Friday, January 22, 2010

Taco toss

I have to say, I never would have looked at this AP article on if the headline hadn't been "Man Gets Day in Jail for Throwing Taco at Manager."

After all, who among us hasn't wanted to throw something at their manager at one point or another in the course of a career?

Alas, the article wasn't about an employee going postal with a taco. It was about a customer throwing what he claimed to be a spit-laden double-decker taco - whatever that is - at a Taco Bell manager. So now Warren Strickland of Fairbanks, Alaska, is getting a day in jail, a $100 fine, and a year's probation.

The offense came about because Strickland had to make a couple of extra drive thrus because his order got messed up. On his final return, he supposedly found spit in one of his tacos.

Now, in all the time I logged as a waitress/food service worker, I actually never saw anyone spit in food. But I did witness the following anti-customer and/or deliberately unsanitary-unappetizing behaviors:

  • Waitresses who would hand a broiling hot plate to a customer, rather than put it down on the table in front of them.  (I actually knew waitresses who inured themselves to the discomfort of carrying walk-over-coals hot plates for the express purpose of placing the plate in the hand of the customer.)
  • Waitresses deliberately spilling water on a customer.
  • Waitresses deliberately dripping "au jus" from prime rib down the backs of customers.
  • Waiters drinking half the shot of alcohol that was supposed to go into a mixed drink.
  • Waiters and waitresses snacking off of plates that were under the heat lamps awaiting pickup. (I will confess to that one. At one place I worked, there was a very tasty lobster out of the shell dish that was never delivered intact. If it sat under the lamp for more than a nano-second, I can guarantee that at least one waitress cadged a piece.)
  • Cooks frying up cockroaches in the fisherman's platter mix. Yum!
  • Cigar ashes flicked on to a salad by the constantly smoking salad guy.
  • The manager shooting a handgun in the direction of rat holes so that the rats would keep at bay while the waitresses cleaned up.
  • A dish boy pulling a dead rat out of a clogged up sink.
  • Rats running across my feet in the dining room. (You were fired if you screamed at a rat sighting if there were any diners in the house.)
  • A dish boy - nicknamed The Animal - using his just-out-of-the-dishwater hands to scoop big servings of ice cream directly into his maw.
  • A stoned waitress who'd dropped an order of steamed cherrystone clams on a filthy, sawdust cover floor, pick up the clam bellies - which had fallen out of the shells - and stuff them back into the shells, and go on to deliver the order to the customer

But, nah, I never saw anyone spit in food.

But Warren Strickland believes he was a victim, and, when the Taco Bell manager accused him of lying to get free food - of all the places I might want to lie my way into free food, Taco Bell would not factor on the list at all, but that's just me - Strickland tossed the offending taco at the manager.

The Fairbanks NewsMiner, naturally, had more scoop on this local matter than did the AP.

And lest you start thinking that day in jail is too harsh, you must know that Strickland - at 6'2" 250 pounds - is roughly twice the size of "manager Carol Dzimtrowicz, who said [the taco] hit her in the face and that she was scared of Strickland."

Strickland admitted that he was the perp for the taco toss, but says that the criminal complaint mentioned the size differential, but not the precipitating spit.  He added:

“Unfortunately, I destroyed the evidence (of the spit), or I could have gotten the place shut down,” he said Wednesday.

In addition to jail, probation, and the fine,

Strickland is barred from any Taco Bell during his year of probation.

No comment on how that counts as punishment, but apparently, to Strickland, it does. He has asked that he be allowed into another Fairbanks Taco Bell, which he will be if he gets written permission from the owner.

Why in God's name he would want to, given that - I'm guessing - every saliva-mouthed kid working in a Taco Bell anywhere in Alaska is going to be on the lookout for him.

My advice to Strickland: get yourself a pound of hamburger, some pre-shredded cheddar, a bit of lettuce, and an Ortega or El Paso taco kit and roll your own.

As for throwing food at your own manager - and not at the Taco Bell manager - it has been done.

When we worked at Durgin-Park (not, by the way, the site of the above rat lore; Durgin was, in fact, quite clean), my roommate Joyce was berated by the completely off-the-wall owner/manager - a.k.a. "The Boss ( long dead) for putting too much whipped cream on the strawberry shortcake. This being Durgin - all out in the open - the berating took place in full view and ear shot of the diners.

"You young girls," he screamed, "You waste so much, you're eating me out of house and home. I'll let it go this time, but next time your fired."

As it happened, Joyce's customers did not eat any of the whipped cream. When she was carrying the dirty plates back into the kitchen area, The Boss - ever present on the floor, and screaming at and/or firing one of us at any given moment* - spied the bowls, still full of whipped cream.

"That does it," he yelled at Joyce. "You're fired."

Joyce proceeded to whip the two bowls down on the floor, where they shattered, and the whipped cream splattered all over the pant legs of The Boss. (High-water black pants, worn with white socks, black shoes, a white shirt, black tie, and a gray cotton, too tight, buttoned up jacket. I can picture "The Boss" now.)

Well, The Boss was none to happy, so he started chasing Joyce around the restaurant, with most of the waitresses joining the fray to protect 125 pound (if that) Joyce from 250 pound The Boss. Fortunately, he was unable to catch her.

Grand comic opera, all around.

The Boss' energy flagged and the chase wound down. No surprise that The Boss couldn't keep up with a fleet girl in her early twenties. In addition to all the wait he was packing, if it was a typical night, he had already consumed a prime rib, a fisherman's platter, a plate of salt-covered sliced tomatoes, and quite a bit of Crown Royal.

Joyce went to the break room to get our coats, while I went over to the tables we'd been working, told the customers we were leaving, and told them that if they were going to tip us, they better do it now.

We had been planning on leaving in a couple of days, anyway, heading for our Grand Tour of Europe (five months hitchhiking around - ah, those were the days).

Anyway, when I saw that headline, I was hoping for a story like the Joyce-Boss saga.

But it was just a big guy, going out of control, and scaring someone half his size.

He should have just hurled the taco on the floor. If some spit-infused ground beef has just splashed back on the manager, she wouldn't have had a case.


*The dynamic was:

You got fired - for doing something like breaking a dish, or stowing napkins where they'd be convenient to your station, or making a mistake on a bill (which was often, but not always, tied to stealing: another whole story), or not having gotten the word that aprons were now mandatory (which had only been given to the older waitresses, a.k.a., The Old Bags, who showed up one day wearing aprons, while the young girls worked apron-less).

You cried a bit, and begged The Boss for your job back.

He said he'd think about it.

Some of The Old Bags went to bat for you.

You got your job back, with a stern warning not to let it happen again.

1 comment:

Suldog said...

Good stories, and told with some wit. Thanks!

I worked as a dishwasher for a while, so saw - for a very, very short time - some of what you speak of.