Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Unfinished Works: Pizza Blogging

For the most part, I think people know that I spent a good part of my early "adult" years working as a cook, then manager at Pizza Hut. I started there in 2005 at 18 and worked in various capacities until 2013. 

I really enjoyed it in the beginning and thought I was doing something really important. I literally felt a sense of pride when I was 18 putting on my Pizza Hut uniform. That pride didn't last long, as I grew to become very disenfranchised with a corporate pizza world. 

I knew how to do everything involved with running a Pizza Hut, and I have said often that had nothing else in my life worked out, being a General Manager of a Pizza Hut would have been a profitable way to make a living. I think the funny thing is that I actually make less money as a journalist than I would have as a GM. But, anyway...

I do think running an independent pizza store that catered to the area it was located in would be a fun way to waste some time if I ever came into an abundance of start-up money and free time. That's another story for another time, though.

I enjoy niche journalism. USA Today, the New York Times, etc... that's the mainstream stuff that everybody can pick up and read. Pro Wrestling Illustrated is just for wrestling fans. High Times magazine is just for 420 enthusiasts. Car magazines. Baby-care magazines. Cat magazines. I'm sure by now you get the idea and don't need me to keep going. Golf Digest?

Anyway... Pizza Hut had a subscription to "PMQ," which used to stand for Pizza Magazine Quarterly, but since it's not quarterly anymore they just call it the Pizza Magazine. I don't know why Pizza Hut had the subscription -- it's a trade magazine that a corporate entity doesn't need. If you're starting up a pizza place, you could buy an oven through them, you could do uniform stuff, etc... Pizza Hut does all of their stuff in-house, so they don't need it. 

PMQ also had feature articles that were related to pizza. A winter issue would have something like best ski resort pizza places. Gene Simmons opened a pizza place or something once and was interviewed there. Best Chicago slices. And, the like.

I enjoyed it. I read it every month. Most of my co-workers made fun of me for being excited when the latest PMQ came in. But, most of the Pizza Hut employees I worked with weren't exactly what we could call "readers."

They especially made fun of me when PMQ called Pizza Hut while I was the manager and asked if I wanted to renew the subscription. They asked what name I wanted it under. So, every month, the latest PMQ was delivered to Chris Slater c/o Pizza Hut.

Much like a dream of mine as a wrestling fan was to one day write for a wrestling magazine, I thought a cool way to meld my love of journalism with my knowledge of the pizza industry was to write for PMQ. I looked up their site, followed their twitter, and started trying to understand how it all worked.

The PMQ site has a blog section. I had an idea to write blog posts from the viewpoint of a former "corporate" pizza employee and share my thoughts on a variety of pizza-related experiences. I wrote a "demo" post -- a piece about how I had lost my passion for the pizza industry and sent it to a lady from the PMQ site who looked like the one to go through.

I got an email back from her saying that wasn't her area and she told me to email another guy. I don't remember who, and I'm sure I still have the emails somewhere if I really want to go searching for them. To make that long story short, I emailed him asking if I could contribute to the site's blog a few years ago and never heard back from him.

It wasn't something I felt too strongly about pursuing, so I left it at that and moved on from that idea.

* * *

That brings us to why we're here -- the 8th installment of my old "Unfinished Works" series. I have a lot of ideas in my head. I have a lot of things I want to write. My old "B-Sides" book is about stuff I never finished writing or released in any way. Side note: the pizza piece I wrote to PMQ is going into volume 02 of that book. That's still happening.

The unfinished works posts are a series where I look at some notes I wrote and never got around to finishing. The past entries can be found here:

- Led Zeppelin -

- Lance Armstrong -

- Thought Catalog -

- Music with meaning -

- Beatles on iTunes -

- Raven's Redemption -

- Random ideas -

I have tons of stuff like this sitting around. Maybe actually writing them instead of writing about them would be more interesting. I don't know. In that email I sent to the pizza people, I included some ideas about stuff I could write about in the future. They are in the sheet that is part of this edition of "unfinished works," since I never actually wrote any of them.

Enclosed is the sheet of paper. I don't remember why I started doodling on the paper, but I do remember that I was sitting at Starbucks while I was doing it. I'll list each point and give a couple sentences about it; a synopsis of the full post I was going to write.

First job at 18 ... Summer of 2005, I was 18 and sitting around every day watching Maury Povich and the Price is Right. My mom suggested I get a job. My Pizza Hut interview consisted of three main questions: Do I have reliable transportation? (I didn't have a car, but I lived down the street). Do I get sick a lot? (I couldn't remember the last time). Was I okay with shaving my goatee and sideburns? (Not really, but I said yes).

First time being around dropouts, "losers," etc ... I had always learned that you go to high school, then college, then you get a good job. That was the first time I had ever been around peers who weren't living that lifestyle.

Being "seasonal" and transitioning to full time ... My first couple years, I just worked during the summer. After a couple years, I noticed that their lives never changed. They did the same thing constantly and I popped in for a few months. My fun job for extra money was their life. And, then it became my life.

Making "work friends" ... They start out as your co-workers and then you're eventually friends. Is it a real connection that brings you together? Or, as I reason, most of them are miserable together and are drawn together because of that. How many former co-workers do you really keep up with once you no longer work together?

Romance at work starting & ending ... Those two could either be the same post or separate. Again, is it a real connection? Or, do you both just need somebody to hold at night? I would tell the funny story of how the manager found out that myself and a fellow employee were becoming "friendly."

Becoming a member of management ... I resisted it for so long, but eventually I got tired of being a "cook" and I wanted more: more money and recognition. I got a little more money, but not much of the other one, which transitions into...

Dealing with corporate ... A multi-million dollar corporation is heartless. They look at the bottom line -- if it makes dollars and cents, it doesn't have to make sense. Good wordplay, eh? They manage with instruction books and not their minds. I would tell the story about how one of the higher-ups came into the restaurant and rearranged a bunch of things because his flowchart told him it was more effective. I held out the flowchart and said "The oven is here on this paper. Our oven is over here. This doesn't work for us."

The time the bathroom roof caved in ... Now, that was a crazy day. Again, going to the corporate mentality -- they didn't want to fix a small leak, because a small leak wasn't an issue. You can put a bucket down and catch it and not spend any money. Well, the leak was a lot worse than we thought, and when the roof caved in one morning when it was only me and the cook, Dylan, that became the fodder for a hilarious story. The response I got from corporate became a running joke between me and the other managers. Anytime we needed a shocked response, we used what he said to me when I called him: "You've gotta be shitting me!"

Hiring and disciplining friends ... Ah, the pitfalls of becoming a member of management and hiring your friends. You ultimately wind up having to discipline them. And it can get weird. Especially when they notice hypocrisy and improper treatment.

Regular customers ... I still remember the middle-aged lady who would order the medium pepperoni pan pizza, an order of breadsticks, and a 20 ounce Mtn. Dew. I remember the guy who would give me a couple dollars for making him a salad off of the salad bar with his takeout order and "loading it up" for him. You do grow attached to people. I literally watched a kid grow up. I was there for 8 years, and I saw him go through his teens, since he was there every couple weeks.

Long term employees ... Every place has that waitress who has been there forever and has no plans to leave. And this would try to shine a light into why -- why has the delivery driver been doing this job for over 10 years? Does he like it? Is it all he knows how to do? Is he happy?

Customer complaints ... Cue the eye roll emoji. And maybe that one where it looks like flames are coming out of your face because you're so angry. I've had people yell at me over a missing container of ranch dressing. I've had a guy call the cops; you should have seen the cop's reaction when he realized why he was there. I had a woman throw a pizza at me before. You see a lot when you deal with customers.

Growing up into your job ... I was 18 the first time I put on a Pizza Hut uniform. I was 27 or 28 the last time I took one off. A lot happened in that 10 years I was alive and the 8 years I worked there. I had two separate stints.

Leaving & going back ... Transition from the previous post. I left Pizza Hut after feeling more disrespected than I ever had in my life. I came back a couple years later when all of my options had run out and I had nothing else. You can't have pride when you can't pay your bills.

Getting fired by your friend ... Again, the corporate mentality comes into play. I got fired for the dumbest of reasons. And it wasn't my boss's decision. Years earlier, I had interviewed and hired her. By the time I left and came back, she had worked her way up to the top of the totem pole. Then, I did something dumb, her boss found out about it and told her to fire me.

Drinking and drugs at work ... Menial positions aren't known for producing the best mental health. By the end, I wasn't happy there. A lot of people weren't. Some turned to pot and pills. I dabbled with all of that, but that wasn't for me. My vice was the booze. It was so easy to get drunk and run a Pizza Hut. It wasn't a smart decision, but I wasn't about smart decisions back then.

Health inspections: critical vs non-critical ... I've failed several health inspections, but that doesn't mean that the food is unsafe. There are two types of issues -- critical and non-critical. Critical is the important stuff: expired products, cleaning products near food, the refrigerator not cold enough, etc. Non-critical is a crack in the counter where your register was. We didn't get that fixed for years, so we got a point deducted every month or other month the health inspector showed up. I would want to write and explain that failing a health inspection isn't really the harbinger of doom that some people think it is. Consistently failing health inspections is.

* * *

And, those were the ideas that I had for my pizza blog, or whatever my relationship with PMQ would have turned into. Obviously, it turned into nothing. I've thought about doing some of those things on my own. Or making it into a podcast kind of thing. I already have the one podcast idea I'm working on, that I've blogged about in the past, the service-industry one. Some of those same ideas could work there.

I don't know. We'll see what happens with any of those. If anybody wants me to elaborate on any of those and write about a certain topic, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

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