Of people who should have been locked out of Roy Rogers’ Restaurants.
I’ve already mentioned the manager who thought it was clever to order two of the same brush for completely different cleaning tasks, but there are others in the distant past of the Double R Bar who cast their own unique pall.
Remember Oliver North? When I was on my first assignment at the Sterling, Va. Roy Rogers, Lt. Col. North (USMC, ret’d) was also a federal criminal suspect and indictee for running what amounted to a money-laundering, conspiracy and arms sales enterprise with an official enemy state. North also picked a warm, midsummer evening in 1988 to enter the establishment while I was the evening shift manager.
Coming to the counter with his long-suffering wife Marilyn in tow, North ordered a Double R Bar Burger, fries and a drink and, if I remember correctly, a two-piece chicken dinner for his wife. Straining to maintain a socially acceptable face, I informed him that it would be a minute, gave them their drinks and said I would bring their food and free refills out shortly.
North is still alive and I don’t have an attempted murder charge on my public record, so you probably can figure out that things went well. But the thoughts racing through my mind?
– Can I smuggle a kitchen knife to Mrs. North in hopes that she’ll take the opportunity to plunge it into his chest in a last gasp of marital despair?
– Is the meat slicer dull enough that there are metal chips and shavings that I can conceal in the slice of ham on top of his Double R Bar Burger or in the ice in his free drink refill?
– Could, hope upon hope, a motorist be about to lose control and smash his vehicle into the very section of dining room occupied by North’s torso and head?
– Did I forget to have that out-of-date case of country-style frozen quarter-pound (weight before cooking) all beef patties taken to the dumpster instead of being placed in the grill ready cooler at 4 p.m.?
– Will he simply die of cardiovascular failure from the stress of worrying how a Marine officer will fare at the hands of Leavenworth inmates enraged that he actually helped arm Shi’ite Iranian forces.
– Could I catch him unawares and crush his larynx with the edge of a serving tray?
The preceding took about 15 seconds to process. Finally I thought, ‘screw it, maybe the cholesterol’ll drop his ass like a sandbag.’
So much for my chance to alter history for the better.
Wireless is the future, I tell ya!
My time at the Sterling establishment ended a few weeks after the case of the FCC broadcast regulations bandit. That particular store had been chosen as a test site for wireless headphones and mikes for the drive-through. They were about as wireless and portable as Marconi’s first wireless transmitter, which meant that we had to have two thirty-meter towers with several hundred yards of antenna . . . sorry, that was the Roy Rogers extra low frequency site to communicate with the nation’s strategic missile submarines.
Anyway, the male and female drive-through cashiers got to tighten those glutes hauling around a three-pound battery-transmitter fanny pack while being able to wander around the front and take orders through the miracle of modern wireless electronics. Until the bandit struck.
I and another manager were standing near the front when we heard the drive-through repeater speaker emit: “Welcome to Roy Rogers and f*** you very much!”
Before we could run and choke the drive-through cashier, we saw she was in shock as well. And then all three of us heard: “You heard me c***s***er! What the hell do you want?!”
Apparently we had a radio enthusiast in the area who happened to pick up our frequency (Kenneth, perchance?) and decided to engage in a little recreational signal interference. Of course, our equipment couldn’t be switched to another frequency, and we had to end our test run. Apparently, corporate HQ had less of a sense of humor than some of us, and the Federal Communications Commission sent down a cat detector van to see if we could smoke out the bandit, to no avail.
AIDS is no excuse for being an asshole.
At Warrenton’s Roy Rogers, besides facing dairy cultures and people with no situational awareness related to cooking devices, we had the HIV-positive kitchen worker.
Now, in order to clear up any misconceptions then or now, I don’t feel that AIDS or HIV in and of itself is necessarily a reason to ban people from employment in most areas of the workforce. It was established even in the late 1980s that simply being near an infected person or shaking their hand or bumping into them wasn’t going to spread the virus (although Ebola may have been another matter, but I’ll leave that to the folks in Reston).
That said, the franchise owner was worried about the civil liability implications and asked me what to do. I said that it really shouldn’t be an issue as long as he follows proper food sanitation procedures and Centers for Disease Control recommendations to minimize potential for exposure (ie. don’t bleed or secrete on the food, puh-leeze).
What complicated things was that, in fact, said worker apparently failed to inform the store manager at the time of hiring that he was infected – a point that fell in a gray area of Virginia public health law and regulations about reportage of diseases posing a public health hazard. But the potential threat of “I’ll sue” from the guy ultimately left him with his job.
Of course, the worker occasionally and helpfully reminded me that I shouldn’t discriminate against him in duties and advancement because he was, in fact, disabled by his infection both physically and by the potential civil ostracism and persecution that could arise from his condition. While he showed no ill physical effects, I played it cool and things were on a fairly even keel.
One evening, moments before closing, a customer came through the drive-through and ordered a burger. The grill had just been cleaned and turned off by said worker, despite my standing instructions and corporate policy that the kitchen is open until closing.
“Tell him we’re out of food,” he said to me.
“I’ve got a better idea,” I countered. “Fry him a burger, now.”
I returned to the window to take the customer’s money and give him his drink. Turning around to check on the burger’s progress, I saw the worker extracting a crispy meat patty from the french fryer and assembling the burger.
“Uh, what are you doing,” I asked.
“Making the burger,” he said.
“We don’t do it that way,” I offered.
“We do tonight,” he said.
“No, we don’t,” I observed.
Then he tossed down the gauntlet: “You’re looking for a reason to fire me because I have AIDS.”
Having looked for ways to actually give him a chance to make a living during a time when everyone else on the country seemed to be looking for excuses not to keep AIDS-infected people on the payroll (and having been awake for 15 hours and looking forward to an hour drive home), I was not amused. I went over, turned on the grill, and said something to the effect that “You are going to cook this burger properly and without contaminating the fryer with raw meat while I go apologize for the delay and refund his money.”
He indicated that I was again using this as an excuse for getting rid of him because he was infected with AIDS.
“No,” I replied. “I’m firing you because you’re insubordinate and incompetent.”
I’ve not been amused about it since, either.
Anyway . . .