There is a phrase that goes something like, “The last straw that broke the camel’s back.” In certain situations, there is one moment where everything crumbles. Two decades ago, the last straw in our story was a lazy manager. Coupled with angry customers, a strawberry milkshake, and our determined storyteller, we’ve got a crazy night at a fast-food chain.
While you may not think it could be that wild (how wild can fast food places get anyways, right?), I invite you to read ahead. Our main character, we’ll call him “Jack,” worked at this fast-food chain and this was his first job. Jack was 17 and promoted to Team Leader! Jack was a hard worker, but since he was so young he was told he would have to wait for higher promotions. Jack worked “the evening shift, which started at 4:00 pm and ended at 12:00 am.” Now, since Jack couldn’t be made “manager,” the store had to find a replacement evening manager when theirs was sent to bigger and better things. The restaurant hired a new evening manager. This is the beginning of the end.
This new manager, Jack called her “Karen,” trained for two weeks to learn how to fulfill the evening manager position. After those two weeks, Karen was now let loose to assume her role. Now Jack, being the diligent worker he was, would usually “get in around 30 minutes early.” Being the sort-of second in charge, Jack had the job to “make a position chart to tell the workers where they were working that night.” This was basically a guide for what job each person would be doing. After having completed the chart Jack was supposed to get it checked by the manager so they could approve and put it up.
When Jack got into work, he saw a co-worker, “Jen,” was in early for her night shift and was “sitting in the lobby crying and being consoled by other employees.” She had a “rough home life” and had just had a blowout with her mom and “had just been kicked out.” Jack was diplomatic and calm. He asked if she would like to have the night off. Jen said no, “she [needed] the money.” (Jen is important by the way!)
After that offputting start to the night, Jack settled into his routine. Don’t you fret, there’s more to come! This is only the tip of this greasy iceberg.
Jack began his duties and made the position chart. He placed each person in the respective places to guarantee the night would go by smoothly. Jen was placed at a fryer station so she would have less stress on her. Karen was placed at the drive-through register. Jack had an excellent reason for doing this! If you have never worked in the food industry before, fear not, everything will make sense soon.
Jack stated a few reasons why Karen should be placed at the drive-through register. The manager would have “control over the money,” during the shift, the manager will get to “interact with customers,” and the manager would have “the least amount of responsibilities as far as clean up.” Alright Jack, sounds like a great plan! But there was one problem. Where was the regular night manager? Oh no, it finally hit him, “this would be Karen’s first night alone.” Jack said the night would be, “a trial by fire kind of night.” Oh Jack, how did you know?
Deep breath here folks. The day manager was lingering, so Jack was able to get a confirmation on the position chart. “Karen can sign it when she gets in,” Jack was told.
It was 10 minutes before the shift would start, and Karen was nowhere to be seen. Right as Jack was putting up the chart, there she appeared without acknowledging anyone she passed. She then replaced Jack’s chart with a new one. No biggie right? Wrong. Jen was now supposed to be at the drive-through and “Karen [was] working, well nothing.” Karen had placed another employee at two separate positions for the night, while she did not even put her name onto the chart at all. This called for action. How could the restaurant operate like this? Jack went to the source, where Karen and the day manager were. Jack shared his concern, as she was not listed and another employee is listed twice. Karen said her chart was correct because “how is she supposed to be in charge if she’s in a position?” Jack and the day manager were flabbergasted.
After they tried to persuade her otherwise, Karen stated, “I have six years of management experience and I have never needed to fill a position to get the job done. Things are gonna change around here. We do things my way now.”
Karen’s way or the highway, I guess. How bad could it be right? Jack knew this was a ploy so Karen could just sit and do nothing. She had been trained and knew why things were the way they were. Alas, here we are. Jack told Karen she would have to make sure people know what was about to happen. “She gave an exasperated sigh,” and begrudgingly went to the front. At this point, Jack and the day manager were worried, but the store manager said Karen would be in charge. “She makes the decisions.” Well, let’s see how that went! As Jack so wonderfully put it, “the shift proceeded to implode in a spectacular fashion.”
Now that the shift had started, it hit the fan, if you know what I mean. The person assigned to two positions was now so bogged down “orders were taking three times as long to get out.” The drive-through line was all the way to Timbuktu, and the customers were pushing Jen’s buttons. The order time went up and up, and customer patience went down and down. The button-pushers were blaming Jen, becoming increasingly frustrated and irate. All the while Karen is nowhere to be seen. Jack couldn’t stand it anymore and went to find her. Low and behold, there she was. Jack found Karen “watching a portable TV,” and tried to tell her about the chaos unfolding upfront.
However, Karen couldn’t be bothered with such trivial matters and shooed Jack back to the front, telling him to “get back on the line, do [his] job, and stop bothering [her].” Jack held his tongue and walked back to his position. Karen’s way or the highway remember? It was only half an hour later when a customer started berating Jen about her wait time. “She [called] Jen worthless.” Jen, having had a terrible, no-good, awful day, takes a nearby strawberry shake and “chucked it at the lady.”
Jack said the restaurant went dead silent. Then the angry shouting ensued. Obviously, the lady came in hollering about wanting to see a manager. Jen had walked away from the window, so Jack went to find Karen, who was not very happy to see him. Little did she know what disaster was waiting for her when she got her lazy self to the front.
When Jack got back to the front, the customer looked ready to explode and said, “I want that girl fired!” Once Jen came back in the line of sight, the woman went off on her. Jen had trouble keeping her composer and just fell apart. That was it, Jack wouldn’t stand around anymore. He told Jen, “Just quit. You’re better than this job. And you can do better.” So that is exactly what Jen did. She quit and walked out with a smile aimed at Jack. That was when Karen showed even more of her true colors.
Karen began to rant about Jen to the customer, blaming Jen for everything, and said good riddance as Jen was “a terrible employee.” Suddenly Jack was overcome with a sense of self-worth and stated, “The only terrible employee here is you.” He walked out, along with other employees. This next part makes me so happy. All the employees who had just quit decided to go to IHOP and relish in the fact that they were no longer trapped with Karen. Even though they had all just quit and were jobless, they still could enjoy this night out because they would not have to deal with Karen again. Almost.
The following day, the store manager called Jack. Jack had to explain what went down the night before. He learned that after they left, the night had not gone well for Karen, who accused Jen and Jack of a pre-meditated uprising against her. She said everything was their fault and that they did it all deliberately! Jack gave his side of the story and received a call again later that day. Karen had been let go and the store manager wanted Jack to come back. However, Jen wouldn’t be able to get her job back because of her involvement in the evening’s chaos. So Jack refused her offer, he said, “My price was Jen getting her job back.” And although the store manager tried to convince Jack to come back, he stood his ground. Jack is one-of-a-kind. Even when everything was falling apart around him, he did not flinch. He stood up for himself and those around him. If you’re reading this, you are better than that job Jack! How insane. We started at the beginning of a night shift at a fast-food restaurant. We ended with a call and now we are here! Now that may be the end of this tale, but there is one last piece that should warm your hearts no matter how cold they may be. Jack ended his story asking if the readers wondered what happened to Jen. Well, readers, he married her and they now have four kids together. I can feel the tears.
That’s a “Happily Ever After” if I ever read one.