September 04, 2006

Labor Day

Cross posted (with a bit of revision) from a message board....

I took MYA to get an application for a job yesterday (Friendly's, she likes the uniforms) and that got me thinking about my first job. Which (except for delivering newspapers) was at McDonald's.

In that era it was sort of like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" - everybody worked at a fast food place, it just depended upon which one. I suspect these days there is a lot more stratification by ethnicity and class, at least judging by my fast food experiences. In any case, McD's was a pretty decent place to work. Kids my age. Managers not much older. A relatively vibrant social life - bowling, crew picnics, softball team, roller skating, movies. A bit more diversity than my catholic high school.

I do not think I ever worked that hard. Working in the back on the grill, in the days before microwaves, in the days before sanitary gloves. Your hands ended up smelling like all the condiments - onions, pickles, mustard. Or you stood over a 375 degree slab of metal for a shift, as the burgers fried. I started out cleaning the Lot and Lobby, which is basically the worst / lowest job in the place, and ended up doing that forever. I found out later that the managers were betting to see how long I would put up with it. I never did complain, and eventually got moved in to do everything else. I worked there from about 16 to maybe 22 - part time at other stores when I was in college, full time at my old store over the summer.

Over the years, I did everything. I was really good on most of the cooking things (I liked the mechanical, time and efficiency aspects). I ran the register. I ended up being a swing manager for a while, and working the overnight shift cleaning up when I got older. I remember hot summer nights in winter coat and gloves, standing in a walk in freezer while frozen burgers and fries and fishsticks rolled down the ramp from the delivery truck. And working a contraption that filtered the fryolator grease which was kind of like pumping gas out of an open container, heated to 250 degrees. I got a lot of annoying burns over the years.

I do not think I ever worked that hard; and my work ethic and ability to put up with crap has always been pretty high as a result. I often think to myself, when work is tough, well, "its not as bad as working at McD's" and I think that has advised my employability and job satisfaction over the years. I still have a little fondness for the fast food workers I run across; I like to look at the equipment when I do go to McD's and see which pieces and processes have not changed in 25 years. And there was something visceral and imprinting about it - to this day, dreams about McDonald's (as well as college) still recur from time to time; occasionally I wake up thinking I have paychecks waiting for me all this time that I forgot to pick up, or that I am on the schedule to work a few shifts, and in my dream am hunting for my name on the board.

So.....thats my Labor Day tribute to work.

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