My first ever job was at our local Spinner’s Pizza, a now-defunct chain of Dallas-area takeout pizzerias whose most-advertised special was the “Twin Spin.” I can remember their selling mantra (“Two medium pizzas with two toppings for $12.99!”) almost as well as the phone number for the Dallas Times Herald Classifieds.
I applied for the job because my friend Jeff worked there. He was famous for being the first in town to own a CD player car stereo, a cutting-edge innovation at the time along with penicillin and fire.
Also, a few weeks earlier, my father had given me two gifts. The first was my first car, a used 1985 GMC Jimmy 2WD. He neglected to mention that the other gift would be the beginnings of a lifetime with debt, as I had taken my truck off-roading and accidentally blown the flywheel — his immortal words of “I’m sure as hell not going to fix the damn thing!” was enough to encourage my job-hunt. Spinner’s accepted immediately, and unlike my dad they didn’t bother me constantly to shave my mullet.
Like Maggie Simpson and the neighborhood baby with one eyebrow, everyone should have an arch-enemy. My first was Chuck, the owner of the Southlake franchise where I worked. He was famous for constantly telling customers, “Hey, man! I appreciate it!” A stout, balding man with a bushy moustache and an airhead for a wife, that fucker had it in for me from day one. It wasn’t because of anything I did; the dude just didn’t like the cut of my gib.
Chuck often employed his wife Janet to help out — what she failed to bring to the table in intelligence and common-sense was more than made up to him by her big boobs and ability to work without being on the payroll. And although I might be busy taking an order from a customer, Chuck would make me switch jobs with his spouse so that I might better exercise leadership and initiative via scrubbing of the mop buckets. I was saved from ultimate termination only by the stubbornness of the store manager Chris, who kept me around for the sole reason that I was the only one with whom he could talk about his man-crush Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Another of my fellow “pizza artists” was John, a terribly egocentric dude who had a strong stutter, a chip on his shoulder the size of Plymouth Rock, and the unfortunate circumstance to have his ex-girlfriend Stacey as a coworker. Stacey was a delivery driver. He was openly obnoxious about her in front of our coworkers.
While she was out making a run, John was entertaining us with jokes at her expense. Along one of the walls was a giant laminated map detailing our delivery area within Southlake and Grapevine. John’s greatest moment was when he took a dry-erase marker and scrawled across the map in thick letters, “Stacey is a fucking whore.” After the chuckles from his audience died down, John went to work cleaning off his graffiti — but the letters would not come off. It was at this point where he discovered that his writing device was in fact a permanent marker. John was soon scrubbing furiously with a brillo pad, trying to clear his words before Stacey returned. The whole time, he was stuttering violently with each stroke, “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fuck-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fuck!”
We had three telephones setup along the front counter, each with glowing buttons that indicated which line was active or on-hold. One night, when all was quiet and the only sound was that of a mouse dropping its feces on our frozen pizza dough, all three phones suddenly lit up simultaneously. Chuck barked at me to get them placed on hold immediately, and I rushed over to the phone bank. Picking up the first line, I opened with the standard greeting:
“Spinner’s Pizza. Can you hold, please?”
“Thank you, sir”
I clicked the hold button. Its light went from solid to blinking, indicating that the “on-hold” action was successful. Then I answered the next line.
“Spinner’s Pizza. Can you hold, please?”
At this point, I froze as if my body just failed its saving throw against feeblemind. The customer had deviated from standard operating procedure — they were supposed to have said yes! Damn them!
The third phone was still ringing, and Chuck was yelling at me to get them answered now. I gathered myself and asked the customer, “Excuse me?”
“How long are you going to put me on hold?!”
I thought for a second. “Let’s find out,” I said.
Click went the hold button. Off went the flashing light.