Welcome to Hell: How Can I Help You?
I’m sitting in my car, twiddling my thumbs as I watch the numbers on the dash change—1:58 PM.
Okay, time to walk in.
Grimacing at the bullshit that awaits inside, I pull myself out and slam the door. Several pigeons picking at scraps from the ground flew into the air, the noise startling them. The parking lot is pretty empty, with a couple of cars near the front door, but that doesn’t mean anything because a bus full of middle school baseball players can materialize at any moment.
One step into the restaurant lobby, I already feel the stickiness. My shoes adhere to the floor, and there’s this griminess to the walls that never disappears, even after intense cleaning. My manager, Jim, is leaning near the cash register, waiting for all the workers on this shift to come in.
“Hey Carmen, you’re on drive-thru today.”
Fuck. That’s the worst spot.
I flash him my fakest smile as I pass by to clock in. Entering the back of the house, I nod at the dishwasher and the prepper, knowing we’re at least partly staffed today. It sucks having to play several roles at a fast-food place when you’re the sole person that shows up or when everyone quits at the last minute. I never get the memo, so all the others leave, and I foolishly show up.
Grabbing a headset off the rack, I place it over my hat, adjusting it to fit my head. I hate the feeling of it pressing against me. It always makes the skin sore and raw after a few hours.
Glancing over at the ovens, I see Raf, the skinny high school kid who’s been here a couple of weeks.
“Yo, Raf.” He looks up from his phone to give me a wave before returning to his device.
Don’t blame you, kid. I’d tune out of this bitch, too, if I could without customers buzzing in my ear all 24/7. This is possible, actually, at least partially. Pulling a small case from my front pocket, I deposit an audio bud into my left ear. Technically, employees aren’t supposed to have any “hearing devices” on us when we work, but this establishment would close permanently if they enforce that rule. So, Jim lets it fly.
*Ding* “Welcome to Hell. How can I help you?”
“I want a number one, no meat. Add extra lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado. Also, protein style, I don’t eat gluten.”
My fingers fly across the screen, trying to keep up with the number of modifications.
God, please, make them not be in a hurry.
Anything super special takes longer, and anybody should understand that. The car pulls up to the window, and I shuffle over to gather their payment.
“Here,” he says, handing over his credit card, “Go fast will you? Don’t want to be late for my job.”
“Of course.” I lean away from the motion sensor, which closes the window.
“Raf?” I shout, instinctively knowing what he’s going to say.
“Park him.” I knew it! The same old shit. Plastering a look of false positivity on my face, I turn to the window.
“Hi, sir. Would you mind pulling up to that first parking spot? We’ll bring it right out when it’s ready.”
The blank stare he was giving me before this statement morphs into anger.
“No, I won’t move forward. I know what it means to be parked. You’ll forget about my order, and it will take forever to come out.”
Hell! Just budge, you shithead. I don’t say any of this out loud, of course. That’s reserved for the day I quit.
Not willing to fight him over something that stupid, I stand and watch the timer click past the designated 3-minute limit per order. The numbers go from green to red.
I can’t even be bothered.
“Here.” Raf throws the container on the counter as I quickly bag it with utensils and napkins.
“Thanks.” Food in hand, I slide over to the window.
“Here, you have a good day.”
He reaches out and aggressively rips the sack from me, causing it to split and the container to fall onto the asphalt. It pops open, a cascade of vegetables spilling out. A single, soggy tomato slice remains, sticking to the top of the box.
“Oh, fucking great! I’m gonna be late, and I don’t have lunch. Who’s your boss? I need a refund now.”
There I stand, numb from the drama. Without bothering to answer him, I leave my area and walk to the rear of the house, paging Jim over the headset.
“There’s a customer asking for a refund in the drive-thru.”
“What for?” He answers, accusations in his voice.
Not needing the asshole to see my annoyance, I stay out of sight.
Soon, that guy leaves, and I am at the register, pressing against the motion detector to unlock the window. I lean out to view the outside, counting the seconds until I clock out, and the tall fast food sign is within sight.
Welcome to Hell.