by Allie Williams
“Okay, so you see this number?” I nodded, “we want to get this down to 140.” I nodded again. The girl whose name I could not remember handed me a bag, “okay now hand this out.” The car pulled up and I smiled and handed them the bag. They drive away. “Okay good!” She smiled at me but it didn’t quite seem real, “next time try to say thanks or have a nice day or something like that.” I nodded again. One of the boys I went to high school with walked behind the counter and I sighed with relief. He’d help me.
A person I haven’t seen yet walks in. He’s cute and I wonder who he is. He asks me how long I’ve worked there. I look at the clock, “about two hours.”
“Oh, so it’s your first day.” I nodded.
“Have you worked fast food before?” I shook my head.
“Hm. You’re really good.” And with that, he walked away. I was filled with an odd sense of pride.
“You forgot to tell them their total!” The younger girl shrieked.
“I panicked,” I said. “Here take it back,” and I shoved the headset back at her.
I tell my mother the stories of the day. The crazy woman at the front counter, the rude coworker, the creepy guy in the drive-thru. I tell her about the mess I had to clean up from the neighborhood kids. I tell her about the people that have worked there for longer than I can imagine. She looks at me and says, “well use this is your motivation. You don’t want to be there your whole life. You’ll be better than them. This is temporary.” I wonder if my mother could handle the work my managers do.
My managers are some of the most badass people I’ve ever met. Nia has six kids. She and her husband take turns watching them and coming to the store to work. They moved here from Guam. Eddie works in the grill because his English still isn’t great but he cares more than most people. Maylin has enough kids that I can never remember how many. Her oldest is about my age. After she leaves the store she goes and cleans houses for people. Janet calls me Mija. Jeremy tells me things the other crew members are not supposed to know. Nick tells me about his family and teases me.
A customer comes in and orders his food. “Hey be careful,” he says, “there’s a guy running around and he just pulled a gun on the cashier at the gas station down there.” I can’t tell if he knows what he’s talking about. That night I wait for Andy to walk me to my car. He always does anyways but tonight they all laugh at me for being scared, still, he waits for me to get in my car and lock the door before leaving my side.
I sit crying in the emptiest living room I’ve ever seen. My mom just drove away with its contents and my dog. I don’t know when I’ll see her again. My phone buzzes and they ask me to come to work. I tell them I can’t. I had specifically requested today off. I put my head back on my knees and cry harder. The next day I walk into the office and tell them my mom just left and that I’m sorry I couldn’t come in yesterday. They understand. Throughout my shift, I feel normal. My work moms hug me and Kitty tells another new person she’s my daughter. We all laugh.
Ding! I pressed the button, “hi, order when you’re ready.” Silence. I sighed and waited until I had time to count to ten. “Hi, order when you’re ready.” This time louder. “I need a minute,” the customer snapped. I turned off my mic and rested my head on the metal stand. The new kid laughed at me and I closed my eyes to keep from rolling them at him. “Okay we’re ready,” I sighed again, “okay order when you’re ready.”
“Can we get ummmmmmmmmm a ummmmmmmm…”
I turned off my mic again, “oh my GOD!” I screamed. The new kid laughed again. The customers ordered. I let my head hit the metal shelf again.
The walk across the parking lot at 10:32 P.M. with a bag of food is somehow the longest walk I’ve ever taken. Just a minute ago the walk to the front of the store with arms full of cups was somehow the longest walk I had ever taken. A minute before that it was the walk to the back of the store. My knees ache, my feet are swollen, when I wake up in the middle of the night it will be from the cramps in my legs. Tim waves goodbye to me. I look down and have a Snapchat from Nick, Andy, and Katy. Kailey is in her truck. Nia just left and Heather said goodbye an hour ago. I saw May and Peter for a moment at the beginning of my shift. Zeke begged me to clock on early. Tomorrow I’ll come back again. Tomorrow it will start again. Tomorrow I’ll be home with my family again.