I don’t know about you, but I always fanaticized about working part-time at a popular food joint like Pizza hut, KFC or MacDonald’s. Perhaps I got into it from the stories I read, or the comics even. So, when I went to study in New Zealand, I grabbed the opportunity to work at Pizza Hut. I got to work under all kinds of managers during my first year there. I loved most of them, but detested some because they unloaded their work on us, didn’t give us any break during the shift, bossed us around for no apparent reason and even forced us to handle angry customers instead of doing it themselves. There were times when they just sat there busy playing games on their mobile as we managed everything in the store ourselves. Since I wasn’t a teenage employee, I took the job more seriously and worked hard with sincerity. Also, I loved and valued the extra cash for overtime.
Within a year I was promoted to the manager position and I now did everything I was doing before, but with a higher salary and a job title. I vowed to make my store a happy workplace for my subordinates, who had become my friends over the year. I helped out in every department, making sure they had their breaks on time, joked around to lighten the mood, covered up their mistakes in front of seniors and trained them not to make more in the future, and handled all tough situations with the customers myself. Thankfully, smiling through it all helped in winning everyone’s hearts and they reciprocated the love, support, and loyalty. I could trust everyone to stand by me in handling our store day and night. The same relationship was extended to our customers, as all the staff served them with happy smiles. I received many appreciation cards from customers too. I remember one such customer who brought a bag of avocados from his farm to express his gratitude, for remembering to ask about his sick daughter’s health whenever I took his order. Complying with our store policy, I had to politely refuse the gift, but he left it in the store anyway. Each of us went home with a juicy avocado that night.
To make our workplace more enjoyable, we celebrated everyone’s birthdays and festivals, played secret Santa, exchanged gifts and took pictures. I knew about everyone’s success and failures at school, their ambitions, shortcomings and even their love interests. Every day was a new challenge as unexpected things happened. We got to deal with everything ranging from a shortage of staff to a surprise visit by the area manager, missing delivery to a fake phone order of 20 pizzas which they didn’t pick up, a broken oven during peak business hours to running out of dough one day, and even a group of drunk customers once. We sweated through it all and then laughed about it together later. Gradually we became a work-family.
I loved working at Pizza Hut in the evenings even after I completed my studies and joined another company. After two years and lots of fond memories there, it was time for me to leave New Zealand. I still remember a colleague of mine who came up to me and said, “I know you are heading back to India and will marry someone soon. I just wanted you to have this.” She handed me a heart-shaped box that contained a stunning necklace and earrings. When I refused to accept such an expensive gift, she said, “It’s artificial jewellery but it means a lot to me. This is what I wore for my engagement celebration in India and I would like you to have the same good luck that I have with my husband.” I was speechless. The gesture of giving me something that she held so dear to herself filled my heart with gratitude. I still have that jewellery with the heart-shaped box with me. I will never forget her, or the other colleagues and customers there at Pizza Hut.
Some fantasies are worth pursuing because they turn into the fondest memories later on in your life. And silly as it may sound, this was mine.