My mom and dad dropped me off at Arby's after they drove me home from the airport. Not that I was yearning for a tasty Beef 'n' Cheddar, though that was an itch that could always be scratched, but because I needed to check the schedule. I had been away for a few days, and I hadn't put in a schedule request. I hadn't put in a schedule request in more than four years, relying on my personal connections with the powers-that-be to get me the shifts that I wanted. I had been working there since I had taken a year off to prepare myself to start college, and I had worked my way up to weekend closing manager. I have no idea how this was actually going to pave the way to my collegiate career, but making roast beef sandwiches for the masses certainly filled many a waking hour back in those days.
When I walked in the back room, I noticed that someone had cleaned up a little. Not that we ran a dirty restaurant, but the back room doubled as the break room and it had a certain amount of character. Not anymore. The desk was neat, the manuals were stacked in an orderly fashion on shelves above the filing cabinet. The first thing that I noticed was missing was the tape. Once upon a time, I had put a dotted line of electrical tape down on the floor to mark where the "office" was, including the door, as an homage to WKRP's Les Nessman, winner of the Buckeye Newshawk Award. It was also one of the best laughs I ever got from our regional manager. The other things I couldn't locate were the cartoons I had drawn for the bulletin board. "Clark Works Late Night?" Gone. "Mongoloid Smokers?" Gone. As a matter of fact, the bulletin board was clear with the exception of the freshly laminated "Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning To Work" sign. Even more telling, the vacuum on which I had so carefully scrawled Wink Martindale's name in tribute to our regional manager's appearance on "Tic Tac Dough" was no longer in its corner. The fun, and the thrill was gone.
I looked out into the front where I recognized a few of the newer tuna, the employees who hadn't made it to the lofty position I had with its register keys and polyester vest. I knew the back of the head I was looking at: the new regional manager. The joy sucker. The one who had shown up and eliminated the reasons that I had hung around for so long. Working fast food is no one's idea of a really good time, but it had been made tolerable by a wave of whimsy that ran through the franchise where I did my time. Now it was just work.
I walked back to the desk, wrote my schedule request, and left my key. I requested more time off. A lot more.