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Friday, April 10, 2009

Coffee Time!

On our trip back to Brandon last weekend, aside from driving by the place, the thought of McDonald’s or that McDonald’s in particular hadn’t even crossed my mind in some time until my wife casually asked, “Is that your store?” Has it really been 30 years since I was a goofy kid flipping burgers and eating leftover Big Macs at closing time? Time flies.

Anyway, my only real thought of McDonald’s was the maintenance man at our store named Carl. Carl was a retired Navy guy - complete with obligatory anchor tattoo - who came in to the store just as the night swing shift would be closing the place. This was before anyone dreamed of a full 24-hour burger operation.

The manager on duty always knew to start a fresh pot of coffee just before Carl would show up, but not too early, otherwise he would give them a condescending, tsk tsk tsk look, pour it out and start a fresh pot. This led to many managers often asking the crew in the drive-thru window to report the first sighting of Carl pulling into the lot, thus, the coffee could be started at the right moment.

Carl’s real notoriety, besides being a small, scary looking guy who could probably beat the crap out of any five of us punk teenagers without missing a drag from his cigarette, was his nightly ritual of screaming “Coffee Time” at the top of his lungs when the fresh pot had finished brewing. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that grown men, on their first night closing the store had been known to wet themselves upon hearing the loud and unexpected screeching. He especially loved to sneak up behind young ladies busily trying to close their registers so they could leave for the night, and give the ol’ Coffee Time yell.

Have you ever seen the movie Full Metal Jacket where the drill instructor tells Private Joker he wants to see his war face? The first time I saw it, I figured that Carl must have been through basic training with R. Lee Ermey. I have also thought fondly of how funny it might have been if Starbucks had been around during Carl’s prime. Can you imagine some teen aged Goth or Emo barista prancing around with a double latte mocha chino only to have Carl come up and scare the bejesus out of him with his war face like Coffee Time routine? Then he would no doubt berate them mercilessly for ruining the coffee by loading it up with all sorts of Nancy-boy flavorings – like cream and sugar.

Carl had a routine aside from the coffee thing and he would come in with his lunch in one of those old school style lunch boxes, the kind with the rounded over top so you could put a thermos in the top of it (which I supsect may have contained a nip or two of the Happy Sauce), and he would place it on a shelf in the walk-in refrigerator. I am only assuming that there was a Mrs. Carl living somewhere who lovingly put together his lunch, complete with a sandwich that would put Subway to shame for him to snack on when he took a break during the night. There was a big scandal that involved someone taking a huge bite from or possibly eating the entire sandwich one night. There were even rumors that I had been the culprit and on a few occasions, I even took credit for the outrageous crime. But in reality, as far as I know, they never caught the guy who did it. To this date, I suspect there may be one of those cold case files sitting in the basement of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office, if they do in fact have a basement.

I often wondered, years later if Carl did it himself just to shake things up. Managers had been fired for lesser offenses, and taking a bite from the maintenance guy’s sandwich was a serious breach of store security.

To this day, I attribute my skill at mopping to Carl. The man could wield a mighty fine mop and if a few of us young bucks were willing to stay late (off the clock, mind you) he would teach us a few tricks of the trade, in full Tom Sawyer fashion. I have never had the opportunity to try it, but I bet I could swab a deck if the Navy needed my assistance.

So I’m guessing that Carl would have to be in his late 80’s or early 90’s now, though in reality, even though he looked to be at least 65 in 1979, he may have only been in his 40’s when I knew him. I wonder if he is still alive and if so, does he still mop the floors at night at the McDonald’s in Brandon? And I wonder if he still scares the piss out of people with his Coffee Time yell?

Have you worked with someone like Carl? Over at Buzzardbilly, she worked with an old gal named Hester who may have been related to Carl. I'd love to hear about your scary co-workers.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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