Aside from the old-man boss I had at my ten-day job at the Iowa State Fair, who took one look at my giraffe legs in my short culotte jumper I’d made in sewing class and demanded that I bend over to see if my butt would show (it didn’t), George was the worst boss ever.
George was the night manager at McDonald’s on Merle Haye Road in Des Moines. I was fifteen, and my older sister had just left for college and taken her stereo with her. Suddenly I had no way to play my records, and I needed money fast!
A fifteen year old was too young to work at most places, but I could work for two hours per week night in food service and all day on the weekends, as long as I got off by 7:00 p.m. I’m not sure who made these rules (the homework police?). I had to wear an ugly hairnet because the cute McDonald’s hats hadn’t been invented yet.
The big boss worked weekends, and he liked me just fine, although I flunked as a fry cook and got demoted/promoted to counter help. To this day, I remember those 57 cent orders: one hamburger, one fry, one coke, plus two cents tax. Adding ten cents got you a cheeseburger upgrade for a 67 cent order.
George was my boss on Friday nights and Sundays. I’d walk ten blocks to work two hours to make $1.35 an hour. I was driven for my record player fund, and I could catch up with friends after work, although my hair would smell like French fries the rest of the night.
I spent my first paycheck on suede two-tone brown saddle shoes, all the rage with the sophomore set, that I wore to work and immediately ruined with grease and stink.
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon when the call came in at Mc Donald’s. A school bus returning from a field trip would be there in 45 minutes, and they wanted to pre-order 100 hamburgers. George got busy firing up the grill and getting ready for the order that never came. It turned out to be a prank by a fired employee. George’s face was as red as his Corvette, parked proudly in the manager’s spot under the golden arches.
At my break, I asked for my usual Big Mac, and George stuffed two cold burgers in my hand.
“That’s your free lunch today,” he said.
Great, only 98 more old burgers to get rid of.
When I turned sixteen, I was able to work longer hours, and most of them were with George. He creeped me out the way he looked at me and kept asking if he could give me a ride in his car, so I didn’t last there much past my sixteenth birthday.
I bought my Pioneer stereo system and was able to move on to a bigger and better (and closer) job, checking groceries at the local Super Value just three blocks from home. I got to wear an ugly mustard colored uniform (a la Two Broke Girls) and got to race my fellow checkers to see who could ring up groceries the fastest (before scanners were invented). The bag boys were kind of cute, and it paid $1.40 an hour. I lasted there two years and one college summer. My boss was so nice that when I took a bad check, he didn’t fire me. He taught me how to look for clues that the check was no good (like a low check number or a handwritten address).
I don’t remember the good bosses so much, just the old one who made me bend over at the fair, and the heavy creepy one who drove the red Corvette.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
If I would’ve stayed at McDonald’s, I would’ve continued to work with creepy George until he suggested I try for a promotion to counter manager. This meant giving up all weekends to work, and even though I would have plenty of money, I would find myself too grumpy to be a teen. So I would quit, get my guy friend to call in a prank order for 100 hamburgers. I never would take a ride in his red Corvette.