There are a few of my codes of conduct that come into play during this tale of liberation from greasy, incompetent drudgery. The first: never stick your foot in a bear trap. There are a lot of bad situations which can be avoided if one simply shuts the hell up and refuses to be masochistically polite. The second: fight like a pussy. When faced with a blustering moron with delusions of power, just smile, nod your head, and proceed about your day as though that person didn’t exist. Or sharpen your knives.
Bravery has its time and place, but subverting and manipulating the stage from behind the scenes works in ways that loudly standing up to the assholes doesn’t. For one, assholes are chronically unable to realize that they’re the problem, not everyone else. For two, by standing up for yourself, you become the asshole because you’re the one rocking the boat. Don’t believe me? Ask an Occupy cop’s can of pepper spray.
I say all of this because very few people who work at my now former shitty burger job had any clue that I hated that job with every ounce of my being from day one. Almost no one at Burger World knew that the place was the source for a lot of my recent rage and exhaustion, that the place wore both my mental and physical well-being down to the bone.
All my moronic and micromanaging bosses saw was my blank face. All they heard was my monotone work voice, and in those rare moments when I didn’t want to flip over my work table and walk out, a few jokes. Of course, they mistook my silence for assent, as tends to happen. The kings of Burger World thought I was a real laid-back dude, and thus they attempted to wring out every drop of sweat from me while paying me as little as possible for my trouble.
If working at Burger World felt more like honest work and less like a pyramid scheme, I may not be so hateful toward the place. But it was a hellhole. As a person, my immediate boss is a pretty good guy, and we got along pretty well. The problem was that his bosses are the sorts of tightasses who swallow coal in hopes of shitting diamonds. I feel bad for what my boss has to go through, because every moment of his job entails cutting every expendable second of labor, which wears him out and turns him scummy. My favorite example is when he paid me twenty bucks to not clock in for my prep shift because he was so piss scared about labor costs. He’s going to have a nervous breakdown at some point, or a heart attack.
Yet sympathy does not equal acceptance. There was a long stretch of time in which I came home every day from work, boiling with a new tale of infuriating managerial stupidity. I should have been more irritated about repeatedly being scheduled eight hour shifts and working only five – while simultaneously not being allowed to go home. By that point, however, I was so burnt out on the job that I limply accepted the cuts in hours and sat in the corner, reading and playing video games.
I know there are worse jobs out there, but all that knowledge does is make me feel super smart for not working at those places.
I also feel good about never forgetting the plan to leave. Having just moved into a place of my own, I needed the job, and I’m grateful for the money. But I was never complacent. I always watched for the way out. Appropriately enough, it was on the day when I dodged out of the first step towards becoming a Burger World supervisor – a promotion that would have surely spelled my end as a freethinking, sentient creature – when I was offered a new job on the ground floor of a far superior food place in town. I’m much, much happier there.
However, there were two problems. The first was that the new job didn’t start me with enough hours to allow me to quit Burger World outright. The second is that Burger World is kind of run like a cult, and my victimized boss has thus become a sad panda who perpetuates the weasely web-spinning that traps people there. What this meant for me was that I didn’t feel like I could tell him that I was working at another food job. He’d have just said that I already work at a food job, so I should just tell them thanks but no thanks. (In fact, he did try to edge out the other job anyway, but I shut that down.)
I had to invent a lie, and using my magical powers of improv I created a pretty convincing alternate reality that I’ve continued to stick to. It wasn’t all false; I did apply to work at my local library, though I didn’t get the job. But my story to Sad Panda was that I was now a librarian, that it was my main field of work, and that Burger World had officially become secondary. He whined and bitched and played Stockholm Syndrome on me, but he finally got the hint and backed off. Still, the scarce days I continued working at Burger World remained the asshole of my week. It wouldn’t do to reduce its hold on me; the burger cult had to be completely eradicated from my life.
But the end has finally come. On Black Friday, my bosses at my new job gave me the news that my hours were going to be increased. I could finally quit Burger World. I sent my old boss a text saying that the library had monopolized my holiday availability. I have no intention of returning. It was far more farewell than Burger World deserved.
It was the best Black Friday ever. Escape feels epic.