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August 16, 1975 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-08-16

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Saturday, August 16, 1975 THE MICH
The pizza monster:
easy on the poison
By JEFF RISTINE always seemed to settle in my hair,
Imagine two years of the most igno- sleepless weekends (closing time was 2
minions tasks ever thrust upon the lowly or 3 a.m.) and an hourly wage so low
wage earner. Consider, as a completely I was embarrassed to compare earnings
justifiable comparison, two years insert- with my friends. I sought comfort from
ing ten-cent balsa wood airplanes into my co-workers but their overall behav-
plastic bags, 24 months decapitating Aus- for inevitably made the daily experi-
tralian koalas, or a similar span of time ence even worse.
as taste - tester for Kaopectate. Project I don't consider myself particularly
yourself into the most foul, despicable, anti-social, but I doubt that I could
demeaning job you can think of and you warm up to these people if we were
will have an infinitesimal fraction of an cremated together. The ceaseless series
idea of my two-year stint as pizza-maker of scum who gained employment during
in a local fast food establishment. the time I worked were unbelievable in
I now know enough about the pizza their incompetence, indifference toward
business to vow that never again will I quality and generally bad mannerisms.
so much as nibble at a pepperoni unless Were you, the average pizza-buyer, to
I have made the entire pizza, from comprehend the utter contempt these
scratch, with my own hands. Night- dregs hold toward customers, your
mares from Upton Sinclair's "The Jun- thoughts would turn immediately to re-
rrrrrI nr


Page Five

gle" permeate my mind with any
thought of dough, mozzarella or tomato
puree. More frightful, however, are my
memories of the people I was forced
to work with - on both sides of the
counter-during my quest for a few
bucks spending money.
It began as a summer job the year I
graduated from high school. Like most
18-year-olds, I possessed few markdt-
able skills and was compelled to grab
the first work I could find-at one of
Ann Arbor's busiest pizzerias. Employe
turnover was rapid at that time of the
year and the manager hired- me over
the telephone, without even looking at
me or inspecting a written application.
I considered myself lucky. Lucky, that
is, until I began working . . .
I quickly discovered the work area
of the store was not unlike the interior
of a sauna. Air conditioning? That was
when you opened the back door or stood
inside the huge, walk-in refrigerator.
Other equally uncomfortable circum-
stances manifested themselves through
perpetually burned knuckles, flour that

venge. The horror stories read like a
catalogue of ghastly tortures:
The unwritten rules, when the mana-
ger was not around, allowed disgusting-
ly unsanitary practices in food prepara-
tion. I've always suspected that the
passersby who pause to watch lumps of
dough being twirled into formation are
like circus-goers hoping to see the acro-
bats trip -- they'd be more than satis-
fied if the stuff fell in a magnificent
lump to the floor. How quickly that at-
titude would change if they saw, as I
saw dozens of times, the dough picked
up, placed off to the side, and eventually
used to make -a pizza when no one out-
side the store was watching. Not very
appetizing, is it?
Summertime meant open doors and
windows, and all sorts of flying or walk-
ing organisms casually entered the back
room of the shop behind the scenes,
where some of the food is prepared. We
chased cats, birds and dogs from this
area of the store and one hot afternoon
a homeless mutt we called "Limpy"
wandered in and positioned himself di-

rectly above a cooling colander of fresh
Italian sausage. Did he or didn't he? No
one actually saw him nibbling at the
meat, but I stayed away from sausage
for a week.
Insects posed a considerably larger
problem- If a six-legged creature of one
sort or another hasn't settled upon the
open bowls of ground beef or mush-
rooms, it may be because a witless cook
sprayed a little Raid above the food.
Then there was the delivery man (now
retired) who had no qualms about sell-
ing fried chicken after a few pieces
accidentally fell into the snow. Or the
time Big Dan broke a Mountain Dew
bottle on the food preparation table -
and tiny pieces of green glass began
showing up in Sicilian pizzas two days
Glass was not the only foreign matter
ever noticed by customers. Hair fre-
quently turned up amid the meat and
vegetables and someone brought a pizza
back one night with a dead fly firmly
encased within the cheese. Sometimes,
such sickening occurrences were ma-
liciously deliberate. One particularly
unlikeable vermin named Jim decided
he didn't care for a certain customer
and spread anchovies, which 95 per cent
of all consumers find absolutely unpal-
atable, beneath the cheese of her pizza,
where they could be tasted but not seen.
An equally ornery and obtuse worker,
whom the manager nicknamed "Slick

Rick", was food of muttering racial, cul-
tural or religious epithets toward every
non-WASP entering the store. Slick, for
example, would nod in absolute agree-
ment to the aforementioned Jim's casual
observation that members of a certain
ethnic minority "breed like rabbits."
Ken, a delivery man with more ex-
perience than he cares for, seemed to
share his co-workers' ethnic dispositions
and extended the prejudice to include all
women. Females, he once declared,
"can be divided into two categories -
nuns and sluts." While this sort of com-
ment usually provided him with mild
amusement, he took absolute, unadul-
terated delight in dealing with any tele-
phone customer who was less than all-
knowing in their food order. Angry pa-
trons frequently called the manager to
complain of his abrasive style; one man
charged him with breaking into his
house before being properly invited.
Ken, incidentally, is studying to be a
If the employes at the pizzeria were
not actually malevolent, their idiosyn-
crasies usually proved annoying. One
delivery man spent all his spare time at
the store attempting to memorize every
entry of a German dictionary; another
was fired because he had to get out of
his car at street corners in order to
read the signs. A short-lived cook in-
sisted on making all his pizzas upside-
See THE, Page 7

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