My very first official job was working at Wendy's in Neosho. I had just turned 16 and needed to pay for my car, car insurance, and gas. I didn't really think I would get the job but gave it a shot. Dad dropped me off at the restaurant, which had just opened in our town right across from McDonald's, and waited in the truck while I went in to apply.
Our Wendy's was the traditional old style with the Tiffany lamps hanging over the marble type tables. There was a freshtastics food bar, which was all the rage, along with the Classic. Remember the Classic? The only thing different about the burger was the bun, which was kaiser-ish and dusted with cornmeal on top. I did like the classic burger. The restaurant was much more subdued than McDonald's which was busier and more hectic to me. I like Wendy's better anyway.
The Manager was in and had me fill out the application while I interviewed with him. As we were talking he said, "So, Bill, do you think you would want to work here?" "Sorry, it's Will, and yes, Sir, I would very much like to work here." "I'll be right back." Ok...where was he going? He returned shortly with two shirts and a ball cap. "You'll need to get some black shoes and navy blue pants...you start on Monday. Welcome aboard." Not being one to immediately process shocking things my reply was, "so I got the job? Just like that." "I like you and think you'll fit right in here." "Thank you."
No one was more shocked than my Dad. "You got the job! When do you start?" "Monday." With that we drove home. My sister and I scoured Joplin looking for black shoes and blue pants. We finally found black shoes at Tom McKann and Penny's had the blue pants. I was now ready for work...or was I? I showed up on Monday after school and walked in with my shiny new uniform ready to my new career in the fast food industry. The first day was spent reading this use manual on how to keep Wendy's Wendy's and not screw things up. Of all the things I read that day I'll never forget the layering process of how to make a Dave burger. By the way the burgers are square because Dave Thomas said, "we never cut corners!" Mustard on the burger. Top bun is white, red, green. Mayo, ketchup, pickle, onion, tomato, lettuce. It HAS to be in that order, whiteredgreen.
I usually closed the store because it wasn't busy and I wasn't fast so it was good match. It did mean I had to do all of the crappy stuff, like cleaning the grill and floors. It also meant getting to take home the left over apple dumplings that they used to make. I also had to scrub the next day's potatoes, and prep the chili for the next day.
- Chili: The hamburgers that were cooked on the grill were passed through stages. The patties closest to the "cold bar" were the ones you used first. Four in a row no more than 12 patties at a time (if you were slow) on the grill. The patties would expire as far as being served on a bun, so they were put into a pan in the fridge below the grill where we kept the cheese and extra patties. The patties were never frozen. I had to dump all of the patties in this huge pot and chop them with two flipping spatulas. After that I opened the two bags that magically made the chili--chili. It cooked in a huge pot on the back stove. All day. I didn't eat their chili any more once I knew it was made with expired meat! I'm just that way. People loved the chili and we sold a ton.
- Cleaning: Every night I had to put on a big stock pot full of water and bring it to a boil. Upon closing I had to scrub the grill until it was shiny and clean. That was a hard job, but I didn't mind cleaning. The huge pot of water which took forever to come to a boil, had three scoops of Tide dumped in. Then I had to pour that pot of water on the floor and scrub the floors clean. I really hated doing that.
- Cooking: The coolest thing to cook was the chicken for the chicken sandwich, my favorite thing to eat there. They were fried in a pressure fryer. It was so cool. The sound of that chicken cooking away was just awesome, the sizzle. Loved the chicken sandwich.
We had our regular customers that came in every other night or every night and always got the same thing. Never too busy kind of steady and slow, I liked the speed. One night about twenty minutes before closing the Crowder College baseball team showed up, having just pulled into town from a game, famished. There are a lot of people on a baseball team! Every one of those guys wanted a triple. Half my grill was clean and ready to close. All of a sudden we had this rush! And when I say rush---I mean RUSH! I was so freaked out. My whole grill was completely covered in patties sizzling away, All three fry vats were churning out fries--ALL AT THE SAME TIME! It was just to much for me to handle, but I sucked it up and made it through the night. I really hated those guys for that.
The manager I liked left and an new jerk manager, Larry, came to work, he was a jerk! One of my all time favorite stories is the day he realized one of the evergreen shrubs in front of the store had died. It was brown...dead brown. "Will I need to talk to you." Oh crap...I was going to be fired, I just knew it. "Yes, sir." "As you know[here it comes...he knows I've been in the freezer drinking the frosty mix] we have a dead shrub [whew!] in our landscape." "I've noticed that." "Well...we can't afford to replace it, but we can't have a dead shrub in our landscape. " "Of course you can't." "Here's $10 go to Wal-Mart and get two cans of spray paint then when you get back paint the shrub." "Excuse me?" "I want you to paint the shrub." thunk "OHHHKAY." The whole way there I could not believe I was buying spray paint for a dead shrub...In a Wendy's costume! When I got back I painted the shrub with my Krylon evergreen spray. It looked horrible having a dead shrub painted green! And I knew I did it! That dead shrub was there for nearly two years after I left! That's a lot of spray paint!
The worst accident I ever had involved the fryers. There were three fryers-a total of six baskets, and the oil was cycled. The freshest oil was used for the fries in baskets one and two, then baskets three and four for back up fries, with baskets five and six for nuggets. The nugget oil was like molasses by the time it was changed. The process was really complicated for me and always a drudgery. One night I had to change the oil and accidentally poured the oil from vats one and two into the same place. Oil spilled all over the place what a Mess! My manager was so mad at me. I was kind of hacked at myself too because I had to clean that up. Took forever.
Soon after the fiasco with the fry oil I decided to move on and quit my job having secured a job at the toy store in the mall. That's another story for another day.