Surviving a cheesy job

by Chris Blakemore, Graphics Specialist

Enduring a part-time job while being a full-time student is a daunting task. My undergraduate career was once a hybrid of feigning interest in political science lectures and manhandling pizza dough on weekends. For four years at California State University, Bakersfield, I spent about thirty hours per week donning a fashionable apron/hairnet ensemble at a middling local restaurant called The Pizza Market. Although the work was hot and I always wound up smelling like a homeless Chef Boyardee by the end of my shift, the memories are unforgettable.

I was just a fragile high school kid when The Pizza Market hired me as a line cook. That fragility was short-lived, however, as the first few weeks of my employment consisted of my manager, who had the demeanor of a drill sergeant on steroids, verbally assaulting the shyness out of my soul. Phrases such as “You’re stupid, you’re ugly, and nobody likes you” come to mind. This negative reinforcement, while seemingly abusive, was always delivered with tongue-in-cheek. At least, I think that’s what was in his cheek. It could have been a wad of Red Man.

After weeks of abuse, my only defense to his attacks was to craft clever comebacks that were sharper than Penelope Cruz’s nose. Years of Jerky Boys albums and Adam Sandler movies had laid the foundation for a ripe vocabulary of comedy, so one day I decided to let my volcano of sarcasm erupt in a magnificent display of witty lava. I told him I was going to feed his genitals to my dog. Okay, so it wasn’t witty, but it was effective. Once he discovered I was no longer an easy target, a mutual respect was born.

Even after that manager left for another job, I still maintained the sarcasm that helped me survive the early months. It was the only way I could deal with the number of characters who would call themselves my co-workers during my tenure. If I had stayed timid and been forced to deal with people like the suspender-wearing Vietnam vet who would slit your throat with an olive can lid at the drop of a hat, I’d still be in therapy.

Representing the polar opposite of timidity, the delivery drivers were a case study in lunacy. They would often argue over long-distance deliveries, because longer routes meant bigger tips, and one memorable bout was between two soldiers of the white trash brigade. The fisticuffs ensued over who was going to take a delivery to the outskirts of Bakersfield with the hopes of earning an extra three dollars. You know your life isn’t going well when you’re willing to risk a broken jaw and jail time over single-digit amounts of cash. It’s not exactly a king’s ransom. Cooler heads prevailed and no punches were thrown, but the image of those two standing beer gut to beer gut like two hillbilly sumo wrestlers is forever burned into my memory.

Epitomizing the art of gullibility, the girls who worked the front counter were a rare breed. Most of them tended to believe anything I said when it came to job duties, and I would frequently exploit their naivety by playing pranks. My favorite trick was to have them water the plants around the restaurant. It usually took them about eight minutes to realize the plants were fake, and about nine minutes for me to laugh at them. Entertaining oneself through the humiliation of others is a great remedy for a lackluster job.

Alas, the monotonous life of pulling legs and slinging pepperoni eventually came to an end, but not without controversy. Most people would just write a standard two-week notice, give it to their boss, and extend their middle finger as they drove off in their mom’s minivan, but not me. Like Heidi Klum on a date, I had to go out in spectacular fashion. For weeks, I crafted my notice like a fine artist sculpting a statue, writing down recollections that would make a health inspector cringe. Once I had laid down four years worth of tomato sauce memories and cheesy jokes, the monster that stared back at me was a ten-page masterpiece known simply as, “The Notice.”

Seeking to avoid the backlash that was bound to ensue, I handed it to my manager and hightailed it out of there faster than an Oakland Raiders fan running from the cops. Most who read it were thoroughly amused, save for one sweat pants-wearing owner. I wasn’t there to see it, but witnesses said his reaction was comparable to that of a miniature Incredible Hulk. To be fair, reading ten pages about sub-standard cleaning rituals and pool table fornication would tend to make a man angry.

Despite all the shenanigans, I still look back fondly on my time at The Pizza Market. While the work itself was miserable, my co-workers made it all worthwhile. Even though more than a decade has passed and we’re all busy with our own lives, we can always look back on those times and laugh, because no one else will ever quite understand what we experienced. From the short-tempered drivers to the plant-watering front girls, these are friendships and memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Not even for an extra three dollars.