Rainy Days And Mondays

August 9, 2006 at 8:36 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment

In about April of ’89, I was the lead assistant manager of the Normandy Domino’s Pizza. My Domino’s career was split into two eras, the A&M era and the MBR era, those being the two franchises I worked for. This was the early days, the A&M days. This Domino’s owned some real shithole stores, and I worked in all of them. Ironically, after I went to MBR, MBR bought those same shithole stores, and I ended up working in many of those stores again.

However, I never had to go back to Normandy. Of all the shitholes, Normandy was the shittiest. It is even worse now, and I can’t believe they get people to work there. It is a bad neighborhood, coincidently it is predominantly black. There are also some good neighborhoods, as well, with gated security and walled surroundings. These are all near the campus of UMSL (University of Missour-St Louis). Go ahead and pronouce it "umzle." Everybody does.

But the good houses are a right turn out of the store, and the shitty area is a left turn. Apparently all the good College liberals want to be separated from the poor black folk in the way they accuse others of being.

Since it is a mostly poor, near inner-city, predominantly black neighborhood, the local landscape is dominated by pawn shops, check cashing places, shyster car dealers, a dozen chicken places. And you set your calendar by Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day comes once a month, around the first of the month, when welfare checks come in the mail. The local native culture surrounded this ritual, as well as other time-honored traditions, like the drive-by shooting, the prepubscent mothers, and rampant drug use, to the backbeat of loud, thumping car speakers. I am just trying to create the imagery here, okay? I want you to have a good picture in your head of what it looked like, felt like, smelled like.

Big Al Portman was the manager, and I was the assistant. I think this store was night-time only at the time, although that concept changed with the wind. And Domino’s Pizza had, in three words, the single scariest concept in restaurant management. The thing that would make you or break you. The thing that caused Domino’s to run through managers like wet tissue paper. Premature balding, greying, wrinkles, worry lines, high blood pressure, mild heart attacks, divorce, and deviant sexual behavior, all can be blamed on this.

Thirty or Free.

Later, when I would come back to Domino’s, it was just three bucks off, a mild, albeit expensive annoyance. But free. ..

I and a few of my friends from the old school, when a driver nowadays talks about how great a delivery driver he is, we just laugh. Little boy, you didn’t fight in the big one.

We scheduled according to the welfare schedule. Heavy during the first of the month, gradually cutting staff during the following weeks, then back up. Everyone knew if they wanted a day off, it was easier to get in the third and fourth week of the month than the first or second.

So, it was April 29th. I had stopped by Domino’s to talk to Al and grab a soda as we (the family) were on our way out somewhere. It was a Wednesday, and it was my day off. The store had just opened up, and I was about to leave, and the phone rang. Al got it, and another line lit up. I picked that one up and took the order, and then as I was leaving, the phone rang again.

No cause for alarm, just an early rush. I left. As I’m about a mile away, it starts to rain. I had a pager, and I expected to get a page from Al. Assistant managers are automatically on call for anything. Rain meant we would get busy.

Hmm. No call.

I came in the next day, Thursday, and both me and Al were working. He said we would be busy tonight, and related what had happened the previous night. Not only did it rain, but checks came early. He gave away almost 800 dollars worth of free pizza last night.

My jaw dropped. We would be just as fucked tonight, too. At least we were both there, to get each other through it.

That night, we gave away over 1200 dollars worth of free pizza.

The combination of the rain, as well as checks coming early, and we weren’t staffed for it, and had trouble getting people to come in, and the stress of the fiasco itself compounded into a real fucking shitstorm. Big Al stayed inside. I was inside most of the time, making pizzas as fast as I could, and then, when the word was given, I threw off my apron and hit the road with a stack of deliveries, the shitty ones left by the other drivers, and then run my ass back in and do it again.

Al didn’t have a good reason for why he didn’t call me Wednesday night, but we were both there Thursday and got fucked. But I should have known when it started to rain on Wednesday, and I should have just come in.

These were the feelings of the supervisor, Scott Wilson, a real son of a bitch and an expert at hind sight. His favorite phrase: "You should have done this–" No matter what you did or how well you handled a situation, never mind a bad one, this included good ones as well–he had a better way that you should have done it. No praise, ever. Fucker. And since when should I come in automatically when it rains? That’s what I have a goddamn pager for. It’s a long electronic leash. I got paged all the time for the most ridiculous of items, so I would come to expect a page for something important. Nevertheless, that was the reason they gave when they moved me. Next week, I was to be an assistant manager somewhere else. Big Al? Yeah, he was an assistant manager somewhere else as well.

The next week, I was going to Bridgeton. A good store, a desirable store. Big commercial area for business during the day, lots of residential and hotels for night business, and decent neighborhoods. Yet I dreaded to go. Why? The manager, Dave Willingham. (I have no problem using people’s real names on here, especially his. He is on the very short list of fuckers that I hate, I really hate. There might only be four or five people on the list, and he’s one of them.)

He’s a sadistic bastard who put me through hell the first time I worked for him, and now I was going back. He ridiculed me and made fun of my name, which was an uncalled for, childish thing to do, and he did it just to piss me off. I have no respect for him, and I wish him only ill-will. Luckily, I heard that he has had some shitty things happen to him over the past 15 years. It warms my heart. Burn in hell, fucker.

So there I was in Bridgeton, and Dave started right in on me, my first week, my first day. I was going to get to work six days a week, and of course, one of them was a split. They did so much business on Friday for lunch, in such a short span of time, that I got to come in for an hour and a half, maybe two hours, during lunch, leave about 1, and come back at 4, and then close. Basically all day, with just enough of a break to not be able to do anything.

Monday I closed, and ran a near-perfect shift. Costs were in line, service was good, no lates, and the store looked good. I come in Tuesday afternoon, and the fucker is there with a list of shit that was wrong with the previous night. Most of it was bullshit, and alot of it he was really reaching. For instance, the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom wasn’t wiped down. First of all, how did he know, because it was clean, secondly, that’s the kind of thing that doesn’t get done every night anyway, it’s as-needed. He had to dig through the trash to see when drivers’ last runs were to compare them with when I let them off. He concluded that one driver should have been let off fifteen minutes sooner than he was. Wasted labor.

I let him off as soon as he came back from that last run. He should have been back sooner. I couldn’t go with him, and make him drive faster. I can’t make the customer answer the door faster. And anyway, it is one of those areas of dispute, it is really far, and farther in traffic. He thought he was so smart, he knows how long it takes to get anywhere, he discounted the traffic in this heavily industrialized area.

The next day I talked to my dad, about possibly getting my job back at the warehouse. He talked to the owner, and the owner said, sure!–Subject to passing a drug test of course.

This was a proud day for me. I had been clean at that point for almost two years. I knew I could pass. I went on Thursday to give urine, then went into Domino’s with a smile on my face and I said not a word. I worked my shifts and let nothing bother me.

They did do a change-up on me: Willingham really wanted me to work six days, to fuck with me, but didn’t have that many shifts to give me. So, he loaned me out to Ferguson on Saturday night. He claimed it said it there on the schedule all along. Whatever. Dan Crawford was the manager, a guy I had worked for in Dellwood before. Nice guy, he taught me how to put off losing at chess. I still can’t win, though.

Ferguson is an all-together different animal, store-wise. It is a monster. Always busy. Always seven or eight pinks hanging (Pinks are the copy we make pies from.) He is staffed, I have plenty of drivers, some inside people. But I guess some of the drivers thought they could take advantage of me, being the substitute teacher. Some drivers "accidently" dropped some yellows (Yellows are the driver’s copy of the order), so they didn’t have to pay for that. This was the system before computers.

So it’s already late at night–we closed at 2 am–and there I am, doing an audit on this busy night we had. I had to match yellows to whites (the whites were the master copy of all the orders.) All yellows had to be accounted for. Any missing, we find out what driver took that run. If it was an honest mistake, they just pay for it. If they are trying to pull something (which is frequently the case) they get fired.

Dan Crawford, the manager, had a funny joke, back when we had worked together in Dellwood. He’s a black guy. He would say to me, "I’m going to go add up the whites," a frequent thing for managers to do when they want to duck out and sit down for a while. Then he points to me and the other two white guys, and counts. "One, two, three–"

It was funny as hell. I guess you had to be there.

This night, I was sitting by myself, going over all the available data, and not getting any good information. It was going on five am, I had been there since 4 pm. I didn’t want to let Dan down, he was a friend of mine. But this was also my last day at Domino’s–this time around, I mean. I was coming up about 120 dollars short, and the whites didnt match the yellows by about 70 bucks. This shit was not making any sense. I was tired. I’m quitting anyway.

Fuck this.

I left it all in a neat pile, wrote a brusque note explaining what I did and why, made a deposit, and left.

The next day, early, I got a call from Dan about the mess in the office. I explained as best I could, but you’re just not supposed to leave it that way. No matter what, you finish. No matter how late it is, you stay and take care of things. He said, "Expect a write-up over this."

I just said, "Okay," and hung up.

Monday I was supposed to come in and close at Bridgeton. But Tuesday, subject to the drug test being okay, I was supposed to start back at Henry’s. I took the test on Thursday, or maybe Friday, I don’t remember. Thought the results would be back on Monday. But, I knew I was clean, I *knew* it. I didn’t go into Domino’s. Didn’t call, either.

I was supposed to be there at four. I could wait them out. Long about 6:30, the other assistant, the one I was actually over, the one who worked dayshift and was hoping to leave by 6:30 or seven–he finally called me at home.

Real casually, real non-chalant-like, I tell him, "Yeah, you need to call Dave and tell him I quit. I’m not coming in. Later."

I never did hear what happened that night, but it is a good bet that Dave got rousted on his day off and had to come in and close. Plus. they had to scramble to fill the other five shifts he had for me, because he still had me on six days. Don’t know, don’t care.

I had to go to the office to pick up my last check, and turn in uniforms and sign something. Like what they have is valuable. Give me a fucking break. Art Hurteau, the "A" in A&M pizza, tried to yell at me, chastise me for quitting the way I did. I let him run on a bit, then stopped him.

"You know, Art, I don’t work for you any more, so you can piss off. Really. You should go see how your goddamn managers are treating their trainees. I quit because of Willingham. Period. If I had come to you or Scott when I had a problem with him, like you said I should have done, I would have gotten the big brush off. I call bullshit on your compassion. What’s the point? He’s your problem, not mine. I’m moving on. Later."

God’s penchant for irony came into play a view years later when I became manager of Blackjack. That was one of the first A&M stores that Art sold to the new franchise I worked for, and his office was right next door to it, so he got to see a manager he would never promote run a store he had to sell to make ends meet, and he saw me every day.





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