Years of angst, distilled to one word…

In a previous career, my father served on the front lines of the human resource industry–he worked at a temp agency. His responsibilites included many things, most notably interviewing people who came in off of the street to find jobs for them. One story always stood out:

Each applicant had to fill out an application form that included fields for previous work history, references, and the reasons for leaving their last employment. Once a man walked in who had worked as a short order cook for Waffle House for seventeen years. Think about that, that’s probably hundreds of thousands of orders for pecan waffles, patty melts, eggs over easy, and of course, hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered. It’s a pretty stressful job I would imagine. Think of hours standing next to a hot griddle, the temperment of the waitresses as they yell out orders one after another. Think of going home every night smelling like breakfast. Enough for someone after a period of time to say, take this job and shove it. Imagine my father’s surprise when he read the man’s reason for leaving his job.

One word was written on the form. “Jellypacks.”

My father couldn’t let that one go without an explanation. Seems that the uppity-ups at Waffle House corporate had attempted to abandon the time honored practice of calling out the order by developing a system whereby plates were set out and the arrangement of the condiment packets on the plate would tell the cook what had been ordered. For instance, a ketchup packet laid face down on the side of a plate might mean hash browns, diced and chunked or something like that. A packet of grape jelly in the center of the plate might mean eggs over medium. I’ve never seen this in action, I don’t know if it’s a current Waffle House policy.

At any rate, if I’m ever in a position where I’m asked my reason for leaving my last employment, I’ll surely have an answer. “Jellypacks.”

3 thoughts on “Years of angst, distilled to one word…”

  1. I’m, like, commenting all over here today…

    From a year-long study (called “Junior Year of College”) involving of sitting in a Waffle House for hours on end, the protocol seemed to be that after the waiter calls out orders, the cook sets up plates using some sort of code indicating what order he just heard, so he (is it ever a she?) won’t forget it. So, as you mentioned, an intricate secret language of object placement (from what I’ve seen, extending beyond jelly packs, and including bread/cheese slice placement as well) corresponds to particular menu items.

    I’d have to extend my research to other WH’s to see if the language is universal, or cook and/or WH-specific.

    If they stopped calling out orders completely now, that’s news to me! Now I’m curious…

  2. I think your field observations clear up any fuzzyness of the narrative as I wrote it. I guess this guy wasn’t really prepared for the use of jellypachroglyphics.

    When I visited the WH at Harding Place and Sidco this weekend, they were calling out orders all over the place.

  3. Neat story. When I was living back in NC your dad sent me out on a few temp. jobs. Glad he’s now doing something he enjoys much more.

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