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Edible Nonfiction: Today's pick

Maggie Panko's first job


Like many teenaged Canadians, my first job was at McDonald's.  Unlike the majority of those same Canadians, I got fired.   

Back then I wouldn't talk about it. McDonald's was the youth employment catch-all, a factory for start-up resumes and grey meat.   My best childhood friend worked her way up to Assistant Manager.  Everyone would do it.  Anyone could do it.  

Unless you had a problem with the Fish. 

Truthfully, it wasn't the Fish alone.  The Fish Incident followed a couple of crucial screw-ups: locking the cash by accident after inserting a hundred dollar bill, helpfully explaining to a customer that she could "take the pickles off" instead of waiting for a plain hamburger, or telling a man it was a "bummer" when I showed up with a caramel sundae instead of chocolate. I was a little off.  Then a lot. 

This was years ago, before automated fast-food cash registers beamed orders directly to the kitchen.  If you wanted something other than hamburger variants, you had to call it back to the cooks. 

A man in neat clothes ordered a Filet-O-Fish.   
I faced the kitchen and hollered:"Fish sandwich!" 
"Huh?"
"FISH SANDWICH!" 

There was only one fish item on the menu.  Who would actually yell Filet-O-Fish?  Ridiculous!  What was with the gaping O?  There wasn't even an apostrophe, as if execs were too lazy to brand it a faux-Irish staple. 

My manager was apoplectic.  He instructed me to pronounce the title fully.  I refused.  Again, he demanded.  No. 
Some people are not team players, he said. 

The next summer, I knew my record wouldn't snag the high paying full-time job I wanted to save for university. 

Oh well, I thought, talking to the burly recruiter who stopped by our high school.  The army it is.

Maggie Panko is from Montreal, QC

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