the olden days

so, i was standing in carl’s jr, waiting for the food, and thinking about the olden days. i do have vague distant memories of working fast food, way back when i was 17, at sam’s superburgers on 105th avenue and east 14th street in san leandro, a few blocks from the oakland border. it was a drive thru, with two car windows and one walkup window. busy meant one car at each window and two more cars at speakers behind each car, total of six car orders in process, and however many were standing at the other window. no cash registers. the manager, who’d been doing it for years and years, considered you weak if you wrote down orders on paper sacks — the only order recording system available. there were three of us: i had one window, and made drinks and fries. the manager worked the grill in the middle, and his wife worked the other side, the corndogs and tacos and such. and we had to take the orders, remember them, add them up, figure tax, charge the customer, make change, and make the food for all the orders, which we shouted back and forth to each other.

you know, i’m going to sound like a curmudgeon when i say, it was good for us. my god, i could do math in my head like you couldn’t believe, and my memory, in contstant use, was amazing considering my natural ditz tendencies. and the bookkeeping system, based on how many containers and burger buns were used at the end of the day, was surprisingly accurate. we did it all in our heads, dammit, i’ll be saying to my grandkids when they get their first jobs at these burger joints with the newfangled touch screens, with the orders on the computers and the headsets and the one order at a time from the drive thru. these kids today, they have it so easy.

lets not even get into my first office job, when we had to type on five part invoices without making mistakes, or else use multiple colors of the relatively new innovation, liquid paper, on all the carbons. the invoices were numbered! you had to type them! if you voided too many, you got in trouble!

why, we didn’t even have post-it notes! we had to walk miles through the snow and paperclip small pieces of paper to other pieces of paper! and it was good for us! yes it was!

*ahem* where was i?

oh, i’m enjoying the peace and quiet of my modern, mostly cushy, techy job very much, thank you. and i don’t wish the old days were back, not one bit.

31 thoughts on “the olden days

  1. me too! only i worked for my parents in their diner, and later in a series of coffee shops, bars and cocktail lounges. i had to remember all the orders, add everything up, give the right change… and yes, it really exercised my brain. i got in the habit of adding long columns in my head by a strange method i can’t even describe and i still use it. my son can’t figure out how i do it and neither can i, but i’m always right.

    i always thought i was bad at math until i took the sat at age 28 and qualified for a full a scholarship to usc. i couldn’t remember any math formulas from high school so i decided what the hell, might as well try to figure it out using logic… and i got 600!

    i *know* it was those years as a waitress.

  2. Ahhh… let’s stroll down memory lane, shall we? Working for an art department, where the term “Cut & Paste” literally meant “Exacto Blades” and “Spray Mount”. We didn’t have computers like you kiddies…AND WE LIKED IT!

    hmph. Kids.

  3. funny, i was just talking about that very thing with a friend who owns a restaurant. “kids” today have no idea of counting back change or figuring tax on an order.

    of course, maybe by virtue of missing these little things, kids are smarter today by virtue of focusing on other things. maybe not.

  4. oh, i definitely think that there is some benefit to being forced to do math in your head. but maybe i’m just old. i also object to digital watches, so, … i’m really not a luddite. i’m not.

    the skillset today is indeed much different. my mom, typing 90wpm on a manual typewriter — me with my backspace key, couldn’t type without it now if i tried. lazy fingers. lazy brain?

    i don’t know.

  5. well, at least you didn’t have to walk! at least things had legs then! we had to ooze through the slime to get to school!

  6. I knew I was an old advertising dinosaur when I asked a young art director in my group for a ‘layout pad’ and he looked up from his G4 Macintosh and said “Huh? a what?”

    Yes, I remember ‘knifing’ 6 point legal lines from galleys- spec’ing type and being quite good at marking up copy for rag type… (cough).

  7. hey. as one of the “kids these days”, i just gotta say; we inherited this world and all it’s technological advances. so if we can’t figure tax in our heads or count back change, blame it on the unnamed “they” who invented all that stuff. or better yet, blame Canada. 😀

  8. I was resistant to math until I discovered that shopping required math. I’m good at figuring discounts and mark ups now.

    I think that’s the only draw back to lithium: I can now go into a store, see some thing shiny or a cool pair of shoes and think, naw I don’t really need that. This, however, does not seem to apply to books.

  9. sadly, these days, i am almost wholly resistant to every type of merchandise, even stuff i need. someday, i’ll be less poor. but then again, if you add up what i spend on hosting, dsl, and other communication related things each month, well, i could be one fashionable mama. as it is, i hardly ever leave the house, so who needs shoes and shiny things?

    i’m such a hermit.

  10. oh yeah, one more thing i can do: i don’t keep a check register. i never, ever balance to my bank statement. i go online to see what’s cleared and keep a running, general idea in my head — i do bounce checks, (well, use my overdraft protection, they don’t bounce), but only when i mean to.

    i’m a genius when it comes to cashflow and bankfloat. absolute idiot savant.

  11. i blame my lack of math skills on the graphing calculators we used, starting in high school. actually i don’t have a lack of math skill now, but as an 18-year-old new recruit delivery girl for pizza hut, i had major anxiety about making change. i didn’t know how to subtract in my head, or add for that matter.

    i’ve been thinking lately about how those ancient libraries burned down and maybe that is what will happen to us, except that all of our electronics will stop working due to a neatly designed bomb from outer space. imagine it — the collapse of a whole civilization, not from death or physical destruction, but from a reversion to analogness that we just can’t handle.

    i wish i could go back to bed.

  12. I think Jill got to ride a dinosaur because she went to prep school. It was just us public school kids who had to ooze through 30 miles of slimy snow uphill on our bare fins

  13. Ah, a nostalgic trip down memory lane…

    Even for my time, I was not spared. And working in Pizza Hut while waiting for my GCE ‘O’ level results wasn’t easy at all. With no training provided, I had to practice one whole month and topple god-knows-how-many tall glasses of cola off the tray before I could balance those heavy cum oily trays.

    Now, it’s a piece of cake if you have 2 of such trays for me.

  14. Uphill… both ways!

    God (or Goddess or Buddha, insert your own deity), did this bring back memories. I would never want to go back though… bring on the technology baby!

  15. i can make change, but i am handicapped by my constant use of the term ‘album’ when referring to a new musical release. and i read ‘skillset’ as ‘skillet’…i better get packed up now for my new place at the rest home…

  16. Portia, there’s a SciFi story from about thirty (forty+?) or so years back where the military finds a use for a gentleman’s obscure hobby: he can to math on paper (rather than on a calculator). Ultimately (and as we seem to do so well) they were able to use it for weaponry, a ‘manned-missile’.

    Written as a projection of the far future where everyone would have a pocket-sized ‘calculator’, it was almost a humor piece for a time when a ‘four-banger’ calculator was still a desktop-sized item.

    That said, both my boys are learning every trick I can teach them about doing math in their heads.

  17. things i can still do competently in my head (years of practice)

    figure what 20% off half the last ticked price is, or any other bargain-hunting related calculation.

    keep a running total of the items i put in my grocery cart, figuring in discounts, tax, redemption value, etc, and have a total in my mind that is within a dollar or two of the final total. every time.

    my daughter was fairly resistant to math till i demonstrated to her that shopping requires math!

  18. note to self: read more sci-fi.

    i can calculate approximate square footage of a room in my head. when it comes to money though, i’m all muddled up. all those percentages and fractions and icky things. blech.

  19. Did you know that the guy that invented Post-it Notes only made $10,000 on the deal? He was a 3m employee that had a friend in the R&D lab. His friend told him about this new glue that they had developed that stuck things together, but not permanently. 3m didn’t know what to do with the stuff. So this guy suggests his Post-it Notes idea, and they turn it down. Later, he makes up several pads of them himself, and starts using them in the office. Soon, everybody is using them and 3m decides to go into production. They gave the guy a $10,000 bonus for the idea, and now Post-it Notes account for 25% of 3m’s sales.

    Just call me Cliff.

  20. My mom used to take me to your burger place, kd.
    We went there once a month when we lived in a ratty apt bldg on E. 14th, and when we’d moved to the City we’d go every time one of us had a dental appt with our San Leandro dentist, until he retired in the 80s.

    My mom and I have a meme from Sam’s. This fat, heavily made up, beehive hairdo having lady was commanding her frail looking daughter “awlright, nooooowwwww…” every five minutes. She was horrifying. So now, when we want to bond over talking shit about other people, one of us will intone “awlright, nooooowwwww…”

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