The Time I Got Fired From Pizza Hut

I worked at Pizza Hut as a waitress the summer after my first year of college.  It was the first of many serving gigs.

Pizza Hut had its fun moments.  Waiting tables, even at a chain pizza place, was much more lucrative than the customer service minimum wage jobs I had prior to that.  People used to go out to eat pizza.  Maybe they still do this?  I don’t.  Pizza is the food you get because you don’t feel like going out.

Pizza Hut in the late 90s was the familiar red-roofed building with a somewhat dark interior, complete with red and white checkered table coverings and personal jukeboxes in each booth.  People had birthday parties for their kids there.  We had a lunch time pizza buffet and people came in on their lunch break.  We had a rudimentary salad bar with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, croutons, a few types of dressing and two types of soup.  You could order a personal pan pizza and it came to you in the pan, which seems hazardous in retrospect.  Those pans were hot as hell.  We sold beer by the mug or pitcher and we a most exciting variety on tap: Bud or Bud Light.  Soda was served in big red clear plastic cups and a big red pitcher for refills. 

Incidents at Pizza Hut that summer:

  • The time we made a Personal Pan Crayon.  We unwrapped a bunch of the crayons that were for kids to color on the paper kid place-mats, put them in the personal pan pizza pan, and sent it through the oven.  This was a truly ill-conceived idea.  We thought we would get an awesome swirl-colored crayon disc.  But pizza ovens are really hot, and wax crayons melt really fast.  So halfway through, they melted over the side of the pan, leaked out into the oven and caused a noxious cloud of smoke that set off the alarms and brought the fire department.  OOPS!
  • The time I passed out while carrying a pan pizza.  I am lucky I did not burn myself.  This was one of 3 times in my life I passed out unexpectedly.  It happened when I was 19, 22, and again at 35.  I have no idea why nor do any of my doctors.
  • The time a table of French-speaking tourists came in and ordered one medium pizza each.  Despite my repeated attempts to explain that a medium pizza could feed 2-3 hungry people, and 3 years of high school French under my belt, they didn’t get it.  When the 8 medium pizzas for 8 people arrived, their shocked faces were unforgettable.

I ended up getting fired after an incident involving an angry man.

It was later in the evening and we were close to closing time.  A very large group came in, something on the order of 20 people.  We seated them and I took their orders.  They were all very friendly, all but one.  The group was mostly women and there was one man.  The man was very grumpy. The good-natured women in the group laughed and joked with me and said to pay him no mind.  But he was very angry and grouchy the entire time.

Because it was late, there was not enough silverware for all of them as it was in the dishwasher or dirty.  I discussed this with the other waiter who was working and we decided to give them plastic utensils.  It’s pizza anyway, barely anyone ever used the utensils except moms cutting up pizza to feel to children too small to eat it as a whole piece.  

Grouchy man did not like this, or anything.  Unfortunately grouchy man was paying and I was glad that the gratuity was included for large tables or I am sure he would have stiffed me.

A few days later the manager fired me.  Grouchy man had called in to complain and the manager had a policy of firing anyone who received a customer complaint.  When I tell the short version of this story, I just say I was fired for giving people plastic silverware at Pizza Hut.

I was 19 and didn’t really care.  I used it as a reason to go to Atlantic City with some friends instead.


The Craziest Thing that Ever Happened at the 7-11

I worked at the 7-11 in the town where I grew up the year after I dropped out of college, in 1998.  That same year my mom was in jail.  I was 19 and my brother was 17.  He had dropped out of high school.  We lived together alone in my mother’s house with various friends and couch-surfers.

Eleven to seven at the seven eleven.  Graveyard shift.

It was a small town and no business was ever really busy.  We had a fair share of customers until about 10 pm, then another small rush at 2 am when the bars let out, then nothing until the first morning customers came in for their coffee, paper and donuts.  So for the most part it was a really chill job and incredibly undemanding.  I smoked cigarettes back then and you were allowed to smoke in the store.  You used to be allowed to smoke everywhere.  I smoked cigarettes behind the counter, read magazines, and generally tried to entertain myself.  One of my best friends, Tegan, worked there with me and we had a ton of fun.  Sometimes I consider night shift at the 7-11 to be the most fun job I ever had.

Slurpees are pretty good, but they’re better with alcohol.  We used to mix whiskey in with the coke slurpee and vodka in with the orange.

Our friends would stop in and hang out after the bars closed sometimes and we’d play scratch off lottery tickets and giggle over porno magazines.  Like I said, it was a small town and there wasn’t much to do.

Insider tip: Do not eat that pump chili they have for the nachos.  Just don’t.

Most of the time it was fun or boring.  A few times it was scary when a customer would be threatening or try to rob you at gun point.  But that didn’t happen very often.

There was a great cast of characters working there.  Honestly, I could write a screenplay based on the lives of these women that would make a television show every bit as compelling as Orange is the New Black, which I adore.

For tonight’s episode, we have me, your lovely author, 19 year old college drop out female too smart to be working at 7-11.

Shelly had to be 6’3″, 250 lb.  She was a great big woman with big black hair, an enormous gap-toothed smile, a loud voice, and a quick temper.  Probably around 35 years old.  You didn’t fuck with Shelly.  She would have made a fantastic bouncer.

Barb was smaller than Shelly but by no means a delicate flower.  She was closer to my size, 5’8 with a large frame.  Barb had poofy fake blond hair and a face that was always visibly tired.  Her husband was an unpleasant bald-headed buck-toothed fellow who I suspect abused her.  They had three boys who looked just like him who were complete terrors.  Barb was nice but also prone to gossip and drama.  She pushed people’s buttons and wasn’t afraid to say what she thought, regardless of the situation.

It was an unusual night because the three of us were in the store at the same time.  It was early evening, around 6pm.  There was extra staff at that time because the shipment came in once a week and it took a lot of work to put it away.  So once a week, three people would be working in the store instead of the usual one or two.

One of the staple goods of any 7-11 is, of course, fresh brewed coffee.  Fresh is really a sort of relative term of course, and sometimes the coffee was less than fresh.  Especially in the evening when very few people drank it and we got lazy about making it.

So here’s how it went down:

A customer comes in and goes to get coffee.  She’s a skinny little lady, maybe 5’3 110 lb, with stringy hair.  Barb says to her “Hey I’m sorry hun, but we haven’t made new coffee in a bit.  That pot probably isn’t very good.  Here let me make a fresh pot for you.” But the customer waves her away and assures her it’s fine.  Barb tries again to tell her it’s going to be really bad but the customer doesn’t care about that.  Okay, whatever, maybe she likes strong coffee.  So the lady pays for her coffee and leaves.

5 minutes later the phone rings and I answer.  It’s the coffee lady.  She is irate because her coffee is really bad.  I apologize to her but she keeps yelling and getting more and more agitated.  I tell her we can give her her money back or another new cup of coffee if she wants.  She hangs up. I tell Barb and Shelly what happened and we start to suspect something is going to happen.  Barb gets angry because she already warned the lady.  “Buncha bull shit!” she says.  Barb and I go behind the counter and Shelly continues putting away the merchandise from the delivery.

A bit later, a truck pulls up.  A man is driving and the coffee lady is the passenger.  She gets out of the car with her cup of coffee and is visibly amped up as she heads for the store entrance.

Barb, in a predictable moment of hot-headedness, goes out from behind the counter and walks toward the coffee lady defiantly.  Then several things happen very quickly.

The coffee lady throws her hot coffee at Barb, lunges at her, and bites her as hard as she can right on her naked upper boob!  Then she grabs Barb’s hair and holds her head and starts kneeing her in the face.  Barb is clawing and kicking and freaking out.

I push the panic button that will bring the police.

Shelly comes rushing over from where she was and tries to restrain the lady.  Then I go over and try to help her and no matter how hard we try we cannot get this lady to let go of Barb’s hair.  Keep in mind, we are three large strong women and she is one tiny frail-looking older woman.  She had to be on crack or meth or something, there’s no other explanation for her superhuman strength.

Shelly and I do manage to restrain her enough to stop her from kicking Barb in the face, but she’s still hanging onto Barb’s hair when the police arrive shortly thereafter.

The cops arrest the woman and Barb goes to the hospital.  Later she has to be tested repeatedly for HIV because of the bodily fluid exchange that happened during the fight.

When the cops question the man who had driven the crackhead coffee lady to the store that evening, he turns out to be the lady’s husband.

“I just drove here, ” he said.  “She’s gonna do what she’s gonna do and there ain’t nothin I can do about it.”


And that’s the craziest thing that ever happened at the 7-11.


Sometimes the Work I Do is Evil

I work for a company.  It does many things.  I am in a supporting role at this company.  It is my job to help communicate what the people at my company do.  I have worked there for almost a decade.

Sometimes the projects I work on are unquestionably evil.

To be clear, I don’t actually believe in “evil” in the biblical sense, what I mean is, not good.  Bad.  Wrong.  Morally objectionable.  I’m an atheist, so I have my own version of morality that’s pretty simplistic: don’t do fucked up things to other people if you can help it. Live and let live.

There are at least two sides to every story and sometimes I am working for the wrong side. This doesn’t generally bother me because both sides need to be heard. Sometimes the wrong side is interesting. If I didn’t do this job, someone else would. Most of the people I work with are what I would consider good people. But the company is basically evil.

Ideally, I would like to do something good or even neutral as a career.  What I do now is serious, sometimes morbid and a lot of times, it helps people I don’t believe deserve help.

I think people underestimate how difficult it is to change jobs.  I am too practical to jump ship without somewhere else to earn money to live.  Doesn’t seem wise.  Finding a job is hard enough while employed, apparently.  At least that has been my experience.  I know employers discriminate against those who don’t already have a job and that is scary.  It’s a ridiculous situation.

We hear a lot about unemployment but sometimes I wonder how many people are stuck in jobs they really don’t like for whatever reason.  Or jobs that treat them poorly.  Or jobs that don’t increase wages to keep up with cost of living increases, resulting in the employee effectively becoming poorer and poorer every year.  We don’t seem to hear much about that.

Instead I hear that I should be grateful just to have a job. In a way, I get what they’re saying.  Being homeless would definitely be much worse.  But in another way it feels like being told to grovel at the feet of your corporate masters for the privilege of them deigning to employ you in the first place. Because you are replaceable.  Never forget it.