Fast Food Work is Fun: Part I–Kenny

I worked with Kenny at a Godfather’s Pizza in Dayton, Ohio for two years in the early 1980s.  He had sad eyes and an air of dignity and stoic resignation, and went about his business without any hint of complaint.  He was about 20 when we met, was single and still lived with his mother.  He was her only means of support.  Mom had some sort of chronic illness that no one, least of all Kenny, wanted to talk about.

Most men with these handicaps would end up living, willingly or not, a life of celibacy.  Kenny, however, seemed to be able to use his disadvantages to his advantage when it came to bedding the women who worked at Godfather’s.  Perhaps his ability to carry his aura of personal tragedy with steadfast calm and easy grace brought out a feminine urge to provide comfort. Kenny also had the ability to be rather matter of fact about sex, and his straight forward approach disarmed a few of his eventual conquests.  He teased one girl by popping open her bra at inopportune times.  He would come up behind her, lightly tap the buckle through the uniform shirt on her back, and send her scurrying for a dark corner where she refastened the strap to recapture her flopping breasts.  She never got upset with him, but would laugh and say, “Oh, Kenny!”

A report to the men in kitchen about his recent activities wasn’t a boast.  It was a factual critique of a woman’s performance in bed.  He told us that one young lady, a promiscuous pizza maker who had used her sexual allure to toy with several of her male coworkers, had a vagina that was as dry and scratchy as sandpaper.  The one night he had spent with her was more than enough for him.

I liked Kenny for his easy manner and his dry humor, and respected him as a worker.  Our heaviest rushes filled the dining room to capacity, and the order tickets stacked up until we were twenty plus pizzas behind.  Kenny was one who could be trusted to pick up his speed, stay calm and help anyone who got overwhelmed by the load.  You could count on him in the heat of battle.

One day Kenny, Buford and Roy, coworkers and confidantes at Godfather’s, came up to me at the beginning of a shift.  Roy was the talker in that crowd, and he smiled at me as he told me this “funny” story:

We had one helluva time last Saturday night.  We was in this 7-11 picking up six packs and smokes when this lady comes up to us and asks us for a beer.  We drank a few in the parking lot, and she’s already far gone, and she asks us to drive her home.  She’s laughing and carrying on in the car, and suddenly she grabs Buford and shoves her tongue down his throat.  We all knew where this was heading, and when we pulled up to her house she invited us in. 

She drops her coat on the floor in her living room and starts kissing Kenny, and then she tells us that she wants to fuck us one after the other. She drags Kenny into her bedroom and they’re going at it.  (She’s a girl who makes a lot of noise). Buford and I stayed in the hall, but she left the door open so we could see what was happening.  Next thing you know this little kid comes rushing out of the other bedroom.  He’s screaming and hollering at us.  Mama just laughs like it’s nothing and Kenny finishes his business with her. 

Buford goes next, and I volunteer to hold onto the kid, who starts swearing and crying and he’s ordering Buford to get off his Mama.  The brat gets away from me, bites me on the hand, and runs into the bedroom and attacks Buford.  You should have seen the look on Buford’s face when that kid jumped on his back and started to pound on him.  Buford looks over his shoulder at me kind of confused–he wants to keep going and he wants to knock the kid off.  If he gets rough with the kid the lady might take offense.  What should he do?   I start laughing until my sides hurt and there’s tears in my eyes.  Buford’s on top of this woman, and her kid is whaling away at him, and he’s stuck in between.  Finally I decide to give Buford a break and I tear the kid off and lock him in his bedroom. 

I take my turn, and the lady’s still drunk and happy.  I have trouble concentrating because I can hear the kid  hollering for his Mama through the wall. He starts swearing again, but now he’s using curse words that a four or five year old shouldn’t even know, and it sounds so funny coming out of a little kid’s mouth that I start laughing.  Let me tell you that It’s hard to laugh and screw at the same time, but I manage somehow.  The lady is half asleep by the time I’m through, and doesn’t seem to notice when I climb off of her and zip up my fly.

The kid has gone quiet, and we figure that he fell asleep banging on his door.  We open it and he jumps out and tries to kick Buford.  Buford holds him off with one hand on his forehead, and the kid gives up and runs to his Mama.  She’s still sprawled all over the bed, drunk out of her mind, and he starts shaking her to try to wake her up.  We leave a few more beers on her kitchen table as a thank you, grab our coats and leave.

How about that for a funny story?

Roy, Buford and Kenny grinned and waited for me to laugh and congratulate them for their good fortune.  I didn’t know what to say, but  thought that they had done irreparable damage to that kid, that psychopaths were made this way.

Kenny, “sensitive” man that he was, looked away when he saw the stunned look on my face.  He appeared to realize that I didn’t find their story amusing, but didn’t fully understand my reaction.  I discovered this a few months later when Dee, the night shift manager, told me that Kenny thought that I was being unfriendly to him and his buddies.  I never went out drinking with them after work, or hung around shooting the shit in the parking lot any more.  Her tone of voice told me that she thought that I was a snob.  I didn’t defend myself.  She had cheated with Kenny on her abusive husband, and I doubted whether she would give much credit to my reasons for keeping my distance.

I gave my two weeks notice a month or so later.  When Kenny heard that I was leaving he looked up from the pizza he was cutting and told me that the place would go to hell once I was gone.  I was flattered,  pleased that he had noticed how much hard work I had put into the job. He and I were fast food warriors, comrades in arms who had survived many a supper time rush, many an insult from customers who assumed that we all were a bunch of morons, and more than a few encounters with a mean spirited manager intent on firing the next fool who crossed his path.  And I realized that at some level, against all odds and my better judgment, I still respected him and wanted to have his good opinion.

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