Friday, October 24, 2008


Cynical Chris' Question of the Day

Our dear friend Cynical Chris posed a QOTD last Thursday "What was your first job?" and received many answers because he has many readers.

My first job was working day care at our church. Then it was "Chip Shots Golf Photography" which was me taking pics of golfers swing and then a group shot, passing the film to a runner who got the pics developed, then we would put an individual pic and a group pic in a book type frame and sell it to the golfers. We mostly worked organized tournaments but the thing I remember most (aside from how big a scam and easy it was) was that on the way to my interview I wasn't paying attention and was headed towards a redlight at 40 mph in my turbo minivan. I slam on the brakes and spin my way into the intersection. Luckily it was a large interstate intersection so I had enough room to back up and wait for the light while people stared and drove around me.

My favorite job was room service at the Sheraton Civic Center. Lots of great stories which I will share later.

But the best response came from Cynical Chris' reader Johnny. Enjoy:

I worked at Flavorland in the Clifton Country Mall (Clifton Park, NY) from ‘82-’85. It was taken over by Friendly’s around ‘84, if I recall correctly. The menu was pretty much a variation of the Friendly’s menu, anyway, so it wasn’t like it was a hard transition for us. We hated our new Friendly’s overlords, and most of us left or got fired within a year. Gonna see miss Liza, gonna go to Mississippi.

I started working there nights doing the dishes, then ended up as a fry cook (insert joke here), then on the rest of the line. Fabulous job. Used to take the garbage out at night with the other dishwasher and do whip-its from all the whipped cream empties we saved during the shift, or get high.

Friday nights were fish-fry night. Just bin after bin of haddock that you’d drench in flour, drown in a batter and heave into the fry-o-lator. Your hands would get so caked with batter that you’d be able to pull out the fried fish with your bare hands. Edible gloves dripping with scalding hot grease.

We had gloriously ugly red polo shirts with a yellow smiling sun over one breast. I would kill for one of those shirts now. You’d get a brown stain across the front where you’d rub up against the line cutting board or the dishwasher if you worked there long enough. Sure, you’d have an apron on over it but the grime would just seep right through, giving you that special stain that old, fat mechanics have on all their shirts. Sixteen year old kids with brown stains over distant-future beer guts.

One of the most heinous jobs you’d get stuck with was emptying the grease trap. In the back room where you’d toss the garbage and store the spent fryer oil was a metal trap door in the floor. Comparing it to the opening to Hell wouldn’t be hyperbole. You’d have to open the metal door, sometimes slippery with grease, and empty out the pit with a plastic sour cream tub into a mayonnaise bucket double-lined with clear plastic garbage bags. Why we used clear bags I’ll never understand, because if any of you have seen restaurant waste its really not something you’d want the public to see.

Anyway, all the Flavorland restaurant sinks emptied into a single sewer line. Grease floats, so the sewage would empty into the trap, the grease would float and the water-based shit would drain out from below this raft of grease, I guess into the Clifton Park sewer line. Six-hundred miles to the west of Clifton Park, and only six years earlier the Feds shut down and evacuated Love Canal. “We are breeding..monsters..”

So you’d get all this grease into four or five of these giant mayonnaise buckets lined with bags, and then you’d have to truck this crap through the mall to the other damn side of the mall where the dumpsters were. These were heavy-ass bags of grease and sewage and we were just skinny little punk dishwashers, either stoned or going mental on whip-its. The Man wanted the mayonnaise buckets back, so you’d sort of hoist the bags up to you shoulder like an olympic dead-lifter, then kind of heave/shot-put them up over the side of the dumpster. Sometimes you’d miss-heave and the bag would catch on the side of the dumpster, rip open and dump this sludge all over the place. Sometimes you’d heave and your arm would punch right through the bag covering you with sludge. In the 80s, minimum wage was $3.15.

The major winter-time draw at CCM at that time was the Boat Show. A great week for the Mall, but pretty much a mall employee’s Vietnam. We’d have people lined up out the doors wating for booths. These were nightmare shifts for the bussers/dishwashers and the fry cook. Really intense shifts that you’d hope wouldn’t go by too fast because when it ended you’d be cleaning up and doing the grease trap.

One bizarre phenomenon endemic to these family restaurants is the booth vomit. Kids are going to vomit. They’re kids. They eat too much, get too excited and puke. But, they never puke onto the table. They always jam their heads under the booth table and puke down there. So, the poor dishwasher has to go into this puke-cave with a dust pan, a bucket and a roll of paper towels, clean up the mess without puking himself, put the whole mess into a clear plastic garbage bag and carry it through the restaurant.


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