August 28th, 2003

A Short Story

By Jarrett

When I was sixteen my parents made me get a job at the McDonald's in west Dover, Delaware. You know, the one on Forrest Avenue. It was kind of like being sold into slave labor, but at least I did get to take home an impressive $4.25 for every hour toiling away at that awful place. But after a few months they put me in the first drive through window, and I managed to stick it out for more than a year and half.

So, I'd take the orders over the crappy speaker, I'd take the cash, I'd send them on to the next window. It was the only position in the whole restaurant that didn't require handling food or drinks, so it was a pretty good deal.

But my schedule was pretty hectic. Through my entire senior year of high school I was working about 30 hours a week. On the weekends I usually worked right up until closing at midnight.

Anyway, I remember this one shift at McDonald's that was grossly understaffed. I'm not sure if the scheduling was messed up or if everyone called in sick, but it turned out that for the last hour the store was open, I was the only employee there aside from the manager, and the manager from the swing shift who was nice enough to stick around to help. Well, if you haven't worked fast food before, I'll tell you there is a lot to do in that last hour before closing. The restaurant shifts into a whole different mode -- all the equipment has to be shut down, disassembled, cleaned, all while still serving food. So we were each doing four or five different jobs. I get relegated to the sink doing all of the dish washing, which is no small task. At the same time I was still taking orders as they came through the drive through, then ringing them up, then serving them their order. Thankfully it wasn't too busy, so I was able to concentrate on getting everything cleaned up in the back.

So I'm washing dishes with my little headset on and it chimes in as a car pulls up to the menu speaker. I take their order -- a couple of value meals with Cokes -- as I finish up the dishes I'm working on and tell them to just drive around for their total. I dry my hands and rush back to the window to type their order into the computer. Well as it turns out, when you are doing four or five people's tasks it's really easy to lose track of time. The computer screen was blank except for the words RESTAURANT CLOSED centered succinctly in the display. I looked at the clock, and it was past 12:15. I peeked into the kitchen and all the food had been thrown out. Then the car pulls up with a gentleman ready to give me some money I can't ring up in order to purchase food I ain't got.

I was only sixteen. I panicked. I probably said something like, "Uh, sorry, but we're closed now. You should try Hardee's across the way. Their drive through is open twenty-four hours." The guy probably thought that I decided to close the restaurant between the intervals of him placing his order and driving around to pay. He was not too happy. He started to call me names, but the conversation was cut short by a convenient set of automatic sliding windows that close abruptly as you move a couple inches away from the window.

After all it was fifteen minutes past the end of my shift. I clocked out and went home.

The End