As previously discussed, I couldn’t really cut it in either of the high profile grocery store jobs of working the registers or stocking the shelves. After several hours of intense review by Human Resources and the Food 4 Less Career Development Office, with appropriate consideration given to my skills, past experience and career goals, I was awarded the less-than-prestigious post of donut cook. Like a cornerback in the NFL, the donut cook at F4L was on an island, rarely seeing another employee – unless you bumped into another unfortunate soul in the -32 ° F freezer where the cake donuts were kept. That was actually a key selling point to the job, especially given that I had a couple of other jobs simultaneously where I had to extensively deal with the public. Being the donut cook was essentially like running your own business (except you got none of the profits and had no interest in future prospects, quality control, etc.)
Most of you probably can’t even imagine what a donut cook does. The techology likely has improved some, but back in the late 1980s it involved the following:
- Get some dough
- Place in super hot vat of grease
- Use tongs to flip over a time or two to cook evenly
- Remove from vat of grease
- Place in glaze area
- Put approximately 1800 ounces of glaze into the glazing device (basically a trough that you could scoop a bunch of glaze into, with handles that opened to dump the glaze on the unsuspecting donuts below)
- Dump glaze over the donuts
- Put now-glazed donuts in the donut case
I know that sounds pretty complicated, but once you got into a routine, it made sense. Sometimes you would have the urge to glaze the donuts first – but then you would quickly realize that without cooking them first, there wouldn’t be anything to glaze. The tongs (drumsticks? whatever you want to call them) were extremely tough at first – a less than delicate touch would mutilate that glob of frying circular dough into an abstract disaster unsuitable for the discriminating consumer of fried dough. You also had to occasionally get cake donuts out of a freezer – these were baked, not fried, so the procedure was much less complex than the above.
#5. Donut Cook
Attire: Smock. I really do not like smocks. Pretty emasculating. (Waiter’s smocks are the exception – those are badass) The upside was you could wear jeans and tee shirt under the smock, so that was okay.
Score: 9 (Smocks suck, and to enter the super cold freezer you had to don a smelly old parka that was had been previously worn by probably 1200 people (each with wildly varying personal hiegene policies))
Prevailing Smell/Aroma: Grease
Score: 10 (Honestly, the grease was overwhelming here, much worse than The Bell. I didn’t eat another donut for like ten years after working here. I didn’t eat at T-Bell for like ten minutes after I quit working there, er, stopped working there – was told not to come back.)
Humiliation Factor: Very low, who was up that early in the morning? I worked from 5:00 AM to 10:00 AM on weekdays. Only blue hairs were anywhere near F4L at that time of day.
Score: 3 (I didn’t actually sell donuts to people, I cooked them and put them in a case – people served themselves. I would duck into the kitchen area if I saw someone I knew’s mom.)
Co-workers/Culture: None. That was the upside to the donut gig – I was the only one there! Sure, there were other people in the store, but everybody basically ignored the donut cook.
Score: 2 (I did have to talk with the noon donut cook for a few minutes when he came in to take over. That kind of sucked, talking shop about donuts – “that glazing tray is acting up a bit today, have to be a little aggressive with it”)
Authority Figures: Even the store manager didn’t give a shit about the donut cook, as long as the donuts got cooked.
Score: 0 (Nothing to complain about here.)
Typical Hours Worked: 25.
Score: 10 (The aggregate hours were fine, but 4:30 AM wakeup?!?!! Combine this with a couple days closing T-Bell and another part time gig I had in the afternoons where I would chase down people who owed for their newspaper subscriptions (don’t ask) and I was sleeping something like 45 minutes per day. On the floor of someone’s apartment in a sleeping bag. I eventually started getting constant nosebleeds and then shed basically all those jobs.)
Education Required: None. Experience with tongs a plus.
Score: 6 (Solid summer job preparation if you plan on becoming a professional xylophone player or similar)
Screaming Obscenities at Top of Lungs Acceptable? No. The clientele at those hours really didn’t appreciate that kind of thing.
Score: 10 (I recall offending some early riser when I yelled after burning the cake donuts once. That was likely the seed event that led me to so many cursing-appropriate occupations in the future)
Stress Level: Initially, when I fucked up like 85% of the donuts, it was stressful. But then I became somewhat of a maestro with the tongs (it’s all in the rhythm). Once you got the hang of it, the job was easy. The stress was in dealing with the clock every day – 4:30 AM always looming like the antagonist in an 80′s slasher flick.
Score: 5 (I guess it’s kind of nice to finish (one of) your work day(s) by noon, but didn’t mesh well with my desire to get up whenever I wanted)
Ridiculous Travel Required? Nope.
Score: 2 (The five mile drive was somewhat a pain in the ass given that it was 4:45 AM – the bulk of teleportation research is probably being sponsored by donut cooks)
What Kind of Dough was Involved? $5/hour, not bad coin for 1988.
Score: 8 (Ha-ha! Dough. Actual donut dough was involved, too! Back door pun)
Not interacting much with customers was good, but the early hours were ultimately a deal killer. I think I only managed to keep this up for two weeks. All the grease was also rough on the complexion – it looked like I was using a pepperoni-based facial cleanser. It seriously took me a long time to get over the nauseating smell of donut grease.
Verdict? It sucked, but wasn’t as bad as some of the other stuff (you probably gleaned that from it not being ranked as low)
Apologies for the posting delay, I didn’t have nearly the amount of free time during my trip that I initially thought I’d have (largely due to the propensity for rollin 5s and 9s at Tunica). I am back to posting on a regular basis. Also glad to return to NYC on the hottest day of the year – nothing like the smell of warm trash.