldn't call him master, because Melissa was black and what kind of message would that send, his question.
Before he can start working, Porter is required to watch a training video, one that presents "two separate realities, two alternate universes," one a terrible restaurant and one a successful one. The key to the successful restaurant? That one follows "the fast-food place's five-point system, which was illustrated by a gold cartoon star, five points for five points, each one glinting as it was listed off":
One, smile even if you feel bad. When people smile back you will feel better. Two, do what you can to make others feel important, especially if they are angry about something. Three, take pride in your work. Four, the company, I'm not going to name it, is a great big family. Five, the customer is always right.
In other words, the sort of points that sound fine in the boardroom but rarely survive the grease-laden transition to the fry station.

But Porter, inclined to assume sincerity, takes the five points to heart and attempts to put them in practice with his coworker Ho:
Ho did not smile, not in the least. So I smiled at him the broadest smile I could, and to make him feel important I said thatI hoped to someday learn a few of the many skills he obviously possessed in the kitchen, and to make him feel like family I called him brother. When Roger came in, finally, a half hour later, the first thing he asked was what I had said to Ho. I repeated exactly what I'd said. Roger said that I had disturbed Ho. I explained that I was using techniques I'd learned in the video. Roger said that the only reason he'd shown me the video was so I could sign a paper saying I'd seen the video. . . . Roger said that I was now one of the troops. I thought it was interesting that he called us troops and said so. He said we were at war. I had no idea. I asked him with who? He said the customer.
You know, how I one in a while mention that there are things I miss about being a bookseller? Well, there's nothing I miss about my time in fast food. (Except the free bagels. And the fact that since I was the trainer of new employees, I could have them make whatever sandwich I wanted to eat. And the ten-gallon barrel of pickles. Okay, so maybe fast food wasn't so bad after all?)

1 comment:

  1. Fast food saves time in today's fast-paced society. People can order fast food on their way to or from work, without ever leaving their car. Fast food is also designed to come in small packaging so that people can consume it while traveling.

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