When I was fifteen or sixteen I got my first job. My first job independent of family run jobs or babysitting. I worked at a fast food place. The building had been part of a chain of fast food company but had had gone out of business.
When I started work I couldn’t work the weekends because my dad went out of town every weekend and took the kids with him. They hired me on that condition.
Unfortunately they lied and the second or third week on the schedule they had me scheduled for Sunday. Morning. I had trained in the afternoons only. After school hours. It was usually pretty laid back. But for the one time period of forty five minutes or so that the factory across the street had their dinner break. The restaurant was not great, and even when it got “busy” that was only relative to what it was like when there weren’t three, four or five guys coming in at the same time for a lunch/dinner break.
I had never run the cash register for breakfast. So I didn’t know where anything was. And I had never had to call back the orders. The registers sent the orders to the cooks. They did everything different for breakfast. But no one had bothered to train me on this.
I went to work expecting the same thing I had come to expect. A painfully dull and unfun shift with one cranky person and a few pretty interesting individuals. I don’t know if I was being made a fool of but one guy claimed to have been a cook on one of the presidential planes. I prefer to think he was telling the truth. But believing it was the truth I felt sorry for him and wondered how he ended up here, with me. Then I felt sorry for both of us. It wasn’t a bad place to work, it was just a sad place to work.
So I get to work. I got a five minute crash course on what the breakfast shift was like. For someone who doesn’t focus well five minutes of direct demands, bossiness and instruction was five minutes of me saying in my head “what? what? what?” Which means while they were talking all I could hear was my own voice. And wouldn’t you know…..it was busy. I mean there was anywhere from ten to twenty people at a time in the restaurant. People getting out of church. Coming in wearing their suits and dresses. And in comes an older couple I recognized from my church. He was a pretty famous guy as far as church goers go.
I didn’t know his name. I didn’t know his wife (who looked very pretty in a yellow dress and I’m not sure why I remember that). I didn’t know what he did. But he was always one of those guys who was an usher, or reader, or just important looking. And he wore a suit.
They come through my line. They were very pleasant. They ordered. Paid. Thank you. You’re welcome. They had to go sit down and someone would bring it to them.
I keep taking orders. I notice them sitting by the front window. I get busy, taking orders. When my line slows down I notice the person next to me taking the last person at the counter’s order, turn around and give the cooks the order verbally.
I look out at the restaurant. My older church famous persons were sitting there looking at me. They had been sitting there maybe….forty minutes or so.
Did my five minute zone out include telling me that I am supposed to take orders and give them to the cooks verbally, and the computer doesn’t tell them….
I look out again and he catches my eye. I have to say he was very classy. I had been busy up until then. And he did not come up. Now, he approached. I started to sweat. He came to the counter. I was a very timid person. I didn’t want to get yelled at. I didn’t want to have to explain to my boss, the owner, who sat in an office with a one way viewing window watching us….
He didn’t yell at me but showed me his receipt and the time on it. I took the receipt and told him I would check. He went and sat down.
I stepped back in to the cooking area and asked them to make the order. They asked what happened. Oh God. I lied. I told them I gave them the order.
The cook didn’t really care and made the breakfast.
I took it out to the couple and gave them profuse apologies.
Oh God. I lied again. I apologized for the kitchen forgetting their order.
I have carried that guilt around for decades.
I bet this is why I am uncomfortable whenever I walk in to a church.
I needed to come clean on this.
If this happened to be you oh so many years ago somewhere in the heart of the United States, and you are a man who would be anywhere from 108 to 112 years of age now, or a woman who is now 106 to 110…..I just want to say I’m sorry for messing up your breakfast date.
And I’m really sorry for lying to you.
And ….cook person, I apologize to you to.
And I wish I had had the courage then to say I was wrong.
I want you to know I feel bad and I think of you on occasion and wish I had just told you the truth. And I think of you when I am in a restaurant and some young server is having a rough time getting things right.