Fast Food Work is Fun: Part IV–Mistake Buddies

Tim was the manager of the restaurant where I worked.  He was a former coworker at Burger King with Jerry, the man who owned the rights to the Godfather’s franchise in the Dayton area.  Jerry did most of the hiring when a new store opened to ensure a good launch, but the individual managers made the personnel decisions once an operation ran for a while.

Tim was a lean man, a bow hunter who stalked deer, and a mean  drunk who looked for a reason, any reason, to start a fight.  He liked to hire dishwater blondes with big chests for the service counter out front, and good old boys who appeared to be none too bright for the kitchen.  He seemed uneasy around the summer job college kids originally hired by Jerry, and acted as if they were lying in wait to challenge his authority.

Dave was one of Tim’s picks for the kitchen.  He was lazy and sneaky and delighted in finding ways to get out of work.  He put a lot of thought and effort into doing next to nothing.  He hid equipment he was supposed to clean, and stacked dishes in  perfectly balanced, 2 foot high columns beneath lovingly fluffed up layers of soap suds.  Inevitably we would need the cheese grater or platters about fifteen minutes after he clocked out, and would find the former hidden behind boxes of cheese and pepperoni in the walk in cooler, and the latter concealed beneath a thick foam of bubbles in the dishing sink.

Dave had no clue about what it took to serve and prepare food safely in a restaurant.  He once dumped a glass full of ice cubes from his cup of soda in my dish washing rinse water, and when I objected he told me that it was all right because he didn’t have a cold.  He was accident prone away from work and often came in with bandages on his hands and arms.  A pizza was returned one night when a customer found a band aid in the toppings, and Dave was permanently assigned to dishwashing after that.

When complaints were made about Dave by his fellow workers he was protected by Tim, who defended him by telling us that Dave “worked hard and was a good guy.”  Jim, our night manager, told us that Dave was Tim’s drinking buddy and that we would have to put up with him until something flagrant happened.

Tim’s big mistake was having an affair with a buxom service counter girl with a big head of frizzy blond hair.  When his wife found out she banished him from their house, and he camped out in the restaurant’s office.  (I was surprised that she let him escape alive:  she was a strong, independent woman who could dress a deer with a hunting knife.  She showed me the blade one time at a company party, and it was nine inches long and very sharp.) His troubles were compounded by his illiteracy. He depended on his wife to write notices for the bulletin board, do the nightly books and figure out the payroll.

Dave’s ongoing mistake was in coming to work intoxicated.  He usually chose a Friday night, when we had the biggest load of work, to drink whiskey from a bottle hidden in his El Camino and pop Quaaludes.  He started bumping into people fifteen minutes into a shift,  and gradually became immobile while the rest of the kitchen crew moved at a break neck speed to keep up with orders.  If I spoke to him and tried to get him to do some work,  he would stare ahead with a blank look on his face and slur a few unintelligible words.  One night when he was reasonably sober Megan told him in jest that he was doing the wrong drug, that he should take some speed instead.  The next Friday he came in so wired that he couldn’t stand still in one place long enough to actually finish a job.

Tim eventually managed to reconcile with his wife by dumping the blonde and begging for forgiveness.  After he was allowed to return home he changed his personnel policy and began to hire brunettes with more average figures. At about the same time Tim gave Dave a warning that he would be fired if he came in high once more.  Perhaps in the fever of his reform Tim was led to evangelize the gospel of responsibility to others.  Or maybe his wife told Tim to lose some of his drinking buddies and sober up.

A few weeks later Dave wobbled in through the doors of the kitchen and tried to wash dishes.  He kept dropping platters and glasses, and while he didn’t manage to break anything he couldn’t seem to get a single thing clean.  He staggered and bounced off the walls as he walked down a narrow hallway between the coolers and the employee restroom, and had to lean against a wall to keep from falling over.  Jim came into the kitchen and immediately noticed Dave’s condition, who by this point was staring off into space with glazed eyes.  He had a mindless grin on his face as if he had just heard a joke that he couldn’t understand, and didn’t respond when Jim asked him a question. Jim didn’t have the authority to fire him on the spot, so he got Kenny to help him walk Dave out of the kitchen, through the dining room and down a hall to the manager’s office. Jim called Tim and spent the interlude waiting for him to arrive holding Dave upright.

When Tim showed up Dave had sobered enough to realize that he was in trouble.  Tim asked his buddy why he had come in drunk again when he knew that he was on the verge of being fired.  Dave didn’t really understand the question and could barely speak, but did manage to verbally slush, “I’m not drunk.  I’m not high,” just before he slumped to the floor.  When he managed to stand up again he repeated his mantra, “I’m not drunk.  I’m not high,” until Jim shushed him.

There was no forgiveness for Dave.  He was fired, but probably didn’t realize that he was unemployed until the next day.  I’m not sure how he got home, but I vaguely remember that Tim gave him a lift.

I never knew what became of Dave and Tim, but I like to imagine that they are still friends and get together for a snort or two when Tim’s wife isn’t looking, that they haven’t gotten into a deadly fight over a top heavy blonde with a big head of hair, and that they go deer hunting together in the fall.  When they kill a buck Dave volunteers to gut and carry it back to the pick up truck, but when Tim goes off into the bushes to take a piss, Dave hides the knives and sneaks away after slicing himself a choice cut of venison.


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