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The creative benefits of bad jobs


I like to believe that reality is stranger than fiction, and, consequently, that every aspiring humorist should undertake a thankless job at a fast food establishment. In my experience, the most absurd people will either purchase an old-fashioned burger or two from you or, if you are particularly lucky, will work with you (I say lucky, because the constant exposure will allow for character depth). Case in point, my job at the Beall Avenue Wendy’s this summer:

One day, as I was contemplating sticking my hands in one of the fryers so that I could leave my shift early, one of my co-workers, a somewhat pushy, though quasi-helpful, woman, walked into the Wendy’s dining room. Before I could greet her with one of my practiced smiles, she began to evaluate our condiment and drink stations. With something like disgust on her face and someincomprehensible mutterings dribbling from her lips, she opened the storage cabinets and, displeased with the number of napkins and medium-sized lids available to the public, restocked the items. I thought little of this; in fact, I appreciated that I would not have to go out into the lobby and the refill the items myself. But then she discovered the broom and dustpan leaning against the wall and, with a professional eye and impressive flexibility, scrutinized the floor in front of the counter. She determined it was dirty and began to sweep.

At this point, I began to feel self-critical — perhaps instead of trying to self-inflict with volcanic oil, I should postpone my upcoming date with Netflix and enthusiastically clean the dining room. But then a couple entered the lobby, noticed the woman in a black tank top, boot-cut jeans, and flip-flops passionately sweeping the floor and looked at me quizzically. I broke free from my self- reflection, remembered that my co-worker was currently the most absurd person in Wooster, Ohio and quietly congratulated myself for drawing such distinct lines between my professional and non- professional lives. Meanwhile, I pretended as if I could neither see nor hear her, whose mutterings were becoming increasingly hostile, and gave the flummoxed couple some salads and chili.

I decided I needed to end this impromptu shift for the sake of my customers’ well being. “Hey,” I said. “I can finish sweeping out there, since I’m on the clock and you’re not.” She stopped mid-stroke and turned to me. “No! You can sweep back there!” And then I smelled the delightful fumes of beer (probably Natural Light) as they wafted from her

direction, and everything began to make sense. I could continue, but I believe the point has been made. People are crazy, and people who work

in fast food tend to be a little crazier. Before I could ever think of completing my memoir (tentatively titled Fast Food and Feminist Theory: My Social Consumption), I must evaluate my summer at Wendy’s. And I encourage every aspiring writer to work the job and do the same; your memoir will write itself.

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