Chapter 2: Literacies at work, for fun, and at school
I always told myself when I got my first job it would be somewhere that would help my career. I would work at a Cleveland Clinic location. It could be any job, but it just had to be in the hospital because when I graduated from college, I would have my foot in the door. It is interesting how things turn out. After my freshman year in college, I decided to take a year off from school. I did not know what I wanted to do anymore, and my mental health was not great. My parents said I needed a job, so I searched for hospital jobs, and I met none of the requirements. Plan A was squashed so I decided to move onto Plan B: look for any other job. My brother saw a sign that said open interviews at a local fast-food restaurant on Wednesday. My cousin and brother went, but I did not want to because I did not want that job—it was fast food and greasy and smelly. I went to the interview anyways, and I did not even try to impress the person; I got the job immediately (should have seen that as a sign).
As I look back at the job, I did not realize how much you would have to read and comprehend information. The job was more than just making food and moving on to the next customer. You had to learn a whole new language, adapt to the community within the building, read customers’ body language, and learn to read the employees as well.
When I was a kid, I used to love doing math and figuring out how to make change the shortest way possible. So, for 95 cents, you would use three quarters and two dimes. I applied for the cashier position. I started the job a couple of days later, and I had to watch videos. I had to learn about everything that went on in the store. I would watch a video, and then I would be quizzed on it. I had to watch a certain set in order to work the position I wanted. Little did I know cashier was the most stressful position within the whole store.
After the videos, I started as the drive-thru cashier. I had to learn a new system and how to speak the “[restaurant name] language”. I had to learn fast, and it was difficult. Reading the cash register, learning to read the menu, finding ways to make orders cheaper, promoting items, repeating orders, adding on items, yelling to employees to cancel orders or to add on a small fry. It was a fast-paced job, and it was a lot of pressure.
Something that the videos did not train me for was all the different scenarios of dealing with customers. They tell you how to answer questions like, “does this have peanuts on it?” Employees would have to direct the customer to a website that tells them that. It told employees how to deal with something going wrong, like if a customer order is wrong, if the employee forgets something, and how to get a manager’s attention. The videos taught that employees to read the costumer. For instance: if they order a salad, suggest a bottle of water and don’t recommend a milkshake. Or, if a customer is looking at their watch and knows what they want, don’t suggest they try anything new because they are in a rush.
The videos did not teach me that because our location is by a hospital; people throw all their issues on us. I took a costumer’s order, and she was reading the menu wrong. She said that she wanted a sandwich with bacon. I ended up naming all of them, but she was getting frustrated. She ended up calling me “a bitch,” and I said that I could no longer take her order. She ended up apologizing because she had just come from the hospital and received some bad news. I did not realize that this job would teach me that I need to be able to do more than just read the machine and menu, but I would need to read the customer from their voice, a sigh, or their tone.
After a few months, I was promoted to be a manager. I was excited for a new challenge and a raise in pay. As I trained, I realized the workload of a manager. I had to learn a whole new system and new manager’s language at the fast-food restaurant. I had to learn the ins and out of the restaurant. I learned to read the computer: it showed the truck orders, the count for the registers, the schedule of employees, the number of hours we could work employees, payroll, and the count for the safe. I learned to read the schedule, and whether I needed more employees, or if I could let people go. I had new responsibilities of reading and completing the temperature log, which made sure everything is the correct temperature like cheese and meat. If it was under or over temperature, I had to throw the food out and replace it.
As an employee and manager, I ended up gaining a work family. I spent so much time there, and you couldn’t do nothing, but get close. We talked about anything, and everything. I truly can say that I love them both, and I am happy they are in my life. They made work a little easier, and always gave me a good laugh. I was always grateful towards them, and I am even more grateful that they are still in my life.
As August of 2019 came around, I had to decide whether I wanted to go down to part time or leave the job a together. I enjoyed the money, the security I felt, and the fact that I would have gotten tuition reimbursement for some classes. I had multiple people telling me to leave and focus on school, and others saying that I could juggle both. I ended up leaving the job. I knew school was going to be a lot, and I felt I was learning nothing new from this fast-food restaurant. I was doing the same thing every day, and there was no change. The job had become so stressful, and I felt it was an unnecessary stress that I did not need. I spent so much time there, for my opinions to not be heard, and for people to treat me like they never knew me. I ended up putting in my two-week notice because the supervisor was extremely disrespectful, and I felt I was going nowhere in the job. This essay has caused me to reflect on the questions of 1) If I regret spending a year of my life there, and 2) If I gained any skills for nursing school, or any job in the medical field.
In the end, I found that this job was something I could never regret. It was an experience like no other that I had. It was stressful, and at times it broke me down, but it was worth it. I was able to obtain skills that would be the same as if I was a nurse. I was able to adapt quickly to a fast-paced environment and learned under immense pressure. I was able to communicate with employees, customers, supervisors, and health inspectors effectively. I was taught my worth and that I can succeed by myself in a leadership role. I gained managerial skills, and I extended my resume. My mother is a registered nurse, and she made me realize that these were all skills that I needed in the medical field. Most importantly, I gained a new family. The year at the fast-food restaurant helped me gain my confidence, a voice, and a determination to do more with my life. I am thankful for the experience, and the lessons learned.