First Day

October 11, 2010 at 11:05 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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September, 1986

There I was, fired.
The warehouse job I had was a good time, and so obviously it couldn’t last forever. I would return at some point, and that wouldn’t last forever, either.
I was out of work and young, and consequently not too worried about it. But I did have a car payment. I needed to do something. I guess. I didn’t have a clear indication of what, but I knew I needed money, because cash is the lube that greases the wheels that make the world go around.
At the time I was living with my old girlfriend–and she is old, too! Ba-dum, ching!
I was twenty-one, living with a forty year old manic depressive alcoholic. It was an interesting year. My very own “Year of Living Dangerously.”
Coasting as I was through life, I didn’t pay attention to most things. Like this poisonous relationship I was in, or what I was going to do with my life, or what I was doing now.
And so on one of our several trips we would make to the local small grocery store to buy beer for my girlfriend and our underage friends, it was actually one of them that noticed the sign in the Domino’s Pizza next to the Riverview Dairy.
“Check that out,” someone said from the tiny backseat of my Escort.
“What?” I was busy driving, navigating the decaying parking lot. All I saw was people walking in empty-handed and other people walking out with beer. It was really little more than a glorified liquor store that also sold some groceries. But this was the clientele they served: Lower middle class stiffs that weren’t quite rednecks, living just north of the city in a quiet, out of the way satellite town. Right on the river–hence the name–and not a cut-through to anywhere, so it was a low traffic area and it had the isolated feel of a small town with all the crime of the big city…sort of the best of both worlds.
The Domino’s Pizza in the small plaza had a sign that said “Now Hiring.” I believe it was meant for me personally.
Still I put it off for a few days, talked with my dad about it, and weighed the pros and cons. He told me something that just hadn’t occurred to me before: “You’re going to put a lot of miles on your car.”
Hmmm. That fact had completely eluded me before. Still, with the choice being between working and not working, I leaned slightly towards working. The next time we made a trip to the Dairy, I stopped in.

Had I never before been in a pizza place before? It’s very likely. I grew up in a rural area where these places didn’t exist, and once we moved to town, ordering for delivery meant I didn’t have to set foot in the place.
I didn’t notice much, however, when I walked in. I was too nervous and excited, and not really sure what to do. The few jobs I’ve had prior to this someone else got for me–like the warehouse job, where my dad worked as a truck driver.
Obviously I walked in when they were busy, because I was clueless about these things. People were bustling about–making pizzas, answering phones, and other things I couldn’t describe. It seemed like chaos.
Out of the madness, a young girl behind the counter said, “Hi, can I help you?”
“Uh, yeah…I saw the sign that says ‘now-‘”
“Hold on,” she said, interrupting me. Over her shoulder she called out, “Joel!”
Someone appeared from behind some apparatus and came up to the front. Smiling and cheerful, but obviously harried, he said, “Can I help you?”
“Yeah, I saw the sign that says–”
“Terrific. Here, Guy, take this application and fill it out and bring it back. Have you ever delivered before?”
“No–”
“That’s fine. You need to have proof of insurance, and we run an MVR on your license. You can’t have more than three moving violations in the last three years. Okay, Guy?”
Cautiously, I took the paper. “Just bring that back when you have that done.” He disappeared into the chaos again.
And I disappeared back into mine.
A few days later I brought it back, filled out as neatly as I could manage. There seemed to be a lull in the business this time, so the manager had time to talk to me. This was a different person than last time. I think his name was Dave. He seemed to be just on the peeved side of disinterested, but we talked for about three minutes and he said, “Okay, as soon as your MVR comes back good, I’ll give you a call and we’ll start you. Takes about three days.”
His demeanor was so low-key and monotone that it took a moment to sink in: I got the job!
Dave called me on a Saturday, my MVR was good. He said to come in on Wednesday to start training, told me what to wear, and told me to make sure I had shaved.

The Riverview store, Store #1591, was a night-time only store, so it opened at 4:30. I showed up a little after four, and the door was locked. One person inside–
A different person. I think. He saw me and unlocked the door and stuck his head out. “Sorry, we don’t open till 4:30.”
“I’m…I’m supposed to start today.”
His eyebrows went up slowly. “Really?” He let me in. Just then someone else came up from the back of the store, and stayed in the background watching out of curiosity. “Do you know who hired you? Who did you talk to?”
I shrugged. “I don’t really know–”
“What did he look like?”
“Well, he had on a red and white shirt, and a hat, and a mustache.”
The guy just looked at me. “You’ve just described all of us.”
He went back in the office and looked, and my story was confirmed. It seems that this was the new manager, Tom. The old manager had been moved to another store. As I would discover is often the case, no one knew until Monday morning. I thought I was about to fall through the cracks.
“Okay, no problem. Let me get you set up here, and when Joel gets here, I’ll have him train you.” I was in. I was on my way. That was October 1st. That was my first day. I had no idea what was going to be in store for me–for the next twenty years.
But there is a memory I have, a sense memory–whenever I smell a certain combination of pizza smells, it reminds me of the first day I walked in. A little black olive, a hint of green pepper, and fresh-baked dough–to me they smell like the promise of an exciting future.
I must have been high.

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