You are but sixteen years old, a junior in high school. You’ve managed to land your first job at Wendy’s after an embarrassing interview where your acne-faced not-yet-manager belittles you in the eating area. He asks you if you know the demands of cooking fries while you hear a mother and her children snickering. After a few questions where you smile and try being sincere he asks you “Are you religious?” to which you respond no, and he tells you that your responses were “preachy,” whatever that means.
Once you land the job you are given a tour of the cooking area, where a short woman snarls at you and you glare in response and she turns out to be a co-manager who now holds that glare against you for the rest of your time there. You are shown the ropes and given a uniform.
You are assigned a job as a grill worker, flipping patties.
There are two spatulas at Wendy’s, you learn: one for the raw meat, one for the cooked meat. The white spatula is for cooked meat, the red spatula is for raw meat. You never use one spatula in place of the other for fear of cross-contamination. You move the burgers right to left on the front grill and left to right on the back grill. You must always place burgers in the back before you place burgers in the front. The heated spots are the greatest in the back, and you must flip the greasy crackling burgers towards yourself and your face. All of this is required.
You work both grills because this is what they tell you. You believe them and follow these instructions before learning that you were only supposed to look after one grill. You manage the work of two workers by yourself for a full three weeks before they inform you.
You find yourself praying for the first time in your life.
Having just recently gotten your driver’s license you get to borrow your mom’s tanker of an Impala where the brakes give out in the most dangerous of locations (intersections, usually) and you have to jiggle a bright red wire beneath the dashboard to shut it off.
You don’t jiggle the red wire well enough and the battery dies on a cold winter’s day. Your grandma has to show up with jumper cables to save you.
You submit your letter of resignation four months in and they give you buttons and pins and other trinkets to convince you to stay, but you aren’t swayed, so they resort to ignoring you and referring to you as The Quitter, until the three weeks are up and you can finally breathe.