Sunday, October 16, 2016

Life - Honesty

I worked at a McDonalds when I was in college, 2 weeks a year for two years, during Christmas break. I did it to make some pizza money, to buy bike parts, and because I didn't know what else to do for four weeks in a cold, dark January Connecticut.

I interviewed with the McDonalds that I'd first visited when I was maybe 4 years old. I remember it was a rare treat for me to actually go there but I'd always look at it when we drove by. It was one of my many landmarks that I kept in my 4 year old head.

We moved away from that area for a good 6 or 7 years, visiting it annually. And, for whatever reason, we'd always drive by that McDonalds. One thing that impressed me was just how many hamburgers that little place served. I didn't realize the number on the sign, so many millions served (now it's in the billions), was the total of all the McDonalds in the world, not just that one place. I didn't see that sign elsewhere so I figured they were counting just their own sales.

So when I went looking for a job for a few weeks I decided to look at places where there wasn't a lot of skill, there was probably high turn over, and I could qualify for the job without having a college degree.

The new Burger King wasn't hiring so I went and filled out an application form at that really busy McDonalds that sold 100 million burgers or whatever.

I got an immediate interview with the manager, a guy named Alan. He was pretty laid back. He knew what needed to get done and he also understood that being a jerk about it wasn't going to help.

He asked me what I thought I'd be doing.

"I dunno, flipping burgers or making fries or something."
"Why's that?"
"Because I can only work for a few weeks and if it takes a week or two to train me to do something else then I wouldn't be productive."
"Have you worked with money?"
"Yeah, at the bike shop."
"Well, if you want to work, I'm going to put you in the drive-thru."

I took the job.

I didn't think much of it, honestly. I'd applied for three jobs and gotten them all, most of them with a pretty informal interview like the one I just had sitting at a table at the McDonalds.

I went for my first day of work and Alan gave me a uniform. Shirt, pants, and the hat thing. The shirt was fine - they all were because I was so skinny - but the pants were sort of a problem. They were way too long because I have really short legs, and they fit way too tight around the thighs because I'm a bike racer (hahahaha! Actually I'm sort of serious about that, the thighs were really tight).

I preferred to wear my own jeans, which happened to be black. Alan, as laid back as he was, told me no.

I asked why I had to wear the McDonald's pants. Not only were they uncomfortable but they had no pockets so it was impossible for me to carry my wallet and keys. He explained that in the drive thru (this before credit cards at McDs) there was a high risk of theft. He carefully explained that if a drive thru teller like myself shorted each customer a dime, at 50 or 60 cars an hour the teller could more than double their hourly wage. Since we got about $5.75/hour at the time for the late shift (substantially less for day shift), another $5-6 per hour was no laughing matter. Most customers would miss quarters but not dimes, so, as Alan explained it, the teller had to short dimes or nickels. Then if the customer stopped and complained the teller could apologize and just give them another dime or whatever.

You know the bit about drive thrus in Lethal Weapon, right? (warning: link has language)

He explained that pants with pockets would only encourage that kind of action because it would allow the teller to put that shorted change somewhere.

The way he explained it was so precise, so detailed, that in a book the author would be obliged to obscure some of the details and explain that in another book some thieves actually implemented his writing and stole millions of dollars are artwork (which one author does, I can't remember which one). But this was verbal and he was basically telling me how to steal money from customers.

Then, I think my second day there, he let me wear my regular pants instead of the McDs ones.

Now I look back and it seems pretty clear that part of the game was that the drive thru was sort of a good spot for shorting change and if I was that kind of person, as long as I kept out of trouble, he'd leave me alone. I'd be hung out to dry if I got caught though.

At the same time the less cynical would say that, okay, Alan checked on me, did an honesty check, then let me work comfortably in a spot where he couldn't trust any of his other employees.

I'd like to think it was the latter.

I think I passed the honesty test when, I think on the first day of work, I reported to him in a worried manner that we might be getting set up to be robbed. He jumped and asked why. I told him that the cameras were all pointing at the registers, not at the customers, so we wouldn't be able to identify any robbers.

He looked at me for a long moment and then relaxed and grinned.

He patiently explained to me that the cameras were pointed at the registers for a reason, not at the customers, and left it at that. I couldn't understand what he meant until I told the story to someone and that someone pointed out that generally speaking the biggest thief in a place like that are the employees.

Then it sort of dawned on me about the regular pants versus the McDonalds pants and the significance of Alan letting me wear my regular pants.

I never took anything, to be clear, although I suppose if I did I wouldn't be writing about it either. The crew did discretely over produce some stuff at the end of a shift so we had to "throw it out" (into bags which the employees took home), which, based on what I've heard from other McD's people, seems to be pretty normal. I had a lot of hamburgers that January.

The following year I went back there. Alan was still there, and in fact I was apparently still an employee because he couldn't hire someone for just two weeks. Therefore he hired me and then put me on "leave of absence for school". He said that he had a 6 month and 1 year pin for me. He took me off the leave of absence list and let me work whatever days I wanted.

I quickly realized it was a totally different crew. They seemed much more hardened, much more serious. I was admiring a car in the parking lot, a Camaro (I know, I know), IROC-Z. One of the guys asked me if I wanted to buy it. Well, of course, but it's $8000 or something, way out of my league.

"I'll sell it to you for $500."
"Then you just slip this guy at DMV $50 and he'll give you a new VIN number."

I told Alan I couldn't work there anymore.

Junior Racing

Junior 15-17 start line at New Britain (going reverse how we go now, due to a massive Junior crash in 1986 or so).
I'm looking down, blue/pink/white kit, about 5 from the right side of the picture.
I think Charlie Issendorf posted this picture elsewhere.

I bring all this up because I saw a post on the internet about Junior gears. One Junior asked why he couldn't just race his bike the way it was and then adjust the gears or change the wheel to pass rollout. I think it was an innocent question because he didn't realize the significance of the gear limit rule.

I saw an unrelated post about how Junior gear limits are a nice way of capping performance. It's easy to check, everyone gets checked, and there's no question if you fail roll out - you get DQ'ed. I know there are officials that have examples of Juniors (or rather their parents) who think that their kid should have won even though they were in a 53x11, but that's getting onto a tangent.

Same era, different race, very left of the picture. 
This is New Britain again, a spring series race since there are Seniors in here and not many leaves.
Different kit, same bike, probably earlier the same year.
Again, reverse direction compared to nowadays.

What if the officials accidentally tell you that you can run a bigger gear?

One year, at the Andy Raymond Firecracker 500 in Middletown, CT, the official/s checking rollout at registration used incorrect marks to check rollout. At the time the gear limit for Juniors 17-18 was equal to a 53x15 with an average 21-22mm tire (7.47 meters, like the plane, 747). However, at the registration roll out check, it was pretty clear that a much, much bigger gear would pass the official marks. Someone found that a 53x12 would "pass rollout" and the word spread like wildfire in the parking lots.

My teammate fitted such a gear. Us older Juniors had Senior gear freewheels because in Senior races we weren't gear restricted like Juniors are nowadays. He went back to registration and duly passed rollout.

I looked at my bike. 53x15. The sprint was off a downhill stretch, and anyone running a 53x12 would absolutely wallop someone using a 53x15.

I didn't have a Senior wheel yet so I really didn't have any way of implementing the 53x12 gear thing. Then one of my Senior teammates offered me a wheel. Because, you know, every Junior was doing it.

I hemmed and hawed but finally declined. I'd race my wheels, legally, and whatever came of it would be my race.

For once in a Junior race I didn't get shelled right away, and in fact I made it to the sprint. As a Junior I wasn't very strong relative to the others (they were all Cat 1s and 2s) so to even make it to the finish was astonishing. I was not really in contention for anything - I vaguely remember being maybe 20th going into the last turn but that probably means I was more like 30th or 40th. I fantasized about a top 6 finish, points toward an upgrade (only top 6 got points toward upgrading regardless of field size, and it was a huge field).

I do remember what happened after the final turn though.

Gobs and gobs of riders sprinted past me, like I was standing still. My teammate was one of them.

After about 15 or 20 riders passed me I sat up. I imagined most of them were running a 12 or a 13, and with the ultrafast downhill into the last turn I couldn't accelerate at all in my 15. I felt like I was sprinting in my 42T chainring.

I went back to the car, a bit disappointed in myself. I was so far back I didn't even bother going to rollout because back then they didn't pick all the spots, they only hand picked the first six or ten.

I wished in a way that I'd taken that bigger geared wheel.

Then my teammate, one of those who passed me in the sprint, came over to the cars. He'd gotten 7th or something in the sprint. He didn't look very happy.

"I got DQ'ed."
"They fixed the roll out marks and everyone is getting disqualified. Everyone was running 12s and 13s in the back."

I couldn't help but laugh a bit.

I'd disqualified myself simply by not going to rollout, but imagine if I'd gone? I might have placed top 6 after crossing the line 50th or 80th place. I have no idea how they worked out the placings because we left without bothering to find out.


The year after the Camaro conversation I went back to Alan's McDonalds, during my winter break. He was still there, asked if I wanted to work. I told him no, not this year, I was working elsewhere. He didn't seem surprised. He said that he'd be moving to a different McDonald's soon, one that had even more customers per hour. A good move for him but in that location there was no way I'd be able to drop by and say hi.

Then it got busy so he had to go, but before I got out the door he called out.

"Hey! I forgot to tell you! I have a 2 year pin for you and I still have your 6 month and 1 year pins!"

I grinned and waved.

I never got those pins.

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