Your first reaction to this title might be “12 years? Really?” Some of the people I’ve worked with over the years didn’t even last twelve days on the job, but I had my reasons for sticking it out so long.

Way back in the year 2000, I was a 16-year-old who wanted to keep up with the crowd and get a job after I got my driver’s license. So, I began to pound the pavements that summer looking for my first job. Clarion Burger King was hiring and pretty much hired me on the spot. There I got my introduction into the working world. It wasn’t too bad and half the time I would get sent home because I was the “new person.”

On my first day of work, the special was two Whoppers for $2. How the prices have changed over the years.

Making mistakes was fairly common with everyone. As a perfectionist, I fully expected to be fired or forced to eat my mistakes so nothing would go to waste, but as it turned out, throwing away mistakes was not a criminal offense. That was a relief.

Being a fairly high-traffic area, the Clarion Burger King saw a steady drive-thru and full lobbies for lunch and supper. I am not the fastest of fast food workers. In fact, I would consider my speed average to slow, but I was loyal, efficient, pleasant and careful. Nobody’s perfect.

One memory that stands out of my time there was performing classical poetry for my fellow employees during a slow evening. They sat down in the lobby and I stood up front and performed “The Wreck of the Hesperus” and the “Lady of Shallot” for them. They were very impressed. I think it is because they had never seen anybody perform classical poetry in a dramatic style.

The old Clarion Burger King closed and was torn down many years ago, but fast food is always popular and so it rose again in a nearby location.

My career at Clarion Burger King lasted for two summers before there was an opening at the New Bethlehem location and I transferred down there. It was easier all around. Getting sent home early did not burn up as much time or gas.

I really did find my work home and my niche at the New Bethlehem Burger King. At first it was my side job during college, and then as a newly graduated dramatic actress who highly prized her artistic independence, I stayed on for the freedom and flexibility a BK schedule offered while I was off chasing my dreams.

At my new job home I found: Fun, happiness, friendships, socialization, light work, freedom and flexibility.

It may sound ridiculous, but I genuinely like organizing items and putting them in bags. I routinely pass out baggies of candy and little gifts during the holiday seasons. It’s just fun.

You may think I was crazy for staying in fast food so long and not wanting to be a manager and move up, but it is an artist thing. The need to feel free and the fear of getting locked into a miserable existence in a job I disliked was a deal-breaker for me. I guess we all have different criteria for what is the most important to us job-wise, and artists and dreamers need to feel free. Just as no one wants to be trapped in an unhealthy relationship, your job/life’s work is the same. It is too big a part of your life to consider carelessly.

I don’t think I would have lasted as long at a fast food restaurant in a big city that was super busy and had grouchy co-workers. In New Bethlehem, we were just like a family. Even now, I feel sentimental about it the way you would your old college, your alma mater.

Opening and Closing – All right, I admit that I hate to get up in the morning. That was one of the things that kept me from being a manager. I liked my job at BK, but not enough to be a manager. Closing late at night was okay, but mornings? Ugh! Openings and closings at Burger King were quite an event; there was a ton of work to be done to prepare for the day and a ton of work to be done to clean up for the night.

The closers had to do multiple mountains of dishes, sweep the floors, scrub the bathrooms, wash the windows, stock the supplies, take out all the trash and mop the entire restaurant. And I am sure there were many other small duties that I have forgotten. In short, fast food closers and openers work very hard. Now that I work at the newspaper, I occasionally get to “open” or “close.” In my mind to “open” and “close” sounds so prestigious and noble, a highly responsible task that takes back-breaking efforts laced with blood, sweat, grease, soap, water and tears. However, at the newspaper office “open” and “close” just means you unlock the doors and turn on the lights. How the mighty jobs have fallen. I am sure it will be a long time before the pride in the words “open” and “close” wears off in my mind.

Oh the parties we had. Me and my lifetime habit of party planning and buying everybody presents. Our favorite party memory was playing the “Unfair Gingerbread” game. It was Valentine’s Day and I had planned a party. I got gingerbread man figures from somewhere and they were our game pieces. I drew my own board on four squares of paper, taped them together and made it cookie and candy land themed. The only technical fault of my efforts was that when the road of little spaces rounded the bend of the board, the gingerbread man on the inside gained several spaces over the players on the outside track. So it was dubbed the “Unfair Gingerbread” game. We played it anyway and laughed so hard.

The main downside to fast food working was that it was not a high-paying job. Also, dodging bees at the dumpster. I’m not allergic, but stinging bugs still terrify me. I did squawk about not getting my breaks at certain times. I admit it. The managers will remember. But overall, I was a responsible, dependable and loyal employee.

In closing, you have probably never read or heard of such a glowing report of life as a fast food worker. It is not for everyone, but it was a good fit for me for a bunch of years of my life.

I am proud of the part I played as a fast food worker and the long run of the “show.” To this day, they still want me back. Always happy to see my friends when I visit. We had lots of fun days over the years, but there comes a time in everyone’s life when it is time to move on to the next thing. As they say in the theater, always leave them wanting more.

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