Many, many years ago, I worked for Arby’s, the fast food place. Long story short, my post-secondary education plans fell through and I needed a job until I figured out what the hell came next. I never realized it would lead to me saying the stupidest thing at the most inappropriate time ever.
And believe me, I’ve said some stupid things.
Arby’s was going to be a quick thing, but somehow it didn’t work out that way and they kept promoting me. One of the promotions was to Second Assistant Manager, which meant at the time (and I can’t speak for them now, as it’s been thirty years) that I got the shit shifts and the crappy jobs. Oh, and the pay was spectacularly bad, but I didn’t know that at the time.
Anyway, I was about a year in and they decided to send me for a week of Management Training down in Atlanta, where the head offices were. The training was a joke, but Atlanta was cool. Of course, at the time, I was maybe twenty or so, very insecure and feeling highly intimidated by the older guys, and it really seemed to be all guys, in the training with me.
Anyway, I did my best to try and fit in, though I never really felt like I did. My roommate was an older, married guy, and we had nothing in common, so that was a bust, and, because we were from the first Arby’s stores in Canada, everyone else in the training was American, so it was a little harder for a sheltered geek like me to talk to them as well.
But on the first day of training, as we were learning all about fast food management, someone brought up The Varsity, which was, by all accounts, an unbelievable fast food establishment. I watched as guys from around perked up and paid attention. Was I the only guy that hadn’t heard of this place?
It’s important to remember that there was no Google back then to quickly check anything out on.
They promised to take us at some point through the week, and on the Thursday, they made good. At lunch, we loaded up a few cars and drove the short distance to The Varsity. Now, bear in mind this is all me running from thirty-year-old memories, so I may bugger up some of the facts. From what I remember, The Varsity was across from Varsity Stadium, hence the name.
There was so much that made this place impressive, starting with the sheer size of it. It had its own helicopter landing pad (that they called the Lunch Pad). I think they went through something like a ton or two of onions every day.
What did they sell? From what I remember, burgers and dogs, but I might be wrong on the burgers. Personally, I ordered two chili dogs, a Coke and fries.
Now here’s one of the other impressive things… When you talk fast food, I can still expect to go through a McD’s drive-thru and expect to be parked and the food come out to me. I can go through a Tim Horton’s drive-thru and expect a line of ten to fifteen cars ahead of me and a five to ten minute wait.
The Varsity averaged seven second service. Nope, not kidding. Seven seconds.
I will say they had a separate line for women and children simply because those two groups are slower. And no, I’m not going to apologize for that one. Where I’ll slap a five dollar bill down for an 87-cent charge, I’ve watched my wife dig for what felt like fifteen minutes to dredge up the change in her purse, only to come up short, then slap a five dollar bill down for an 87-cent charge. So, nyah.
Anyway, another thing that’s totally different from your average McD’s or Arby’s or Burger King or whatever…the guy that took my order and how he was positioned. He was a large, intimidating man behind a counter that–I kid you not–was level with my neck, so he was way above me, like a judge in a courtroom. And he was making this very strange noise over and over. It sounded like “Whoodnyaaaaah, whoodnyaaaah, whoodnyaaaah, whoodnyaaaah…” I found out later he was actually saying, “Whaddya haaaave, whaddya haaave, whaddya haaave, whaddya haaave…”
Anyway, I also got a good lesson in proper ordering etiquette when a guy a few spots ahead of me in line had the sheer audacity to walk up. The dude is doing his “Whoodnyaaaaah, whoodnyaaaah” thing, and the customer says, “I’ll…have…uuuuuuummmm…”
At which point, counter dude stops, leans way over the counter so he’s nose to nose with the customer and, harshly and loudly says, “I SAID, WHADDYA HAVE?”
Ah, okay, that makes sense now. “Whoodnyaaaaah, whoodnyaaaah…” is actually, “Whaddya haaaave, whaddya haaave, whaddya haaave…” But back to the customer.
The customer, taken aback, stutters and sputters, but doesn’t get an order out. “BACK OF THE LINE!” counter dude yells, and points his arm at the back of the line that must have a hundred guys in it. The customer meekly and dutifully heads back. In five minutes, he’ll have another chance.
When I go up, I have my money out and my order memorized. Counter dude ain’t gonna rip me a new one. I order my chili dogs, fries and Coke, give him the money (which he scoops into a hole in the counter) and he fairly throws my change at me as the food is set in front of me. If it took five seconds from start to finish, I’d be shocked.
I head off to where my fellow trainees are sitting and we eat. The food is nothing to write home about, but it’s really all about the experience. And really, it’s a cool experience.
Now, this is where it gets interesting.
We eat. I pound back two chili dogs. Mash some fries down on top of it and drown it all in Coke. We sit for a while as this stuff brews in my gut. Then we clamber back into the cars and head back to the office.
As we enter the building, I notice two stunning young women heading toward the elevators as well.
I’m going to take a moment to remind everyone that, at this point, I’m twenty, and I’m essentially a walking erection, as most males at that age are.
So, yes, I notice the ladies.
We all get into the elevator. Maybe five guys, and the two women. Someone presses our floor. One of the women press a floor below ours. I’m staring at the short skirts and the long legs and the hair and the entire package. Once again, I’m twenty, folks.
Then, we reach the women’s floor. The elevator kind of bounces a bit and all that brewing stuff rolls over and threatens a quick, gassy exit. But I’m young and I’ve got control. I clench and hold it in, but the effort diverts my attention momentarily.
I rub my belly and say, “Oh man, there go those two dogs!”
The two women…
Leave the elevator.
One of the guys sputters out a braying laugh. I look at him, then follow his gaze out the elevator doors to the two women, now turned, are giving me the nastiest hairy eyeball ever sent from one gender to another.
I throw my hands up, perhaps as a gesture of placation, perhaps as a ward to the hairy eyeballs. And I say, “No! No! That’s not….”
The elevator doors, deaf to my plaintive cries, close before I can get out the explanation.
The last image I have of the two women? One is flipping me the bird, the other is doing the full palm in elbow, forearm flipped up.
And inside the elevator, two of the guys have slid to the floor, faces red, bellies clutched, tears squirting from eyes, laughing themselves silly.
All because of two chili dogs.
Damn you, Varsity.