Minimum Wage

You began working the day after your 14th birthday at a run-down Burger King just far enough away from home that your Mother needed to give you a lift back and forth.

Your rabbit was to stand behind the flame-broiling ovens, hulking metal contraptions with two conveyor-belts running through them (burgers above, buns below). Orders were shouted back and you’d respond by digging bare-handed into the small freezer at your fore (beneath the oven’s maw) and slap the frozen patties (and matching buns) into the conveyor, grabbing and assembling with tongs on the other side.

The heat would become intense, easily clearing 100° or more. Worse, the ill-fitting brown uniforms didn’t breathe well, and you owned only the one.

A single 15 minute break every 5 hours (or 30 minutes if you worked an 8 hour shift). As the evening came to a close, when the trays had been washed, the floors mopped, the outdoor trash-bin hosed down, and the last of the vagrants cleared from the doorways, a discounted meal from a limited menu could be had alone in a booth facing the highway.

By comparison, working at the local supermarket – bagging groceries and fishing toilet-clogging feminine hygene products from overflowing basins (arms protected by three layers of forearm-length rubber gloves) was a dream job.

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