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
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  –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.

Oh, It Is So On

April 14, 2010 at 9:48 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
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  So, yeah, as it turned out, I was ripped off bigger than shit.  Saturday morning I approached my car with the gleeful anticipation usually reserved for Christmas or blow job night.  As I rubbed the compound off of the car, it was beginning to resemble blow job night:  This really sucked.
  The major portion of the dent was gone, but now it looked like several minor ripples.  And the guy–let’s call him Guido–had indeed put some small screw holes in the door skin to pull out the dent…about five of them, I think.
  The scuff marks were still there–maybe some of them were gone–and the dent was still there, just different.  The only thing new was the screw holes and what was left of the compound residue that I couldn’t get off.
  The car looks like I have been the victim of a very ineffective drive-by shooting.

  I’m supposed to be getting my laptop back today.  Jim the laptop guy said he swears this is it, no delays, blah blah blah.  At least he had a reason–or reasons–for the delay and it all sounded legitimate.  I do believe him, I do.
  Of course, the last time I talked to him, he did say that this is just a temporary fix, and it will go out on me again.  Seriously, dude?  After all this, it’s not even going to last?  What the fuck?  But I know he did his best and he’s not trying to rip me off.  I think.

  I know that I am too trusting and a bit naive.  Maybe you guys don’t know it, but I know it.  I talk a good game, and I talk shit about how cynical and jaded I am, but the truth is, I *want* to believe in the goodness of all mankind…
  Despite all the evidence to the contrary.
  I have been a sucker before.  Man oh man, have I ever.  I can’t even…

  Well, I’ve been ripped off on drug deals, back when I did that, but that’s natural.  Oregano really *looks* like pot.
  Back with my old girlfriend (and she is old, too!) we got high-pressured into joining some whacked out sales thing.  You pay a high-dollar *membership* to shop at their exclusive *showroom* where you get tremendous *deals*.
  Car salesmen get the best of me, every time.  I’m too timid to negotiate…I’m too timid?  ReallY?  Man, it’s something about their delivery that makes everything seem final.  I need to get up and walk away from the deal next time.  Seriously.  Get up, and walk away.  I know I paid too much for this fucking Mercedes.
  If somebody comes around selling something door to door, watch out!–and hide my checkbook.
  If my credit wasn’t shitty, I would own a dozen timeshares right now…
  If I can read people so well, as I claim, why do I keep getting taken?  I think I know–and I know that it’s happening when it happens, and I let it.  My ex-wife used to get really mad at me about this.  "Stand up for yourself!" she would say.  Or scream.  Of course, when I stood up for myself against *her*, she would say, "That’s not what I meant."

  I really want to believe that the world is a wonderful, idyllic place.  Everyone is nice, and honest, and looks out for their neighbor.  Everyone is friendly and caring.  Everyone has a friendly wave for the passers-by in the street, as they walk from the breakfast diner on the corner to the dime store right there in the town square.  Children ride their bikes in the street without fear of molestation, and everyone works hard to earn their keep.  In the evening, people sit on the porch with a glass of lemonade and gossip.  At night, they all say goodnight to each other as the lights go out.  In the morning, an actual rooster crows at dawn, and the world awakens fresh and anew to the new day, with dew fresh on the lawns and a young boy on a bike tosses the paper in yards, filled with good news and hope for the future.
  I imagine the world to be much like the world of The Andy Griffith Show–except in color, and with wi-fi.

International Trade In The Parking Lot

April 9, 2010 at 10:14 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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  My day at The Three Jakes started off rough as soon as I walked in the door.  Things weren’t going well here and I had other problems on my mind.  Like most people nowadays, I guess, I had the dark ominous cloud of job insecurity looming over me.  Were they still trying to get rid of me here at the sammich shop?  Was my job in danger at the bank?  When I was coming to work and got off the highway, at the light there were some homeless people that had staked out that area for begging.
  And behind them was the highway overpass under which they lived, I’m sure.  I looked at the squalid conditions and crumbling location with envy; I hope I can find a prime location like that when *I’m* homeless.
  However, after I took a couple of deliveries, things were looking better.  I had willed myself to look past the problems and get a better attitude.  Go me!  About that time I had pulled back into the store’s parking lot.  Another car pulled up next to me with a young couple in it.  It looked like the guy was talking to me, but we all know I can’t hear shit.  I got out and walked over.
  A cute but bored and jaded white trash chick was in the passenger seat, so I leaned in to get a better look at her cleavage.  The driver was a young Hispanic-looking dude of indeterminate origin.  The first couple of times he said whatever he said I did not underfuckingstand him.  I thought he was trying to sell me something.  Cologne, maybe?  How could he tell from *his* car that I smelled bad in *mine*?
  I listened, hoping for comprehension.  No habla…
  Finally I started to piece together what he was trying to communicate.  He spoke with an accent and he was a young thug, but nonetheless he had some salesman in him.  "Listen to me, Gentleman, I tell you what I can do for you.  That is a nice car you have.  I see you have some body damage.  That is a shame, you want take good care of luxury car, yes?  Gentleman, for 200 dollars I can fix that right here, ten or fifteen minutes.  No problem.  What do you say, Gentleman?"
  Si.  Now I get it.  He was trying to sell me something.  It sounded like a reasonable deal.  And the body damage was bothering me.  I never turned it into the insurance.  If you recall, der Kaiser was the victim of a hit and run over a year ago on the driver’s side, both doors.  Not major, but enough to be noticed.  Two hundred bucks?
  "Okay, I see.  Look, my brother-man, I don’t have any cash right now.  You got maybe a bidness card or something?  We could do this next week."
  He was willing to negotiate, but he did want money now and do the job now.  "Listen, Gentleman, I see we can make a deal.  I can fix your car no problem.  I can do it right here in the lot.  How much money can you get?"
  I needed to go low.  "I know I have a hundred bucks.  That’s all I have right now."
  He nodded.  "Gentleman, I tell you what I can do.  I fix your car right here.  You go get a hundred dollars, I fix it, Gentleman, professional.  You know a body shop charge maybe 5, 6 hundred dollar for this."
  Okay.  I can do this.  I’m at work and delivering, however.  I go in the store and there’s a run to Walgreens.  They have an ATM, and I come back with 100 bucks.  I had to pay 3 extra to get my money because it was a foreign ATM.  It didn’t seem like it to me–I mean, it spoke English.  I didn’t realize it was fucking currency exchange.  Those things just piss me off, how they openly rip me off.  I like it to be more discreet.
  I came back and told him I had the money, and he was already pulling the equipment out of the trunk of his car.  His bored white trash girl friend stayed in the car.  He was obviously doing this because he needed money right away–drug habit, or to pay off her pimp?  Who knows?  I’m a little more cynical now, but at the time it was going on I was thinking happy, optimistic thoughts, like he wanted to take her out to a nice dinner and propose, because she just found out she was pregnant.  He was a real go-getter, willing to work hard to make it.  Just two young kids, trying to make it in this crazy world…
  I went back in the store and started to finish some jobs.  In about ten minutes I would go check on him.  Sooner than that, he came to the drive up window.  "You all set, Gentleman.  Car is done.  See?"  Or maybe he said, "Si?"
  We walk out and have a look.  The car was dented on the driver door, below the trim line.  On the back door, it may have been dented, but it was scratched up.  He had it covered with some kind of compound.  A rubbing compound?  Whiskey Tango–
  "Let me show you something, Gentleman."  He took a rag while he talked and rubbed at the bottom edge of the back door at some marks.  "See?  this part, it will come right out when you rub.  Make sure you do that."
  Now came the hard sell.  "Let me tell you Gentleman, the work involved.  I took the dent out, you see.  The braces behind it were broken.  I had to fix those braces.  I couldn’t let that go and have you call me later and tell my I did not do my job.  I had to fix those, sir.  I tell you what, a body shop, they charge so much for that work.  But I have a deal here.  You go ahead and make it 210 for doing this, and we’re all set."
  "Brother-man, I don’t have that.  All I took out was the hundred."
  "Well, we need to make a deal, Gentleman.  This is quality work here.  It’s going to look good.  This is a luxury car, Gentleman.  I tell you it can work out.  How much can you get?  One-sixty?"
  Now I’m starting to wonder if I’m being taken for a ride or not.  All I wanted was cheap body work from an unknown guy driving by in a car.  How can that possibly go bad?  I said, "Listen, Brother-man.  I work two jobs to pay my bills, brother.  I don’t have so much.  I’m working now, but it’s slow so I don’t have too much.  You know?  I can do…120."
  He pressed a bit more.  I want to get my money’s worth, but I also don’t want to give up too much money.  And I don’t want to get ripped off, either?  What if this is still a big scam?  The body work is covered in the compound still, and I have seen no true "finished product" as of yet.
  I said, "I have no more than 130, brother.  This is money I haven’t made yet tonight.  This is all I have.  130."
  "Okay, Gentleman.  This is what we do.  We gonna do this for 130 then.  This is quality work we have here, and I want you to be happy sir.  We take the 130."
  I pulled the 100 bucks from the ATM from one pocket and counted it out.  Then I pulled the other pocket, my Three Jakes money.  I said, "This is not all my money, brother.  This is other people’s money."  I gave him thirty, and my happiness about the whole affair decreased about 30%.
  "Okay, Gentleman, we’re good.  This is what you do, sir, this is important, okay?  You don’t let no little kids touch this, it’s not good for skin.  Leave it on for 48 hours, then wash it off.  Okay, Gentleman?"  We shook hands, and he was gone.
  I stood there, looking at my car.  "Uhm…"
  I thought he was going to take that off.  So I have no idea what it looks like, underneath.  I did look up close at it, and the dent is gone.  But I know he screwed some holes in it to pop it out.  Those are filled?  That could be a problem.
  Also…the paint job is a delicate thing.  Is it going to damage my paint to leave it on there that long?  And what is the purpose of leaving it on there that long?  So he can have a two-day head start to get away?  In a way, it’s exciting–the anticipation.  I think I got ripped off, but I won’t know for sure until Saturday.

  On my way to work that day, I had called Jim, the laptop guy.  He’s had my laptop for nigh on about six weeks now, I think.  There was a delay ordering parts originally, and then another delay that he said was his fault–one of the things he said he could fix was causing it to overheat, and he needed to figure that out.  He had it for about three weeks when I called him again, and he said it’s done, and he has it…but he’s out of town.  He got a promotion that called for some training, and he was in Boston.  Okay.  But why would you take it with you?  Why couldn’t I just go get it from your fat girlfriend?
  The next week, he was still in Boston, but sick.  He had traveled with a cold, and it turned to pneumonia.  Bummer.  Plus, he’s going to be stuck because he can’t travel when sick.  The doctor and the airline but the ixnay on that.  He sounded horrible, and I said, "Well, don’t die on me, because I want to get my laptop back."
  He laughed.  "Ha.  No promises.  Not for a P3.  Maybe if it was a better computer."
  Finally, last Friday, I talked to him and he sounded better.  He said he should be good to travel and he would be home Tuesday or Wednesday.  I didn’t hear from him Tuesday or Wednesday, so this is where we are. I called him Thursday–last night.  No answer.  I left a message full of hope and not at all cynical.
  He has my laptop and the money I paid him up front.  Is he trying to rip me off?  The only reason I think that he’s on the up and up and this is just a series of unfortunate events is that…the alternative is that this is an overly elaborate ruse to go through to steal 120 bucks and an eight year old crappy P3 laptop. 
  Jim the laptop guy is obviously smart and definitely a computer guy–I could tell by the way he talked.  He knew his shit and he talked about shit that was just a touch over my head on occasion, and he talked really, really fast, and he spit a little…all signs of a true techno geek.
  So he’s not a criminal mastermind.  A criminal mastermind would have squeezed me for 120 bucks in the parking lot in a matter of minutes and made me feel good about it, and not leave me any way to find him.

  Oh, shit…

Where At Are You? At?

March 30, 2010 at 10:53 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I had one of my best nights at The Three Jakes this last Saturday night.  Of course, it wasn’t *that* great because I was still at The Three Jakes.  Nonetheless, it wasn’t bad.
The weather was nice and we weren’t that busy, and everything on the special bitch list was already done.  And there wasn’t much on the regular bitch list to do, either.  We had a fairly easy night.  Me, Von, Will, and Cam.  One old white guy, two young black guys, and a mocha freak of indeterminate age.  Von put on System of a Down through the sound system again.
I told him I was going accidentally break it.
Later, it was on different music.  SOAD, if you didn’t know, is a hard, heavy metal group.  There’s only so much of that shit I can take.  The gangsta rap we listened to later sounded soothing in comparison.
Jared was the closer, and he wanted to know if I would stay so he could come in at 11pm instead of 9pm.  I was cool with that.  That contributed greatly to my good night, but also re-affirmed my logic and calculations:  Even if I liked this job, I couldn’t stay.  Since the truncation of my hours because of Steve’s firing, I don’t get to work long enough and I don’t make enough money here.  In the extra two hours I worked, I doubled my money from the first four.
The nut for the part time job is 300 per week, net.  I need to work as much as I can to make that nut.  Before I was close, putting in about 20 hours a week or so.  Now I’m down to sixteen hours with a comparable decrease in tips.  To make 300 in 16 hours, I need to make 18 bucks an hour.  That’s 11 bucks an hour in tips alone.  I don’t think I can fondle that many balls.
That might be a big part of my anger–too much ball fondling.  As far as work goes, lately the place hasn’t been that bad.  The managers I deal with (now and for the moment–you always have to add that caveat because things always change) are easy going, and the tasks, although ridiculous and illogical, are easy.
I have a spreadsheet where I track everything.  My best month (of three) was February, and I fell short of my nut for the month by about five bucks.  This month, I’m going to be short about 200 dollars.
So, I am back to looking for a new part time gig.  It’s always an adventure. 

Speaking of dickheads, let me tell you about a delivery I took that night.
I took the order on the phone, and it’s by Lafayette Park.  Two guys I hear on the phone, and one laughing in the background–always a good sign.  They tell me the address and I asked, “Is this a house or apartment?”
One of them answers, “It’s a funeral home,” and laughs, and the other one tells him to shut up.
“It is?” I ask.
Finally I got an answer out of him.  I swear he said, “It’s a dental facility.”  That makes no sense whatsoever.  I get there–or near there–and I see a funeral home.  Hmmm…oookay.  I turn there, park across the street from it.  I start to walk up, and I give them a call as I do because I don’t want to bust in on any funeral service.
I said, “Hi, this is Bryan from The Three Jakes, and I’m outside.”  He said okay, and he hung up.
Several minutes later, I still don’t see him.  He calls me back.  “Are you sure you’re at the right place?”
“Well, I don’t know.  I’m in front of a funeral home.”
OKAY–LISTEN:  Right here–maybe I am in the wrong place.  I saw the funeral home or whatever and forgot about the rest of what they said, but this clicked.  Okay.  My bad.  But right here I TOLD THEM WHERE I AM.
At this point, instead of answering my questions, he tries to think instead.  I don’t need a fucking customer trying to think.  Just shut up and tell me where you are.
But he couldn’t.  Back to me:  “–I’m in front of a funeral home.”
“We’re across the street from you.”  I turn around.  I see a park.  Maybe he sees me, because he says, “Turn around.”  I turned around.  “Okay.  I’m looking at the funeral home.”  He says, “Look to your left.”
I look to the left and I see the street that I turned from.  The houses on it face me, and they all look big enough to be funeral homes as well.   It’s pretty far away–this is all a big area with big lots, and a park.  “We’re across the street.”  Maybe this was supposed to make sense.  Which street?  It didn’t click with me because I was over half a block from the intersection.  I wasn’t near anything that could be called “across the street.”  Plus, now that I know the truth, I’m explaining it MUCH better than he did.
At one point during our…what’s the word for it?  Communication?  What an oxymoron.  At one point, while I was asking a question, he hung up because he figured I understood.  I didn’t.  I waited and looked around.  Nothing.  I called him back.  He sounded surprised to hear from me.  “Yeah?”
I said, “Look, generally, this is how a delivery goes:  You tell me where you *ARE*, and I go there.  Where.  Are.  You.”
He said, “I’m over here.”
You’re on a fucking cell phone, dumbass.  Where is “over here”?
I said, “You realize that means nothing to me.”
“Uh….turn a.. face south.”  Finally, a coherent piece of information.
“Okay.”
“Now do you see me?”
It’s dark, I’m in the middle of a dark street next to acres of darkness in the park.  Now facing south, I’m looking at a dozen very large and dark homes.  “No.”
“I’m waving my arms.  See?”
Finally, I see him and his buddy, coming from the south*WEST*.  They weren’t straight away south.  No, that would have been simple.  They came from another block away.
I walk over and across to meet them.  The guy seems to have an attitude about my failure to follow the simplest directions that he gave with his mind.  I dismissed it all quite professionally and moved on.  “Ah, here we are.  Good.  You’re total is 24.66.”
And then the bastard had the nerve to give me thirty bucks.  What the hell does he mean by giving me a five dollar tip?  If I wanted this kind of relationship, with all the mind games and mixed messages, I would have stayed with my ex.

Later, after I thought about it, I realized that I was indeed more or less in the wrong.  I was on the wrong hundred-block, and the numbers increased going the *other* way.  My bad.
But still–
Do you not understand where you are well enough to tell me something useful?  These are the statements that would have been more logical:
“I am across LAFAYETTE from from you.”  (Not “Across the street.”  I’m at an intersection, which fucking street do you mean?)
“I am not at the funeral home.  I am somewhere else entirely.  Forget the funeral home.  The funeral home is not an option.”
“You are on the wrong hundred-block.”
“There is another section of this street on the other side of Lafayette.”
All of these would have been so much better than wearing a dark jacket in the dark and waving your arms and saying, “Over here!” on a goddamn cell phone.
Marco!
Polo!
Fuck you!

The Belly Of The Beast

February 18, 2010 at 2:52 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Mardis Gras did indeed suck, as foretold in the prophecy.  However, it sucked in ways I had not foreseen–life is full of surprises.
On a side note–and something I’ll explore in more detail later–the radio show has yet to materialize.  Saturday I should have gone to the studio to work on the show, but my laptop stopped.  Stopped what, you ask?  Stopped everything.  No power to the machine at all.  It is now a large, unergonomic paperweight.
I need the laptop to access the deep fried gold that is my material for the show.  Without it, I’m shooting from the hip, unedited and unprepared.  No one wants that.  So we postponed the show for the week.  We’re still waiting on a theme song anyway.  More–much more on all this–later. 

I had been looking for a way to get out of going in to The Three Jakes on Saturday, the night of the Mardis Gras celebration.  Mardis Gras is a BFD here in St Louis.  But, since I had telegraphed these moves earlier in the week, I couldn’t legitimately beg off work without attention being called.  So, I went in.
On the drive in, several things weighed on my mind, the most pressing of which was my lapsed car insurance.  This is supposed to be crowded as Hell, with drunks all over the place, and I really did not want to be driving around in this.  I just know I’m going to hit some pedestrians, and I simply don’t have *time* to dispose of all those bodies.
As soon as I got off the highway, right at the edge of the neighborhood, there were crowds of people in the street.  The parade started about one pm I guess, and it was over about 3 or 4.  Now it was five, and people were beginning to leave.  It was a nice day for February in St Louis–clear and cool, almost 40 degrees.
Many of the streets were blocked off.  The main drag, Broadway, was one of  them.  The Three Jakes sits right on Broadway, in the middle of the closed off section.  Other side streets in the neighborhood had concrete barriers in place.  The streets were lined with large industrial dumpsters and portable toilets.
I had hoped to get out of delivering in this mess, and I got my wish.  I followed the re-directed traffic around the block and back behind the street the store sits on.  I couldn’t get in the parking lot–but not because it was full.  We had cars of employees parked strategically to block all entrances.  I called the store from where I sat in the street, and Brian came out and moved so I could get in.  Thereafter, I blocked the way, and whenever someone wanted to leave or get in, they came and got me.  This was better than the manager moving every time–he needed to be in there.
Inside the store was much like outside, except louder.  The Three Jakes always has music playing, and today it was loud, and we had a store full of people.  We were having our own fucking after-party here.  Once in, I saw we had several people from other stores there, but not all of our people there.  What the hell?
We had both lines going, which is something I don’t see at night but is common during the day.  We had a person on each register, and each one covered a make line.  Then there was two and sometimes three people on each line.  There’s really no room for any more than that, and all the third person can do is make unhelpful comments and wrap sammiches.  Then there is a runner–the person between the register and the line who calls out to the line what they need, and gives it to the valued drunken-ass customer.
All positions are taken.  Brian had put me on a register, but then I had to go back and forth and move my car, so he gave it to someone else.  I hope there’s no cash shortage that comes back on me–
I told Steve and Jared–and Will–to go ahead and deliver around me.  Those guys were all on bikes.  Jared also had his SUV for longer runs that he could get to by driving.  I stayed inside.  I grabbed a position as a runner, but Matt–the fucking district manager or supervisor, or whatever the fuck you want to call him–kept coming in, doing my job, then walking away and taking care of something else.  Then he would come back, and jump in my way again.  What the fuck, mother-fucker?
But they needed someone like me, who can back and fill and anticipate what’s going to happen.  I could roll into place, and back out quickly and go do something else.  When a driver hit the road, I grabbed that spot on the line, and then moved back to running when they came back.
Brian sent me up to the downtown store for bread.  We bake our own, fresh daily–and we had bread proofing in racks all over the place.  Someone moves into my spot to block it as I leave.  When I get there, I see that the store is closed.  The downtown store only opened during the week, and it closes early–before 8 pm I think.  The director of operations for the franchise is there, alone, baking bread and slicing meat for us.  I load up what he has and head back.
The lobby–the customer area–is just constantly full of drunk people.  Lots of hot chicks, too, so that’s nice.  I leaned over to Cameron, a young black dude on the line, and said, “What would it take to get one of these chicks to lift her shirt?  If we got one to do it, it would be like a wave, and they all would.”  He agreed–but we never got it started.
When I first got there, various employees were “guarding” the hallway to the bathrooms–no entry.  I thought it was just because of all the drunken ass-clowns, but we actually had a plumbing problem.  In a little while, a hired security guard showed up, and his only job was to keep people away from the plumbing.  All manner of drunks tried various drunken logic to gain access to the bathrooms.  They wanted to complain to the manager.  They wanted to call the police.  They thought we were being unfair.  Can’t you just make an exception for my girlfriend?
One self-important asshole–after he had talked to Brian and lodged his complaint, talked to me because Brian walked away.  He said, “I’m an architect with the city planning office in Chicago.  Just tell your manager that I called the zoning commission and lodged a complaint because you’re supposed to have working restrooms.”
I shrugged.  At this point, I had been dealing with drunks for about 3 hours non-stop.  “Whatever, Paco.  This is St Louis.”
“Well I have friends and connections here.”
“Go use their bathroom, then.”  I turned and walked away from him.
Whenever I went out to move my car for an employee (or a couple of times, for random people that had somehow gotten past the barricades and into our lot) I would pull my car out of half of the driveway, and the other half was blocked by a big red pickup that was backed sideways into the spot, backed almost against the building in the lot next to us.  Every time I went out there, there was always several people squeezed between the truck and the building.  Peeing.
Terrific.  I’m glad I didn’t have my car there.  It looked like no one peed on my Mercedes–yet another reason I didn’t want to take any deliveries.  We did let employees go to the bathroom, which was nice.  About 9 or so I finally went.  The place was trashed.  The mirror was missing–a preemptive measure to keep it from being broken.  One of our cutesy little signs in the bathroom was broken off and stolen.
Long about 1030, I decided it would be safe to hit the road.  The streets were starting to clear.  City ordinance states that–on this day–all businesses that serve alcohol must close by 8 or 9 pm, or something like that.  Most restaurants would as well.  We were the last hold out, it seemed.  But we were getting delivery orders, and the boys on bikes were doing them.  Really, we were just blocks away from most of them.  I started taking deliveries, and the ones I took were far from the party zone.  I had to go way down and around, or way up and through and around to get through the closed off streets.
The streets.  Have you ever lived in a two-bedroom apartment and had a small dinner party, and then 150 people showed up?  Imagine that multiplied by several square miles.  The streets looked like the apocalypse, and as proof you could still see the occasional walking dead.  Work crews were busy moving barricades and stacking fence pieces in the aftermath.   The street cleaners were out in force, dodging the drunks.  Cabs prowled the streets looking for blood, and showed me places that I didn’t realize I could go yet.  More than once, I had to turn around and backtrack, finding the way at the end of a maze blocked by porta-potties and barricades.
Originally, was scheduled until midnight, like most of us.  I think it was because they thought we were going to have to close early, like everyone else.  As it turned out, we didn’t have to, so we could stay open till 4 am.  Yay.  But wait–“Bryan with your nose so bright, won’t you stay and close tonight?”
Well, fuck me.  Both Brian and Matt asked me to close–“we don’t have anyone else.”  What about Steve, who always does?  Or Jared?  Where was Darnell, the fucker?  But this was my chance.  I said, “Listen, on my day job this is a three-day weekend, and you have me scheduled ALL THREE DAYS.  If you can get me off either Sunday or Monday, I’m in.  I’ll close.”
Matt the supervisor, showing supervisorial-take-charge initiative, said, “Done!”  Okay.  We had a deal.
Except, we really didn’t have a deal.
I accepted the deal with good faith, thinking that I can still make some money tonight and then have one day off.  I had started driving about 1030.  About 1130 I came back from a run and noticed some water on the floor by the ice machine.  I said, “Hey, what’s up with the water?”  No answer.  I leave on another run and come back, and there is more water there.  I’m not asking again.  The Three Jakes has a shown me a track record of lapsed communication: It’s just not important to them.  Whatever.  I take another run.
By the time I come back, it’s 1230.  The doors are locked, the customers are gone from the lobby.  One more delivery–but no drive-thru.  The delivery is a time order for 130 am.  Now, they are forced to communicate with me, and explain what the fuck.  What, exactly, *is* the fuck?
“Bryan, can you call these people and ask them if we can deliver that now instead of 130?  Thanks.”
“Okay.  What should I tell them?”  No answer.  Fuck this is frustrating.  Am I supposed to assume something?  Under normal circumstances I suppose I could, but since nobody does anything here in a reasonable, logical manner, there is nothing upon which to base a supposition.  Finally, out of someone–not a manager–I find out that because of the plumbing issue–the sewer is backing up and coming up through the drain in the floor–we are closing early.  Well, thank you very much.  Would it kill you to explain yourself for fucking once?
I delivered the one last sammich, and whoever was left worked on closing.  I’ve never closed here, and even though I am a veteran of thousands of closes at other places, I had no idea where to start or what to expect.  I asked Brian, “Well, what should I start on first?”
“Just go by the bitch list.”  Fine, you want the bitch list?  I’ll give you the fucking bitch list.  There’s water all over the goddamn floor that we have to work around, you’re wandering around in a fucking daze because The Three Jakes thinks sleep is optional for its managers, there’s five or six of us here to close and only two of them have done it.  Some things need to be done a certain way, or in a certain order.  Some things can be done efficiently…or not.  There’s shit that needs to be directed, action that needs to be taken, and orders that need to be given.  Someone needs to MOTHER FUCKING TAKE GODDAMN CHARGE OF THIS RIDICULOUS SHIT AND ACT LIKE A GODDAMN FUCKING SHIT MANAGER FOR FUCK’S SAKE.  *Tell us what to do!*–It’s on the bitch list.
Fuck it.  I grabbed the sink, started doing the dishes.
Finally, we get out of there about a quarter till 2, and we didn’t touch the floor.  Shitto-Rooter is coming, so why bother–they can clean that up in the morning.
We were busy that night.  So busy that of course no one got their mandatory break.  After 4 and half hours, you HAVE to take a break.  And you get a free sammich, chips, and a pop.  Personally, I prefer a soda, but that’s what we have–pop.  I got White Castle on the way home.  Let’s see–home at 230, in bed before 330 after eating and having some wind-down time.
I set my alarm for 11 am, but woke up before that.  But I began to wonder–am I getting off one of these days, or not?  I know we had a deal…but deals were made to be broken.  I didn’t stay till 4, even though I was prepared to.  I wonder who would be in today?  Chances are, not Brian.  Chances are, not Matt.  Chances are, whomever I had a deal with would not answer the phone.
Oh, and today is Valentine’s Day.  Of course.  Luckily, Detroit got her flowers Friday, so I didn’t have to do anything.  She gave me a crappy little variety box of chocolates probably filled with mayonnaise, hot dog water and saur kraut for all I know.  I’m not trying them.  I’m not a hero.  Maybe I’m just having a bad day, and this isn’t helping.  She mentioned something about pizza–and it never happened.  I had to get something to eat on the way to work, otherwise I wouldn’t have eaten all day.  Am I bitching?  Yes I am.
I got ready to leave for work Sunday.  Earlier, I went to the store and bought some mac and cheese to cook for my lunch, since no one else is interested in lunch at all.  Then I took a nap, got up, and got ready.  I opened the door to leave–
It’s snowing.  My shoulders slumped, much like my soul did at that point.  What else?  What else are you gonna do to me?  Fuck.  I drove to work.  The highway was backed up in various places from accidents in this freshly-fallen and soft downey blanket of fluffy white crap.
Behinder and behinder I’m getting, and it looks like I’m going to be late.  I have two conflicting yet related thoughts.  The first was should I have called to see if a miracle happened and my replacement was found?  Should I call to let them know I’m going to be late?  The second thought was a passive-aggressive stubbornness:  The Three Jakes has laid the framework for being poor communicators.  They are teaching me by example.  I’m not calling.  Let them call me.
By now I’m close to 20 minutes late, and still no call.  This makes me wonder if I’m working after all…
No, I’m working.  I almost thought I was going home.  But Jared had been there all day (six hours?) and was mistakenly scheduled to close.  Meanwhile I’m scheduled 5 to 9, and Steve is 9 to close.  Two drivers?  Sure.  It’s Valentine’s Day.  They let Jared go home.  At least Steve showed at 9 instead of 11–it’s going to be one of those two, always.  He gets out of his other job late when he works it.  I remember when I started, Brian asked if I was cool with that, and I am.  First of all, it’s a few more hours and generally more money, but also, as I told him, “I’m good with it, because I’m going to need the same consideration.”  For being late or whatever.
Brian was there, briefly, on Sunday, then he left.  I should have brought it up to him then, but he left quickly.  Monday, I thought to be more proactive.  I called about four pm, and Brian answered.  How about that?  “I just wanted to make sure I was working,” I said.  “I know we had a deal for me to be off either yesterday or today, but I didn’t think you did anything about it.”
He hemmed and backtracked and rationalized for me, telling me that since I didn’t stay until four, he didn’t see the need to do it.  And besides, now, at this point, he’d have to try to find somebody.
“That’s what I figured.”
I just went in to work.  I knew I was working late tonight–Steve was in about 1130.  As long as I don’t do it every night.  Nine pm some nights, and eleven on others.  Oh, crap.  I just remembered that I agreed to work on Wednesday in exchange for getting Saturday off for my birthday.  So I’m on every night this week until Friday.
Brian didn’t say anything when I first got there, but he did say something eventually.  “Can you stay until 10 tomorrow night?  Darnell’s going to be late?”  I agreed without thinking about it.

China Town

February 12, 2010 at 10:04 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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  There’s so much excitement going on at The Three Jakes that I cannah hardly stand it.  We’ve been open now for what–five or six weeks?  It doesn’t seem that long, because of all the fun I’ve had.
The manager I’ve worked with the most is Tony.  Tony is your typical angry young guy working in food.  He is unhappy and bitching most of the time.  I should say way, because he quit, except I’m sure his bitching hasn’t stopped.
He talked about quitting quite a lot.  On one hand, he was a bit lazy and liked to piss and moan about his raw deal.  On the other hand, he really did have a raw deal, and anyone in management on salary does also.  He was nominally an assistant,  but salary.  That means on paper 55 hours a week.  But they want you to go the extra mile because The Three Jakes is the best and everyone needs to have gung ho squirting from their ass, so consider that 55 a starting point to the 65 or 70 hours you are actually going to work.
I’ve done it before, too, so I feel for them.  Hell, between two jobs now I work about 60.  But doing it on one job–for salary–is bullshit.  I had an epiphany the other day that I couldn’t have had when I was doing it because I was too close, I guess.  But as an impartial observer, I know why corporate bosses in all manner of food service want their managers to work so many hours.
It’s not for the bullshit reasons they give, either.  Oh, sure, it’s important to put in “face time” in your store.  Management is all about being there, because management is largely babysitting.  Anyone who says otherwise is completely ignorant or a fucking liar, or both.
And babysitting doesn’t pay much, either.  Two bucks an hour?  And since you’re already there, why not stay?  This way, instead of paying three people for forty hours, they can pay two people for 40 hours, and get 60 hours out of them.  How’s that for efficiency?  You get sucked in by the money, because the money is not bad–for 40 hours.  Five hundred a week?  Not a fortune, but for someone with little education and less ambition, it’s not bad.  For 60 hours, however, that is less than minimum wage.
So the reasons for salary are obviously to save money, and to make you spend more time in the store.  But the epiphany I had revealed something more subtle–and more sinister:  they want you to work all those hours so that you don’t have time to look for another job.  Basically, they trap you.
Even if you do have any time off, your life is structured so that you are too tired to do anything, and won’t be able to get up early enough to make it too an interview.
That’s how they get you, brother.  That’s how they get you.  God, do I not want to do that again.
And here at The Three Jakes, where everyone is happy all the time or else, the managers work some insane hours.  I would never agree to this shit, so if for some reason I do, I need one of you to come over here and slap the living shit out of me.  How about 5 am to 5pm?  How aout 5pm to 5am?  On some days, it might be 3pm to 3 am, when they close early.
There is other ridiculous crap as well.  There is a bunch of paper, a list of shit–prepared everyday.  Let’s call it the bitch list.  So all this stuff has to be done on the bitch list for each shift, and there is some special stuff every day.  It is all encompassing, covering prep, money counting, paperwork, and clean up.  And this, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with The Three Jakes and any other food service organization that operates by a list like this:  What about actual managing?
The bitch list is the final word, and so there is no wiggle room for decision making or adjusting to circumstances, or thinking.  The bitch list is an excuse–a tool for upper management to use–to dock the managers on their “bonus.”  And when you say it, you have to put your hand in the air and make air quotes when you say “bonus.”
For example, on a recent inspection (which I’m sure had some sort of bullshit corporate pseudonym, like “development and education opportunity” or BOSWCFU–“Bend Over So We Can Fuck You”) everything was executed correctly–which I guess means we killed everyone properly?–but the bitch list was found lacking.  Initials and signatures which are required in 116 places were only found in 113 places.  That’s enough to severely cut the bonus to the managers.  Where does that money go?  Back to upper management.  A cynical person might think upper management would grade in an overly harsh manner to improve their own bonus…but I’m not the cynical type, am I?
And even through all of this, you’re supposed to be deliriously happy to be working at The Three Jakes, and they want “buy-in.”  They want you to believe.  Like a group of fucking Muslim extremists, it’s not enough that *they* believe, everyone else has to also.  The Three Jakes is the best.  Do things The Three Jakes way.  Following The Three Jakes Policy will remedy this situation, no matter what it is.  The Three Jakes serves the finest food to the luckiest people in the world and cures cancer and gives hand jobs while doing it.
One problem I have with the bitch list is that, while it allows for everything to be executed perfectly (lined up and shot between the eyes, I hope), there is the next day’s bitch list, and part of the job on there is to go back to yesterday’s shift and find three things that could have been done better.  And this is mandatory.  The manager MUST find three things.  And then there are essay questions on the bitch list:  “What can be done in the future to make this better?”  How about, not be such an anal-retentive prick?
What if the store is brand-goddamn-spankin-new, opened for two days, and there is hardly any business because no one knows we’re here yet.  We hired a bucketful of assholes, and they tripping over each other looking for things to do, and there are extra managers all over, looking for things to have them do.  And the place is so clean you could eat off a turd dropped on the floor.  What then?
Doesn’t matter.  You still have to find three things that could be done better.
I manage to avoid much of this, partly because I’m a driver, and partly because I don’t have all of this foodservice experience for nothing.  I know how to avoid shit.  If someone needs something, I help them out.  I do my few things but I don’t sign off on them.  The manager can do that crap.  Why don’t I?  Stubborness.  Also, I saw Tony once get ridden up and down for crossing something off the list first, and then going to do it.  He was stopped in mid-stride, and Brian the manager said, hey, that’s marked off but not done.  Tony said, “I just marked it off, I’m doing it right now.”
That’s now how it works.  Do it first, then mark it off.  And it was a serious enough infraction that it merited him being chewed out for it.
So I’m not initialing ANYTHING.
The money is still good, which is why I’m still there.  There are some projects north of us that just discovered us, so I do get the occasional stiff now and then, whereas before that was non-existent. I just unplug the cartop sign when I go there.  Why encourage them?  My sister told me that this neighborhood–the nicer part of it–is actually an up-and-coming gay neighborhood.
And that’s fine with me.  It’ll be cleaner, for one, and better decorated.  They’ll tip better, because for the most part they don’t have kids.  That also means no kids in the streets, but I still have to watch out for the occasional wandering homeless and the numerous  staggering drunks.
It should also be lower in crime, too, being a gay neighborhood.  I don’t worry to much about getting robbed but I still keep my eyes peeled, both out of habit and I’m wary of traveling bands of gang-bangers.  In a gay neighborhood, that means something else entirely.
And since this is a becoming a gay neighborhood, that means my suspicion are confirmed, and when I see two hot women together in an  apartment on a delivery, they are actually lesbians.  There’s nothing hotter than a lesbian taking 8 inches from me and putting it in her mouth–
Even if it is a tuna sammich.  So we just got a new assistant manager this week.  Is her name Jessica?  Yet another perky 20-something with big dreams and limitless potential that I feel like crushing.  She has a brand-spanking new bachelor’s degree in psychology.  I guess the obvious choice from there IS to go into restaurant management.
This weekend is the big thing in Soulard, the thing Soulard is famous for:  Mardis Gras.  The second biggest celebration in North America–after New Orleans, and the third biggest in the world.  I guess somewhere in Brazil is hella big.  I’ve never even been down here for it and now I have to work it.  Just a bit of foreshadowing here–this is gonna suck to high heaven.
It’s snowed here a bit.  I worked last night and I work tonight.  They don’t…they don’t plow the streets in the city.  Or salt.  Or anything.  I have a feeling they might wanna, what with Mardis happening in a couple of days.  God, is it going to suck.

Old Dog, New Tricks

January 31, 2010 at 10:37 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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As a hapless prawn of the foodservice corporate conglomerate, I–
Did you say “happless *prawn*”?
Yeah.  Well, at first I felt like a fish out of water.

I’ve decided to stick it out here at The Three Jakes Sammich Shop.  As promised, the money has started to come around.  It’s not the best, mind you, but it’s purty damn good.
Real good, in fact.  I’ve had a few nights there where I had to look down to make sure I wasn’t dressed like a stripper, because they were just throwing money at me.  But I’m still keeping my pasties on.
My problem with the place early on (and I wonder now how long ago it was that I wrote about it.  I’ve had this title stuck in my head for a few weeks but I’ve been too busy to write it.) was that I was working in the store too much for my nominal title of driver, which was beginning to seem moot.  But bidness picked up, and with it, my spirits.
I’m not shallow, I’m focused.  Or I’m trying to be.  I have a nut to make, remember?  And working inside the store reminded me that I am new at their special little way of doing things.  If it was pizza, I’d run laps around them and laugh.  I eventually caught on–most of it is the same.  A restaurant is a restaurant is a restaurant.  They all try to do one thing:  serve food without killing anyone.
By and large we succeed.
A problem I had to adjust to was wearing gloves.  In pizza, it’s not necessary.  Partly because we don’t care if we kill anyone, but also because we can handle the food with our bare hands because it’s going to go in a 500 degree oven.  If any germs can survive that, they deserve to be the dominant species.
First there is the size.  They biggest they come in is large, and my hands are much bigger than that.  And you *know* what they say about guys with big hands, right?  They wear big gloves.
I got used to putting them on, albeit slowly.  But after a week and a half, my hands started to itch and break out.  I had an open sore.  Good God, I had herpes on my hand!  Good thing it was my right hand, because I *need* my left hand, you know?
But Brian the manager ordered some non-powdered gloves.  That’s much better, but the powdered ones are easier to get on, kind of like a pre-lubricated condom.  Finally–in the last couple of days, actually–I got used to getting these on my hands.  They are tight, which is good because I don’t want them sliding off when I’m repeatedly thrusting my large throbbing hands into the vulnerable and soft, moist flesh of a sammich…
Oh, shit, where was I?

Let’s talk about the people, then we’ll talk about the delivery area, okay?
The people are mostly good–kind of a microcosm of the fucking world, right?  We had a way-too-damn-perky assistant for the first couple of weeks, but she was nice.  We had a guy named Von, a nice young black guy who, as it turned out, had only been out of prison for a month.  I had given him a ride home a few times.  Am I a sucker?  I don’t think so.  I talked with him a few times at work, and we bonded a bit, over Jesus, oddly enough.  He was explaining why he couldn’t do a few things, like drink or go into a bar or anything like that–not just because of parole, but he is saved and he’s trying to fly straight.  I had to confess to him as well.
And the reason is this:  if you are a believer in Jesus and a follower of his word (and don’t YOU judge me, brothers and sisters–I know wherein my faults lie, and I know I am not the best example of a Christian, but I know what he has done for me and you can’t take that away) then it’s important to understand that God can forgive many things–most things, in fact.  To paraphrase HIS word from somewhere in the Bible, “I, the Lord shall forgive whomsoever I shall forgiveth; nonetheless, it is my word and my law that you shall forgive everyone.”  Having said that, what is the most grievous sin that he ranks above all others is denying HIM.  Once you know the Lord, you cannot turn your back to his word and his works.
I’m done preaching now.  But we talked, and he’s a good guy, trying to fly right.  He said so many guys in prison “get religion” but essentially they are paying lip service.  They don’t mean it, they are using it as a tool for parole or what-have-you.  He’s not that way.  He means it.  I hope he succeeds.
What did he do to go to prison?  Well, I didn’t ask and he didn’t tell me.  I understand about a man wanting to keep his sins in the past even though I vent them and share them with the entire intarweb for all who care to read.
We also had a couple of cute young girls working there.  Man they were tiny things.  I understand now how perspective works in porn.  If the guy has an average size dick but he’s with a girl who weighs about 95 pounds, he’s going to look humongous.  And these girls were tiny.  Each one weighed about as much as one of my legs.  The names were Shannon and…something else.  It doesn’t matter.  One got fired and the other got transferred to a store closer to her house as she requested, out in the county.
There is a nice young black girl named Kelly, and we hit it off right away.  Meaning, she started right in with the mocking me.  But I helped her with her car a few times.  I convinced her not to buy a Dodge Neon with 160 thousand miles on it, for one thing.  And she finally bought a little Toyota, I agreed to do the brakes on it for cheap.  Then I drove it and said, you don’t need brakes.  And you don’t need a power steering pump either.  The car is fine.  It’s just smaller than the behemoth her mom has that she had been driving, and she’s not used to that “Close to the road” feeling you get with a tiny, tiny car.  Nigel, we miss you.  By the way, Detroit seemed completely unphased when I told her that a hot young black chick gave me her phone number.  Sucks to be undangerous.
Brian is the manager.  I still don’t have him figured out.  He’s serious about the job, though; some people are like that.  Tony is the manager I work with most.  He’s been with the company for a month or so and already disgruntled, which I use to my advantage.
A chick named Cat started as a driver and entered the management program.  Good for her, I thought.  Until I had to work with her.  As a driver, she would panic if I got there at 501 instead of 500, because she’s a single mother with a kid and blah blah blah.  I know.  I know.  One minute isn’t going to make the
difference in your mother of the year nomination, trust me.  Not compared to the psychological damage your undoubtedly doing to them.
But then she becomes a manager, and she is all about exerting her power or making a statement or flapping her gums or over-sharing or just being a ridiculous bitch.  She casually mentions to us that Adam–yet another manager–is going to be fired because he was an hour and a half late at great inconvenience to her and no he didn’t call can you imagine the nerve he said he was watching *his* kid which I personally don’t believe because no one else can have issues with childcare because that’s MY thing and anyway he has a girlfriend or a baby momma or something like that and they need to coordinate their schedules because I have a life too.
This is in answer to the question, “Are you closing tonight?”
Her irrational behavior almost cost me the other night but I used it to my advantage.  I came back from a delivery and there was another one.  She explained at great length and speed that the customer said to just call when the driver gets there but she said she didn’t know if they could because she didn’t know if I had a cell phone or not.  The guy said he’s never had a problem before but she wouldn’t let up because it’s important to maintain control of the doctor-patient relationship.  Or green, inexperienced restaurant manager to customer.
Thanks for pissing off the customer, retard.  And you think, what–because I am oh so very old that maybe I don’t have a cell phone and you didn’t want to assume that I was down with what all the hip young kids are into?  Lick my individual balls.
But since I knew what happened, I am prepared.  When I get to the customer, I give him a call–because at this place, you have to, it’s a secure apartment complex–and he comes down.  I said to him, “Hey, sorry about the girl on the phone. She’s worked there a while, but she’s new to being a manager, so she
wants to do everything right.  And that means pissing off the customer.”  He laughed at that, and gave me a five dollar tip.
I am the man.
Who else do we have there?  A worthless little prick named Peter.  I swear to God–watching him make a sammich is like watching a fish flop around on the ground trying to breathe–I just want to stick his head under water and let him inhale.
There are several other people that I see come and go, and most are nice kids.  Kids, I say.  I’m the oldest fucker there.  They need to respect the wisdom I have to offer.  If I have any.

Besides the money, which is getting better, I love the idea of driving in this neighborhood.  I’ve been everywhere–suburbs, exurbs, rural, floating space
platforms–but to be in the actual real and true city is just cool as hell.  I thought it would be scary–but that’s just the unknown.  In the city of St Louis, there are several neighborhoods, and they all have different names.  I hear them on the news when there’s a murder–Dogtown, Southside, Northside, Central West End, Hyde Park–shit like that.  There is downtown Proper, which we are directly south of, in probably the most famous St Louis neighborhood:  Soulard.
From several vantage points, I can look to the north and see The Arch and look south and see the gigantic BUDWEISER sign at the brewery.  Directly between them is the famous Soulard Farmer’s Market, there since 1769.  I shitteth thee not.
The neighborhood is full of all these old brick houses, walk-ups, shotgun flats, storefronts and warehouses that have been rehabbed and bought by yuppies (and, I find later, guppies and DINKs).  It was once a thriving, bustling area, and then the nameless urban blight set in.
Meaning, a few blacks moved in, all the white people fled, more blacks moved in, the area became blighted, all the blacks moved outward, and then…after the dust settles, the white people move back in and fix it up.  I’m not casting aspersions, or placing blame.  I’m just tellin it like it is, bro.
It’s a pretty nice area, and fairly safe.  Still, that chick I saw jogging at 9 o’clock better be fucking armed, or at least a bad ass kung fu lesbian assassin.  There are some homeless wandering around.
It used to be that if someone was walking around talking to themselves, you’d think they were crazy.  But then with a bluetooth, now you think they are talking to someone on the phone.  But here, chances are it is a crazy person like the one I saw walking in circles in the parking lot having an argument with Archduke of Ferdinand.
I enjoy driving the neighborhood.  And every door I go to is a new enjoyment of architecture, and every dangerous alley I go down because I can’t find the fucking number and and to wander around like homeless guy talking on my bluetooth to the customer as they try to pinpoint where I am, where they are,
and what lies between is a hapless junket of structural pleasure.
And just outside of our delivery area proper is an area I’ve gone into a few times anyway, and when I saw the street signs, it hit me where I was:  My dad always talked about the neighborhood and different streets he had lived on down in the city.  The dreaded “State” streets–California, Ohio, Missouri.  They are all right here.  I get to see where my parents used to live, and I feel a connection to it.  Kind of a vicarious nostalgia.  I can imagine the place in the fifties.  Now that my parents are gone, I feel connected to them again.

Jake Expectations

January 6, 2010 at 3:11 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 2 Comments
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  Already I’m regretting it, but I said I would give The Three Jakes until the end of January to Show Me The Money
  The more I work here I see it confirmed that delivery is not really a priority for them.  I also talked to Todd the other day, and he had worked here in the past.  He confirmed this as well.
  My first night–opening day!–I took four deliveries, and made 10 bucks in tips.  Outstanding.  The next night was New Year’s Eve, and in the course of four hours, I took three deliveries.  Nine bucks in tips.  Just…incredible.  Friday night I worked at Imo’s and made a total of 118 bucks, which comes out to 21 bones per hour.  My bestest night ever at Imo’s.  I’m not quitting that job yet.
  Saturday was Three Jakes.  I took five or six deliveries in the course of about 6 hours, and made, I think, 18 bones, or clams, or whatever it is you call them.  Monday I worked again, making…shit.  What did I make Monday?  Four bucks?  Six?  whatever.  Last night I took one goddamn fucking damn bullshit fucking ass dickhead delivery–for a buck fiddy.
  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more "tested" by God on a job.  I mean really.  What is the purpose of this bullshit in my life?
  I am technically designated as a driver here at The Three Jakes (where we care more about your sammich before 10am than you care all day.)  What this means is that while the others–the ‘in-shop’ peepul–make 8.50 per hour for the highly desirable skill of putting meat and condiments in the middle of a piece of bread and folding it over, I make the current minimum wage of 7.25 because of all the deliveries I make and all the tips I earn from them.
  In between the breathless excitement of all the deliveries I make, I get to do everything in the store that everyone else does.  This isn’t so bad and I expect this, but Christ–one delivery?!  The night could not have dragged on longer than it did.
  Of course, I enjoy most of the people.  First of all they’re new to me, and it is a diverse group.  I described the manager already, and he hasn’t changed from that description.  Many of these others are young.  Oh, so young.  Two young girls–oh, they are pretty little things–just started working on my shifts.  They are both kinda blonde, tiny, skinny things, and pretty.  And young.  One of the brothers working said he was 23.  Carrie said she was 21.  And then these girls said they were 18.  I just said, "Jesus Christ."  They look like they’re 12.  I felt my bones start to fossilize.
  I don’t even know if they have individual names or if they just share one.  Too, too many people to keep straight.  I told one guy that I can’t learn his name today because I already learned someone else’s.  Tell me tomorrow.
  Carrie, by the way, is a firecracker.  She’s an example of everything wrong with this place, too.  It just sucks you in, if you let it.  She knows everything there is to know about making a sammich.  That’s just…terrific.
  She’s bubbly and smart, and sexy in a clean-cut alternative hipster chick kinda way.  She’s 21, and married.  She’s been married for two years, since she was 19.  Seriously, is she nuts?  Who does that shit nowadays?  I said to her, "So…this is your starter marriage?"
  She laughed, understanding.  "Oh, I hope not."
  We all "hope not," sweetheart.  But it is what it is.  I’ll bet all the tips I made tonight ($1.56) that you’ll be on your second marriage before you’re thirty.  She’s sassy, and tries to pull off that disaffected youth thing, but she’s too perky for that.  The ironic detachment thing?  I know, right?  (That comes out of her mouth on a regular basis.)  Leave the ironic detachment to the experts at being bitter, jaded, and resentful.  That…would be me.
  Of course we were having a good time, and she made it a fun workplace.  At one point she came around the corner and said something, but her mouth was full.  She covered it and said, "Sorry."  Then she said, "I had a mouthful of bacon, if you must know."
  The standard line is, "So that’s what you sound like with your mouth full."  But there are other ways to push the edge of sexual harassment.  I didn’t see all those videos and take all those tests for nothing.  I went over to her and said (and you have to do this with the barest hint of a smile, and nothing more, and then leave it.  It’s all about subtlety)–I said, "Carrie, it’s none of my business what you have in your mouth."
  She thought that was funny.  She then responded, with a raised eyebrow, "Not unless I make it your business."  So basically she was–well, you *know* what she was implying.
  I swear I don’t get it.  Or maybe I do.  It’s one of two things:  Either I am just irresistibly sexy to these women and they want me; or–
  I’m a sad, fat old man who is mildly amusing, and in their view basically harmless and ineffective.  Yay.  Bitches. 
  I enjoyed working with her, but it’s just temporary.  She’s going to go back to her regular store once our management schedule is straightened out.  Speaking of schedule–
  Brian the manager posted the schedule.  Something in print, impressive.  It’s about 40 lines on one page, using about about a 6-point font.  Fuck me, I couldn’t–I had to get on my knees on the floor (because it was put down low on the wall for short people) and get up close to it and take off my glasses to read it.  What the shit kind of shit is that?
  This is final, of course–subject to someone else’s approval.  He scheduled me for all the days I said I was available, and one extra, to boot.  He put me on Sunday.
  Now you KNOW I don’t work Sunday.  For the most part I’ve avoided it all together, even when I was a manager.  But now–I have a day job, and with these part time jobs, I want to have one day off of all of them.  I picked Sunday.  I need off Sunday.  But also, I work Wednesday and Friday at Imo’s–those were the days Brad gave me.  So I’m scheduled for Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Yes, their fucking week starts on a Wednesday.  I don’t give a shit, there’s no logical reason for that whatsoever.  Whatever reason you have for it is bullshit.  Shut the fuck up and get a goddamn calendar.
  I don’t like this job near enough to do this.  Also, I’m scheduled from 5p to 9p on these days, so that is only 20 hours.  Except it’s not 20 hours.  It’s more like 27 or 28, because the guy that comes in after me (yeah, someone actually comes in and works, in theory, from 9pm to 2am, or 9p to 4a) can’t actually get there until almost 11pm.  But the schedule can’t say Bryan, 5p to 11pm and then Steve, 11pm 4am.  Why?  Well, it just can’t.  The schedule is structured.  Were you looking for a logical reason?
  Like so many things here, there are reasons why but they aren’t even remotely logical.
  One tiny thing is this check off list of duties and crap.  On the surface, it seems like a good idea.  It gives little jobs to do every day, and track all the prep and cash and so forth.  Wow, what great organization.
  But then also, there’s the spot where someone goes back and checks the night before.  Good, right?  Well, you (whoever is doing this) is REQUIRED to find at least three things wrong.
  What if there aren’t three things wrong?  What if it’s a brand new store and everything is neat and clean and perfect and not busy enough yet to get trashed and slow enough that all these people looking for something to do get every little job done simply from boredom and overkill?  Then what??  Find something anyway.  Is this supposed to foster an atmosphere of dedication and hard work?
  Speaking of hard work, most of the day people were leaving when I arrived.  There is one young stallion whom the others already deemed as weird.  I had chatted forgettably with him once.  I saw him work, though.  He attacked the floor with the broom with vigor, and jumped on the line to make a sammich like they were giving away blow jobs.
  He’s hard working and energetic, and I’m sure he thinks he’s going places.  I was once like him.  I just want to grab him and say Stop, look at me.  Look into my eyes.  "What am I looking at?"  Your future, son.  Your future.
  Eventually they’ll break him.  He’ll stay, but he’ll be broken, and he’ll follow company guidelines like they are gospel without ever questioning the logic.
  For instance, the guidelines state that only managers can "do" bread and only managers can slice.  The reasons for this are liability and so forth, blah blah blah. 
  However, most places that have this type of operation simply have training, certification, and follow-up in place, and safety procedures.  But no–here, only managers can do these things so they have to fit them into their already hectic and unreasonably long day.
  So what happens in the real world, the world you and I live in?
  In the real world, people other than the manager does these things.  Now, here is the process for bread.  Explain please, to me, what part of this sounds like it MUST be done by a "manager"–you know, some one who is entrusted to be reliable.  At bare minimum, not a dumb-ass.

  Pull the boxes of frozen dough out of the freezer and arrange the pieces on a tray to thaw.  Put them in the "thaw box"  (It might have another name.  Don’t know, don’t care.)  There are a few technical things you have to do here, like count to twelve, and cover the shit in wax paper.
  After it thaws, change up the twelve pieces so there are only six per tray, separated by some distance, lined up more or less straight, and stretched all the way from top to bottom.  Throw these in the "proof box."  Again, don’t know, don’t care.  Set the timer for a specific amount of time (I wasn’t paying attention) and remove when the timer goes off.
  Then put the proofed loaves in the oven and set the timer.  When it goes off, remove them.  Place the tray in a rack to cool.
  After it’s cool, loosen and separate the rolls from the tray and each other, and line them up, this time 9 per tray.  I think.  Now it’s ready to use.

  The only thing I might imagine a manager HAS to do is put the bread in the oven and take it out.  That way, they are the ones that risk getting burned.  I’ve been in this ridiculous place for a week and I’ve been told "Don’t do that–only managers do bread."  And I have also done every step in the process at one time or another.
  Slicing is a different story.  In addition to running the slicer–which can be dangerous if you’re stupid or have loose skin with no nerve endings–you also have to be able to read a digital scale.  Reading never was mentioned as a job requirement, so that is best left to managers.  However, I have seen one long-time non-manager employee slicing.  No matter how I say "good for him" it still sounds sarcastic.
  In addition to these attractions at the carnival, we also get to do various cleaning and prepping and standing around.  The movie "The Hours" is actually about this place.  After I had done every little thing I could think of to do, I was standing there, leaning, and looking pretty.  Carrie said, "So, how’s it going?  Making good tips?"  Either vapid or sarcastic, I didn’t care.  "Oh…you’ve only had the one delivery.  Bummer, right?"
  "Carrie, let me explain my angst."  A customer had just received his sammich, and was still in earshot as he got his drink.  Carrie stopped and turned to me, as though I had her attention.  I continued.  "Imagine that you are a high-priced call girl–" her eyes got wide "–and you are very good at what you do.  You move to a new town that is all men and set up shop.  You are expecting to make a lot of money.  Then you find out that all the men are eunuchs."
  One of the young girls overheard this part and said, "What’s a eunuch?"
  I ignored her, and continued with Carrie.  "That’s exactly what I have here.  I was lured in with the promise of money, and I’m getting nothing so far.  And make no mistake about it:  I am…a high-priced call girl.  The best."

The Three Jakes

December 31, 2009 at 10:41 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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  Is it a misnomer for me to file this under "Riding in Cars With Pizza" even though there is no pizza involved?
  Not at all.  Perfectly legitimate.  For three reasons:
a)  It’s all under the umbrella of food delivery, and when I worked at the steak place I ne’er gave it a second thought.
2)  If Obama can push universal health care, take over controlling interest in car makers and banks, and coerce states to give up their sovereignty for highway funds–and then not deny that he’s a socialist–
Then I can deliver sammiches and call it Riding in Cars With Pizza.
d)  I still work at the other pizza place.

Chinatown

  We’ll see if I get this posted in time to count for December.  But it happened in December, not too long ago.  Like, last night.  But it all seems like a dream.  A horrible, painful dream…
  Last night was my first night at JJ.  Learning what I have learned from the past, I shall call the place by a different name in case I am involved in something illegal or immoral and they happen to have corpprate Internet spies.  Again–how do you get that job?
  But what should I call it?  James Johanssen’s?  How about similar letters?  II’s?  Odd.  KK’s?  Odder still, and connotation is racist.  I originally selected this title for a different reason which may or may not be evident later because I tend to be either cryptic and confusing and occasionally both at the same time, but I’m going to call the place "The Three Jakes."  It’s my blog and I’ll use aliases if I want to.  Don’t worry, they won’t figure it out.  Trust me.
  I told Matt the DM that maybe I could work on Wednesday.  I was scheduled for Thursday as my first day, but I was scheduled at Imo’s for Wednesday.  I didn’t want to miss the big first day because it would be…the…big…first day.  You know?  I asked him if I should call someone when I know, or what?
  He said no, just–If I can come in, go ahead and come in.  If I can’t, that’s fine too.  Since hindsight is how you gain knowledge, I went in last night.

The Three Jakes

  I’m the first Jake.  Bryan, I mean.  The manager of this store Brian, probably spelled like that.  Later that night, another Brian came in.  That was a simple explanation.  On with the show–
  Brian’s (not me, the other one–see how fun this can be?) perpetual expression is harried.  I got there early, and he didn’t want to deal with me until five, when the other fivers got there, so i just wandered around the store, trying to stay out of their way, but also watching and trying to learn.  Meanwhile, Brian had a bunch of his day people rolling around the place that eventually left.
  I was the one and only driver.
  Good thing we didn’t have a lot of deliveries.
  Brian had me don an apron like everyone else.  Mostly I worked in the store, learning various ridiculous things.  Mayo will be my undoing in this place, I fear.  It is everywhere, like beer in a frathouse.  It might just be my imagination, but I smell it right now.
  When I first walked into the place, my first impression is that it was *loud*.  Loud music playing over the speakers in the dining area.  They do alot of things there that seem to be ridiculous, but they might be done for a reason.  Maybe the reasons are ridiculous, too.  We’ll call this stuff "Three Jake Logic."  TJL.  I can only imagine the TJL for this–besides the chic atmosphere–is to make it annoying for most people so they leave in a hurry, if they stay at all.  Not only
that, but if it’s loud out there, they can’t hear us behind the counter cursing or talking about them.
  It’s a little difficult to hear behind the counter as well.  Or maybe it’s just me–but I’m not the only one constantly saying, "Huh?"  How this really helps operations is taking an order over the phone.  Half of the orders I took–I took four–had the wrong address, undoubtedly because it was heard wrong.  Good thing I have a cell phone.  Good thing.

Bohemian Rhapsody

  My first delivery, oh boy.  Like everything else in this area, it’s a large and old brick building that some enterprising contractor yuppy-sized on the inside.  Security door, brick walk, a freaking fountain, high ceilings with exposed beams and colorfully painted ductwork  (because nothing hides large rattling HVAC like painting it in bright metallic primary colors and exposing it in the rafters) and prints of impressionist masters on the hallway walls.  "Hi, my name Claudius, and I’m a pretentious ass."  "Hi, Claudius!"
  The place is full of white people.  While I was trying to figure out the security door code, a trusting soul let me in.  Sucker.  After he lets me in we chat a bit, then I knock him silly and steal his wallet.  I get to the right apartment number according to the ticket, and knock.  I wait, and then knock again.  Finally, some noise, and then a voice calls out, "Just a minute!"  Okay.
  And it took about a minute before the door opened.  A pretty young woman in a wheelchair.  She smiled.  I smiled.  She said, "I didn’t order anything."  I stopped smiling.  My first delivery is a prank?  Mother-fucker.  I verified certain information.  The address?  Hers.  The name?  Not hers.  The phone number?  Not hers.  Using my incredible powers of reason and logic and decades of experience, I fingered out the problem.
  "Sorry to bother you–looks like we have the wrong address on here.  I’ll give them a call."
  She was very sweet, and I said, "Give us a call–we deliver."  She answered that we had a drive-thru, so she could come by as well.  I think she was hitting on me.  In fact, I’m sure of it.
  I called the customer, she was upstairs.  337, not 237.  She was a pretty woman as well, in her 30’s, with that Look-at-me-I’m-an-Artist vibe.
  An hour later my next delivery was an apartment also, and the address was wrong again.  I was beginning to think the address was more of a suggestion or approximation than the actual. 

Phone Booth

  Some immeasurable time later I took another run.  The time spent in the store is excruciating.  I actually have to DO stuff.  But the clock is a familiar foe of mine, and I know how to milk it.
  This run was actually a double.  Two whole completely separate deliveries to two different places at the same time.  Wow.  What was this, 8 oclock?
  The first guy was nice; he tipped and asked why I was breathing so hard.  I huffed a polite "fuck off" to him and left.
  The next stop was a little corner laundromat with an attendant on duty.  That was not immediately obvious, but the old black homeless-looking woman with a gold tooth was sitting at a table with clothes all over it, and she popped open a cash drawer to pay me.  All of my deliveries had tipped me so far, including her.
  I got back to the store from what turned out to be my last run and hung my hoodie up to don again my gay apparel.  Automatically I checked my pockets.  My phone wasn’t there.
  Concerned but not yet panicking, I checked all of my pockets and the coat again.  Damn.  I checked my hands, to make sure I wasn’t still talking on it, because that has happened to me before.
  I looked in my car.  Nada.  I borrowed another guy’s phone to go out to my car and listen for it as I called it.  Nada surf.  I retraced in my head (as opposed to, I guess, the pavement) when I had it last.  It was in the car, on that last delivery.  The pockets of my hoodie are kinda shallow–it could have easily slipped out.
  Fuck me.  Now I’m concerned.
  I tell whoever is in charge at this point (don’t know, don’t care) that I need to go retrace my steps and find my phone.  Luckily, my new phone is mostly white, instead of black, so it should be easier to see at night.  If the ground wasn’t covered in snow.  Aarrgh.  No luck at the first place.  I retraced my steps from my parking spot the front door.  Luckily it was well-lit or I would have needed some illumination, like the light from my cell phone display.
  I drove to the next stop, the laundromat.  I thought I might have set it on the counter when I picked up the money, if I had it in my hand when I set the food down.  Not likely, but possible.
  I had horrible visions of the laundromat horde doing unspeakable things with my phone, like accessing the web–because I never could do that with accuracy.  I asked the nice homeless-looking lady and she said no, she hadn’t seen it, and looked on the counter.  I noticed a funny thing out of the corner of my eye.  When I came in and mentioned it, an older gentleman reading a paper instinctively reached for his shirt pocket and patted it, to make sure his phone was there.
  I muttered a thanks and said I was going to go look in the spot I had parked.  The nice lady gave me her phone to use to call it, so I could hear it ring.  I went out and found the spot I had parked in.  It was still empty.  The phone in my hand was ringing, but I didn’t hear my familiar ring tone–Beethoven’s "Ode To Joy."  No, wait–it would be something by Iron Maiden.
  There on the wet ground, glistening in the rain, was my phone.  Yay.  I guess.  I found it.  The screen was dark and silent.  I rushed to pick it up, and almost–almost–pressed the button to unlock the screen.
  Wait, though–electronics and water aren’t especially copacetic.  I learned much in six years of junior college.  I resisted turning it on, and instead I went back inside and gave the lady her phone.  I said, "The good news is, I found it.  The bad news is, I found it in the rain and covered in water."
  She said, "Oh-Oh.  Don’t turn it on.  Take the battery out.  Right now.  And the SIM card."  I did as she said.  "Just let it dry out for a good long while before you put it back."
  Great.  This makes sense.  I didn’t have high hopes for it–but it could happen.  I thanked her and left.

The Man With Two Brains

  That left me with a couple of hours to kill until ten o’clock.  I struck up a conversation with this other new guy.  Like me, his first day was today.  He was not a driver, but strictly an inside person.  He was about 30, I think.  Maybe older.  Intellectual.  But also smart and willing to work–more so than I was.  Early on he mentioned that on his day job he works at one of the two big universities–maybe I should have been paying attention.  Was it Wash U or SLU?  But he could have been a janitor or a chair-stacker for all I knew.
  As it turns out, he’s a researcher–probably has a master’s degree–and he studies brain trauma.  We had a discussion about it.  Of course I can undestand master’s degree level brain studies.  I learned a great deal, and, unless he is better at concealing condescension than most, I held my own in the coversation.
  Or it just could have been bullshit.  He also talked about the fact–and I get that he is "proud" of himself"–he took this type of job which would normally be beneath someone of his intellect and brainpan.  He said his collegues said as much–why lower yourself to this?
  I asked him an incredibly rhetorical question:  "Do you find that the intellectual elites that populate academia largely feel superior to the unwashed masses that have to work for a living?"
  "Yes."
  "Well, I thought as much.  That’s why I asked."  It’s one thing to be superior–as I am–but it’s quite another to put it on display for the derision of others.  Especially if those others you feel superior to happen to include me.  You have to draw the line somewhere, and I’d like to think my dick makes the line in the sand.  Across this line you do not–

Pencil Me In

  Meanwhile, Adam came in.  He was the swing-shift manager.  This crazy place is open until 2am Sunday through Tuesday, and 4am Wednesday through Saturday.   So Adam is working 9pm to 4am.  Maybe 5am, by the time they ge done with every ridiculous thing.
  Brian gets ready to leave,  but before he does he talks to all of us about our schedule availability.  I explain several times that I have a day job and during the week I want to work no later than  10 pm.  Off on Sunday.  And some other random details.  Ten minutes later, as he thinks he is walking out the door, he looks at me and says, "So, you’re closing, right?"
  "NO!  I’m not!"  My voice may have gone up in pitch when I said that.   Four am?–And I get up for work in the morning at 530.  Not on your fucking life.  Everyone and everything around here was still new enough to me–and I had no attachment–that I could walk out of here with no remorse whatsoever.  He said he’d make some calls, and looked at the schedule.  It did look like someone was scheduled for 10pm to close–another fucking vampire.  Okay.  He left, with a word to call him if someone didn’t show up, so they could "work something out." 
  Since I’ve done this all before I know it is kind of a passive-aggressive way to get me to do something I don’t want to do.  Well, I got news for them–
  At ten o’clock Brain-Boy’s replacement comes in, a young dude named Brian.  Brain-boy’s name is TJ–named, I think, for the famous Hooker.  My guy was still not here.  I’m too disgusted to be apathetic.  Or vice versa, I think.  As TJ and I had discussed earlier, there was no real training to speak of.  Just "Do this.  No, like this.  Oh, and keep the place clean."  Thus endeth the lesson.
  Another hour goes by, almost.  My feet hurt (no chairs allowed behind the counter at all, not even in back at the desk which is the "office."  So they want you to stand up the entire time.  They want me to remove my car seat so I can Stand And Deliver.
  At 1030, I mention to Adam that I’m getting worried.  Also, I stopped working.  I’m just leaning against the counter, waiting.  He makes a call to Brian, who says that he would make some calls.  This is not looking good.
  About 1050, a guy calls.  He left his other job (day job?) at 10pm, and was on his way right from there.  A few minutes later, he showed.  Steve, I’m glad to see you.
  I cashed out, made a grand total of 10 bucks on four deliveries.  Divide by 5.67 hours, and that’s…call it a buck seventy-five.  Add that to my min, for a total of 9 clams per hour. 
  I could work in a slaughterhouse for better money, and it’d be more fun.

Escape From New York.

  "Gentlemen, have a good evening."  I left.  Of course it had been raining all night, and it was now 11p, so it had been dark for the past…call it 36 hours.  I had found my way around this little neighborhood with no problem tonight, because I am a highly skilled and well-trained individual.  I head north on Broadway, and cut over to 7th.  I think.  Uh.  Oh, wait–there it is.  No, that way…Okay.  Oh, a ramp.  There’s the ramp to get on the highway.
  Remember this:  Once you are on the ramp, you are pretty much committed to being on the highway until the next ramp comes along.  I went up the ramp.  Halfway up the ramp, the sign says 64 East.
  Hmmm.  That doesn’t sound right.  I need 55 North, or 64 West.  64 East might not go–
  There was no motherfucking way to get off the goddamn fucking shit highway until I was fucking fucked the way fucking over in Illinois.  See my car, there in the dark, going across the bridge, and all the cursing coming out of it?  Fuck me.
  Not only did I have to go into Illinois, but I had to go WELL into Illinois.  The twisted bands of interstate travelling through the heart of East St Louis are wisely meant to take you AWAY from East St Louis as quickly as it can without giving you the most unwise choice of getting off in the middle of it.  For that, I suppose I am grateful, otherwise they might not identify the remains of my body in my car after it was torched and the the rims stolen.  I finally got off at
Route 3, the first exit I get to.  I intended to get off, turn, go down, and get back on going the other way.
  Like a metaphor for my ridiculous life, there is no "going the other way."  I continue on 3 going north.
  I have seen the future, brothers and sisters.  In the coming apocalypse and destruction of civilization, I know what it looks like.  It looks like East St Louis.  It looks like it’s two infamous suburbs, Brooklyn and Venice, Illinois.  If a large armor-plated and heavily armed truck had come rolling down the road at me a la Road Warriors, I would not have been surprised.
  I also would not have been more scared, either.  The fucking place is scary.  I found signs that led to the interstate–the next interstate–and followed those.  Eight miles.  Eventually I escaped the Danger Zone and was once again in familiar territory.
  By the time I got home it was a quarter to twelve.  Detroit was still up.  I said, "I was really hoping you would be asleep, because I’m a little moody and a little pissy, and I don’t want to talk to anyone."
  She went to sleep, which was good, because I’m sure I would have been an ass.  I still had to eat and wind down, so I heated up my goddamn cold sammich and ate, and then had a smoke in silence.
 
Aftermath

  Tonight, it wasn’t as bad psychologically.  The music was quieter, so I could hear myself and others think.  Also,  Brian explained The Three Jakes’ marketing plan…or lack thereof.  They do a soft open, and people discover them and they gradually get busier.  Give it a few weeks.  I don’t want to lose you, okay?
  Actually, he said that to the other driver, Steve.  But he seemed fragile, and in need of that kind of affirmation.  I just wonder why he doesn’t like me.
  Anyway, it was still slow, but I knew I wasn’t going to have stay all night, and I got to do a little more, and play with the other kids some more, so it was better.  So I have hopes that–maybe I should set a deadline.
  End of January.  It better be better, or it’ll be time for these bootheels to be wandering.
  But still–I swear to God, instead of driving for them, they should hire me as a consultant for a hundred grand a year and I’ll teach them everything about delivery that they honestly don’t know. 
  Oh, they are all committed to the quality of the product and all that crap, yadda-yadda-yadda.  But they treat delivery like it was an afterthought.
  This is the conversation in their board meeting:

  How about we…throw the sammiches up in the air and shoot them?
  Good, good.  I like how you’re thinking.  Or maybe we could…deliver them?
  Phffft.  Whatever.
  No, we can do that.
  Fine.  We’ll deliver.  Can we still throw the sammiches in the air and shoot them?
  No.  That’s not…part of the business model.
  I don’t know you any more.

  On another note, the cute chick in the wheelchair that was the wrong address last night ordered tonight, and I delivered it.  Very nice.  And I think she has a girlfriend.  So:  a hot yuppie lesbian in a wheelchair.  This covers a variety of kinks, and I think she wants me.

Oh, yeah–happy fucking New Year.

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