Adventures in Food Service

By Shannon H.

NOTE: I own the characters and the material in the story is LOOSELY based on my own experiences (in other words, only a teeny bit of this tale is true to my own experiences. Anyone or anything resembling any of the characters in my story is purely co-incidental.

It was the start of summer. The birds sang in the trees, the butterflies glided in the wind with their wings spread out. The bees flew from flower to flower, pollinating and gathering nectar for their hive. Ah, summer. Freedom from books, papers, teachers, annoying classmates...I could go on. I had it all planned out. I just got my license and I was going to drive cross-country for three, glorious months. It was just going to be me, my buds, and the open road...

...but then my parents made me get a summer job. My once, new-found freedom, went down the proverbial toilet like...um, you know. No road trip, no parties, no nothin'. My parade wasn't just rained on; more like stormed on. I remember announcing to my parents that I was going to take three of my best friends for a cross-country road trip from California to Florida for the summer. Yes, I have been saving up my babysitting money and other money from doing odd jobs for friends and neighbors but my parents gave me the third degree, saying that I "should wait until after I graduate from high school" and not just requested, but DEMANDED that I find a summer job to "make sure that I'm not being lazy" for the next three months.

I sighed heavily and took a job at the worst place ever: ChickenWorx. Yes, ChickenWorx, the fast-food place that has the most unclean bathrooms, the most flies, and the most of every negative thing imaginable. But money is money and I need it so i can save up for my long, anticipated cross-country road trip. Turns out that my best buds got the coolest summer jobs: working as lifeguards at the local pool. Dang, I wanted one of those jobs...but I could never swim half the length of the pool in like, 3 seconds. While I'm serving hot chicken sandwiches, they're checking out hot guys in Hawaiian-print board shorts. That stinks.

Well, anyway, I'm Kayla Martin. I just finished my high school sophomore year at North Hills High School. I just turned 16 and I've got a stinky, younger brother named Max who's going to be a freshman in high school next year, and a snobby, older brother named Owen who just left for UCLA. I have a much-older sister named Jenny who's married to some guy I absolutely hate (for three years now) and now I'm about to be an aunt in 3 months to some whiny, drooly twerp. Why couldn't I have been an only child?

Thankfully, most of my co-workers go to the same high school as I do and they are a rather interesting bunch of characters. There's Steven "Steve the King" Kingston who prides himself on being the "world's loudest belcher." Then there's Randy Smith and Sarah Dane, the "cute" couple who are HARDLY ever apart from each other. Of course, there's Anna Denson a.k.a "Syd," the freaky, gothic chick who dresses in black every day (except to work). Mike Peters, the guy who operates the dishwasher, is the narcissic, egotistical jock who believes that he is "God's gift to women." He and Steve often try to do "experiments" in the kitchen, often involving food being served to customers. I also cannot forget Amy Anderson, the annoying, self-absorbed, dumb blonde, soon-to-be varsity cheerleader who claims to have dated every guy on the JV football team and at least half the varsity team. Last but not least, there's Wally Spazinski, the straight-A nerd whose last "girlfriend" dumped him over the Internet. In fact, they've never actually dated in person. There's been a joke about him and his acne, that the big, juicy zit on his nose is just slightly smaller than his I.Q.

And then there's him...Roger Spiegel...my best friend and crush since kindergarten. His soft, wavy blond hair, his piercing blue eyes, and his smile was enough to make any woman melt. I remember him walking into Miss Johanson's kindergarten class. He was dressed in a short-sleeved, buttoned shirt, a pair of matching khakis, carrying a bright, shiny apple in one hand, and his lunch in the other. I remember smiling at him for the first time as I offered him a seat next to me. He returned my smile and...

"MARTIN!" shouted my manager, Robert. "Please make some more French fries. I don't pay you $7 an hour to daydream, you know!"

I managed a "yes, sir" and poured a bagful of frozen French fries into what seemed a vat of hot, poisonous lava. Although he had headphones on, I could hear Siqo's "Thong Song" reverberating from Mike's walkman as he piled dirty food trays into the dishwasher. As much as he knew I hated it, my manager Robert ALWAYS called me by my last name. Robert was a former drill sgt. for the U.S. Army when he got discharged for "unnecessary roughness."

I stood in front of the fryer for three minutes, watching the fries bubble around in the boiling oil. To make matters worse, there was no air conditioning so the only thing we had was an old, 23-year-old oscillating fan from Sears. I'm forced to wear the most butt-ugly work uniform in the history of fashion, which included a crimson-colored polo shirt that had the work logo on it and a pair of black pants with some crappy black shoes to match, which made me feel even hotter due to the heat in the kitchen. I suddenly envied my friends working at the pool. I pulled the fries out of the fryer and into the heating lamp area to "keep them fresh."

Finally, it was 10 a.m., time to open. While Robert was busy yelling at Wally to get to work and stop playing with his Dungeons and Dragons card set, I went to unlock the doors to ChickenWorx. We were open for business. I ran to my position at the cash register, next to the oh-so-cute Roger, whom I had a hard time trying to get my eyes off of, and counted out my bank. A few minutes later, our first customer of the day came in ChickenWorx. He eyed the menu very carefully and proceeded to my register.

"Excuse me," he said. "Is it possible to get the chicken salad without the chicken?"

"Uh, sure," I responded politely. "But there won't be much to the salad without the chicken."

"Oh, I know but you see, I'm a vegan and I don't eat stuff like that. Don't you have ANYTHING that doesn't have chicken in it?"

"Well, we have fries. That's about it."

"You mean to say that you don't have vegan dishes?"

"Nope. This IS a chicken restaurant, sir."

"Oh, I know that, but I assumed you might have a vegan entree or something since other places started selling veggie burgers and stuff. I'll just have an order of large fries and a large coke, please. Oh, and I don't want any ranch dressing since it's made with dairy products. I just want some barbeque sauce and ketchup."

After ringing him up and giving him his food, I sighed heavily. You know, if a place sells chicken, chances are that there are NOT going to be any vegetarian items on the menu, buddy, I thought to myself.

"Dude, that guy was weird," Roger said. "Didn't he read the sign to the restaurant?"

"Apparently not," I mumbled as I watched the vegan guy walk out of ChickenWorx.

Just then, Amy burst into the restaurant, late to work as usual. Her hair was sticking out in all directions. She marched angrily into the kitchen and clocked in.

"Hi Amy," I said, trying to be friendly even though I hated her guts. "How are you doing this..."

"Like, shut up, Kayla!" she snapped. "Like, I like, woke up, like, with a huge zit on my face, and then I realized that like, I forgot to, like, set my alarm, and stuff! And I like, slept weird so my hair is like, all messed up and, like my blowdryer won't work! So, like, don't give me any of this 'good morning,' crap, okay?!"

I sighed heavily. "Whatever Amy."

"She's an airhead to the highest degree," Roger whispered to me. "I remember talking to the last guy she dated. On every date they went on, she was constantly checking herself out in her guy's rearview mirror in his car and totally dissing on him in front of her friends."

"I'm so glad I'm not like her," I said."

"Me too," Roger stated. "You're so not like her."

I felt a tingling feeling up my spine. "Maybe he does like me," I thought to myself as I posted another order to the kitchen. Then, I went back to check up on an order of chicken nuggets in the fryer and noticed Mike and Steve huddled over the frying bin.

"Dude, check this out," Mike said as he spat into the frying bin. "Dude, look at my spit, man. It's all bubbling up and stuff."

"Sweeeeeeet," Steve replied. "Hey, check this out, it's even better." He started to swallow a bunch of air and let out the biggest belch ever.

"Now that was sweeeeeeet!" exclaimed Mike.

"OHMYGOD!" I cried out. "Mike, that's SICK! There's an order of chicken nuggets in that frying bin! You guys are gross!"

"Kayla babe, calm down," Mike said. "That's hot oil so it like, kills the germs and stuff so the chicken is perfectly safe, trust me."

I rolled my eyes and pulled the cooked nuggets out of the fryer. I then proceeded to the freezer to get another bag of chicken when I found Randy and Sarah making out for the millionth time. They scrambled out of the freezer and back to work as I fetched a bag of frozen chicken and dumped its contents into the fryer. Then, Anna a.k.a "Syd" arrived to work. Her medium brown hair was dyed black and her lipstick was also black. She hid her silver skull necklace under her workshirt (jewelry is PROHIBITED in the workplace...anyone caught wearing it would be left to the mercy of Robert the drill sgt.).

"Good morning Syd," I said, still trying to be friendly.

"How can a morning be 'good?'" she asked. "It's always the end to a perfectly good, dark night. And I LOVE the dark."

"Ooookay, well, just watch out for Amy. She came to work late in a bad mood."

"Good God, that little witch is the most annoying creature on this earth, I swear. Thanks for warning me."

"No problem."

A customer approached my register, ready to order. She made her order, trying to talk over her crying infant and two, twin preschool aged children screaming at each other.

"Tyler!" she snapped at the young boy at her side. "If you don't stop yelling at your sister, you are NOT going to get any food!"

"But Alexis called me 'poop head!'"

"You called me 'poop head,' first!" snapped Alexis.

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

The poor woman sighed. "You know something, I think I'll come back at another time when my children are a little more well-behaved. Sorry about that."

"It's not a problem, Ma'am," I said, clenching my teeth over the ear-shattering noise of the woman's baby (who was screaming bloody murder up to this point).

The woman grabbed both children with one hand and pushed her baby in the GRACO stroller in the other, angrily saying to her children: "Since you two cannot get along, we're going home for lunch!" The two twin children started crying and screaming, adding to the already deafening noise of the baby.

Robert then came out of the kitchen with his hands around his ears. "What the heck was that? Good God, that woman should know better than to bring her spoiled, screaming brats in here!"

"Apparently, they were misbehaving, sir," I replied.

"Good thing she got them out of here before I got here!" he mumbled angrily. "Otherwise, I would've kicked them out. It's bad enough I have to deal with 'Bad Hair Day Barbie' back in the kitchen."

When I heard him mention "Bad Hair Day Barbie," I knew he was talking about Amy.

Roger chuckled. "Dude, that's funny. 'Bad Hair Day Barbie.' That's a good one, sir!"

Robert said nothing but ducked back into his office a.k.a his "lair." In the back, I could hear Syd muttering a rather, loud "eww, that's gross" after witnessing Wally's impersonation of Urkel. Good thing his online girlfriend never met him in real life, I said to Roger.

Across from the registers, Randy and Sarah were taking their break together as usual. They shared the same soda, same fries, same chicken nugget combo., etc.

"I love you, Randy," Sarah said to him, gazing into his eyes.

"I love you too, Baby," Randy replied.

"We'll always be together, right, Randy?"

"Yes, we will Sarah."

The sweet-talking then evolved into baby-talking, involving Randy saying such things as "I wuv you, my sweet, wittle Pookie bear." Roger and I grimaced at their little "date." Now, I'm not against the whole "whispering of sweet nothings" thing but to do it in public is not only unromantic but vomit-inducing to those witnessing it.

"Smith and Dane, BREAK IT UP, your little date is over!" snapped Robert. "You spent 5 extra minutes over your standard, lunch break time, now BACK TO WORK!"

"Yes sir!" they both stammered simultaneously as they ran back into the kitchen.

I just finished serving a customer when Syd called me over to the drive-thru window. "Check this out, Kayla." She pointed to Amy, sitting in a puddle of water (one of the workers had hosed down the outside eating area) while trying to clean the windows of the restaurant. There was a huge (when I mean huge, I'm talking the size of Alaska) water stain on Amy's butt and apparently, she had slipped and fallen butt first into the puddle and coincidentally, one of her exes and his friends came by for lunch and they started laughing at her.

"This is the best entertainment I've had all day," I replied, grinning from ear to ear.

"I wish I had my dad's digital camera," Syd replied. "This Kodak moment would've been perfect to post all over the quad."

Steve took over for Roger, who went on his break. I went back to my "post" as cashier when a group of North Hills High cheerleaders came to the register.

"We're like, looking for like, Amy," one of them said in a grammatically incorrect sentence.

"Uh, she's in the back cleaning up but she'll be out on her break in a few minutes."

I proceeded to take the next customer's order when Amy met up with her "posse," crying and whining about how "mean" her ex was in poking fun of her plight.

"He was all, like, mean, and stuff!" she muttered between tears.

I grinned indirectly at her, not feeling a bit sorry for her in this particular circumstance.

"Dude, she's messed up," Steve said. "But she's still hot!"

Steve's mentality and maturity was equivalent to his age of sixteen years. He never cared much for a girl's personality; only for her looks and he had been crushing on Amy since jr. high, knowing full well that she hated his guts.

I took the order of the next customer when I heard Robert scream from the back, "MARTIN!"

I brought the customer his food when I ran back to the kitchen, seeing a red-faced Robert with his hip on one hand and a mop in the other. "Someone puked in the bathroom and I want YOU to clean it up!"

He shoved the mop into my arms and pointed into the direction of the men's restroom. With mop and bucket in hand, I followed the trail of vomit to the bathroom. The closer I got, the stronger the smell became. I nearly puked myself cleaning up the protein spill probably made by some overweight kid who ate too much. Afterward, I decided to make an effort to clean the women's restroom as well to ensure quality and cleanliness to any future customers.

I went back to my register, being "neener-neenered" by Wally. I swear, I wanted to deck that little nerd. Roger was back at his register, giving me a sympathetic look.

"Don't listen to em', Kayla," he said. "He's just trying to annoy you. I'm sorry you had to clean up all that puke."

"Don't feel sorry for me, Roger, it just happened."

One particular customer approached me, eyeing the menu, and then gave me his order. His voice was annoying; it sounded like he was talking and pinching his nose at the same time.

"Okay, I'd like a #1 with extra fries, please."

I keyed into the register. "One #1 with extra fries."

"No wait," the customer said. "Make that a #2 with extra fries."

"Okay," I said. "One #2 with..."

"Wait...make that a #4 with extra chicken strips and an extra large Sprite."

"Okay...#4 with extra chicken strips and..."

"Sorry, make that a #2 with garlic fries and a chocolate shake."

"Sir, there's a line behind you," I said in a friendly but firm tone. "I might suggest that you get out of line and decide what you'd like to order before you keep changing your mind."

"Sorry about that, Ma'am," he said. "I won't keep you waiting. I can get very indecisive, sometimes."

Then, a businesswoman on a cell phone approached my register, constantly babbling to what seemed to be a co-worker or employee of some sort.

"Okay, I'd like a chicken salad with a side of Thousand Island dress...no, cancel the Thompson account! I can't afford to...oops, sorry about that. I'll have the chicken salad with a side of Thousand Island dressing and a small orange soda, please?"

"Okay, one chicken salad with a side of Thousand Island dressing with a small orange soda. That will be $4.59 please."

"Hold on, let me get my wallet." She fumbled through her purse, producing a large, dark leather wallet. "Oh shoot, I don't have any money. Do you accept VISA?"

I nodded, asking her for her card and ID.

"Here you go...look, I'm ordering lunch here, John! I cannot be bothered with the Thompson account right now...look, can't you just wait until I get back to my office? Look, just take it up with my supervisor right now, I'm in the middle of getting something to eat.

"Excuse me, Ma'am, but you need to sign your receipt," I said, trying to talk over her cell phone conversation.

"Oh, sorry about that," the woman said. "Go talk to my supervisor, John, I gotta go." With that, she ended her conversation and promptly put her phone in her purse. "Clients, sheesh. Can't a working woman get a bite to eat?"

I gave her a tray with her salad and soda. "Ma'am, next time, try to end your phone conversation. It will make it easier for me to serve you."

"Oh, okay, I'll be sure to do that." She grabbed her food tray and picked up her cell phone, which started ringing. "LOOK, I'M TRYING TO HAVE MY LUNCH!" she screamed into the receiver. "Oh, it's you, honey. Sorry about that. I thought you were..."

I was just about to take my lunch break when Mr. Indecisive came to the register.

"I finally found out what I wanted to order!" he said with a grin. "I'll take a #3 with extra barbeque sauce, extra fries, an extra large soda, and an extra large chocolate malt to go, please!"

"That's a lot of food, sir," I replied.

"Well, it's easier this way since I can get what I want without having to make up my mind a lot."

"Your total is...$10.35."

"No wait, I changed my mind."

"Again?!"

"No, just kiddin' ya. Here's $10.35."

I gave a heavy sigh and went to the fridge in the lunch room, pulling out a microwaveable chicken pie, which served as my lunch. After nuking my chicken pie, I proceeded to have my lunch when a rather large, older woman came up to me.

"Do you work here, Miss?"

"Yes I do but I'm on my lunch brea..."

"My food tastes terrible!" snapped the woman, interrupting. "The fries are not fresh, the chicken tastes like it's been overcooked, and my Coke tastes like Dr. Pepper! I DEMAND my money back this instant!"

"Well, let me call over Roger to refund your..."

"Don't be so lazy, young lady!" the woman snapped. "I DEMAND THAT YOU REFUND MY MONEY RIGHT NOW!"

I was just about to get up and go to the register when Roger came to my defense. "Look Ma'am, my co-worker is on her lunch break right now. Let me give you a refund."

"Hmmph! You young people are always slacking off on the job! Well then, young man, where's my refund?!

Roger led her to the register to refund her money while I finished my food and made a call to my mom on my cell phone. This workday was the worst ever, I thought to myself. I hated my lifeguard-friends. I hated the customers. I wanted to scream in Robert's face every time he called me by my last name.

I clocked in from my break and went back to the register with a dirty look on my face.

"What's the matter, Kayla? Having a bad day?" asked Roger. "Sorry about that old nag who yelled at you."

"No problem."

"Yeah but we don't get paid enough to take this crap," he said. "After work, why don't you and me go apply to the Blockbuster Video across the street? That way, we get paid to watch movies all day."

"Cool," I said, gazing into Roger's blue eyes. "I'd love to do that."

"Great!" he said.

After our shifts ended, Roger volunteered to go count both of our banks while I set up the new ones for the workers coming in for the afternoon shift. As I looked up from my work, I saw two, creepy-looking men wearing woolen, snow caps. They were smelly, grime-faced, and unshaven.

"Hello, little lady," one of them said in a flirtacious voice. "I'd like a #1 please."

My fears subsided as I rang up his order until he pointed a handgun at my face.

"And I'd like ALL the money in the register, Sweetheart" he said with a sly grin. "Or I might have to get ugly." His co-hort stood behind him, laughing menacingly.

I was just about to dole out several $20's when someone came up from behind and knocked the handgun out of the robber's hand with a broom.

"Leave her alone!" said Roger, angrily. He jumped on the robber and pinned him to the ground as his assistant pulled another handgun on Rodger. I was shaken and scared as I managed to hit the silent alarm near the cash register.

The two robbers ended up grabbing poor Roger by the shirt collar and pinning him against a nearby wall while the customers in the restaurant all had their hands raised.

They kept my friend and crush pinned until a squad of police cars surrounded the restaurant. After apprehending the two criminals (who were wanted in 15 states for robbery, burglary, arson, and running a counterfeit money ring), Roger and I were commended by the police chief for our bravery in saving the lives of my customers and co-workers.

Robert then emerged from his office, demanding to know what went on.

"MARTIN!" he snapped. "Why is the police here?"

I was about to answer when the police chief spoke.

"Sir, there was a robbery here in your restaurant and two of your employees managed to capture and hold two of America's most wanted bandits. I'm surprised you missed it all. You should be proud of them, too."

Robert said nothing but gave everyone a dirty look and went back to his office.

"He spends every waking hour in that office of his," I said to the police chief.

"Poor guy," he replied. "He needs a life. He never even thanked you for saving his restaurant."

"Yeah, but that's just him," Roger said. "He hardly EVER gives anyone praise or positive remarks."

In the end, my summer wasn't bad after all. Roger and I quit our food service positions and got jobs at Blockbuster Video and we even hooked up! Upon hearing about his performance at ChickenWorx, the general manager fired Robert the Drill Sgt. for his carelessness and hired a new manager who just received a business degree from UC Berkeley. Steve and Mike were fired after they were caught spitting in the frying bin AND trying to hit on some of the new female employees. Randy and Sarah kept dating for awhile but Randy ended up dumping Sarah for some airhead blonde he met at a party. Anna a.k.a "Syd," moved to New York with her parents where she now attends a private high school. Wally ended up hooking up with the newly-dumped Sarah and the two have been happy ever since. And as for Amy (a.k.a "Bad Hair Day Barbie") she's still working at ChickenWorx alongside one of her ex-boyfriends who was recently hired on as a cashier.

I really don't care so much about my friends working as lifeguards anymore. I'm now working with my new boyfriend...Roger Spiegel.