Mamma Mia!

January 23, 2013
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Your first high school job. It’s something that those who have not reached it yet might look forward to, something that those living it might dread, and something that those who are past it remember and probably laugh at. Or cry. Or curse resentfully.

Anyway, I’ve only experienced one job during my high school years, and that’s at an Italian restaurant working with take-out orders. One of the first things that was a new experience to me was that you get paid. My first paycheck was around $80 for one week but I felt like nothing short of a millionaire. Coworkers complained, saying the pay wasn’t enough but turning the question to me, I couldn’t help but respond with “I think the pay is great!” (insert dorky smile here).

Bringing me to something else: coworkers. Working with people for long hours a couple days a week is something one must grow accustomed to. Most of my coworkers are college students, which one might not think is a big deal until your first day when the questions skip from, “Do you play a sport” or “What’s your favorite band” to “Are you a virgin?!” Of course you try to answer as honestly as possible without being “uncool,” but it’s hard when you can tell that each one of your answers is setting off alarms in their heads while they reply with the casual, “Oh…”

But you grow accustomed to it, and it just becomes part of the usual routine, right between cutting pizza and mopping the floor. I realized this the other day while I was cleaning; one of my coworkers, Gary, started snickering. I turned around, confused, saying “What’s so funny?” and he proceeded to tell me a story that went something like this: “So last night, me and Makayla (another coworker) were at a bar and she turns to me and says, ‘Have you ever stared at Kiersten’s butt?’ and I was like, ‘Umm, no?’ and she was like “Well, she has a really nice butt! But I didn’t want to tell her because I thought that would be awkward’ and I was like ‘I’m toooootally telling her that at work tomorrow.’”
Picture my face by the end of the story: a blend of shocked, flattered, and confused yet instead of doing the fake laugh and changing the subject I reply, “Really?! That’s so nice! I’ll have to tell her I said thank you!!”
Another thing many people don’t realize when you start a job is that your name changes. Standing at the counter waiting for customers, suddenly I hear someone saying, “Kierst! Kierst! Kierst!” finally I turn around, startled to find that the person is talking to me. The reason for the nickname? “Your name is just too many syllables to say so I shortened it.”

Besides just making you feel uncomfortable, coworkers can actually make you laugh. Picture a late night: it’s five minutes before closing and the restaurant is dead. No phone calls, no customers, I wouldn’t be surprised if a tumbleweed rolled across the tile floor. All of a sudden I hear the phone ring cut through the silence and as I answer I’m expecting a wrong number, or maybe the boss’s wife but there is a man on the other end saying he wants to place an order for five large pizzas. Actually, make that five large Super Works pizzas. And extra sausage. Extra thick dough. I say “Okay…” slowly as I write it all down and my boss looks over my shoulder and furrows his brow, “Get their phone number” he whispers hoarsely to me, thinking it’s probably a prank. But the man gives me his number that matches the caller ID and says his name is “Mmmm…Mike!” At this point, my boss grabs the phone and inquiringly says “Hello?” but mysteriously the man has hung up. A few seconds later, one of the young chefs, Marcel, comes to the front counter where the phones are (a peculiar occurrence for a chef who usually stays in the kitchen) and asks, “You know that big order for five Super Works?......that was me!” with a big grin on his face, dimples in his cheeks, proud of his prank but terrified of what the ‘head-honcho’ is going to say. He explains how he made it all up on the spot, and almost said his own name for the order but then caught himself. But luckily Marcel doesn’t get the chastisement coming his way because I burst out laughing hysterically and everyone breaks into snickers.
So coworkers can be pretty cool too.

Next to the coworker figure is the boss figure. Which frankly to me is much more frightening. Especially when your boss (or bosses in my case) are 100% feisty Italian. Don’t get me wrong, I’m Italian and I like my bosses, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had moments when I just want to pee my pants in a moment of a hot flash of Italian anger. The voice level at work oddly seems to be a few decibels louder. Instead of “Hi, how are you?” when you walk in the door, you’re greeted with “HOW YOU DOIN’?”
Anyway, the worst thing you can do at an Italian restaurant is mess up an order on the phone. And I mean really mess it up. I answered the phone once and a woman wanted to order manicotti, a typical Italian pasta dish found at many restaurants. I wasn’t positive we had manicotti, but the menu is like a novel so I assumed (my first mistake) that we must have manicotti!
I could not have been more wrong. I heard “WHAT IS THIS? WE DON’T MAKE MANICCOTTI! WHAT AM I GOING TO GIVE THIS CUSTOMER? WHO DID THIS?” from the kitchen, which translated in my head is, “Whoever committed this grave offence will DIE tonight.” Of course, instead of just substituting the mistake with stuffed shells or baked ravioli (because honestly, all Italian dishes are basically carbs, sauce, and cheese, hate to break it to anyone who hasn’t had that epiphany yet), it has to be a big crisis, like a live Italian soap opera in the kitchen. The irony? The customer didn’t even understand the difference when they were told there was a mistake. I think they really wanted baked ravioli all along. They can thank me.
But truly, the BEST part about working a high school job at an Italian restaurant is getting to deal with the public. If I have learned one lesson from work it is this: people are crazy. Furthermore, I have classified these customers into groups of craziness, based on their remarks and demands:
Customer #1: The “Bad Experience

This customer has obviously had some sort of bad experience before, therefore must make sure that their demands and requests are well understood, even when you have assured them ten times that it is underlined, highlighted, and bolded on the food ticket. Example, customer demands NO DAIRY on any of his pizza. And he means NO DAIRY as in NO DAIRY. Then he proceeds to ask for my name and I don’t understand why but I cautiously says it really slow: “Kiiieerrstenn…..?” and he responds with, “Well, Christian-Kersten-Kiersten- Whatever your name is, if I come and this pizza is wrong I am going to hold you personably responsible for the mistake.” The only way to respond to such threat: “Oky doky! See you in twenty minutes!”
Customer #2: The Declined Card

This customer already can’t stand to hand you his or her credit card because they had to wait thirty minutes for their food just like everyone else in the restaurant and did not receive a discount for the wait, which in their mind is just completely inconceivable. Doesn’t the cashier always give out discounts for no reason at all? Anyway, when you proceed to inform them that their card is declined, be sure to take precaution of an increased intensity of glaring, loud swearing, and the rise of dust as he or she storms out of the restaurant to their car to get another credit card.
Customer #3: “You Know, I Have Kids At Home”

Okay. I understand you have kids at home. Does that mean I can just magically make your food appear because you decided to share this information with me? No, it doesn’t. And honestly, I don’t care. You could have ordered your food earlier or brought your children with you if you were really that concerned.
Customer #4: Cook It Faster Than Is Realistically Possible

This customer walks in already with an attitude. He places his order and although he is the only customer and the wait time is only 15 minutes, he feels the need to tell me, “Well, I need it faster than that, I mean as soon as possible.” My mental reaction to this is “DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE SUPERPOWERS TO ZAP YOUR FOOD WITH?” but instead calmly respond, “Yes, I will let them know.”
Customer #5: The Rude Customer

This customer feels the need to say with sass, “Are you just going to leave me standing here all day or are you going to check me out?” when there are twenty people in front of him and twenty people behind him in line. Other examples include those who call you stupid, retarded or other derogatory names on the phone because you cannot understand their complicated order, those who yell to their other family members on the phone as if they aren’t talking directly into your ear, those who put you on hold when they are the customer, and those who throw money or their credit card at you as if you are not worthy of being handed the money in a civilized manner. For anyone who has done this, I would like to inform you that I am completely capable of receiving money in my hands, you do not have to put it on the table for me to pick up like a dog picking up a treat.
Customer #6: The Clueless Customer

For example, customer calls and wants a large pizza with every topping on one half. When asked if she means a Super Works pizza she replies no, she wants every topping that we have on one half. This includes various meats, vegetables, pineapple, spices, and cheeses. And after ten minutes of confusion and difficulties she realizes that she actually meant a Super Works pizza.
Customer #7: The Weird Customer Who Judges You For Being Weird

Customer walks in and says “It smells like toasted marshmallows outside!” I respond with “Really? Well if there are toasted marshmallows, I want one!” and she gives me a confused look, as if I’m the weird one. True story.
Customer #8: The Stickler Tipper

This customer would not leave any money for you, even if you gave them 99 cents in pennies. Do you really need that nickel? You can’t leave me one stinkin’ dollar for cutting all ten of your pizzas, scooping seven quarts of Italian ice, and bagging four salads? Do you see the sweat dripping from my forehead?
Customer #9: The Bad Phone Connection Who Blames You For Messing Up Their Order

Need I say more?
Customer #10: The Just Plain Crazy Customer

For example: Our BBQ chicken pizza comes with bacon on top, clearly typed on the menu. A woman who ordered this pizza came back to the restaurant screaming and irate because she was convinced that we, the workers, put bacon on her pizza because we knew she was Jewish and that she could not eat bacon. Yes, you heard that correctly. But instead of showing her concern politely or just asking for a refund or free item, she decided it was better to get into a brawl with the owners, complete with screaming, yelling, and angry face contortions. She left the restaurant furious, vowing never to come back while he told her that he never wanted to see her enter his restaurant ever again.

This concludes my compilation of the ten worst customers I have encountered thus far in my career at my high school job. And I look forward to the many, many people that await me in my future.

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