When I was fifteen, I applied for a job at a fast-food restaurant; the last place people would think to find me. I never eat fast food and discourage other people from buying the poison-on-a-plate. Yet, my new job forced me to do just the opposite. The typical workday consisted of punching in orders, taking strangers’ money, and handing them, hypocritically, their triple whoppers with extra cheese.
Of the thirty employees, I was one of seven white workers. My whole life, I have gone to the same private school, lived in the same upper-middle-class neighborhood, and, subconsciously, surrounded myself with people just like me. Now, for the first time, I was a minority.
My first day of work was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. The only thing that kept me there was Cara. Cara was the one who got me the job (mainly because she wanted the bonus you get for recommending an employee). She immediately took me on a tour through the kitchen and introduced me to everyone, which included an ex-convict, two Broward Community College students, a transvestite, a “master” DDR player, and a Haitian immigrant, who only spoke Creole. They all looked at me strangely, probably because I was staring awkwardly at them.
One night I was working the drive-thru when a young couple pulled up to my window. The girl in the passenger seat (who was obviously wasted) was screaming and threatening me. “You better not spit in my food, or ill… mumble, mumble
, mumble.” I was scared. I closed the window, ran to Sam (the transvestite), and told her the story. Her face went from worried to enraged. Sam ran to the window, flung it open, and screamed at the girl. Sam’s screaming eventually caught everyone’s attention. When I told the rest of the crew what had happened, one by one, they ran to the window and threatened the girl… for me. When the couple left (without their food, I might add), Sam calmly closed the window, turned to me, and broke into laughter. We all laughed…
I believe in experimenting outside your comfort zone. I went into the restaurant as a naïve white girl and came out, as Sam so insightfully said, “a strong black woman.” Those few Saturdays taught me more than any private school ever could about life and gave me plenty of stories to pass on. My job, which started out as a nightmare, ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.
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