My first job was working in a fast food restaurant. I was still just 14. Legally I wasn’t even supposed to work there. My older brother was 18 and a manager so he got me the job.
At 14 I was shy and reluctant. The only real interactions I had at the time were with friends my own age. I never had to take orders from anyone – except my parents of course – and did not know what to expect. Most of the customers were nice and friendly but many were also mean and rude. Being yelled at by an angry customer was not fun but it taught me to be patient and to communicate exactly what was going on. I could not make the fries cook faster than what was possible and I had to be the one to tell them it would be another five minutes.
In almost four years of working there I went from being shy and quiet to open and outgoing. There was no time to be timid. It’s called “fast” food for a reason. You have to be quick and on your toes. You may have two or even three lines to serve – I had three. Two drive up windows and one inside counter. Also, at any one time there were no more than three or four people. Today I see some places with 5-10 people at a time and think “wow, they have it easy!”
At this restaurant you did it all – taking orders and handling money, cooking, and cleaning as well as opening the store at 6 am and closing at midnight. This was a good lesson in multitasking and also when I realized multitasking was very difficult. There were many moments you could only do one thing at a time no matter how frustrating that could be.
I think the most important lesson I learned was that there are a lot of bad managers and even worse employees. In all the time I was there I must have seen close to 50 employees and 7-10 managers come and go. In my time there I was by far the longest tenured employee – and I was only a teenager.
I saw people have literal meltdowns because it was just too stressful. I can’t count the number of times someone actually just walked out and left the job with cars and people waiting. I remember being scared at those times. Being only 14 or 15 during some of these instances I was left to pick up the mess that these older, supposedly more mature, people had left.
One time the executives were in from out of town doing a routine check up. They ordered food as any normal customer would. At the time I was handling ordering and was not cooking. The guy that was cooking was very nervous that they were there. After the order was up and they got the food, it wasn’t long after that one of them became upset, came up to the counter and said “My hamburger is basically raw!!” Needless to say it was very embarrassing. Even though I wasn’t the cook that day, I felt bad. We were a team and we let them down.
Another time a co-worker was caught stealing money right out of the drawer, placing it under the machine, and taking it while on break. Crazy stuff for a 15 year old to see and be a part of.
I have many more and even crazier stories but I’ll stop here. Working in a fast food restaurant is not glamourous. I made $6.25/hr and it was very stressful. However, I am thankful for those life lessons and learning experiences. I was tossed into a fairly crazy working environment at a young age and was able to see what not to do. Don’t be like many of these people. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t make this a long term career!