A small tarnish on an otherwise golden summer…

I think I mentioned in a recent post that when I last went overseas, I worked at a pizza place before I left to make some extra money.

Funnily enough, the same thing seems to have happened this time around. I am truly working at a pizza place.

This temporary career move may seem odd, and, well, slightly stupid to some readers. You may have read that I have an extensive academic background now, and have worked at higher level (and thus, higher income) positions.
“You’re a teacher,”  you’re saying to yourself. “Why on earth are you working at some godforsaken pizza place?” 

Bear with me.  There was a method to my madness when I first signed onto this crazy mission. I had reasons! I had reasons, dammit! I had….I had…….

Truthfully, I did it on purpose. I finished up my job at UNBC and didn’t resign my contract. I worked for the school district until late June, and then decided I should do something completely unrelated to teaching for the rest of the summer. After all, I would be teaching again in September in Kuwait, y’all.

So I purposely dropped off a resume at a pizza place (a different chain than my pre-Scotland workplace), and I was hired. What can I say? After a few years of marking, editing, coaching, praising, planning, writing, reflecting, passing, and failing, I felt very strongly like I needed a break for a few weeks. I felt very strongly that in comparison with the importance of getting report cards out, dressing a pizza wouldn’t be overly worrisome. In fact, it would be welcome. I’d put on one of those terrible visors, a stupid t-shirt, and fling cheese around. Perfect. Easy, unimportant, and menial. Exactly what I was looking for after the stressful (although very fulfilling) job of teaching. I looked forward to concentrating on my own writing (my novels and blogs) and lesson planning for my upcoming high school classes in the fall. I didn’t need to do anything education related for 8 weeks. It would be so refreshing!

And it is!!! With only a fewwwww teensy weensy little problems.

My job as a pizza woman extraordinaire is far from luxurious. You might be thinking that my explanation for wanting to work there makes a little more sense now, and you’re understanding (although perhaps not agreeing) with my reasons for working at a pizza chain. However, let me assure you that all is not the grandeur you might think. Despite my best efforts to ‘relax’ my mind, I somehow forgot that in the absence of mental strain comes laborious intensity.
When I worked at Panago in 2005, I was a delivery driver. I zipped around town in my little Toyota wearing an oversized and extremely comfortable fleecy. No stupid hat. I ditched the fleecy when I arrived at the customer’s house, so that the man (if it happened to be a man at the door) could see my generous chest and tight black t-shirt. I giggled with the men that flirted with me, and I was kind and professional to the women. To the tired mothers with babbling toddlers and bawling infants, I was sympathetic. I made a fucking killing. I would sometimes make in the neighborhood of $150-$200 on a busy night. That was in tips only. I banked my cheques and flew to Scotland to live like a queen!

Now, however, the ‘get rich quick by pizza’ scheme has lost considerable luster. Firstly, I applied to perhaps the ONLY pizza place in the universe with no delivery service. My tight black t-shirt dream disappeared like a fart in the wind. No $150 tip nights for me. Instead, I have to clean an impossibly heavy metal dough wheel and touch meat. Gross.
Sorry, did I say $150 tips? Forget the extras. Let’s talk about the embarrassing rate of pay in the capital of the north. I am making less money now than I did grooming dogs when I was 19. I get no tips at all, and I have to wear a stupid visor and a stupid t-shirt. There are no fringe benefits to this round of Let’s Play Pizza. None at all.

Okay so I fell short on the money part. That’s depressing enough, because all I’m really doing is (barely) paying off the bills I have here before I go. The initial concept of ‘saving’ is not looking so hot right now. Then there’s the staff. Back in the golden age of Panago, I was the queen of the pizzeria. I entered the palace with my fleecy billowing behind me and everybody stared in awe. Granted, by ‘everyone’ I mean the two large creepy guys who read fantasy novels and lived in their parents’ basement, but still. I was the adorable, cheery, intelligent delivery girl. Everyone liked me. I had little competition, since the only other two girls were Candace, a marijuana enthusiast with dreadlocks and a constant half-smile on her face akin to the face a baby makes when they are taking a baby dump, and  some girl named Kara or Kira, who belonged to some sub-culture of fundamentalist Christianity, and spent a lot of our down time talking about all the sex she and her boyfriend didn’t have.
So yeah, I was enjoying my last few months before Scotland.
Now, I work in a place devoid of men. Completely. No funny thirty-somethings who play WoW to try and flirt with me. No entertaining teenagers who make fun of my music. Instead, I work every day with my boss, a girl a few years younger than me, until later at night, when the workplace is invaded by 17-19 years olds. They all have names like Sara and Nicole and Cait and Niki and Emmaleigh. They can’t pronounce my name very well because it’s an ancient form of 80s tongue. They would probably have an equally difficult time saying “Destiny” or “Janet” or something, so I don’t take it personally.
I stay out of the way when the girls arrive. I don’t wear my Lululemon pants to a filthy pizza place, and they do. Our ‘at work’ fashion sense is innately different. I thought I’d found some common ground when one of the girls (Niki? Nat? Nicole?) played a rap song on her iPhone. “I really like this song,” I told her. She brightened. “Really? Hey, do you like Justin Bieber?” Without waiting for a response, she took off and proceeded to turn her iPhone up full blast to a song that made no sense and sounded like a bastardized version of hip hop. I receded like a snake to the sink, where I scrubbed hardened dough off of oversized cookie sheets. It is appropriate that I slink away every now and again, because I don’t speak with a lisp and have braces and say ‘like’ as much as I should. If there was a tower in this pizza place, I would be in it. I am Quasimodo, and I embrace my no-name work pants and scrub hardened dough with quiet relief. If I spray the tap on hard enough, I can drown out Justin Bieber. I love this age of teenager to teach, but working alongside them is a terrible species of brutal.

I am also very aware that I am using this job. I didn’t tell my boss I was leaving in 6 weeks. This affords me the luxury of saying things a long-term employee would NEVER say and not worry about the repercussions. Today I sighed in blatant disgust at the chunks of seasoned sausage that rolled lumpily off the dressing table. I come out with these comments like, “Man I wish I could just go home right now” and “this place is hotter than the devil’s cloakroom.” My boss is either immune to rude employees or agrees with me. Most times she is kind, which will make telling her I am leaving harder. But not hard enough to stop me from taking a week-long vacation to Vancouver the week before i give my notice. She has failed to give me the hours I asked for, and so these are the concessions I make. Give me fewer shifts, prepare for my unmatched lippyness. I don’t mean to imply I am a terrible worker. Quite the contrary. I am one of the few employees who works on something every part of the day. I am very dependable, and I work when I’m at work. I just don’t censor myself very much.
I have already almost told her I’m leaving. I’m so excited about Kuwait that it’s on my mind a lot, and I am also busy preparing for it every waking minute, which makes not talking about it at work extremely difficult. I just about told her about my tetanus shot that I received yesterday, and on more than one occasion, I have almost said, “when I’m gone” which wouldn’t be good. She thinks I am a student right now, which is only a half-lie, but it serves well as a potential scapegoat if I falter: I can always say “Oh I meant when I go back to school in September.”

I have become desperate at my low-income pizza hell. I need something else. I start working weekends tomorrow at a pancake house. I’ll keep you all posted. This job is different in that it’s only 12 hours a week (6 hours each weekend day) and I told the manager right off the bat that I was leaving AND taking a week off next week to go to Vancouver. She was extremely supportive and hired me anyway. This will result in no back-talk, because I was aware of how many hours I was signing up for, and I have nothing to hide. We shall see how it goes.

Well, off to watch a movie before I rise tomorrow, bright and early. Until then, er’body cool.

Categories: Counting down... | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “A small tarnish on an otherwise golden summer…

  1. Michelle Rubin

    “Instead, I have to clean an impossibly heavy metal dough wheel and touch meat.” – Oh your posts make me laugh out loud. Did you get free pizza at least? Thin crust vegetarian? I hope so!

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