There are a lot of milestones in life: losing your first tooth, having your first crush, crying in the freezer at your first customer service job… Wait, that last one isn’t a milestone? Well, it should be. If I were dictator for a day, my first benevolent act would be to require everyone to work at a fast food restaurant for at least six months. And we’d all be better for it.
All might be fair in love and war but not in the drive-thru. There is this little list I like to call “The 10 Commandments of Fast Food.” Let me enlighten you:
- Speak clearly into the intercom and turn your music down.
- Have your money ready at the window.
- Not ask for lewd pictures with your burger.
- Not hit on the window girl at 2 am Only use smooth pick-up lines on the window girl.
- Not hand over $6 in nickels in a sticky Gatorade bottle for payment.
- Understand that you’re not an exception to the condiment charge.
- Not blow smoke into the cashiers face and drive away.
- Not allow your children to bathe the table in sweet and sour sauce.
- Use all restroom facilities appropriately.
- Not commit general acts of douchebaggery.
Ok, number four is really just a preference but all jokes and sarcasm aside working in a job where you’re seen as unimportant by the rest of the world teaches lessons that Socrates himself couldn’t teach you.
There is something about customer service that makes people think they can treat you however they want without consequences. And well, they’re right because the customer is always right.
Even when they’re not.
You often get to see people in their most human moments. They don’t care about you and they don’t have to. Like the countless number of grumpy people getting off work who tell you to go get a “real” job or to learn how to do yours better the second you mess something up. You’re not a 3-dimensional person. You’re not a student paying your way through college so you can get a real job. And you’re certainly not a person with hopes and dreams and feelings. Nope. You’re just the person who accidently put non-fat milk in their mocha. And you deserve to suffer.
Or the guy who thought the best possible time to make his cashier cry was on Christmas Eve over the price of a drink cup his granddaughter ordered. I spent the next 10 minutes of my shift recollecting myself next to the parfaits in the fridge. Now is it my fault that he didn’t pay attention the two times I repeated his order to him? No. Does it matter? No.
If everyone on the planet was forced to work in fast-food for a period of their lives, they’d not only learn how crappy human beings can be to each other, but they’d also get some of their entitlement chipped off. Because when co-workers have finally pushed Trashonta the trashcan to her limits and she’s busting out like a ghetto woman’s bustier you better suit up because you’re going to be elbow deep in old food and mysterious liquids until you can get that thing out. You’ll have to clean up playland puke, dig to the bottom of a trashcan to find a customer’s keys (just to have them find them in their purse), and unclog the men’s toilet for the 14th time. You learn that no job is beneath you, and no person is either.
Imagine the peace if everyone could relate to the time when they were criticized in front of a full store because they didn’t hear the customer say “no ketchup.” Or the work ethic of a world that all once had to scrape decades old grease off the back of the grill because someone had to do it. Maybe if Kim Jong Un had to don an apron for six months of his life and take orders from people, he’d be a little less of a stick in the nuclear sludge.
Seriously though, the United Nations should get on this.
Working in the drive-thru, you experience a lot of human nature at its core, and when you experience human nature, you experience yourself. Customer service teaches you that the universe does revolve—just not around you. You learn compassion isn’t something you only practice on a mission trip. You learn you’re not entitled to certain jobs or rights or salary. And you learn that sometimes you just have to suck it up with a smile, and that’s okay.