Fast Food Work is Fun: Part III–Cindy Was A Pretty Girl

Cindy was a bruised beauty.  She carried her hurt on her sleeve, and almost dared you to add to her sorrow.   She used sex to ease her personal sense of worthlessness.  She went to bed with several of the men in the kitchen at Godfather’s, but formed no real attachment to any of them.   She didn’t seem to consider the possibility that a solid relationship might be available to her if she stopped using her charming face and attractive body only to  seduce.

However, she wasn’t always tough and cynical about matters of love.  She could even be naive.  Once she gave a blow job to a security guard out behind the dumpster.  Cindy apparently was overcome by an attraction to a man in uniform carrying a gun, but overestimated the importance of the act.   She knew that the guard was married, and worried that she had become a home wrecker.  It took her a week or two to realize that he had simply taken advantage of her willingness to give him a freebie.

She enjoyed messing with my head.  She liked to intentionally bump into me as I worked, and often rubbed up against me as I washed dishes or made pizzas.  She liked to embarrass,  and appeared to know that I had been raised to be something of a gentleman.  She could make me uncomfortable by implying with an inviting smile or a husky whisper that she was ready and willing to go to bed with me.  She acted on the smug assumption that I was too shy and straight laced to respond to her flirtations.

She didn’t suspect that I possessed a secret weapon useful in the battle of the sexes:  I had no illusions about my standing in the competition to date and mate.  After years of struggling to upgrade my status in the pecking order I realized that I was a beta male.  I knew that most women didn’t find me all that attractive, and that when someone far above my level made an obvious move on me there was something seriously wrong.  A game was afoot.

(My first moment of self recognition came in high school when a lovely young woman, who had studiously ignored my existence up to that moment, came over to me in home room and chatted me up.  As our conversation unfolded it became apparent that she wanted to pick my brains about an upcoming assignment in English.  After I told her a few of my ideas she became distant and aloof once more, and I realized that I had been used.)

One day Cindy told me that she and several other members of the crew were getting together after work for a skinny dip in her pool.  She asked me to come along and gave me one of her most suggestive looks:  arched eyebrows and lips puckered into a pout.  I didn’t know what to say to her at that moment, and probably stuttered and blushed,  but came up with a plan when I had time to think through my options.

When the shift was nearly over I walked up and asked her in a matter of fact tone where her house was.  I offered to bring some beer along to the skinny dip party, and also inquired if I would be invited to stay the night.  Her eyes widened with alarm.  She thought that I was taking her seriously and that I expected some kind of real action from her.  Her face turned red and she muttered something inaudible in response to my questions.  When I asked her again Cindy mumbled in an undertone that was even less clear.  She answered audibly the third time I asked, but the location and time of the party became increasingly vague as she spoke.  She seemed to have forgotten how to get to her home, and the address had mysteriously vanished from memory.  She became genuinely distressed when I gave her my phone number and told her to call me when she remembered the arrangements for the party.

Needless to say I never got that call, and there probably was no such party.  But from that night forward Cindy started to treat me with a bit more respect and no longer rubbed up against me in a provocative manner.  She knew that I had figured her out.

One night she looked genuinely ill, and I asked her how she was feeling.  She complained that the manager wouldn’t let her go home even though she was sick and probably had a fever.  She sat near my station on a bucket of tomato sauce.  She wore a thick, white sweater  even though it was 80 degrees in the kitchen, and clutched her arms close to her chest.  I washed dishes and talked to her every once in a while, and got the impression that she was a poor soul starved for real comfort.  She needed genuine human contact that did not involve the trading of sexual favors, and a loving relationship that wasn’t a game of power and seduction.

I knew that I was not the person from whom she would accept such kindness. I listened to her talk and washed my dishes, and when I was called up to the front line to help out with the supper time rush I left her sitting there.




Fast Food Work is Fun: Part II–Christmas Party

In 1981 some friends and I rented a house in a neighborhood known as Slidertown near the southern edge of downtown Dayton.  We were a group of artists and students from the University of Dayton, and used the building as a collective studio.

That year I worked full time at Godfather’s Pizza to save up for a return to school to finish my B.F.A.  I decided to throw a party for my coworkers while the studio artists were away on Christmas vacation.  I tidied up the main room, hung some garland, made a huge pot of barbecue using my Mom’s recipe, set up a record player and bought a six pack of cheap beer.

Folks arrived in twos and threes and brought snack food, wine, beer and booze.  There was a keg outside of dubious origin that may have been lifted from the restaurant’s premises.  The party was subdued for the first hour or so, but picked up as more alcohol was consumed and inhibitions began to fall away.

I stepped outside to get away from the noise and burgeoning chaos and talked to a day manager and Debbie, a night shift manager from another store.  Snow was falling lightly in big, puffy flakes and started to accumulate.  Street lights sparkled on the surface of the snow and on the ice in the bare branched trees along the street, and the night became hushed and still.  We heard a jingling sound and muffled clop-clops, and when we turned to look up the street we saw a man wearing a buckskin coat and cowboy hat riding a large white mare.  The horse had a belled blanket on its back.  The man dismounted, tied his horse to a post in a bent chain link fence and helped himself to some beer.

I never learned the cowboy’s identity and never found out why he was riding a horse on Brown Street–the nearest stable was at least 10 miles away–as I was nominated to drive Billy home.  Billy was the son of a friend of the restaurant owner.  He had the eyes and lips of a young girl, seemed very thoughtful but was a little mentally slow.  He appeared to be sensitive, and while he could do the work at the store he often seemed on the verge of tears.  Now he was on the verge of passing out, and I had to help him into my Pinto station wagon.  He lived in Centerville, a wealthy suburb on the far south side, and I had to stop for gas.  Billy began to dry heave when I pulled up to the pump, and I ordered him to open his window and hang his head outside my car.  I was flustered as I filled my tank, and discovered the next day that I had forgotten to put the gas cap back on.

We made it a few miles down the road when Billy threw up on the side of the car. He was rendered speechless for another mile, but was able to give me slurred directions when we got nearer to his home and he began to recognize familiar landmarks. We eventually made it to his neighborhood.  The houses were mini-mansions set far back from the road amidst stands of maple and oak trees.  Billy got out of the car when I slowed to a stop as I tried to decipher his final directions, and he started to stagger through shallow drifts of snow beneath the trees.  I called out to him to try to get him back into the car, but he waved and shouted something unintelligible to me as he stumbled up a driveway that may have belonged to his father.  I waited to see if he got inside as I feared that he might freeze to death in the cold, but he waved me off as he pounded on the front door.

When I returned to the party three fourths of the booze, beer and wine was gone, nearly all the food had been eaten, and folks were scattered all over the house in small clusters.  I could smell spilled beer and pot and the delicate aroma of boozy vomit.  Dee sat in the upstairs hallway holding her stomach and moaning.  She told me that she was in a lot of pain and that she had drunk too much.  I offered to take her to a hospital, but she refused.  She was afraid that her abusive husband would find out that she had gotten sick on Jack Daniels again.  Megan, a dark haired beauty too young to be drinking anything stronger than root beer, told me again and again as she struggled to remain standing that Dee was all right.  Buford was lying on his back a few doors down, and he gurgled to me with a smile on his face when I checked up on him.  Downstairs someone cranked up Molly Hatchet on the stereo, and it was nearly loud enough to drown out the sound of a crash.  I ran downstairs and found an overturned trash can on the floor in the main room.  Beer cans, bottles, paper plates and plastic cups were spilled out in a nasty jumble, and there was broken glass nearby.  A couple rolled around on a sofa a few feet away, and the throes of their passion may have caused one of them to kick over the can.

I retreated outside again, lit a cigar and stared at the stars, and pondered my folly.  The snow stopped and the temperature dropped down to near zero, and the chill did wonders to clear my head and force me to reconsider nearly all my choices in life.

Around 2:00 I went back inside and told everyone to leave.  They staggered out in twos and threes, Dee among them having recovered as predicted by the raven haired Megan, and they wobbled and wavered their separate ways.  I got up at noon the next day and started to gather trash and sweep up party debris inside the house and out in the yard.  (Nothing calls the spirit of the holidays to mind like the sight of a crushed beer can next to a pile of cigarette butts in the snow.)

When I went back to work the next day Buford shook my hand and thanked me for throwing the best party ever.

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.