Holy crap in a Bundt pan... Due to the recent well-publicized shortage of
amateur websites produced by assholes who consider themselves to be clever, I
have been called into action. My name is Jeff Kay, and I’m an Ugly American living
on the cusp of a mid-life crisis, near Scranton, PA. And I’m here to serve, baby.

The View From Down Here
A journal of sorts, updated every once in a while.

A public service announcement

August 2, 2007

-- As mentioned multiple times, I’ve adopted a local Panera Bread location as my afternoon office. I try to get as much writing done as possible every day, but can’t just sit in this tiny room for hours on end; it makes me want to start talking politics to a can of Del Monte fruit salad.  

So, Panera offers a much-needed change of venue, meat-locker temperatures inside, bottomless Dr. Peppers, and sometimes even a topnotch sandwich and/or bowl of soup. 

It’s something that works for me. At least until dinnertime rolls around and they crank the jazz music so loud it sends all us laptop assholes scrambling for the exit…

Anyway, as the hours continue to pile up at my afternoon office, I’ve made many an observation. And, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a few of them with you now.

-- It’s incredibly obvious when the district manager (who refers to himself as the DM) is in the store. I’ve grown fond of “my” Panera, but it’s often hard to get served there, at least in a timely manner. 

The people behind the cash registers are never in a hurry, and sometimes there’s not even a person behind the cash register. Seriously, I’ve stood at that counter like a retard on several occasions, going “Hello? Hello? …Does anybody work here?”

But when the DM is in town, buddy, they’re all over you like a dingo on a Webelo. They call you sir, and smile, and make suggestions. If I had more energy, and a more severe case of the crazies, I’d just follow that DM around from store to store, and get myself superior customer service on a daily basis.

-- The DM himself often conducts job interviews right out in the dining room, and it’s fun to eavesdrop on somebody else’s anguish.

I chuckle under my breath as poor bastards struggle to sell themselves, and pile on shovelful after shovelful of pure, undiluted horseshit. I hope I don’t sound like that during job interviews, but suspect I might.

And I often want to grab some of those people by the shoulders, give ‘em a shake or two, and scream, “Speak up! You’re mumbling into your shirt collar! What’s wrong with you, boy?!” Or, “Stop talking so much! And for God’s sake, slow it down by about fifty percent. You sound like an escaped mental patient.”  

Sometimes I even make hiring decisions in my head, based on the day’s interview lineup. And the decisions are always very difficult, there were so many strong candidates to choose from, blah blah blah.

-- I’ve never worked in a restaurant, or fast food, or anything like that. But I’ve done my time in retail, and have a feeling they’re closely related.

One thing I notice at Panera, which always triggers a full-body shiver, is the use of some mythical upper management person’s first name and the reaction it causes. 

For instance, I heard the DM talking to somebody on his cell phone one day; I’m sure it was the manager of another store within his district somewhere. And he said, “I just received a call from a very-upset Ron. He had a look at your bakery via closed-circuit television, and was not happy…”

Then he had to spend the next ten minutes apparently trying to talk the guy out of suicide. I’m not joking, it sounded like a man was standing on the ledge of a tall building, and the DM was trying to convince him not to jump. All because a cruller was askew, or whatever.

I remember working at a record store years ago, and “John” was the name we all feared. Every once in a while the store director would come busting out of the backroom and shout, “John’s coming! Quick, you start dusting, and you start straightening! And you, get out the floor buffer. And you over there, set up an ironing board and start pressing everyone’s clothes!!”

The mythical one-name creature, who strikes fear in the heart of otherwise reasonable men, is something that transcends industry and pay-grade. But it’s the worst in a retail setting and, apparently, food service. Ya know?

And what’s the deal with a home office weasel being able to pull up some guy’s “bakery” in Dog Balls, Pennsylvania, or wherever, “via closed circuit television?” How’d you like to work under those conditions? Sweet sainted mother of Hoover Heever!

-- There’s also a person who may or may not be semi-retarded, that continuously cleans the dining room. This is a constant, as well. A few days ago I watched him walk up to a woman enjoying a salad, and ask if she was going to eat her black olive. When she said yes, he just walked away.

I stopped going to a particular McDonald’s a few years ago because of a person like that. He always wanted to talk to the customers, usually about sports or politics. I’d see him approaching in my peripheral vision, and my whole body would tense-up. 

Unless he’d find a victim before he got to me, I’d then get to listen to him ramble on about college football, or how bad Bush sucks, for the duration of my Big Mac meal. And I can’t have that.

I was in there recently, literally years after the fact, and the dude is still an employee, making people avoid eye-contact and cower behind their fry boxes. And it sounded like he was spewing some kind of conspiracy theory about 9/11.

-- If you listen to news broadcasts, or talking heads on television, American are “very concerned” about many things. You know, stuff like housing prices, interest rates, the state of the economy, etc. 

But if you sit quietly in a Panera Bread and listen to what Americans seem to really be concerned about, you’ll find that it’s none of those things. No, they’re just bitching about assholes at work, and some run-in they had with a cashier at Target, or the party they attended Saturday night. 

Not once, during my entire afternoon office career, have I heard a person voice their concern about interest rates across the surface of a Hot Panini. 

You know what I’m starting to think? I’m starting to think that many people on television are full of shit. I know it’s radical, but that thought has recently crossed my mind.

-- And don’t even get me started on thirty year old “assistant managers” flirting with their teenage cashiers… I’ve been watching that happen from my earliest working days. 

In fact, when I was at a grocery store called Fas-Chek, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it was widely known that one of the assistant managers had, and I quote the other assistant managers, “his pecker in a checker.”

Based on my research, not much has changed during the past twenty-five years. At least where peckers and checkers are concerned…

And that’s all I have for you today, my friends.

This is Jeff Kay reporting.


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01/17/12 12:14 PM

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