Welcome To The Jungle (I’ve got your fun and games right here)

June 18, 2011 at 9:56 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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[Spring 1997]

And so, I left Steak n Shake, and came back to Domino’s Pizza again.
Except I never really left; I had continued my employment there as a part time driver for Romona in Hazelwood. It was easy for me to jump right in again as an assistant manager and pick up the hours I needed between two stores: Hazelwood and Cross Keys, the store I most recently managed before being sentenced to the fourth level of Hell that was Blackjack.  (I don’t want to over-exaggerate; everyone always says “seventh level.”  However, with the experiences I’ve had, I had some perspective.)
Bunny was managing Cross Keys and she was my friend. Romona was my friend also, and gave me more hours. I was in the middle of an estrogen duel, two women vying to have me all to themselves. I wanted to say, “Ladies, please! There’s enough of me to go around!”
But it wasn’t about me. It was about power. Bunny was an aggressive upstart, and Romona was a battle-weary warhorse. Who would win this battle of wills?
Ultimately Romona did; she was promoted to supervisor.
Now that she was the new North County supervisor, she had–
Well, it depends on how you look at it. If I were an optimist, I would say she had pull. If I were a pessimist, I would say she had problems.
Since I’m a realist, I have to say she had…problems.
One of those problems was Store #1539, Berkeley. It was a problem store in a problem area. It was ghetto. It was hood. It was bad. How bad?
Unless you know the St Louis area, it’s hard to summarize. Part of Berkeley was a small village called Kinloch. Kinloch doesn’t exist anymore because there was a buyout by the airport for a politically-motivated expansion that was never necessary but proceeded anyway, despite the fact that Lambert lost a couple of major hubs and air traffic decreased significantly and an airport was also built in the Metro-East that stands basically deserted.
Kinloch became a synonym for crime,
The major economic factor in Berkeley is drugs. The local government is part nightmare and part comedy. Businesses shut down left and right. McDonald’s a few other chains closed their doors and tucked their tails between their legs, cutting their losses.
Just look up the Wikipedia article for Kinloch, Missouri. Kinloch is attached to Berkeley like a tumor.
Domino’s was desperate to have success at 1539, although the definition of success varies. They made a deal with a manager: she would take over the store, be given free reign, “support” from marketing, and half the profit of the store, instead of the usual 15-20%.
Again, class: What is 50% of zero?
Correct.
This project was touted as a bold initiative, a new direction to create a brighter future and be model for future–
Blah-blah-blah. She lasted less than two months.
It probably wasn’t fair to put a (more or less) innocent suburban white chick in a situation like that. Luckily she didn’t get killed or raped, she just locked the doors in the middle of the day and walked out.
I don’t know if I was necessarily in the right place at the right time, but here’s what happened:
Changes were made, as always. Note the passive voice, to release upper management of responsibility. Jay was the farm-boy supervisor for the area, living in Illinois. He was returned to the cornfields from whence he came.
Does that sound harsh? Jay was a good guy, a quiet, by-the-book, no-nonsense sort of bloke. Yeah, humorless as well–those types usually are. Here’s a story about him:
As a supervisor, he came by Berkeley during dinner rush to do whatever the Hell it is supervisors do. You know, watch other people work. Make suggestions based on hindsight, unrealistic expectations, and fairy tales.
It was dark, so the mag-lock was on. Don’t make explain a mag-lock again. Most stores didn’t turn it on until after 10pm. Berkeley did it as soon as it got dark. Drivers come up, we buzz them in. Customers of a superficially non-threatening nature would approach, and we would buzz them in.
So it’s about 6pm in the winter, and it’s dark. A Friday night, so there is some business going on. A customer approaches, and instinctively Jay reaches toward the button to buzz them in–
A driver slaps his hand away from the button.
The “customer” was a large black male with a ski mask over his face and a shotgun in his hand. He bounced off the door, shook the handle a few times, and disappeared.
It was for the best that Jay returned to the green, green grass of home.
Romona was made supervisor, and now it was her problem.
I can’t believe that I was actually allowed to interview for 1575. Hazelwood was a cherry, and everybody wanted it. I was the only MIT that interviewed; the others were seasoned managers. However, I was a seasoned manager also, who happened to be an assistant at the moment.
Well, of course I didn’t get Hazelwood. I forget which numbnut they gave it to, and it doesn’t matter. Fine, I’ll continue as an assistant–whatev.
Over the course of several days, Romona hounded me. Berkeley was still open, and she was getting desperate. The store needed a manager. Actually it needed a SWAT team. She made offers, she pleaded, she made promises–
I swear to God, if I had held out longer I would have gotten a blowjob. I still remember the day I walked in when she was a manager, and she was sitting at the desk taking a break. And eating a corn dog.
You don’t forget shit like that. She owes me.
However, it was my completely misguided sense of duty that won over, and I accepted the position. I would take Berkeley.  I never did get that blowjob.

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The Last Picture Show

January 17, 2011 at 12:40 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Fall 1991

It was a beautiful fall evening in the suburbs, and everything seemed normal and quiet and I surveyed my domain.  I wasn’t sure how much longer this car would last, though–
But for now it was running well; I just had it back on the road after replacing the shifter.  I buzzed around in the little Toyota with the sunroof open–of course–and enjoying the weather that was still warm enough to do so without looking like a crackpot.  It was after 9 pm so the major rush was long over, but for the few drivers left we still had business, and business is good.
I dropped off the first order of my double without anything remarkable happening, and headed off to the other stop.  Once I found the house, I park against the near-nonexistent curb and cut the wheel.  It’s enough of a bump to keep the car from rolling away, since I don’t have a parking brake–this way I don’t have to turn the engine off.
It’s a standard house in the subdivision, but I remember it had cedar shingles.  Close to the end of the dead end part of the street, so there wasn’t any traffic that didn’t have to be there.  I knock on the door and a guy answers, and holds the door wide for me.  “Pizza man!  Alright!  Come on in!”
Yeah, I know we aren’t supposed to.  If I had a nickel for every time I didn’t follow the rules, my tip average would be higher.  I step in.
The dude that answered the door disappeared to find money–I hope.  I was standing in the living room, and there were three people on the couch.  Two dudes, and a chick.
The dudes looked like dudes.  A little older than me, but that’s not saying much.  One had long hair and a 3/4 sleeve concert shirt, so I assume he was a time-traveler from the 70s.  The other guy looked like a truck driver–hat, slight beard, flannel over a greasy t-shirt.  The chick in question–let’s call her Bethany–Bethany was cute in an escaped-from-rehab kinda way.  Plain face, no makeup.  Revealing top that her boobs sprang out of because she needed to accent her best feature, and straight, flat, dirty blonde hair.  They just sat there, watching TV, then they would one by one glance at me, then glance back at the TV.  They did this a couple of times.  I turned towards the TV.
They were watching porn.
Three guys and one chick, watching porn.  Somebody is getting lucky tonight.  And somebody is getting an STD.
The guy came out with the money, and hesitated, as he caught the eye of the long-haired dude, and some unspoken communication passed between them.  The girl glanced my way, and then at the other guy.  Long-hair nudged her, I think.
I hope I’m better at concealing my expressions now than I was then.  My interpretation is that they were maybe hoping to barter a piece of ass for some pizza.  Maybe they didn’t know how to go about this either–I mean, it always looks easy in the porn movies, because they have a script and everything.
But the uncomfortable moment passed, and the guy paid me money, giving me a three-dollar tip.
It’s probably for the best, anyway.  I was married at the time, and as much as I crave to be the center of attention, performing in front of others in that way might be awkward.  *Might be*?  Shit.  Plus, would it all be male on female?  I like surprises, but I don’t want to be mounted from behind.  I guess it’s a fine line.

Subtleties

September 22, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
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I remember it like it was only 19 years ago…
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really. There wasn’t much lightning, but it was raining pissbuckets in the early Fall. It got dark early, so by 8:30 pm, I was several hours into a wet, uncomfortable, and hard-to-see night delivering pizza.
I never thought of myself as a moody person. But sometimes, it just really gets me. I’m in the store, and I run out with a pizza bag. I get rained on. Again. I get the bag in the car and get in, and then I tried to read the smudged writing on the ticket by the fading interior car light.
It had started off warm enough, but the sun gave way to clouds in time to blur the line between light and sunset. But still, it was warm enough that running the defroster to keep the windows clear made me sweat a little. My uniform is clinging to me, and I don’t want to think about what is going on with my underwear, which are soaked and stuck to my body like a leech.
I have to run the defroster with the heat and also have the window cracked for the breeze, so I’m getting rained on while I’m in the car. It’s dark, and the all the car lights and streetlights have halos of glare around them, making it hard to see. It’s been like this all night.
As it was earlier in the evening, when it was raining *really* hard. I was standing at a customer’s door. Not under a porch. Not even under an eave. The eave stuck out about 18 inches, just enough for the water overflowing from the gutter to pour directly on me. Why even bother? I’ve been wet before. I’ll be wet again, even more. The night is young.
The customer opens the door, and seems to be surprised. “Wow, it’s really coming down!”
What’s beyond sarcasm? I answered in a deadpan, “I didn’t really notice.” As I opened the insulated pizza bag (designed to keep the pizza safe and hot and fresh!), water poured out of it. I gave them the pizza. They handed me a check, which I knew would be moist now and illegible later. I glanced at the amount. Whaddaya know! The exact amount. Luckily, they closed the door before I could grunt and walk away.
If I’m not doing this for my health, why am I doing it?
After several hours of getting rained on outside and water dripping on me inside and several little aggravations compounding on my soul, my temper started to wear thin and my normally cheery disposition gave way to a grim determination to make it through the night without strangling someone. I just wanted to go home, take a shower and watch TV alone, in the dark, with–for once–no one around. I’m not fun to be around when I’m like this. Hopefully–if I got home late enough–the wife and kids would be asleep, and I could have some alone time to contemplate my fate and really hone my brooding.
****
So here I am in front of this customer’s house, the customer in question. I paused before getting out, waiting for a brief respite from the heavy downpour. If I timed it right, it would lighten up from torrential to merely spiteful. As I did, I took in the view of the house from the streetlight and the occasional flicker of lightning. No porch light.
There was a beat up van on the cracked and uneven driveway. A broken window in the garage door. The foliage–or the remnants thereof–told a tale of lackluster yard care. At least there was a porch. Under it, in the high corners, cobwebs accented the peeling paint and dirty windows. The only thing missing was last year’s Christmas lights–that’s when you know you’ve got a winner. I made my way to the door.
Generally, I never used the doorbell. In this middle-class neighborhood (my neighborhood!) of 30-plus year old homes, I don’t expect doorbells to work. Instead, I knocked. I always knocked.
I stood and looked around, the pizza slowly weighing my arm down. I shifted it to the other hand, and knocked again, louder. Did I hear something inside? I waited for a ten-count (“One, large pepperoni, two, large pepperoni–”) and then knocked again. This time I was sure I heard something. A ruckus.
Could you describe the ruckus?
Well, no, not really. I don’t have a frame of reference for it. A rolling, maybe? Then a thud, and a dragging? What the hell is going on in there?
I was certain from my judgment of the condition of the house that I wasn’t going to get a tip. But here and now, at least I wasn’t getting wet, so we’re tied at one and one. Can I at least get out of here without wasting too much of my precious time? I waited less time–a five count–before knocking again. I punctuated it with a ringing of the doorbell. This time I heard some vague noise, and then a distant voice said, “Just a minute!”
Houston, we have contact. Terrific. Okay, I’ll wait. I shifted the pizza again back to the other arm. Resigned though I was, I grew impatient. I was about to knock again when I heard the voice say, “Be right there!”
What the hell is he doing in there, hiding hookers and drugs?
Geez. As the minutes have ticked past, I felt the weight of the evening on me. The rain. The crappy tips. The aggravation and discomfort. And now the time wasted here, keeping me from making money. How’s about a little sympathy here, huh?
Finally the door opens. I look straight ahead, and immediately I’m forced to look down at the floor. On the floor, looking up at me, is a man. A black man. With no legs. Behind him, a wheelchair. He’s smiling. He looks up with bright, cheery eyes and greets me. “Howya doin this evening, brother?”
Stunned, I force an answer, trying not to stare. “Uhm…just fine. How about yourself?”
“I’m great. Doing wonderful. Happy with what The Lord has blessed me with!”
“Okay–”
“What do I owe ya?”
I told him the price, and he handed me some money. I watched with real intent all the detail that was involved in him handling a normal daily activity, and I studied the look on his face. For him, everything required effort. Everything was a battle of his wits and determination against the world, and he tackled it cheerfully, with no complaints. I gave him the pizza, and he grabbed it awkwardly while he held onto the door frame with his other hand. Then he set it down, and I saw him scoot it across the floor with his body while he walked with his hands. The question to this day still plagues me: why was he out of his chair?
He turned to me and said, “Bless you, brother! You have good evening. Take care.” He closed the door.
I looked at the money he had given me. A buck and the change is my tip. This was the early 90s, so it’s not that bad. But he had given me more than just a tip. As I walked back to my car, I felt a wry expression come over my face, matching my new mood and my personal revelation. I looked up at the sky, squinting as the light rain pelted my face and hit my eyes. I said to God, “You don’t do subtle, do you?” As if to answer me, the rain increased once more. I walked to my car and smiled, no longer worried about the rain or the discomfort I felt. I had just had things placed in proper perspective for me. I was still wet. I’ve been wet before. God willing, I’ll be wet again.

Ground Hog’s Day

August 22, 2006 at 4:02 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
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  You would have had to have seen the movie “Ground Hog’s Day” to get this joke:
I’ve seen the movie “Ground Hog’s Day” only once, but it feels like I’ve seen it hundreds of times. . .
As I sat and watched my car burn to the fucking ground on that brisk February morn, I thought back to the events that led to this day.  If  everything happens for a reason, I was at a complete loss for the reason for this shit.  Irony?It was July, 1993.  Here in the Midwest, it was the year of the flood.  Lots of things happened, and remind me to come back to this and talk about how I ended up in the hospital after being bitten by a cat.  Anyway, *after* I had been bitten but *before* I ended up in the hospital, me and the wife and two other managers from Domino’s and their wives went on a float trip.  I guess I’ll talk about that in the hospital story.
We got back from the float trip on a Monday, and the next day the wife goes to work in the Celebrity, leaving behind the Cutlass Cierra.  I drive the Celebrity, unless the Cutlass won’t start, in which case the wife drives it, and leaves me to fend for myself.  This is only fair, she reasons, since she has the vagina and is in charge of the distribution of sex.  The Cutlass had a problem which was later found to be a bad wire going to the ECM–electronic control module–the “brain.”  It was sometimes just would not start.  No amount of coaxing, fingering, licking, sucking, buying it dinner or expensive jewelry would get it to go.  Let it sit for minutes, or hours, or days, and it would start.  It was a miracle the guy who fixed it found the problem, but that was later.
So, this morning when she had left for work, it wouldn’t start, so she took the Celebrity.  Yet later, oddly enough, it did.  I was off that day, and it was hot, so I stayed in the house in the AC.  They come home (wife and daughter, they worked together), and daughter says to me as I stand on the front porch, “Where’s the car?”  She seemed surprised that I was home.
I laughed and pointed at the neighbors bushes, around which I could not see.  But I had parked it there, and there it sat.  I thought.

  Melissa says, “Yeah, very funny.  Where’s the car?”  I walk out into the hot afternoon sun to view around the bushes and see the spot where the car had been but was no longer.  A tell-tale pile of broken glass lay in the street.
Moth.  Er.  Fuck.  Er… .Shit.
The car had been stolen.  In broad daylight, no less, because they had left at seven AM.  I called the Jennings police (we lived in Jennings–look up “hood” in the dictionary) and they would send someone right out, since it was daylight.  We filled out a report, and the police officer very politely told us that there was no way in hell we were going to get any help on this.  Not really, but he might as well have said it.
  After that I ended up in the hospital because of the cat bite, and we were having problems with the phone.  When I got out of the hospital, I had to rewire the junction box in the basement for the phone service coming in.  But what it meant was we had intermittent to non-existant phone service for a while.
The wife would call the police station every day, using all the charms available to her (???), and inquire about the car.  It was paid for, and we were poor, so we only had liability on it.  We kind of needed to get it back.  Jennings police were award-winningly unhelpful.  They continued to dismiss what she said, and said they would call if they found out something.  Have we called you yet?  Then don’t call us.
That’s what we are trying to explain to you, you can’t call us; the phone is out.
Oh–Oh, okay.  We understand now.  If we hear something, we’ll call you.
We knew we needed another car, and began looking.
In September, or maybe October, I get a call from a towing company in Maplewood.  The guy says, “Hey, yo, I got dis car a yers, ya know?  I had da ting for tree friggin mundts.  So, youse gonna come an get it, or what?”
I said, “What?”
He starts to repeat himself.  I say, “Whoa, there, duder.  You’ve had my car all this time?”
“Yup.”
I have to go to the Maplewood police station, show them proof of ownership, get the release, and take it to the tow yard.  The car has accrued 25 bucks per day for three or four months for storage, plus the 58 for the tow.  He’ll let me have the car for a hundred clams.  Okay, then.
But when I get to the Maplewood police station, the cop shows me the report, which I read carefully.  Stolen car recovered in Maplewood.  Reported stolen in Jennings.
Maplewood contacts Jennings, says we have recoved this vehicle, do you want to process it?
Jennings police said no.
Oh, it gets better than that.  It was recovered the SAME GODDAMN DAY IT WAS STOLEN!
The only good thing to come out of this was that since we only had liability, there was nothing to pay back to the insurance company for getting the car back.  So there we are with three cars.  As a bonus, the Cutlass will start without a key.  We get the Cierra fixed, we get an alarm on it, get a new steering column AND a steering column collar–kind of an after-market afterthought on GM’s part, where they realized there might be a problem if a 9 year old can hot wire their cars–and a new window.
This was early December by the time it was fixed.  By January 2nd, I had a window broken out of the car two more times, in addition to a window broken out of my daughter’s boyfriend’s car.  It was time to move, and we did, and that is another story as well.  We moved to Florissant, a decidedly better neighborhood.  In the meantime, I was driving the Cutlass Cierra, and we found someone to fix the intermittent starting.  The wife drove the new Cutlass Supreme, and we gave the Celebrity to our son Michael.  So–this was 94?  Yeah.
Christmas of 94, I got a stereo for my car for Christmas, a present from the wife.  I had it installed in the middle of January.  The car had a different problem now, where it would occasionally run funny.  I wasn’t really sure what the problem was.  It would barely run, like it needed a tune-up, and then all of the sudden it would kick in, and just run like normal.  It didn’t do it very often.  Someone told me that it might be related to some sensor or other equipment on the exhaust manifold.
The car ran funny once in a while, but who cares?  I had a bitchen new stereo!
On February second I was taking my son to school–kindergarten.  Wow.  It doesn’t seem that long ago. . .I could shine my car with all the nostalgia I wax.  Anyway, I start the car up, and once again it is running really rough, really bad.  But it is only a few blocks to school, so  I figure I can get him there and get back, and then look at it.  And this time I mean it.  Ever so slowly, it gets down the road.  It might be making some noise, but I have the stereo on, with one of my favorite discs in the CD player:  Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense.  Kind of an Anthem for me, if anything.
“Some things–sure can–sweep me off my feet!
“Burnin down the house!
“Here’s your ticket, pack your bags, time for jumpin overboard–”
I drop my little boy off at school, and then I leave.  The school is in the back of a small grouping of houses, too small to be called a subdivision.  The street we were on was a direct line from the main drag to the school, with a few short streets off of it.  I stop at the light, and the car dies.
I try to restart it.  No go, but I am hopeful that the smoke is a good sign.
Other cars pull around me, conveniently not making eye contact as they rush around me, leaving me stranded like a guy on a camel in the middle of the desert in a bad joke.
I let the car roll backwards and turn it onto the side street.  Meanwhile, more smoke rolls out from under the hood.  I turn the key off, which turns the stereo off as well.
“Buring down the house!–”
Thinking quickly–yeah, honestly, I was–I knocked on several doors.  No one home, no one home, no one home–
One lady answers the door.  “Excuse me, I was wondering if you might have a fire extinguisher I could borrow?”
Around me she peers cautiously at the smoke, now billowing out from under the hood like a Kansas City Barbeque.  “Uh–why don’t I call the fire department?”
Well, okay.  I mean, if you think it’s a good idea.  It seems a bit drastic to me.  Are sure I just can’t have a cup of water or something to throw on it?  She looks at me, then looks at the car behind me in the background barely visible in the cloud of smoke.  She disappears quickly into the house.
Soon, it’s a party.  A county cop stops by, and I inform him that I am the proud owner, and that the fire department is on the way.  He gets my information, and I thought I was going to get a ticket for having an unauthorized bonfire.  Meanwhile the fire department comes along and douses it with a variety of chemicals and so forth.  People gather in the street to watch my one-car stationary parade.  I throw some candy to the spectators.  A hotdog vendor from the streets of Manhatten arrives, obviously lost.  The mime may have been a bit much.
The cop takes me home, and I arrange for a tow truck to tow it home.  Why?  Didn’t I just have it towed away?  These are the questions my regular tow truck driver asks me.  Yeah, some people have regular doctors, or a lawyer on retainer.  I have a tow
truck driver.
The stereo was fried.  My expensive JVC stereo with all the bells and whistles was toast.  It looked fine, but the heat got to it.  There were smoke marks on it, and it would power up but that’s about it.  My CD ejected, and the last four tracks wouldn’t play.
I had a long go-around with both Best Buy and the credit card company.  Warranty-wise, I was screwed.  The credit card company would cover it, except it was an auto accessory.  Best Buy would have covered it, except for the fire, so they took turns
dropping me on my head.And this–this is why I believe in balance in the universe.  There is only so much happiness I am allowed to have.  New stereo?  No, you can’t have it.  Not for long, anyway.  And so many things in my life have been like that.  If I fix one thing, another thing breaks.  If I don’t fix it, things stay the same, balanced, pivoting me on a spike between moderate happiness and moderate frustration.  I’m not being superstitious–I have tracked this conspiracy against me.  I know.  *I know!*  Things go my way just enough to keep me from going postal, and they go the opposite way just enough to keep me from…what?  Keep me from what?
Complete bliss?  Complete happiness?  Complete heaven?  I can have some, but obstacles must be thrown in my way first.
And it scares me.  What must I lose, to gain happiness?  What next will be taken from my grasp?
The image plays over and over again, in my mind.  My car, burning to the ground, because I sought a small amount of joy.

I kept the burned up car in the driveway for over a year–a trophy, a cautionary tale–until the city made me get rid it.

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.

Psycho Driver

October 4, 2005 at 10:15 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
Tags: , ,
I have been in food service for twenty years, basically.  I just recently took a new position not in food, but those years, those experiences, are a part of me.  I feel the need to share.
I worked for Domino’s Pizza from 1986 to 1989, and again from 1990 to 1999. and then from 2001 to 2004.  I also worked for Steak n Shake briefly, Papa John’s even more briefly, and also for a friend of mine who owns a restaurant, I have worked there since 1999 through the present, although now I am just part time.
I have worked in over 2 dozen locations, for dozens of managers, and a mixed handful of supervisors.  I have worked with thousands of people, and I have had hundreds work for me when I was a manager.  I have hired hundreds, and I have fired or caused to quit several dozen.  In terms of food service, anything you have done or could think of, I have done twice.
So I believe I will start with this little story. 
 
I had just become manager of the Cross Keys Dominos. Probably about 94.  The previous manager had left the store a disaster in terms of sales, operations, inventory, and—crew.
He hired someone right before he left, knowing he was going to leave, the bastard.
THe person he hired was named Jim, but we all knew him as "Psycho-driver."  When most drivers were in their twenties or thirties, this guy was 44.  And he was short, and he had a complex about it.  He drove a beat up old van that he had to continually add radiator fluid to.
He always thought everyone was out to get him, screw him over, everything was unfair.  He claimed I treated him differently from the other drivers, denying him driving opportunity and runs.  I had brought him into the office several times to try to straighten him out, reason with him, get him to get over it, or whatever it took. 
Case in point about the typical problem we had was the one I fired him for.  You have dinner rush, lots of orders, lots of runs for the drivers.  They come in, grab, and go.  You give them as much as you can, going in a similar direction, because there are lots there.  Towards the end of the rush, the pies arent stacked up, you may just get one.  Slow but steady.  Then it tapers off. 
At the end of the rush, he is up, he has two that go together, and they are the only pies up.  I have six drivers standing there, soon to be just three, because you send some home after the rush.  As he is bagging his runs up, another call comes in, and he sees that it is in the general directioin he is going.  NOrth.  Well, half of our runs go north.  The two he is already taking are over twenty minutes, and I have standards.  He wants to wait for that run.
I said, no, of course not.  He wants to argue, he wants to know why.  He says I always let other drivers do it.  Which I did not, that is one of the things I changed when I took over, I improved service by not letting drivers take stupid runs, and it increased sales.
So we go in the office.  He was very manipulative, very conniving.  He could twist anything you said.  But he wasnt sublte about it.  You could see what he was doing.  It was obviously all my fault.  I had started to come around to his way of thinking and had been working hard on getting along with him, and getting over my obvious prejudices, but now it was apparant that I had backslid, and he wasnt sure if there was hope for me.  This is what he said to me.
I said, "Well, I’m sorry you feel that way.  But since this is my store and I’m in charge and I make the rules, and I am the one YOU have to get along with, you are going to have to leave.  I can’t have you working for me anymore.  You are a disruptive negative influence.  I shouldnt have to make special cases for someones personality, and I’ve done it for you long enough.  Get your shit and clock out.  You dont work here anymore."
You’d think that would be the end of it, in fact it was only the beginning.  It ended when I called the police and they came to the store to forcibly make him leave.
He called two weeks later about his check.  I said I had had it mailed to his house.  HE then, in the same breath, managed to have the balls to ask me for a good reference, tell me that I owed it to him, and blamed me for firing him.
I stared at the phone with my mouth open.  Unfuckingbelievable.
He did tell me one time, on one of the days we were getting along, that he had played saxaphone for the Ike and Tina Turna revue.  He was about the right age for that, but I wasnt buying it.  But he showed me proof.  He had photos with him and Ike.  Playing, and also backstage photos and the like.  A short, chubby white guy in the middle of all the tall skinny black guys.  Maybe they just looked tall compared to him.  Hell, maybe they just looked black, too.
He said to me, "You know, Ike Turner was the only person I ever let call me "Shorty.’"
"Really?" I asked.  "What did you call him?"
"Oh.  Mr. Turner."

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