First Car

May 28, 2010 at 10:40 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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  In keeping with the theme for the blog–and as I was reminded of because I’m attempting to write a damn book–I wanted to write about the individual cars I’ve had.  Also, I heard on a radio show that one of their sponsors (NAPA Auto Parts) wanted people to call in with stories about their first car.  Here is mine…

  I actually had three first cars, so it’s hard to remember which was the "first" first.  My parents had lots of cars sitting around–none of them on blocks, oddly enough.  My first three were the 70 GMC pickup, the 74 Ford Galaxy, and the 73 Ford Maverick.
  But the first one that was mine-mine, my dad got for me.  It was the Maverick.  It was two-tone:  sky blue on top, and rust below the trim line.  Dad bought it from an old man down the road that was a friend of his, old man Heberer.  He wanted to give it to Dad for free, but dad gave him a hundred dollars for it, out of friendship.
  It was a three on the tree–a three speed manual with the shifter on the column, with a 250 straight-six engine.  It had a vinyl interior, of course.  It was a two-door with a bench seat, so the whole bench-back leaned forward to get in the backseat.
  It was my first car that was mine, so I wanted to customize it, and fix it up.  The dream of the car was much more shiny and sparkly than the reality of the car.  I bought bucket seats from some dude I knew at school.  They were dirty and a little torn, but they were in better shape than the bench was.
  After that Dad found me a floor shifter kit.  It was used, so it looked like someone handed me a piece of rusted metallic intestines.  My friend’s dad put it in for me.  Of course, it wasn’t made for that car, so it didn’t line up correctly.  Instead, it did this:
  A three speed shift pattern is an H.  With the shift kit, it translated differently on the floor.  It was…distorted.  It was a tall, skinny H.  Reverse has the shifter knob all the way up to the dash, grazing the left knob on the AM/FM in-dash stereo.
  For first gear, simply drop the shifter straight back, and it traveled in a wide arc almost all the way to the floor, or the hump.  It stopped near the driver’s side seat belt buckle.  If it weren’t for the bucket seats, you couldn’t shift into first.
  Now for second.  Pull it straight up, and somewhere in the middle of the path–near your knee–push it an inch to your right, and continue to raise it.  Second gear has the knob grazing the stereo knob on the right, the one for tuning in stations.
  For third gear, just drop it straight down, where it stops near the passenger seat belt buckle.  Shifting through the gears was much like operating a rowing machine, and anytime I happened to experience some traffic I got a real workout, similar to being on a rowing machine.

  I had my first experience being stranded with a break down in that car.  It was on a very hot day in July or August, back in 81 or 82.  I got on the highway and drove to the mall, 20 miles away.  On the way back, I was only a few minutes out when the car mysteriously died on me. 
  I say "Mysteriously" because I was 17 and didn’t know jack shit about cars.  It had something to do with the engine, I know that.  I pulled over, popped the hood, and looked at, wondering what the hell I was looking at and what the hell I was going to do.
  Lordy, it was hot.  It was really hot.  This was 1982, so it was before Al Gore invented Global Warming, yet it was close to 100 degrees that day.
  I stood there waiting and hoping for a car to give me a ride.  I wasn’t ready to walk, not yet.  After about twenty minutes, a car pull over.
  I wish I could say that the person who pulled over was a hot chick and this was the beginning of a Penthouse Forum letter, but it wasn’t.  It was a guy, a middle aged guy.
  Luckily, this wasn’t the start of some other kind of letter, either.  The man was a project manager at Chrysler–from the Chrysler plant in the St Louis area, in Fenton.  He was on his way to a family reunion in Kentucky, or something like that.  And–what he was driving was the very First Chrysler Lazer off the assembly line.
  Back in 82, this thing was modern.  It was cool as hell, very sleek.  He showed it off to me briefly before we got in.  I wasn’t a prospective sale; he just wanted to brag about his baby.  This was one of the first talking cars:  the origination off the ol’ "The door is ajar" thing.
  He gave me a ride to an exit of my choosing.  In retrospect, I should have chosen a different exit.  But since I was new to driving, I didn’t get the distortion of space-time between driving distance  and walking distance.  I was picked up near the 14 mile marker, heading west.  I should have had him let me off at exit 41, which would have put me a few hundred yards from the truck stop that my brother worked.
  Instead I did the very brilliant thing of having him drop me at the 27 marker, which is the New Baden exit.
  It’s the New Baden exit, but New Baden isn’t right there at the exit.  There, in a heatwave the likes of which we would not see again until Al Gore sets the planet on fire, I walked a good three or four miles.  I walked the distance to town.  I continued, and walked all the way through town.  Then, once I was on the other side of town, I continued to walk towards the tracks, and near there was a house that belonged to a friend of my dad’s.
  They took my pathetic ass in, and from there I was able to get some water, cool off, and finally get a ride.  The guy towed my car–and charged my dad.  What are friends for?  It ended up just needing a thermostat.  I didn’t do the work; I didn’t know anything about it.  It just magically came back to me fixed, and I have no idea how that happened.  I just continued to drive it.
  One day–sometime after that–I started having the oddest problem with the car.  Whenever I would give it some gas and try to take off, it would start to go, but then it would suddenly slow down, almost like it wasn’t getting any gas.
  We looked a couple of different possibilities, Dad and I did.  Finally he decided that it must be the fuel filter or something like that.  We trace the line from the gas tank to the fuel filter, but we never made it to the filter.  The gas line came from the gas tank and went under the trunk.  It was pinched between the leaf spring and the rusted body of the trunk that the leaf spring had broken through.  The forward momentum of acceleration pushes the back end of the car down and pinches the rusted opening against the line and cut off the fuel.  Well, at least we know what the problem is.
  Now, how to fix it?
  This is what we did:  We jacked up the back of the car, pried the leaf spring back through the hole where it belonged, and then got a piece of wood and put it between the hole and the spring, and the got the drill and some screws, and screwed the piece of wood to the floor of the trunk, and put some screws from the spring into the wood, to hold it all together.  It worked for as long as we had the car, until we finally sold it at an auction for 225 dollars. 
  We actually made money on it.

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Once In A While

May 11, 2010 at 10:18 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
  I’ve been down to just one job for about a week.
  On one hand, I do like having a break, right when the weather is nice.
  On the other, I need to pay my bills. 

  I have been looking…but that’s about it.  Just looking.  I talked to one person.  I’m a gonna have to get serious about this.  I think I will, but maybe not until next week.  I’d like to time it so that I can get a job right after Memorial Day.  Having a three day weekend now will help me accept working my ass off the rest of the summer and the rest of my life.
  Of course, it’s gotten scary slow around here at the bank, my day job.  Fear is a good motivator; I’ve been dicking around less and working more (I think).  Wouldn’t that just be a pisser to quit one job and then get laid off from the other one?  I’m too old to be homeless.  I don’t really want to live in a dumpster unless it’s one of those that the side opens up.  My knees are bad and I can’t climb into one.  I wonder if they have handicapped-accessible trash bins?

  C’est la vie.
  I do have some projects I need to work on.  Perhaps I should do that.  Do those.  Do these.  Work on these, finish that.  Start on this.  I have a list.  I have lists, even.  I have a list of the lists, actually.
  Also, the ill-fated internet radio show is slated to launch this week.  Saturday we were interviewed on another show on the network–sort of introductory launch–and then we recorded two short shows (instead of one whole show).  The idea being that after five months of development we were almost ready to go live, and just as close to getting canceled.  So the programming director said let’s do some short shows, one segment only–kind of like teasers.  Those shows seemed to go okay–they will be posted for listening Wednesday and Thursday.
  But now I feel back on it–I had a slump.  Now I have material falling out of my ass.  And we seem to have cleaned up the chemistry between Suzan and I.  And Detroit likes to come to the studio.  I don’t know if it’s to babysit me, or because she actually likes it.  Probably a little of both.
  There is more information on the actual website for the show:
  radiofreemo.com
  And the place to listen to the show is on the network site:
  sdnet.fm.
  On radiofreemo.com, the site is a blog that I post stories about the news and make comments on them.  But there is also a behind-the-scenes blog that is about the actual making of the radio show itself.  More information is there.  I try to keep this blog separate because this is about my life, my whole life, and nothing but my life, so help me God.
  Meanwhile, I’ve been on Face Book a little bit.  It’s addicting, a little bit.  And I don’t even play the games on there, not even a little bit.  But I’ve managed to reconnect with some people from the past–maybe we’ll actually get together in person some time.  At first I didn’t really want to friend "everybody," but I have a different attitude about it now.  My philosophy can be be described as "Collect them all," like they’re Beanie Babies.  Giant, annoying Beanie Babies that want to tell me about their lives and their accomplishments on a virtual farm.
  But more and more and more, I’ve been paying attention to politics and the state of the nation.  It’s not for the radio show, it’s the other way around.  The radio show came about because I was paying attention to this crap and I needed a place to vent.
  And I don’t want to talk about that on this blog either.  This is about me life, aye–I don’t fancy goin and spoilin it by talking about parliament and whatnot.  And I have still another project going on–I’ve hooked up with my editor (not hooked up in the street meaning–I haven’t hit that yet) to work on a creative project.
  It started with a discussion about getting a government grant (because Obama is handing out money like crack to the homeless) to work on a book, or something else like that.  Can I get a grant that would support me enough that I would only have to work one job while I work on a book?  Why not?  A ten thousand dollar grant would get my by for almost a year, really.  Long enough to–
  Pam, my editor, said, well, why don’t you send me a list of some of your ideas, and I’ll see if there’s something I can do, grant-wise.  Pam is going to school to get her writing degree, and is tops in her class.  She wants to be a grant writer because she cares about people and their causes, and because there is a shit-load of money in it.
  I gave her a list.  A partial list.  The list of things that are on the top of my head, creatively, at the moment.  It was a long list.  She didn’t get back to me for a few days, but when she did, she had selected a project that was actually one of my favorites as well.  Which one?  Why, you’re holding it in your hot li’l hands right now.  This blog.
  From the beginning, I have wanted to take the stories I have written about delivery and working in a restaurant and turn them into a book.  She agreed that it was a good idea.  And–I have most of it written, right here.
  Of course, most of this shit needs to be edited.  Writing for a blog is different from writing a book.  And I didn’t mean it to be–I wanted this to be as good as a book.  However, if you start at the beginning until yesterday, you can see the painful, awkward, horrid writing that I have committed.  I have improved in some areas, and drifted backwards horribly in some others.  Plus I can ramble–man, can I –and never seem to get to a point.
  But I do have most of it written.  Call it a first draft, whatever.  It’s a starting point.  I collected all the posts that have to do more or less with the business, plus some other good ones, and a few about my personal life (but not many–we want to stay focused) and gathered them all up into some word docs.  So far it’s 251 pages and I’m not done compiling it–but close.  And, as I go along, I realize I have more stories that I haven’t told–I need to get on that.  This is the story I was meant to write, the story I was meant to tell.  The only problem is, I’m not sure where the end would be…

  But at least I have a start.

The Case For Tipping: A Rebuttal

May 7, 2010 at 5:21 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
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  Because, you see–Tipping is not a city in China.
          BACKGROUND
  I have worked in food service since 1986–24 years.  About half of that time has been in management, and the other half has been as a delivery driver.  Therefore, I have seen this world from all sides, including from the point of view of a customer.
  Now, pizza delivery is a little different from being a waiter, but there is a relation.  As far as the customer is concerned, there is no difference.  All the differences are "inside" and fairly transparent to them:  They both bring you your food.  The rest is details.
  My brethren in pizza delivery will say that driving is just as hard as being a waiter.  However, I have done both, and being a waiter is harder–for a few reasons.
  Waiting (serving) is physically more demanding.  More running back and forth, more time on your feet, and generally more time spent cleaning and prepping.  Also, you have more face time with the customer.  Any time you can minimize that, it is a good thing.  With pizza delivery, if you have to talk to the customer for more than twenty seconds, something is wrong.
  That doesn’t mean driving doesn’t have its own difficulties.  While you do get to ride around in your car and listen to your stereo, driving is treacherous.  Delivering pizza is lumped in with other driving jobs such as truck driving and taxi driving, but it is one of the most dangerous jobs.
  Waiters seldom get robbed at gunpoint at the table they are serving.
  A waiter will not die in a car accident on the way to a table.
  A waiter won’t have to walk a quarter mile in the dark in the snow to bring your food to you.
  A waiter typically knows where you are, and doesn’t have to try to find you.
  I have been robbed.  I have been beaten.  I have had a gun in my chest.  I have also seen everything you can imagine–and things you can’t possibly.  I have drudged through snow and ice and mud. I’ve been attacked by dogs.  Fallen on ice?  You bet.  Soaked to the bone in the rain?  All the time.  I’ve delivered during tornadoes.
  I’ve also been tipped with things other than money.  Further I shall not say on this topic.
  Drivers still have some prep and cleaning to do, but typically servers work in restaurants that are not fast food, so there is more prep, prep of practically everything.  So, while serving is more physically demanding, there are other aspects to delivery that make it difficult.  
  Delivery, like serving, is not for everyone.  To drive, you don’t have to be a genius, but idiots don’t last long.  You have to be able to get around, find your way, improvise, and think on your feet.
  I worked at Domino’s Pizza.  When we had the thirty minute guarantee, you had to do all of that fast.
        BUSINESS
  There are two different ways drivers are paid.  In the big places, like Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut, the drivers are paid by the hour–generally minimum–plus a per-delivery stipend to cover gas usage (it was fifty cents, but with gas prices it’s around a dollar now), and then they are tipped.
  The other method, popular among smaller chains and mom-and-pop operations, is to pay the driver a cash bank at the beginning of the night, usually fifteen to twenty dollars, which they get to keep.  Then they get a higher per-delivery fee (2 or 3 bucks), and also tips.  Essentially these are non-employed, sub-contracted individuals.  
  The second group is more dependent on tips–similar to servers making 2.13 per hour and then making the rest up in tips.  But the first group still needs them; that small fee for gas doesn’t always quite cover the actual gas used, not to mention wear and tear on the vehicle.  Plus–does anyone want to make JUST minimum wage?  So for all of these tipped positions, tips are important.
  For instance, right now, I drive two nights per week, averaging eight hours per shift.  Sometimes it’s busy, and sometimes it’s slow.  On a slow night, I made 30 bucks in cash, including my mileage.  That’s 3.75 per hour; with my hourly it’s 9.25.  Not great, but not bad considering the job.  My worst night recently I made 14 dollars.  Divide that by the five hours I worked, it’s 2.80, or 8.30 with my hourly.  On my best night so far, I made 90 bucks in cash.  That’s 11.25 per hour, with my hourly, 16.75.  Not bad.  More than the job is worth?  What’s it worth to you to not have to put clothes on, start your car, clean it off, warm it up, drive through the ice and snow in the dark…to get a pizza?  What is avoiding a DUI worth by not having to go out when you’re drunk?  What is the convenience worth?
  (And I just had a flash of insight; my own ADD moment:  Whenever I order concert tickets, my 40 dollar tickets always end up costing me 52.75.  Why is that?  Convenience charge?  Doesn’t seem terribly convenient to me.  It’s like they are not giving me a choice and forcing me to tip them.  That’s fascist.)
  But that’s the high end.  Let’s go with the average.  I average 50 bucks in cash.  That’s 6.25, with my hourly, 11.75.  That makes it a decent job in fast food.  Plus, that’s mostly cash, so the equivalent is probably a job making 15 bucks per hour.  Not too shabby.  But this is all dependent on tips.
  Some people have intimated that (because they don’t understand how this part of the economy works–and hey, there’s no shame in that unless you spout off a bunch of ridiculous ideas about it) maybe…. maybe employers should just PAY their employees more, and eliminate tipping.  And then charge more for the food.
  But you are wrong about this, for several reasons, which I will explain in excruciating detail, and I might even include charts and graphs.
  Eliminating tipping is anti-American, anti-Capitalist, and stupid. And socialists.  "Let’s eliminate all competition and pay everyone the same, no matter what."  I think that’s a quote from Stalin.
            MATH
  Let’s examine what would happen if we raise wages.  Let’s take a. . .Let’s take a Steak n Shake, because I worked there also.  This Steak n Shake does 40,000 in sales per week.  It has about 60 hourly employees.  Twenty of them are back kitchen, making roughly 8 bucks an hour.  The other 40 are servers, making 2.13 per hour.  To make things equitable, they are ALL going to make 8 bucks an hour.  How much do you have to raise the prices?
  This where my experience as a manager comes in:  Food and labor are the big numbers.  You want food to be around 25% of costs, and labor to be around 20%.  So 20% of 40k is. . .8 thousand dollars.  That’s with 2/3 of your staff at tipping wage.  So let’s bump that up.  My complicated formula for that is:

(Well, 2/3 of the staff is making 1/4 of what 1/3 of the staff makes, and this is your hourly people)

    40*2*x + 20*8*x=8000
    80x+160x=8000
    240x= 8000
    x= 33 hours average each works.  This lets me calculate the new formula.

So now it’s (40*8*33)+(20*8*33) which equals 15840

That makes more sense than my original calculation.  Originally my number tripled the labor dollars.  That was silly.  This only doubles it.  So–In order to keep the labor percentage the same, what do we have to do in sales?

15840/20%=79200.  That’s almost double.  So–
 
  You know, Steak n Shake is already really expensive.  It’s three dollars for a tiny cheeseburger; four dollars for a double.  Six bucks for a platter, two bucks for a drink.  I can’t afford to eat there much.  But if I did, my fiancé and I would get two platters and two drinks.  6, 12, plus 4–16 bucks?  I seem to recall it being closer to 20.  We’ll go with 16.  I’m going to throw down a twenty-dollar bill, because I’m a good tipper–most people who have worked in food are, while doctors and lawyers and professional people tend to be bad tippers.  There is research and anecdotal evidence to back that up.  But that’s a 25% tip.
  But in the new world where no one tips, prices had to go up to compensate.  This 16- dollar meal now costs 32 bucks.  But I feel better, because I didn’t have to tip, everyone is treated equally, and no one’s feelings are hurt.
  The reality is, if everyone is making more money, then fewer of those "everyone" will have a job.  As owner or manager, if I can cut my staff, I will.  Service will suffer.  You won’t get a refill as often as you like–If ever.  But that’s the reality of business.
  Maybe some of you can pay 32 bucks for a dinner for two at a glorified fast food restaurant masquerading as a crappy diner . . . but the rest of us can’t.  And what will then happen to that business?
          ECONOMY
  So the economy will suffer a bit–Quite a lot, actually.  It will hurt people on the lower end.  These are the people typically working these jobs.  It’s not all high school and college students.  It’s mothers and fathers trying to make ends meet.  People who have fallen on hard times because their job was shipped over seas or downsized.  So they did what they had to do–adjusted.  Moved to the service industry.  Instead of good benefits and decent hours, they are working all hours of the day and night, and weekends.  Missing their kids’ games and homework to put food on the table and keep the lights on.
  Oh, sorry…I got all emotional.  I figured it would appeal to you, since you want to essentially socialize the hospitality industry.  And we know how much liberals are long on "feelings," and short on substance.
  Yes, of course, no one “has” to work there.  But the tips make the job a draw; without them, it just might be another job Americans won’t do.  Not everyone can have a union job.  And if everyone did, America would burn to the ground from the inflation.  For those of us who actually live in the real world, our choices are limited.  Go back to school, get re-educated?  Sounds a little like Nazi re-education camps to me.  Not only that, but listen—really:  Not everyone is smart enough.  Hell, not everyone is even smart, period.   Situations and circumstances are different for everyone.  Your sweet, cute waitress may also be dumb as a box of rocks, or just have an LD.  She’s not going back to school.  This is the job where her strengths—being cute and friendly—work for her.  She doesn’t have to know math beyond counting cash.  She’s saving up her money to leave an abusive boyfriend—and you want to take that away from her?
  There we go with the emotions again.  I’m not stupid, either.  I have a ridiculously high IQ, and wasted my education in my youth with a drug problem.  I’m clean now, but my life is a product of my mistakes.  But—never mind.  My point is this:  for everyone to have some level of success (and success is defined differently by everyone) tipping is a real, tangible measure of that success.
  There are groups who want to unionize the pizza delivery industry.  Without even knowing the details, I’m sure you can guess that it’s a bad idea.
  And one thing they want to do is what you suggest—raise prices and eliminate tipping.  This is because it’s hard to get union dues from cash.  And it’s always for everyone’s own good, isn’t it?   
  (Another of my own ADD moments:  This won’t work for all industries.  Just how do you expect a stripper to get paid if there is no more tipping?  Those tattoos and piercings and waxings aren’t free, brotha!  Do you know what high heels go for these days?  Not to mention crotchless—anything . . .)
          TAXES
  At least one good thing will come out of it:  Currently, employees who make tips declare them as income.  Of course, they declare as little as possible, hitting the threshold of barely acceptable.  The employers appreciate this, because they have to match Social Security and some other things, like unemployment tax.  So a server making 2.13 declares enough in tips to make it 5.50 or 6, when in fact he’s probably making 9 or 10 bucks an hour . . . or more.
  Why, that is cheating the government out of valuable tax dollars that they need to give to Africa to piss away.  So, businesses will probably both raise their prices AND cut people, to avoid paying as much in taxes.  Plus, having more sales dollars affects the taxes they pay as well.  It’s a win for everyone–because the government wins and gets more tax revenue.  This will go to government programs to help those who lost their jobs when employers cut their labor.
  This is a rough estimate, but a server who makes 10 bucks an hour in tips makes more versus someone who makes 10 bucks an hour on a check.  Obviously, they aren’t paying taxes on all of that money, or FICA, or SUTA, or SS.  Maybe that’s wrong, and they should—
  Or maybe people being paid some of their wages in cash is a way for them to stick it to The Man.  Don’t worry; they still pay taxes on a portion of it.
  On a personal note, back in 1992 the company I worked for got audited.  The owner rolled over on the drivers as part of his plea, so we got audited.  I felt that you should be as honest with the government as they are with you, so I declared nothing in tips for that year.  Including late fees and penalties, I had to pay back 2600 dollars, which became over four grand before I was through because the fees and penalties don’t stop accruing.  
  They had a formula for figuring out what my tips were, basically amounting to one dollar per hour.  It looked like a substantial amount. My wife at the time said, "There’s no way you made that much–"
  I said, "Remember how during most of your pregnancy you weren’t working?  We always had money, we always had food, and we paid our bills.  Just from what I made from tips.  You have no idea how much I made.  None.  My tips kept us afloat."
          CULTURE
  Lastly, this is about our culture.  May I remind you that the commie pinko socialists in Canada don’t tip either?  Yeah, they don’t tip in a lot of other communist, totalitarian countries also.
  Tipping is a pillar of our culture and economy.  It is a trademark of capitalism.  Of course there are good and bad parts to this; no system is perfect.  Tipping the guy who hails me a cab because that’s the rule?  Not bloody likely.  Tipping the cute waitress who was cheerful and kept my drink full?  Absolutely.  There is also survival of the fittest involved here.
  Good, quality people who work hard, have a good attitude, know how to hustle and take care of the customer–they are going to be rewarded with cash, and better opportunities for jobs where the tips are even better.  The surly, slothful, and lazy will still get tipped…but not as much.  The good jobs will weed them out, and they will get sifted to the bottom and end up working at crappy ghetto diners.
  Sure, sometimes you tip when you don’t feel it’s necessary.  Sometimes you can see the larceny in their hearts.  Capitalism isn’t a perfect system.  I personally don’t like what WalMart has done to the economy; while conservatives continue to sing its praises and worship at the altar of their cash register, I search for signs of the Number of the Beast there.
  But I still shop there.
          CONCLUSION
  Like I said, tipping isn’t a perfect system.  Neither is capitalism.  But it’s still the BEST system–and by that I mean both capitalism, and the tiny artery of capitalism called tipping.  It allows people on the lower rungs to compete among themselves and get a leg up.  If you, on the other end as a customer, see disparity, try living on my end.  Do your job for tips, and see how it works out.  
  For the longest time now, I’ve been in management, and there’s been some disconnect between me and the customer.  But recently I had to return to delivery, part time.  Who says the economy is tanking?  I have three jobs!
  But since I work for tips now, my attitude is better.  I used to be bitter, jaded, and resentful.  But now I pour it on thick.  I flirt with everyone, even the men.  It’s professional flirting.  I’m nice, I joke, I compliment, and I’m prompt and friendly.  It’s purely pragmatic, but it’s made me a better person because friendly equals cash, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  Tipping isn’t required.  It’s customary, that’s all.  However, I do recommend that you tip the Pizza Guy.  He knows where you live.

Take This Job

May 6, 2010 at 5:23 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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  I picked up my paycheck from The Three Jakes yesterday.  Not the last one; I still have one more coming.  Now the last one will only have…two days on it.  Monday and last Thursday.  Eight hours total, then, and probably about forty bones after taxes.
  But this one was a bigger check, so I needed it.

  I had quit Monday night–but I half-expected a call Tuesday that never came.  Around five pm I had my phone near me, just in case–but it never happened.  I’m glad…I didn’t want a confrontation.
  The work-week at Three Three Jakes ends, oddly, on Tuesday and begins on Wednesday.  Why?  I’m not sure what the specific reason is, but I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that they are insane.  It’s a corporate thing, and other companies do it as well. 
  I imagine it begins by having an outside consultant coming in all gung-ho and wired up on pharmaceuticals and clapping his hands loudly and spouting pseudo-business babble like "Think outside the box," "synergy," "Work harder, not smarter," and similar motivating phrases.
  But whatever.  Payday is Wednesday, and I wanted to get my check after I got out of the bank.  I drove in, wondering if I should have called first.  All these worst-case scenarios went through my head:  what if I signed something that said they could play games with my check if I quit?  What I’m supposed to return my uniform–that I paid for–and until I do I don’t get my check?  What if they automatically mail them if you quit, and I won’t see it for a few days?  What if they decide that since I’m quit, they can jack me out of half my hours and get away with it?
  I showed up at The Three Jakes, and for only the second time–the first was on my first day–I pulled into the customer parking lot.  Normally I would pull onto the side which was technically the bar’s parking, but close to the drive-thru door.  All the employees parked there.  And lately, I was pulling through the drive-thru and parking in the side area, very convenient to get in and out of the store on deliveries.
  But I wasn’t an employee anymore.
  I walked in and saw Brian and Von sitting at a table, having a meeting.  I didn’t bother them.  I went to the counter, where I encountered the big fake greeting that they give customers (that I’ve done as well.)
  The guy behind the counter I had never seen before, but I don’t see the day people much.  He said, "Did ya know what ya wanted to get?"
  "Actually, I was hoping to get my check."
  As soon as he figured it out, he started to say something funny.  But Sam the day driver was already walking back to the front with it–he must have seen me.
  I looked at my check and immediately thought, "Shit, they are ripping me off since I quit!"  But I realized that it is right, and the reason it’s short is because of the two Saturdays I took off.  Crapski.
  I talked to Sam for a minute or two, and told him what was up.  He had no idea, but agreed that all things considered, it was time to go.  Chances are, few people knew I had quit, because day and night don’t talk much to each other.
  On my way out, I walked right past Brian and Von, so it was kind of hard to ignore them.  I slowed to a stop.  Brian spoke first. 
  "How are, Bryan?  Are you doing okay?"
  I was surprised by the gentleness and sincerity of his question.  I answered, "Yeah…I’m okay."  I glanced at Von, then back at Brian.  "I hope–I didn’t want to leave you in a lurch, but it was just not working out." 
  He said–what did he say?  He said something very neutral and understanding, and a bit telling in its neutrality.  Something like, "Yeah, I get that.  I understand."  But that’s not what he exactly said, and the reason I can’t remember is because it is jumbled with the energy he was projecting at the time.
  And his aura said several things.  It projected some honesty, and some empathy.  He did cut my hours, on purpose, to give them to someone else.  And he did it because he was told to.  Either by Matt the DM directly, or by his training that requires him to be heartless and dead inside.
  Hell, Matt might have even made the schedule.  But Brian had defeat in him–he knew that there were things that were unsavory that he would have to do to keep his own job, and he has accepted that, and he does them.  His whole demeanor is, "Yeah, it’s shitty, but what can you do?"
  It comes from strictly a business decision that someone else made, and they signed papers when they were hired that said they would buy in to the company philosophy, so they can’t argue about it.  That way, the company gets only Yes-men and no disagreement on strategy.
  So, The Three Jakes is all about incredibly fast service.  Insanely fast.  Freaky fast, even.  They’ve noticed a trend that since February when we peaked, night-time sales have been slipping.  Therefore, it must be due to service.  We must be taking too much time.  I must be slow.
  It can’t be anything else, like:
  After opening, the newness wears off.
  Every place around here that isn’t a bar closes very early.  Why is that?
  The economy is in recovery.  But it’s still down.
  Oh, but sales during the day are up?  Great.  These are sammiches we’re selling.  Cold sammiches.  That is a lunch item, not as much a dinner item.  They know and they schedule that way.  During the day there might be nine or ten people or more, and at night they’re going to have three, maybe four.
  We service the Soulard area, which is notoriously dense with bars and restaurants.  At night, most people are eating somewhere else. 
  But DM has no control over these things.  The economy?  The local business collective?  If I can’t do anything about those things, I’ll do something about the things I can–
  Let’s replace some people.
  I worked with DMs before, and they are, for the most part, a waste of space.  They exist solely to make a manager’s life miserable and difficult, and justify their existence by trying to solve problems that they themselves had caused in the first place.
  I never realized before how much they are like politicians.
 
  We shook hands.  I looked at Von, and he was pretending to be sad, but I saw a real sadness behind the fake sadness there–it was subtle.  But there was a wide-eyed disbelief that I was leaving.  I wanted to give him a hug.  I shook his hand, and said, "I’ll come by and see you sometime.  I got your number.  Peace out."
  And I was gone.

****

  I never really bonded with anyone there, I thought.  But I did make some level-seven friends, like Von.  And Cameron was a good kid.  I liked Kelly a lot–but who doesn’t like a sassy black girl?  Will was annoying, of course–I didn’t even mention it when he was no longer working with us and got a transfer to another store to have a whole new group of people to piss off.  TJ was okay.  I didn’t see a lot of other people.  The little girl Marissa was horrified of and disgusted with me–on the whole, a fairly accurate perception.  Shannon the lesbian was starting to warm up to me–I have a way with *the ladies*.
  So it’s almost not worth the effort, the special line I throw out when I leave someplace.  But it’s a tradition, so maybe when I go to get my last check, I’ll get a card and leave it for them.
  So many faces in and out of my life
  Some will last; some will just be now and then
  Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes–
  I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again.

You’re Gonna Miss Me–

May 4, 2010 at 3:23 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
Tags: ,
  –When I’m gone.

  I worked at The Three Jakes last night-another exciting adventure.  When I got there, I checked on the ice machine and–lo and behold!–the new schedule is posted.
  It’s not really even that big of a deal, because everyone works the same schedule all the time.  The Three Jakes has developed a highly passive-aggressive way of making people deal with their own scheduling issues.  Basically, it works like this:  the schedule is what it is, the same, always and forever.  When Brian makes a new one he is just copying the old one.  But there is an envelope for "schedule requests" that might just as well say "Hurt me Randomly" on it.  You have to have your schedule requests in by the Friday before the second Wednesday of the Tuesday that the following week’s schedule (that begins on Wednesday) begins…or something like that.  About a month’s notice, they want.
  I learned–but at first I thought it was just me–that if you put in a request for a day off, on the following schedule you are off on that same day also, because he just copied it.  At first I thought it was just Brian being vapid (and he is), but now I think that it is an unwritten rule in their management philosophy–
  ["When someone has a schedule request, go ahead and honor it–but then fuck with their schedule for the next several weeks.  This will train them to deal with it on their own, and they’ll stop bothering us.  We’re managers; we don’t have time for things like scheduling, staffing, or managing our employees."]
  –because not only did I get corroboration that this has happened to other people, but we also have posted near the schedule a "Substitution List."  The way it is worded it sounds like if you need a schedule change after the schedule is posted, go to this.  But the practical application and general usage is "Take your troubles to the wailing wall, and bother me no more." 
  And here’s a related thing, too:  little Marissa didn’t show up last night because she was sick.  They told her, *you call around and find someone to replace you.*
  I’ve seen this philosophy in other restaurants, and in theory there is some logic to it.  However, my zip code is in the real world.
  What if you can’t find someone?  Well, you still have to come in.  What if you’re so sick that you *can’t*?  Well, then you get written up or fired.  What if you were in a car accident, and you’re in the hospital?  They have phones there.  What if you’re in a coma?  Find someone to call for you.
  So, say you have the flu.  It’s pretty bad.  And you’re contagious.  You can’t find someone to work for you and they don’t believe you, so you have to come in (or tell them to fuck off).  And–again–what if you are too sick and drained of energy to make a phone call?  So you come in, infect everyone else, and then pass out.  And get written up for sleeping on the job.  Just because the manager didn’t believe you and wants "proof" that you are sick and not faking it. 
  If you, as a manager/owner/operator of a company, want your employees to trust you, you should extend some trust to them as well.  Trust that when they are say they are sick, generally they are.
  "Rules are rules."  Yes, I know.  But they are made by people, and they are made for people, and there has to be a reasonable expectation of rational behavior from management, not just a mindless following of procedure.  There are always exceptions, and there is judgment, and there are circumstances to consider.  So be realistic.
  What if you are so sick that you shouldn’t be driving, but out of a [completely misplaced] sense of duty and the guilt trip that was laid on you, you drive to work–
  And then get in an accident?
  I’d say the company is liable.  I’d say they create a culture that tries to place loyalty to them above anything rational, and pressured you into doing something that was unsafe, and they are culpable.  I bet a jury would agree, because we’ve all been there, been coerced to work when we were sick.
  I don’t care how important you think you and your ridiculous little restaurant are–
  For minimum wage *YOU* find my replacement.  Do *your* job as manager.

  Ah–and you might think I’m done ranting.
  So I came in yesterday and looked at the schedule, both the current one and the new one.  I checked the current one to make sure it hasn’t changed–because that can happen–and then the new one to make sure there’s nothing odd on it–Because Brian will do things like schedule me to close in the middle of the week, and then act surprised when I tell him I can’t do it. 
  "Really?"
  "I still have a day job.  A real job."  They hate hearing that, which is why I say it.  Someone has to break it to them.  "The job that pays way more than this one, that I have insurance and a 401k and other benefits with.  The one I’ve always had that I told you right from the beginning was the reason I can’t be here until 3am because I get up early for my other job, and you have a WRITTEN availability that I filled out that says this–that you never look at."
  "So you can’t close tonight?"
  "No.  It’s a Tuesday.  It’s a weekday.  I can’t."
  "Okay.  How about next Thursday?"
  To The Three Jakes, The Three Jakes is the world.  Everything revolves around it. 
  A few weeks ago, I had made the mistake of asking off on a Saturday for my birthday party.  The following week, I wasn’t scheduled, but that was okay because my daughter was singing at some function, and I got to go see it without having to ask off for it.  After that, I thought, *Why don’t I take Saturday off?  I’m trying to get this radio show project going, and Saturday is the day we do it.*  So I never went to Brian and said, "Hey, can I have my Saturday back?"
  So again…I came in to work yesterday, and the first thing I did was check the schedule.  I used to work four days, but now I work three.  On the new schedule, however–
  I’m down to two days.
  And the two days are Monday and Tuesday, the two shittiest days.  The new guy, Kevin–the one they gave my Saturday to–now has my Thursday.  I’ve never been off on the Thursday.  Never asked for it, or anything like that.  They just took one of my shifts and gave it to him.
  I know what this is; I’ve seen it before.  Hell, I’ve done it before.  If you want to get rid of someone, just cut their hours and make them quit.  For restaurant management, it’s pretty standard.  They were going to get their wish.  On my first delivery–to a new regular that doesn’t tip–I called Detroit and told her my sad story.  I love Detroit, and how supportive she is–She told me I should quit now.
  Hmmm.  Yeah, maybe so.
  But I didn’t.  When I got back from the run, all the day people had cleared out, leaving just the night crew–and we’re short-handed.  Just me, TJ, and Jessica.  Jessica, if you recall, was the manager I had some problems getting along with and then she got promoted.  Now she’s back.  I’m not clear on whether it was a voluntary or involuntary demotion because I didn’t want to pry and also because I don’t care enough.  I didn’t really have a problem with her, she had a problem with *me.*  And it wasn’t just me; she had problems with a few people.
  But just back from her latest ego-crushing adventure, she wasn’t nearly as uptight as before.  She was still closed off (to me) and not communicating (with me). 
  And so…I didn’t quit right then but I’m not sure why–surely it wasn’t for them.  Jessica was trying to out-passive-aggressive the world champion, and TJ…you know, I want to like him, but he is a very serious person, and these types of people do not like people that are funny.  Or people like me.  Plus he has a thinly veiled air of superiority because of his degree and his work in a university.  I will give him props for not being even more psychologically damaged than he is.
  I guess it was for my own pride.  Not my integrity, although I wish it was.  I’m not going to walk out in a huff.  I’m going to finish my shift with dignity, do whatever ridiculous crap I have to do, and leave quietly, with my karma intact.
  And I got my wish.  It was slow, so I ended up cleaning a wide variety of things that were already clean (standard Three Jakes procedure) and I took the initiative to do these because Jessica wasn’t going to tell me to do anything because that would involve talking to her.  While I cleaned the tables in the dining room, her and TJ talked.
  While I swept the floor in the dining room, her and TJ chatted.  While I mopped, the kibitzed.  While I did the dishes, they bonded.  I don’t care–I’ve seen people stand around, jack around, and do nothing, but if I stop moving I get ridden like a bad pony.  And I know it’s my last day–something they don’t know–so I don’t want anyone to get on my back because then I would walk out.  Plus…if they don’t want to talk to me, fine.  I thought I was an engaging, interesting person.  I thought people liked me.  I thought I had friends–Just not here.
  Fuck em and feed em beans.
 
  It was going to be a shitty night for tips.  During the first two hours, I just took those two runs that didn’t tip.  If number three hadn’t tipped me, I was prepared to quite calmly stabbed her in her backfat. 
  Towards the end, the only thing that kept me going was my plan to wait for Adam to get there, so I could walk out with a sammich for free.  Otherwise, it would have all been for naught and I would have wasted my night.  I made 20 bucks in tips–20 bucks!–in four hours.  And hell, eleven of that was on the last two deliveries in the last fifteen minutes.  On the last one, I got to the door, and the guy said, "How’s it going?"
  I scoffed.  "You don’t wanna know."
  "Rough night?"
  "Let’s just say…you are my last customer, because I’m going to quit this fuckin job."
  He chuckled as he signed the credit card slip.  "So it is one of those nights."  He handed me the slip, and then pulled a five out of his pocket.  "Here you go, man."
  I looked at it quickly, before reflexively sticking it in my pocket quickly. I said, "Hey, thanks, man!  Thanks for letting me end on a high note!"

  Back at the store, Jessica checked me out, and then she left.  Adam was already there.  I waited for Jessica to leave, because I remember she was a real stickler about the whole sammich thing.  She may have cooled off of that a bit, but I didn’t want a confrontation.  I told Cam when he got there about my plan, and then later, when Auja showed up, I told her.  She knew already–Cameron had told her.  As Jessica left I said, "See ya later–" but I didn’t mean it.
  I made my sammich like I usually do, while Adam was slicing meat.  I bagged it up and set it aside, and then went to talk to Adam.
  "I was wondering if you could do me a favor."
  "Whatcha need?"
  "I don’t know if you talk to Brian or communicate with him in some way, or email him or leave him a note–but can you tell him that today was my last day?"
  Adam looked at me, with the trained emotionless expression that you get from being a manager or a husband that has had to deal with a psycho wife.  "Are you sure?"  Fairly non-committal–he’s good.
  "Yeah."  I explained to him about the game that was being played, and how I knew.  And also, how I essentially quit at five, but stayed to work because I didn’t want to leave these people hanging, the ungrateful turds.
  I also talked a little about my past–I may not have mentioned it to him before, my experience.  "I know what this is–"
  At the end, he said, "Okay, I’ll let Brian know."
  "Thanks.  By the way, as a parting gift, I’m going to take this sammich."
  He nodded.  "okay."
  I went to say goodbye to Auja, who was in the back.  She said, "I’m gonna miss you."  She pouted.
  "Me too."  I grabbed her to hug her, and went right to her neck and started to kiss it and bite it and growl.  Auja squealed, but didn’t try to hard to get away.  I gave her a kiss on the cheek, and said, "Bye, Honey."
  I came out of the back room where Auja had just been squealing, and Cam cocked an eyebrow.  I held out a fist, and we bumped.  "Later man.  Be good."
  I was outta there.  I had intended to quit at five, but I had stayed until nine.  No matter–I’m sure it was five o’clock somewhere.

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