I’ve never been a fan of part-time work. The mere mention of applying for a part time job triggered a deep loathing. The same loathing I feel for Republicans and the Browns. Cracker Barrel, Target, Gap — none of my past jobs made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Yet as mind numbing and physically draining (folding denim is tough work) as all those jobs were, I accepted them. I didn’t plan on doing any menial part time work once I graduated college.
But then I graduated college and applied for jobs. And when the first 50 weren’t enough, I applied for 50 more. And then another 50. Around July of last year, I realized I was going to have to find part time work. So I got a job at Gap. After seven months of shitty hours, bitchy managers and screaming babies, I decided I didn’t have to take this crap. (I had this grand revelation after spending an entire shift changing light bulbs.) So I sought out something a bit grander, a bit more brag-worthy. When I couldn’t find anything, I got a job at Panera.
Me, the girl who still shudders when I think about my first job as a waitress at Cracker Barrel, is working in food service. For the past month, I’ve made espresso drinks, cleaned a million dishes, made sandwiches and salads and been an all around Panera B.A.M.F. I haven’t told many people I work there. It was one thing to run into my old A.P. English teacher and tell her I was working at the Gap, but telling the same woman I work at a place that requires an apron and latex gloves? I wasn’t ready for that.
Another thing I wasn’t ready for was to actually enjoy my job. One day before I went into work, I realized the sinking feeling in my stomach that usually accompanies all part-time work wasn’t there. That same day I also realized the aversion I usually felt to past coworkers wasn’t there. I had won the elusive part-time job Double Jeopardy: I liked my job and I liked my coworkers.
My coworkers gossip as much as they smoke. They’re loud and brash, and they eat half their weight in free food. Caleb once told me he couldn’t cover my shift because he had to go to the studio to “lay down some tracks.” He then added without a hint of sarcasm, “I’m a rapper.” Dave can’t pass the sandwich line without grabbing a piece of bread, an apple or a whole salad. Kelsey is a high school senior, who one day just stopped going to school. Lamar takes 15 minutes to make a sandwich, and Dan once brought a spit cup to a work meeting.
They made me feel welcome when I was the new girl who broke dishes and accidentally got grounds in the coffee. They make me laugh. They bus tables and help me make sandwiches and remind me how much milk to use in a cappuccino. They do all this without being asked. They work long hours and go to school. They close the restaurant one day and get up an open it the next. They work overtime so they earn enough to take care of their families. They make sure Ralph, an older gentleman who comes in every day, never has to wait more than a minute before his food is ready. They call customers sir and ma’ am.
One day when I’m a writer or an editor or whatever, Panera will just some job I had when I was still trying to figure out what to do with my life. In the long run I won’t be any better off because I know how to make a chicken Thai salad. But it’s still nice to enjoy getting up for work, however temporary that work may be.