The Ghost of Pizza Past

November 21, 2005 at 12:17 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 2 Comments
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I felt that this would be a good time to relate another pizza-related story, and as we are in foreplay for the holiday season, I would tell the story related to Christmas. It is a tale of the holiday spirit, of family, of togetherness, and. . .. .pizza.

In about 1993 or 1994, when I was manager of the Cross Keys Domino’s Pizza (see “Pyscho Driver” for reference) my older son came to work for me as a driver. In fact, my daughter had worked for me as well, on a different occasion at a different store. Now, both of the older ones had worked for both me and my wife, I think. Let me see. Melissa drove at Domino’s, and now works where my wife works, at a printing  company. Melissa’s husband works there too. Melissa’s second husband worked at the printing company briefly. Neither of the husbands worked for me.
Mike, our son, worked for me, but I don’t think he worked at the printing company. His ex-wife worked for me at Domino’s as well, however very briefly. I think she worked at the printing company as well for a summer. So the score is me-3, wife-4. Lots of overlap there. In face, my wife brings stuff home to work, assembly-type jobs, like folding and putting pages together, and our son Mitchell has worked on those, as have I. And my wife, although not on the clock, as come into the various stores I’ve worked at and help. She helped clean a few stores in preparation for big inspections, and I remember once when I was busy and she stopped by, I had her help in the store. She didn’t know much, just did  whatever I told her. Pick up this, move that, take these, things like that.
Okay, so you already know I’m an asshole, right? Well, this should prove it. Whenever a pan pizza would come out of the oven, I’d pop it out of the pan, and stack the pans. If someone was standing there, I’d act like I’m handing it to them and say, “Here, hold this.” It’s a classic, which I have repeated about 17,546 times. No one takes it, of course, it just came out of a 500 degree oven.
In the heat of the rush, I am doing half a dozen things at once at any given second. Routing drivers, answering questions, making requests, shouting commands,
tending the oven, cutting pizzas, all while overseeing everything in the store. Very fast-paced. On the occasion when my wife was in the store, she was standing there, eager to help. She had just brought some food up from the walkin, and was standing there, awaiting the next task. I grab the pan grippers, and with one smooth motion, pull the box down and pop it open with one hand while snapping my wrist to pop the pizza up out of the pan with the other, and slide it into the box. My wife says, “What next?” I
move to hand her the pan and I say, “Here hold this.”
And she takes it.

The following few seconds of shock, the next few minutes of pain, the next half hour of anger, as well as a good week and a half of deep resentment—-these are all but long-lost memories now.
Ah….good times.So my son was working for me at a store different from that one. He had pizza experience and delivery experience and was really good worker; it was good to have him there.
Christmas Eve, and of course I am working. My son is too. It kind of helped, because we were going to be there late, and if a few family members were absent, they would have to wait for us, or something. Not sure of the logic. Christmas is a family time. And Domino’s–Domino’s cared about family. But not employees. In our local DMA–(Direct Marketing Area, a business term we used alot) there was a local joint, Imo’s, who closed about 2 pm on Christmas Eve. Pizza Hut, about 4. Papa John’s, almost 6 pm. Up and down the main drag, as snow was falling, stores were closing, the streets slowly
emptying of traffic, as lights of businesses shut off one by one and people went home. It was a scene of serenity and calm outside. Blissful. A Christmas choir sang.
But inside my store, all was chaos. EVERYBODY else was closing.
Everybody. That leaves only us. We start to get busier. We all want to leave. Where is the supervisor? At home with family? Where is the director of operations? Who Knows? Where is the franchise owner? Three states away with his family. Did they give a rat’s ass about us? I don’t really think so. We had to stay open until 10pm. Ten PM! What the fuck is that? It still pisses me off to think about it. From 1986 until about 1998, I have had exactly no New Year’s Eves off and one Christmas Eve off, for which I got in trouble for taking off.
We start getting busy as everyone realizes this is there last chance for pizza. Customers call and ask how late we are going to stay open. I quickly realize these are the ones who want to wait until the last minute. We are supposed to stay open till 10, I was going to try to get out of there by 9, so we start telling people we close at 8, so order your damn pizza now. As predicted, the last hour we are open, 8 to 9, is the busiest hour. And we did have some fun. We had some pizza, of course, and some Christmas music playing, and my wife had made a platter of some various appetizers and treats for us. But now it is time to get down to business.
We no longer had the 30 minute guarantee, but we still tried to deliver timely service. But it got to be too much, and we were telling people 45 minutes to an hour, emphasis on the hour. Hopefully the fuckers were tipping good at least.

I was going to stop taking orders at 9, I had already decided. The place was trashed, it was still going to take us a while to get the place cleaned up. My son, Mike, comes back from a run, it’s about 8:50. I send him with a three-stop, already getting old. The last run leaves a little after 9, and then I am counting the money and directing the cleaning, trying to get everyone to help and get them out the door. We were still getting phone calls, and telling them we were closed, and it tapered off. About 9:10, someone calls, it
is one of the runs Mike is on. One of those “Where is my pizza?” calls. Which I never understood. Allow me to rant:

We fucking told you when you fucking called that it was going to be a fucking hour. I wasn’t lying, I didn’t make it up. I really fucking mean it. One fucking hour. Maybe more. Do you hear me? Answer me, you fuck! So when you call and the order is 40 minutes old, why on earth do sound shocked, like this has never happened to you? Are you a fucking Hollywood star? Do you get A-list treatment? Should I drop everything I was doing for the 76 people who came before you to bump your order to the front
because –why? You’re not used to this sort of treatment?
You’ve never been to a busy restaurant? YOU HAVE NEVER WAITED IN LINE IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE? And what do you expect to hear when you call? Honestly? It is on the fucking way. Even if it’s NOT, that’s what we are going to tell you. What do you want
to hear? We didn’t feel like making your pizza, fuck off? Do you really not own a fucking clock, or are you just completely incapable of telling the fucking time? Or, however
unlikely, it is possible that you live in some bizarre space-time anomaly where time passes 33% faster than it does for the rest of us? Has it really been an hour for you when it’s only been 40 minutes for the rest of us? How does that affect your cell phone
minutes, moron? Sit there with your dick in your hand and shut the fuck up.

“Domino’s Pizza, I’m sorry we’re closed.”
“Yeah, I ordered a pizza over an hour ago, and it’s not here yet.”
“I’m sorry. What’s the address?”
“Number one Happy Street.”
“Let me just look that up for you. Okay, sir, the driver is on his way even as we speak. It does look like it has been only 40 minutes, though. And we did tell everyone an hour or more.”
“This is ridiculous. Why is taking so long? I am a valuable customer!”
“Well sir, we are a little busy because of the holiday. But the driver should be there any minute.”
“Well, I am going to cancel my order. Just call him up, or radio or whatever, and tell him I don’t want it. I’ll call somewhere else.”
“Sir, I have no way of getting in touch with him; feel free to tell him when he gets there.
“FINE. Bullshit!”
“Have a good night.”

He honestly did not give me the chance to tell him no one else was open. I would have tried. I wanted to help. But he was going to have to discover this on his own. He would also have to tell my son he was cancelling.
My son, who had been driving in the slushy snow all night. My son, who is 6’8″ tall and about 300 pounds.
Luckily, I think, my son arrived at his door shortly after our conversation, so he didn’t
have time to call anyone yet. Even if he did, he didn’t sound like the the type to eat crow with his pizza, so my son brought them back. It was about 9:30 by the time he got back, and we were well on our way to getting the place cleaned up. Generally we close with three people, but we had more because we were busy, and we were able to share the wealth and get it done more quickly. About 9:40, and older man, a black man, came in.
I said,”I am sorry, sir, we’re closed.”
“Oh, are you? Oh, I just needed to get some food for my grandkids before I take them home. We got a ways to drive and nothing is open.”
Suddenly, I had a thought, and I said, hold on a second. I looked at the pizzas Mike had just brought back from the fuck that refused them, to make sure no one had yet dug their greedy little paws in them.
They were good. I said, “Sir, how about a pepperoni and sausage and a ham and sausage?”
He perked up. “Oh, anything, it doesn’t matter.” I brought the pies up to the counter. He started to reach for his wallet and said, “What do I owe you for these?”
I said, “Hey, don’t even worry about it. Take ’em, feed your grandkids. Merry Christmas!”
He smiled real big, and shook my hand, and said, “Thanks, I will. And Merry Christmas to you!”

I originally thought that this little story was about me getting a little revenge on a customer that was a jerk, cause I did, or that it was about me brightening up some old man’s Christmas, cause I did that, too.
But it was also about what the old man had done for me. I deal with several hundred customers in a night, and it only takes one, just one, to really ruin my day. I know the guy screwed himself by not taking the pies, but something like that can put you in a bad mood for the rest of the night. Here it was Christmas Eve, and look what he did to me!
But when the old man came in, and needed a little help, and I was able to do it for him, it made me feel really good inside, and put the wind back in my sails that the other guy and had taken out of me. I truly felt the moment, and the spirit of Christmas.

And knowing that other guy was fucked for pizza that night helped.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Just droping by to say that \’Karl\’ or whoever is not the only one who reads your blog and that i still like the way you write. bye

  2. Being a C-Store manager for 5 years, I know all to well about working Christmas and New Years. And you\’re right, it only took one person to fuck up my day, but in all fairness, there were countless others that made being a manager worth while! I enjoyed reading your other posts\’.Thanks for stopping by my space! Come back again and say hi once in awhile. 😉


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