I never actively looked for a job in college and I never even realized I wanted one, until a fateful morning in early January when I found myself standing in front of the ‘now hiring’ sign posted at the shiny new Taco Bell Cantina in my college town. I had promised my roommate a caramel iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts, not planning to do anything for myself, but our spring semester had just begun and I wanted an excuse to procrastinate on some upcoming assignments. Within an hour of approaching the hiring manager, I headed back to my dorm with the promised iced coffee in hand as well as a business card scribbled with the manager’s personal phone number. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into or what it really meant to be employed.
All I knew was that I loved Taco Bell, which was enough to work there, right?
Fast forward ten months and I represent one of the few original hires remaining at my location. The fast food industry has an inevitable high turn over rate, but myself and about five or six loyal others have stood the test of time. I feel old, almost jaded. I’ve seen managers and coworkers, some of which I became good friends with in our time together, come and go, but the clientele remains the same. New employees often mistake me as one of the managers, but in truth, I’m just that annoyingly chipper cashier that always begs you to fill out the survey that comes on your printed receipt. (Which works, by the way, because I’ve been recognized several times for receiving the most positive reviews of any employee at the store in the survey results).
That’s my job, and I love it. I crave the mundane interactions with people as they come in to get their food, just knowing that I exist to make someone’s day better. People cringe when I tell them to have a “tacotastic” night, but I live for it. My job has taught me to be a more disciplined, principled and dutiful worker, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
I love almost everything about my job, except the unwarranted criticism that comes from some of my customers.
I always feel like I have to validate myself by stating that I do in fact attend the University of Florida when they start casually talking about things going on at campus. Even though the judgement isn’t always blatantly obvious, I still receive the regular question, “So what do you want to do with your life?” Mind your own business. Why should you care if I wanted to work at Taco Bell for the rest of my life?
One of the managers I have come to respect the most over the course of my career recently confessed to me that he’s a UF dropout; after three years of school, he came to the realization that he didn’t need a degree to pursue what he wanted to do with his life. He loves being a manager at Taco Bell, and I think that’s a valid decision. People shouldn’t hassle him over it.
Although I chose to pursue an English degree and have dreams of entering the publishing industry, I still enjoy having a part time job to fund my current activities in and outside of school. It genuinely sucks that some people have this idea that fast food workers are unambitious, dumb or literally have no drive to do anything greater with their lives than work in fast food. But for some of us, we actually enjoy the challenge that comes with working as a team to get the food from the kitchen into a to-go bag as quickly and efficiently as possible. Why would you judge us for loving our jobs? I feel like all that matters in the job world is that you love what you do, so why criticize someone else’s happiness?