Retreat, verb – (of an army) to withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after defeat. Sometimes, my work-study duty at The Retreat’s grill window makes me want to do just that. Though my shifts are only two hours long, some nights feel like a fast-paced endurance test of making enough French fries to feed a small country and yelling out order numbers like a desperate, sleep-deprived bingo caller. Some nights feel like a grueling campaign of trench warfare as I engage wave after wave of customers. While it’s certainly not rocket science, it’s also no easy task. It’s neither of those things. Why would rockets or parks have anything to do with it? The point is, it ain’t easy bein’ greasy.
Working at The Retreat has quite a few upsides. The managers and kitchen staff are almost too nice, so please don’t turn into one of those “can I speak to your manager?” people if they forget your honey mustard. Another great aspect is the $$$ factor. Getting occasional payment while in college, the (hopefully) greatest financial burden of my lifetime, is kind of like hoping to win tug of war with an unhappy gorilla. It’s almost completely futile, but it is nice to get some drops of grease in the bucket, however many Olympic swimming pool’s worth that bucket is. There are also employee benefits. For each shift, I get a free meal and cookie, which I add to the stockpile I have gathered in preparation for Nildapocalypse.
The job can be easy and even, dare I say, fun? But as the weeks go by, and the sweet potato fries fry, I am beginning to notice the symptoms of a psychological effect called “Squidwardification.” For those of you who don’t know, Squidward Tentacles is Spongebob’s irritable neighbor and coworker in the award-winning, dramatic television series “Spongebob Squarepants.” I am in the same line of work as this misanthropic cephalopod. I take an order of fried food as I scribble it down on a piece of paper, and then I yell the order to those in charge of the grill. The only thing that sets me as an employee apart from Squidward is my unfortunate obligation to wear pants.
When I started at The Retreat at the beginning of the fall semester, I had a Spongebobian work ethic. I was a goofy little rectangular prism of joy, ready to serve every customer with great enthusiasm. I kid you not, I would actively study the menu to avoid messing up orders.
Now, however, I am beginning to identify more and more with Spongebob’s tentacle-clad friend. My demeanor is more outwardly grumpy. I’ve thought about taking up the clarinet. During today’s shift, I looked down at my turquoise gloves and I could’ve sworn I saw suction cups. It’s just a matter of time before the physical effects of Squidwardification begin. Extra legs will form, my nose will increase in size as well as droopiness and my forehead will elongate upward. However, this brow inflammation is not to be confused with the disease that affects even some of the greatest NFL quarterbacks: Peytonitis.
While we’re on the subject of Mr. Manning, I must say he would feel quite at home here at The Retreat, though it’s not Papa John’s. I bark cryptic commands (“BREAKFAST CLASSIC!” is my “OHAMA!”) to a team that does most of the hard work while I just stand there. Yet in the end, as indicated by the existence of this article, I’m the one who receives the most press coverage and attention, just like Peyton.
In my experience, there are two types of Retreat orderers. The first is the Simple Sally. This customer walks right up to the window and recites their order like a well-prepared speech. Sometimes, a grill worker will even recognize them and say “Do you want the usual?” The second type of orderer is the Undecided Ursula. They hesitantly waddle to the window and, as indicated by their title, take some time to reflect on what they want to order. I don’t mind this indecision at all. In fact, sometimes it’s a nice relief which slows the pace of the dinner rush. Whenever I have to break the news that The Retreat is lacking a certain ingredient or type of bun, which is quite often, a Simple Sally can transform into an Undecided Ursula in the blink of an eye.
Sometimes, during periods of downtime at the grill window, I like to think of slogans for The Retreat: “Like a good neighbor, The Retreat is available after 8PM!” or “There are some things dining bucks can’t buy. For everything else, there’s The Retreat.” They can’t all be great. But someday, if I play my VCards right and work my way up the corporate ladder, I could work wonders for The Retreat’s marketing department. Does The Retreat have a marketing department? They should.
My job is kind of like donating blood. It takes a little bit out of me, but in the end it’s all worth it because they give me a cookie! Sure, I don’t get to do homework during shifts like the Fitness Center monitors who take the term “work study” quite literally. Sure, there are activities that are more fun than buttering toast and asking customers to repeat that sauce they just said. But what is life without a little bit of grease on it?
The greasiest jobs can offer truly unique opportunities. One time, I was presented with a unique scenario when a customer did not return to get their food. I took the liberty of calling out their order number quite a few times, because under what other circumstances–with which other work-study job–would it ever be appropriate to yell 69 in a crowded place?