Frontier Former Editor

July 29, 2008

Phuc’ing around

Another entry in the “I kid you not” department.

About 20 years ago, I took a professional side trip as an assistant manager for the Roy Rogers fast food chain.

During one phase of that side trip, I was one of three assistant managers at the Reston, Virginia Roy Rogers (roughly a Northern Virginia hour’s drive time from Stiletto’s favorite strip joint). One of its claims to fame – okay, its only claim to fame – was its proximity to the first U.S. research lab to bring a strain of the Ebola virus into the country, although officials claimed it was fatal only to primates.

(Insert your own joke here – I could have filled the space with days of comments)

One of our most industrious workers was a young gentleman named Phuc Yu (thus the “I kid you not” designation for today’s story). While the first part of his name suggested a Vietnamese ancestry, the ‘Yu’ portion left enough doubt so that I refrained from stereotyping.

Phuc’s primary assignment was chicken fryer, a task which he learned quickly and by which we actually served a fairly decent fried chicken to the herds of yuppies roaming the Reston area during lunch time. If Ebola was one of our secret herbs and spices, it didn’t cause any of our regulars to collapse, weep blood and ooze liquefied organs.

Phuc could turn out trays of chicken in prodigious quantities, making him a handy guy to have around during weekday lunch rush, as was the case that fateful summer day in 1989. The lunch crowd had started assembling in our cafeteria style line in anticipation of our best selling three-piece all-white dinner, and Phuc had already fried up 16 trays of chicken (eight chickens x eight pieces per bird = 64 pieces a tray [32 pieces of white meat], or 1024 pieces of chicken in the ready locker].

A week prior to that day, our brilliant manager had decided to replace cleaning brushes and save a little money by buying two long-handled heat-resistant synthetic-bristle brushes. Upon their arrival, the brushes were lovingly marked on their respective handles as “For chicken fryer use only” and “For restroom use only.”

Phuc always followed the standard Roy Rogers Restaurant procedure of brushing the sides of the fryer free of batter fragments after every two trays of chicken and filtering the oil and brushing the fryer after every four runs of chicken. As lunch shift manager, I was doing my walkthrough of the kitchen and saw Phuc doing the brush cycle. As I watched Phuc approvingly, my eye wandered to the brush and saw the letters above his hand: FOR RES.

Standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the serving line, with about 70 customers for an audience, I lunged toward the brush and yelled . . . . “PHUC YUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!”

I’m pretty sure the shock of my homynymnal outburst served to distract the customers from the sight of me locking the chicken holding cabinet  with its 1024 pieces of chicken out of the kitchen and toward the back door to join the contents of our dumpster.

I kid you not.

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