As I was walking to work this morning I caught the smell of donuts being fried. There’s a Shipley’s Donuts store on the corner of 31st Street and Hwy 36, close to where I cross the street before I get to work.
I’m not a big breakfast food person. I think that’s the proverbial balancing-each-other-out notion in Elise’s and my relationship. She likes breakfast foods, I don’t. I’ll eat breakfast foods – and by breakfast foods, I mean eggs, toast, pancakes, waffles, etc. – but I’d rather eat something else, if anything at all.
The smell of donuts was pleasant this morning for some reason. I associate the smell of donuts with work.
Shortly after I turned 16, I blew up the car that my parents had given me. I was a kid, I didn’t know any better. I asked my Dad if I could get another car if I got a job and paid for it. I really got myself into something on that one!
Enter Newman’s Bakery of Bellville Texas.
My good friend and classmate, Karen Davis told me that Newman’s was hiring for weekend shifts. She had worked there for a while and told me it was an honest wage for an honest day’s work. I signed on with no work experience to be a counter person. I learned how to mop floors, make change, make sandwiches, serve coffee, donuts, pastries and cookies. I wore a paper hat. I earned whatever minimum wage was at the time. I made enough to cover my $250 per month payment for a black 1993 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS. I worked for a car. I pretty much had nothing after I wrote my check to the bank.
I was a pretty active individual in high school. After club activities and Tae Kwon Do class, I usually couldn’t start my homework until 10:00 p.m. Weekends were my only time for socializing. That changed. I only had time to work on Saturday and Sunday. I had to be at work at 5:00 a.m. which meant I had to wake up at 4:00 a.m. All of my friends wouldn’t go to bed until 4:00 a.m.
It was then that I realized life meant work.
I didn’t enjoy my stint as a cashier and donut monger at Newman’s Bakery. Most of the employees were peers, but peers aren’t your regular friends at 5:00 a.m. We were all tired zombies who were having to work.
Mike Newman, my boss, was an alright guy. He was always the first one to work and was usually in the kitchen making the donuts and pastries all morning. We rarely saw or spoke to him. He signed the paychecks. He was okay in my book.
Eleven years later, Rose Newman still haunts me in my dreams. Rose is Mike Newman’s mother. I’m sure she’s a great lady and mother, but she instilled the “watch out for the boss” mentality for me. Every time the little bell chimed when the door opened, we would look out of the corner of our eyes to see if it was Rose coming into work. If someone had their wits about them at 5:00 a.m., they would sneak a peak at the schedule to see if she was coming in that day. It was a wonderful day if Rose had the day off.
Rose was a very petite woman with a piercing mouth. Not piercing eyes, but a piercing mouth. When she spoke to you, you couldn’t help but be intimidated by her mouth. I don’t know what it was – maybe her choice of lipstick or the fact that she seemed to have a permanent frown. Either way, when she spoke at me, I couldn’t help but stare at her mouth, waiting for another degrading order.
Karen told me in the early stages of my Newman’s career to always look busy if Rose was in the vicinity. I thought I did a pretty good job of doing that regardless of whether or not Rose was there.
I’d like to say that I worked well at Newman’s Bakery. Rose thought otherwise. My last day at Newman’s Bakery was on a Saturday. A nice Saturday – a Saturday on which Rose was not working. I was nearing the end of my shift and volunteered to mop the floors. Still being considered a rookie, I had managed to mop myself into a wall between the sandwich station and a proof box. I didn’t want to walk across the wet floor, so I rested one elbow on the sandwich station’s prep board and began waiting for the floor to dry.
Mike’s dad was sitting at his usually spot at the corner table in the diner, staring into space and smoking his cigarettes. He saw that I had stopped working for approximately 45 seconds. I saw him get up and walk to the back of the restaurant. I’d say three minutes had gone by and the floor was dry enough for me to walk across it and continue mopping the other side of the counter.
As I was mopping, the phone rang. One of my coworkers came to me and said that Rose was on the phone and would like to speak to me. Evidently Mike’s dad was an onsite spy for the Department of Slavery and Donut Servers (DSDS) and had called the chief. I answered the phone and pictured her piercing mouth as Rose told me that they weren’t paying me to stand around and do nothing. I politely told her that I was waiting for the floor to dry and that I hadn’t been standing around for long at all. No excuse is good enough for Rose Newman. Karen told me to always look busy. I should have pretended to wipe off the sandwich station while the floor was drying.
I apologized to Rose and told her that it wouldn’t happen again. We both hung up our ends of the phone. I thought nothing of it. This incident just proved to me that I needed to heed Karen’s warning at all times. My shift was over at 1:00 p.m. Checks were to be available at 2:30 p.m. on that same day. I drove around town for the hour and a half and visited with friends.
I came back to Newman’s at 2:30 to pick up my paycheck. There was a note in my envelope from Mike. He had handwritten a note saying: “Josh, we need to talk when you come in for your shift tomorrow morning.”
I never showed up for my Sunday shift. I knew I was going to get fired – I just didn’t want to hear it from Mike. I was going to be fired for waiting a few minutes for the floor to dry.
I still like to eat donuts. I still like the smell of donuts even though that’s all I could smell for many months while I was sixteen years old. I’ve even been back to Newman’s Bakery in little ol’ Bellville Texas. I didn’t see Rose.
I would like to go back to Newman’s and talk to her. I think it would be fun to see what kind of person she is in friendly, adult conversation and to tell her the story of my first job. I would probably thank her as well – I would thank her for teaching me to always look busy.
I need to go now. I should probably clean the wrist pad for my keyboard – I don’t look very busy right now.