This week we've asked some of our favorite writers to share tales of some of their favorite — and least-favorite — food workplace memories. Let's call the series "Forked." Today we begin with Amy Young's Burger King summer.
One thing I could count on growing up was that before I walked out the door to any new experience – a date, dinner at someone’s house, holiday gatherings – my mom wasn’t about to let the door hit me in the ass without squeezing in her favorite reminder:
“Watch your mouth!”
Usually it was enforced with, “It’s that mouth that always gets you in trouble,” but sometimes she spared me. I’m not sure what her deciding factor was. Either way, I got the point so hard that it never failed to cause a combo eyeroll and growl as I dashed away.
When she woke me up from a deep, tired teenager nap to tell me that it was Brenda Royce calling from Burger King about the job, it probably didn’t help that I was so startled that I screamed. My mom looked horrified by the outburst, but Brenda was not concerned. Apparently inappropriate screams don’t put your ability to operate a flame-broiler in question, so Brenda did indeed offer me the job. I went by the next day to pick up my uniform. My rust-colored corduroy and poly blend uniform. Hot and flammable wardrobing. For my summer job. At Burger King.
My mouth was of major concern in this situation, as Brenda Royce’s mother was one of my mom’s oldest friends. I could tell my reassurances went to the wind as she spent the week before I started working pursing her lips and shaking her head.
I was excited to get some money, sure, but truth be told, the real reason I wanted the job was because Todd Reynolds worked there. There was another Todd Reynolds who went to my high school, but he didn’t touch the epic status of the Todd Reynolds I wanted to be around. One Todd was a nice guy I knew from orchestra. The other was a brooder who supposedly spray-painted the side of his parents’ house with the title words from the Pink Floyd song “Wish You Were Here” before running away for one full month.
Being around him was everything I knew it would be. He was snappy and sarcastic. He had great taste in music. He fucking hated “The Man,” and goddamn, the eyelashes. I couldn’t have hidden that crush with a gun to my head. So, when coworkers started asking, I used the only tool I could think of to take the heat off: My big mouth. I lied.
And I went big with it. Though I didn’t come out and say it, I alluded to being involved with “someone with a very green Impala.” That car only belonged to one person – Pat Morello – and, like the cool Todd Reynolds, Pat was known across all four high schools in town. What he wasn’t known for, however, was having so much as a clue that I existed.
It somehow seemed safe.
One mid-July day, I had my first shift on the outside cash register, a midpoint between the ordering screen and the pick-up window. Red and sweaty from the sun and my clothes, I saw Pat’s smooth ride coming around the corner. He gave his order and pulled up to pay me. Because he was only a fake crush, we had a basic transaction and then my “boyfriend” rolled on to get his food; no one was the wiser. Instead of handing him a bag, though, I saw my co-worker send him off to the spot where people had to wait for food that wasn’t at the ready.
A few minutes later, the co-worker stuck her head out the window and called me over.
“Here’s your boy’s food and milkshake. I figured you’d want to deliver it.”
Still no reason to worry. I walked the bag and drink over to the car. Pat was looking at his tapes and stopped to get the food. Feeling a little nervous, when he reached for the drink I had a weird body and brain explosion where I tried to ask him about the music and hand him the shake at the same time. In what happened super-fast but seemed like a surreally slow period, I watched the milkshake, size large, slip from my hand. As it teetered down, the cap got caught on the steering wheel and the top popped off.
And there it all was, on Pat Morello’s lap. The ice cream, the whipped cream, and the fucking cherry. I was trying to apologize as he was spouting some “fucks,” “goddammits,” and then a final “MOVE,” as he ran into the restaurant to get some tools to clean himself.
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When he ran to the counter, everyone wanted to know what happened. “That girl spilled shit all over me,” is what happened. “That girl?” “Your girlfriend, Amy?” were among the replies.
He cleared that tale up right quick, much to my about-to-puke level embarrassment. Accidents happen, so I didn’t get into work trouble. I got into mouth trouble. While wearing cords. And though I thought all year that at least my mom didn’t know about it, we went to our neighbor’s graduation that year – same class as Pat Morello – and when Pat got called up to get his diploma, Mom leaned over and said, “Oh look, your boyfriend.”
About the artist: A self-annointed "action figure anthropologist," Danny Neumann has assigned himself the task of photographing parvusplasticus populus [little plastic people] in their natural environments. Employing subtle variations in pose and juxtaposition, he tries hard to blur the lines between reality and fiction, hoping to bring action figures to life, recreating the magical way toys are seen through the eyes of a child. Catch up with him at cantinadan.com.
About the toys: Between 1974 and 1977 Playskool produced a charming series of "Familiar Places" playsets. Not to be confused with Fisher Price "Little People", these 2-inch figures were square and nicknamed "Blockheads". The playsets enabled them to visit a McDonald's restaurant, a Holiday Inn, a Texaco gas station, a national park — and now, this Chow Bella series.