almost two decades of working various ends of retail and service, there
were few employees quite like the grizzled warrior we’ll call Granny.
This story is almost ten years old, but my Facebook feed reminded me of
this lady so I had to share.
popular fast food restaurant where I had worked in various positions
over a four year period with the promise of becoming management (a
promise that was never fulfilled), a lot of people came and went.
Granny was not one to be forgotten. She was in her 70’s, and the sinew
and grizzle that made up her body couldn’t have put her at more than
five feet tall. She was hired for about 6 hours a day, four days a
week, to essentially work in the back as a baker and dishwasher. She
probably spent three of those hours each day smoking. She hated the
people she worked with almost as much as she hated the customers that
bothered her while she was smoking. It was hard to say why she stuck
around for about the eight or so months she did; some might say keeping
her on was a charity case. Others might point out that our turnover was
high and a lot of the employees that worked mornings did not want to be
stuck doing the prep work and dishes she did.
am not kidding when I say you did not interrupt her when she was
smoking. One particularly cold morning when the morning rush was more
than a skeleton crew could handle, she made the decision to slip out
between oven timers to smoke. A parked drive-thru customer was marching
in from waiting for what they claimed was forever but was probably
closer to five or ten minutes, and made the mistake of taking their
anger and frustration out on her. I was running food out for another
vehicle when I got to witness the exchange, which was to say the least
The customer was a man about as
old as I am now (mid thirties) angrily demanding to know why it was
taking so long for his food and why she was smoking. Granny’s response,
dead pan, was that this customer should mind his own business. (!!!)
The customer wanted to go for broke on this old lady, instead of the
usual standby of wanting to talk to a manager (which is always the fan
favorite.) I remember him vividly screaming “It’s bullshit I have to be
late for work because you people can’t get food out on time. But I
guess that’s why you are making the fucking big bucks, isn’t it?” And
this old lady responds, practically spitting venom like a Dilophosaurus,
“Didn’t your mother teach you not to swear in public? She must be
ashamed.” In a perfect world this man would have seen the error of his
ways and crawled back to the car he came from and waited for his food
like an adult (before calling the 1 800 number and complaining to get
free food, because you know, customers). Instead he wanted to escalate
things, and he actually tried getting in my way as I came back from
handing out the food I originally was outside for. A manager had to get
off the cook line to apologize profusely and attempt to smooth things
over. Granny was scolded (not that it did any good, she gave zero
fucks) but did not lose her job.
Granny and I got along because while she hated everybody, I was a professional who on the surface loved everyone because that’s just what good customer service is (TM).
So I went out of my way to help her out when I could, lifting things,
getting materials from the shelves she couldn’t have reached if there
was another one of her stacked on top of her, etc. So after a few
months she got as warm to me as she would anyone, which was to say she
felt comfortable enough to talk to me on some of her many smoke breaks.
Most of what she had to say was how lazy everyone around her was, how
nobody knew how to do anything, how she had to do all this extra work…
you know, the short lady who I was constantly helping out. But I also
learned a little about her: she used to work for what was once a huge
retailer, starting in a warehouse and actually finding herself at an
office job with benefits. She has one son, whom she claimed disowned
her. She didn’t like animals because “they make messes everywhere.”
She hated asking for help, even as she clearly needed it. And one day,
she was going to win the lottery, tell this place we were working at to
go exploit themselves, and travel the world. Two things this woman
would not give up – smoking, and playing the lottery. She has “a
system” that “will pay off someday.” In the time I knew her, it never
Granny may have been more than a
liability for the company, but she had a strange way of being thoughtful
too. For Christmas, she decided to show her appreciation to some of us
by purchasing us lottery tickets. Not everyone, just like three or
four of us. Of course, she made sure we knew that “when” we won, we
would have to share half the winnings with her. For better or for
worse, none of us did.
She was kept in
the back, and not allowed to deal with customers. This was because she
had the disposition of a demonetized alt-right pundit. I remember one
day she was “helping out” washing tables. This is in quotations because
it was, to the letter of the job description, her job to do this… but
usually she didn’t. A family was leaving, and decided for some reason
not to take their tray of trash and cups with them – just left them on
the table. There were complaints by other customers who heard her
loudly complaining about how “in my day we would have spanked the
laziness out of those kids” and “no one has respect any more.” At the
time I really just felt she should shut up and clean the tables, but
especially as time has gone on I got it and I got her frustration. But
she made the cardinal sin of letting the customers hear her…
Granny is no longer with us. I don’t want to get into the specifics
too much, but she needed medical care. This taught me two things. One,
this old lady who seemed to only tolerate me for banter while smoking
and to do her bitch work apparently trusted me enough to list me as
someone to speak to from Family Services. Second, I discovered she was
actually an illegal immigrant (from Canada, of all places!) working on a
work visa that had expired some ten years prior. Family Services had
reached out to me in part because she had been given them my name, and
in part because no one knew who else to contact.
day after work me and a few coworkers helped pack her things. She was
incredibly ungrateful, as she often was, about how lazy we were and
about how we better not steal or break anything. She did offer us
cigarettes though, so she must have appreciated us in some way.
Arrangements were made for her to be moved to a nursing home just across
the border. I learned from management that she apparently passed away
not even a week after moving, and that the very son that was unreachable
to help her move was asking questions about her storage shed so that he
could grab her things, and contested the sale of one of her vehicles.
Today, I’ve got a
reminder of her on my Facebook wall. A picture of her was taken at work
for a holiday thing, and after she left I made a digital copy.
Hopefully, she’s in a heaven or a reincarnated life where she has
already won the lottery, and no one is interrupting her smoke breaks.
Also, it makes me sad, because over ten years later, I feel like I’m
falling into that same trap she was, where the only way I’m going to
reach my goals and enjoy life as I was meant to is if I win the lottery.
At the time, I felt it was silly she would expect to have a chance at
winning; now I recognize the desperation behind the belief.