February 19, 2007
Originally published June 30, 2004
I bought an Arby's roast beef sandwich today and I watched the kitchen staff prepare it. Got-dam! The whole process is like an automation and the employees are robots. What the hell has happened to fast food restaurants?
I was a very good grill cook during my younger days, back when waitresses (excuse me... WAITPERSONS) just shouted out the orders, stuck a ticket on a rotating carosel and expected YOU to get it right. I did, or I faced one hell of a cussing from an outraged waitress, who was only passing the words along from an outraged customer. You become good at your job very quickly that way.
I never had a timer to tell me when the french fries were done or when the meat on the grill was ready to flip. I DID THAT! I COOKED THE FOOD!!!! Machines and clocks didn't do it for me. I was proud of my expertise. I was one of the best grill cooks who ever waved a spatula over a stove and I KNEW IT. I could work the prep table like Edward Sissorhands and I could do it in my sleep. You LIKED a hamburger I cooked for you.
I see no such pride in fast-food work today. In fact, if you really want to confuse someone at a fast food restaurant, do what I did today. Have an order that adds up to some kind of dollars and four cents. Hand the employee a $20 bill. Once she's punched in the numbers on the "think FOR you register," say "Wait a minute. I've got four cents," and then hand her a dime. Watch every neural circuit in her brain lock up.
Do you think those people know how to MAKE CHANGE? Hell NO they don't. They've been TRAINED to be robots and they like it that way. Thinking for yourself is difficult. It's much easier to be a witless drone.
I confused that poor waitress badly enough today that I probably could have walked out of Arby's with a free sandwich, but I didn't. I said, "Darlin,' I gave you $20 and a dime. You owe me $16.06 in change." She heaved a sigh of relief and handed me the money.
I did her thinking for her and she was grateful. She's been well-trained.
All content © Rob Smith