Remember when you were a teenager and couldn’t wait to get a job? Money, independence, and turning 16 couldn’t come fast enough. As much as I loved volunteering, my nonexistent income wasn’t going to pay a car payment, gas, or insurance.
Weeks before turning 16, I started submitting applications to businesses close to home. So, when I received a phone call for an interview at Wendy’s, I was thrilled. At the same time, I was nervous because I had never interviewed for a job before. On the day of the interview, arriving ahead of time, I nervously awaited my pending interview. Luckily, I aced it, was hired, and couldn’t wait to start working.
After completing my paperwork and picking up my uniform, an orange and white striped zip-up smock with a brown polyester apron and brown pants, I was ready and excited to become a Wendy’s employee.
My first assignment was the condiment station, the area where we “dressed” the burgers and chicken sandwiches. Bun, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onions, and pickles, then wrap. Having mastered that station, I advanced to the fry station, where I learned how to drop fries and chicken breasts into the hot oil and work the timer to ensure perfect crispiness. Then on to front-end cashier/order taker. At first, I was a little apprehensive. Calling out the order into a microphone while taking it was difficult for me due to my shyness. But within hours, I was taking orders and calling them out with ease.
As a cashier, my ability to multitask was not only an asset but also a requirement. In addition to taking the order, calling it out, and entering each order into the cash register, I also had to collect the payment and give change, all while doing it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
After I mastered taking orders and running the cash register in front of the restaurant, I trained to work the drive-thru. Ultimately, I was able to master this job as well.
As the front-end cashier, I enjoyed meeting and chatting with my customers. Some would become regular customers, allowing me to get to know them or at least what they ordered. After all these years, I still remember this one customer who would come in every Friday night. He would order a Triple Cheeseburger with only mustard, pickles and onions, and a large frosty. As soon as I saw him, I would call out his order; I made sure it was ready as soon as he walked in the door. The only thing he had to wait for was his change. He didn’t talk much, but I knew he appreciated the special treatment.
One night, after the dinner hour, a family came in to eat. I was working the cash register that night and started chatting with the mom. Eventually, I learned that her daughter was the actress who played the young girl from the movie “Poltergeist,” Heather O’Rourke. On their way out, they gave me an autographed photo of Heather, which I still have.
I know what you are thinking: a robbery?? Yep! One night, after 9 p.m., a masked, armed male walked in carrying a small gun. He pointed it at my co-worker and me, demanding all the money in the cash register and the dropbox. Because it was just after Halloween, I asked him if this was a JOKE? To which he replied, “No, this is a robbery, not a joke.” Then he gently pistol-whipped my face with the gun.
At that point, I knew it was NO JOKE! Fear consumed me as we handed over all money in the register and dropbox. As soon as he left, we ran to the office, where our manager was and collapsed with fear as he called the police. The robbery was frightening, but that night I was blessed because whoever was behind that mask didn’t hurt me. I guess you could say I was lucky that night!
As frightening as that robbery was, I did not quit. I am not a quitter; besides, I enjoyed working and having money in my bank account. Plus, I wasn’t going to let a robbery scare me into leaving my job.
During my time at Wendy’s, I learned many tasks, some harder than others, like changing the oil in the fryers and cleaning the grill. These tasks made me realize that I thrived at being challenged, and along with every challenge came the reward of knowing that I could do it. And, eventually, I would become a trainer for new restaurants.
If you’re like me, your first job is like your first love, one you never forget, even if you try. Along the way, I met some wonderful people, learned numerous skills and, created some great memories, many which will stay with me for a lifetime. And I wouldn’t trade my first job and all I experienced for anything.
“Am’s View” is posted every other week, as available.