The first summer I was in the middle of the prairies trying to carve out a new chapter in my life and my family’s life I was also feeling the pressure to provide some sort of meaningful income for the family – not wanting to deplete all of our savings right away. My job with the provincial head office was part-time and I knew that I didn’t have any classes coming up for the summer so I saw an opportunity to put aside my studies for a bit, and focus back on working.
With my resume still fresh in hand I set out to look for work in this strange new place filled with strange new jobs. The first place that I noticed a hiring sign was just on the outskirts of the neighbouring city. On the property was a large building, which had a set of rail tracks leading to the back deck of the main building. Then there were several towers scattered about the lot and several large round inverted triangles of metal. That was the best way I could describe what these objects were. I have now come to know them by their correct prairie name; hopper cones.
However, back then I had no idea what this company did – it seemed like it was manufacturing of some sort and I saw it as another way of becoming familiar with all things prairies and farming. A learning experience perhaps and I was enthusiastic. Driving into the dirt parking lot I put my minivan into park and hopped out in my semi-business attire with my resume in hand, and walked up the front steps to this business. Stepping inside there were still no indications or clues as to what exactly this business did. Instead the walls were white and bare and there was a long counter with three men, two of them young (perhaps in their 20’s) and an older gentleman.
I approached the counter enthusiastically and got the attention of the one standing closest to me, however I did notice that I had caught the attention of the other two individuals who were looking at me with an intense curiosity.
“I would like to apply for the job”, I said.
“Here?” they replied.
“Yes. The sign outside says that you are looking to hire and I just moved here and I am looking for work.” Their “here” comment threw me off so I was stumbling around with my words.
“Okay”, they replied succinctly again, but this time trying to stifle their laughter.
“Thanks!” I enthusiastically responded before leaving a copy of my resume and retreating back to my mini-van.
“I think I better re-think my work strategy…” I muttered to myself. Clearly I was out of my depth in this new foreign place and I quite obviously stood out as some sort of tourist who had wandered away from their tour group. It was time to regroup and think this through a bit more carefully.
Although I did not want to ‘go there’ I found myself scouring the ads for restaurant jobs. It was what I knew, it was familiar, and not even the prairies could separate me from the culture that exists within this genre of work. And like a deja vu scenario, place after place I applied there was no response, until I reluctantly applied to the local fast food restaurant, which was the same brand that I had ceremoniously left a few years earlier to greener pasture in the golden city of the prairies.
Within a few days I found myself sitting down with the provincial director – in one of the locations in the same city that made the hopper cones – talking about my past experience with this brand. It started off like an oral exam as I walked him through all of the procedures, like I had memorized the company’s seven volumes of policy and procedure to everything chicken. I had, but it wasn’t something I liked to brag about.
He was obviously impressed so he turned his attention to the matter at hand. It was clear he was about to talk to me about a problem that he had been wrestling with for sometime and whatever was to happen next had nothing to do with the job that I had applied for.
“We have a problem,” he began, as if I was already on board with being part of the solution and all that was left was to discuss the logistics.
He then spent then next forty-five minutes providing background on the other location in the city or ‘the problem’ as he referred to it. In particular the problem being with the manager who worked there. The problem was compounded because although they wanted to terminate the manager, the manager had been with the company for a long time and, well, in the end they just didn’t want to pay the amount of money needed to let her go. But – this problem presented itself with a solution. A line had been drawn in the sand with the manager and as a result the manager was about to go on stress/medical leave for an indefinite amount of time. If I could be willing to come on board and help clean up the mess as the location’s new manager then they would try to figure out how to make that medical leave last indefinitely.
Casting aside their own selfish intentions here I began to speak to the provincial director about what I would need in order to take on this project for them. I wasn’t going to leave my other part-time job, which meant that I could only work afternoons at the restaurant with the exception of weekends. Then there was the financial compensation if I was going to take this on for them. The provincial director enthusiastically responded to my concerns, having been waiting for a conversation like this for some time. I was offered a good salary and the flexibility in my scheduling to make this happen. After ironing out those details I accepted their offer of employment and was to begin immediately.
I was now thinking that I had gotten myself much more than a summer job and was trying to figure out how I would make a full time job managing a restaurant work with my part-time job work with my full-time studies.
One thing at a time though. I had a restaurant to clean up and the company had a manager to fire.