Sep 2, 2006

Burger King Memories

Toy Story Kids Meal Toys
Burger King (1995)
Writing about my first job yesterday brought back a flood of random memories that I haven't thought about in years, so I thought I'd spend a few minutes documenting them while they're still fresh in my mind.

There were different toys in the time that I worked at Burger King, but the ones that I remember the most vividly were ones that promoted the first Toy Story film.  We must have had a few hundred of those Sheriff Woody plush dolls at the restaurant when I was there.

Throughout my life, I have unintentionally created mental soundtracks for the people I meet and the places that I go.  I rarely realize it's happening at the time, but years later when I hear one of these songs, the memories of that time and place in my life immediately come flooding back to me.  If I were to create a playlist for the Burger King chapter of my life, the first track would be Roll To Me by Del Amitri.  I don't know anything at all about the band, but we had a little radio on the stainless steal prep table in the back corner of the kitchen where many of us would take our break and have something to eat.  This song was hot at the time, so it played at least twice a day during my shift.  Sometimes a song will start to annoy me if I hear it that often, but this one never did.  It's a catchy and pleasant song, and I always smile when it comes on - and get a craving for a Whopper.

My time working at Burger King was over a decade ago, so I don't remember exactly what days I worked or what shift I worked on those days.  However, I am absolute positive that I worked the night shift on Saturday, October 28th, 1995.  That night, on the same radio I just wrote about, I listened to Game Six of the 1995 World Series when the Atlanta Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians for the only World Championship that they won during their run of dominance in the 90's.  I love baseball, and even though none of my co-workers really cared too much for the sport, one of them found the game on the radio so that I could listen to it while working.  That act of kindness meant a lot to me.

In the days before DVR, if you wanted to record a television show that was airing when you weren't at home so that you could watch it later, you would have to buy a blank VHS tape, and set the timer in your VCR to record it.  I probably had 100 tapes in my dresser drawers and in a tray that slid out from under the bed, and I recorded all kinds of things.  One show that I recorded completely by accident was an episode of a science fiction show I had never heard of called Sliders.

The show was about four inter-dimensional travelers who traveled to different parallel worlds.  The over-simplified way to explain each of these worlds is that something different happened at some point in the past, which created a domino effect that drastically changed the world as the travelers knew it.  The episode that I had accidentally taped was called Last Days, in which an asteroid was headed for the earth that would cause a mass extinction.  As it turned out, this world had never invented the atomic bomb, so the heroes of the story worked to hastily invent a nuclear warhead to shoot down the asteroid before it could strike the planet.

So, assuming anyone on earth is actually reading this and gives a damn, you might be asking yourself what this has to do with Burger King.  I was in 9th grade at the time, and I was even more of a social misfit back then.  There's a reason that I don't have comments enabled on this blog or any contact information, and that is that I'm not the kind of person who makes or keeps friends easily.  I start out with good intentions, but then something happens (which is usually my fault) that makes it all go wrong.  If you touch a hot stove enough times, you eventually wise up and learn to keep your hand away, which is why I mostly keep to myself these days.  However, back in 1995, I was still trying to make friends, so I mentioned this quirky sci-fi show during a shift at work to the folks that I was working with.  One dude, who I would guess was about 10 - 15 years older than me, instantly looked up and knew exactly what I was talking about.  He was as excited about the show as I was.  He had every episode of the first season recorded on tape, which he brought in for me to borrow, and we quickly became friends.  His name was Darwin Jarrett, but he often went by his Native American name, which is Nitehawk.

This is Nitehawk.  I lost touch with him over the years, which again is entirely my fault.  I strongly doubt he would remember me at all, let alone know what a positive influence he was in my life.  He was a funny, creative person who was just an all around good dude, and he taught me that it's ok to be a nerd and to embrace the things in my life that made me happy, like science fiction.  Although our areas of interest didn't always overlap (he's more into the Dungeons & Dragons scene, whereas I've always been more into retro arcade and console games), we had tons of interest in common and spent many shifts making burgers and fries and talking about Sliders, Star Trek, Star Wars, Nowhere Man and different ideas for Geocities sites that we had.

At the time, he ran a sci-fi fan club called The Drakmärian Alliance.  I signed up for it, but social anxiety and general awkwardness kept me from really participating, as it often does.  This dude bent over backwards to make me feel welcome.  I only wish I could have just relaxed and allowed myself to become a part of it.

These days, he runs a company called Nitehawk Interactive Games, which publishes tabletop role playing games and expansion modules to AD&D, among other things.  I'm not knowledgeable enough about the scene to do justice to their work, but if you happen to stumble upon this blog and you enjoy RPGs, I strongly encourage you to check them out.

Last, but certainly not least, I will always remember the food at Burger King.  Of course, I could go to a Burger King any time I want and have a Whopper, but as anyone who has ever worked at a restaurant can tell you, it's different when you work for the place.  Our managers had a pretty liberal policy of letting the employees eat whatever they wanted.

The main thing that most of us snacked on throughout the day was a piece of cheese from the prep table wrapped around two of three french fries or a chicken tender.  For lunch or dinner, I usually made myself a bacon double cheeseburger (with an absurd amount of bacon and pickles), or one of the many chicken sandwiches we had on the menu.  At the time, there was a series of international chicken sandwiches available, including the American (with lettuce, tomato and American cheese), the French (with mayo, ham and Swiss cheese), and the Italian (with marinara sauce and Mozzarella cheese).  My favorite one of all was the BK Broiler, which was a thick, unbreaded chicken patty sandwich.  It had a smoky flavor and to this day is one of the most delicious fast food sandwiches I've ever eaten.  I used to make mine with bacon, pickles, lettuce, tomato and a little bit of mayo.  It was discontinued a few years ago and replaced with the Chicken Whopper, which isn't bad, but it's just not the same.  Finally, for desert, we had these little individually boxed slices of Oreo Cookie Cream Pies that were to die for.  They were even better if you ate them right from the freezer.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about them.