Sunday, June 27, 2010

One scoop or two?

As promised in my post "It's All About Me" here's more information about me being a jerk.

A soda jerk, that is.

According to Wikipedia, "A soda jerk (or soda jerker) was a person — typically a youth — who operated the soda fountain in a drugstore. The term refers to the person who made an ice cream soda. This was made by putting flavored syrup into a specially designed tall glass, adding carbonated water and, finally, one or two scoops of ice cream. ...The name soda jerk came from the jerking action the server would use on the soda fountain handle when adding the soda water, and not the temperament of the server.


My first job as a waitress lasted one week. It was at the corner restaurant. I had no clue what I was doing. I didn't know French dressing from Thousand Island dressing. The customer had to stand up and peek over the counter to point it out to me. How did I know the difference? We only used vinegar and oil at home. The customer took pity on the stupid waitress and gave me a dollar tip. (This was almost 40 years ago - so that was a LOT of money!) When it was slow I was supposed to clean, clean, clean while the other waitress sat, sat, sat! I didn't think that was fair. The final straw was when they left me all alone one evening with the Greek cook who didn't speak English. Even at 16 I knew that was being taken advantage of so I walked. Luckily I lived down the block so it was a short walk.

A couple of my friends were soda jerks at O'Hare Airport and told me of an opening there. I applied and got the job.

C'mon, who doesn't know ICE CREAM?

There were two ice cream shops - one in the United Terminal and one in the American Terminal. The passengers from American Airlines tended to tip better. I usually just worked in the American Terminal.

It was set up like this: (don't laugh at my primitive drawing - plus I'm using Paint and I don't know what I'm doing.)

Let me explain the drawing. One counter was shaped like a "U" and had 12 seats; the other was half of a "U" and had 6 seats. I usually worked the smaller counter. We served ice cream and we had donuts. You could also order carry out and stand in line next to the "U". The skinny aisle in the back was where the freezers full of ice cream were kept, plus the dishwasher, and dishes. It was pretty tight back there. One or two of us could slip by each other if we stood sideways. But not if Curtis was coming.

Curtis was our dishwasher. And he was big.

And when I say big, I mean BIG. (WIDE) And he was BLACK. As black as night. But he was a teddy bear. So if Curtis was walking down the back aisle, we had to go into our counter area so he could get by.

He liked to play games on us. Sometimes he would put a rubber spider on the cash register. Then wait quietly and watch for the fireworks to happen. He would love to hear us scream! He would laugh and laugh!

I loved making up the ice cream concoctions in the back. The best part was putting on the whipped cream. It came in these huge pressurized canisters. One day while making a sundae I was gleefully spraying on the whipped cream when I noticed that that it wouldn't stop coming out when I stopped pressing on the end. It was out of control! It had a mind of it's own. I yelled for help and a co-worker joined me in the back. She tried to wrestle the canister down, but to no avail. That sucker was shooting cream all over the place! It was like a scene from I Love Lucy! We laughed so hard! I think it finally quit when it was empty!

Did I tell you that I am a klutz? Yes. I think it was worse when I was a teenager. I remember when someone wanted coffee and I went to grab a cup - they were stacked one on top of another - I grabbed the cup and poured the coffee, trying to ignore TWO WHOLE STACKS of coffee cups tumbling over and crashing to the ground.

If the customer wanted a sundae, or dish of ice cream, it always had to be served with a small plate underneath it. These were stacked along the wall. The more experienced waitresses would take the finished sundae and place it on the stack of dishes, then separate the plate from the rest without spilling anything. Got the picture?

I couldn't do this. Usually I would take the serving plates and set them in the back next to the sundaes, then place the finished sundaes on the plate, then serve them. But one day I was feeling adventurous. I took the finished sundae over to the stacked plates. I placed it on there. I lifted. And then......

The whole thing tumbled over, I got hot fudge up my arms, it splashed into my eyes and I ran screaming like a banshee to the bathroom.

It wasn't pretty.

I had a lot of fun working at the airport. I met all kinds of people. I saw two movie stars -

Buffy St. Marie (singer)

image courtesy of (from 1970's)

and James Brolin (actor)

image courtesy of Wikipedia (from 1981)

Neither stopped in for ice cream, but they both walked by and it was enough to set my heart beating faster!

I was a somewhat naive 16 year-old who just got contact lenses. My eyes teared a lot when I wore the lenses. One day when I was working, I served a customer who looked like she was crying. I said, "Oh, did you just get contacts? Because that's what happens to me when I wear mine. It takes awhile for my eyes to adjust to the lenses!" The customer just game me a weak smile.

After they left, a man at the next counter called me over.

"Do you know why she was crying?"


"Because I'm her neighbor."


"And that's NOT her husband sitting next to her."



They were probably flying off to a secret rendezvous only to find out that it wasn't too secret even before the plane left the ground!

One time a customer was an underwear salesman and tipped the other waitress with a pair of underwear. True Story.

I guess the best klutz story would be this - there was a big stack of doughnuts stacked up on a cake plate, with a clear plastic lid on top. Sitting right next to this was a gentleman reading his book that was cracked open on the counter.

You know what happened.

I lifted the lid off of the doughnuts when I went to serve someone, and a nice fat chocolate covered doughnut fell icing down right onto the open pages of this man's book!

"I am SO SORRY!" I exclaimed, quickly picking up the doughnut.

I flipped it over and offered it to him.

"Would you like coffee with this?"


misslynda said...

I was a soda jerk, too but not at an airport. I worked the town drugstore's ice cream counter in upstate NY. One thing about it - - - the customer never really knew how a soda would taste because our mixture wasn't measured but estimated. We used paper cones in the metal holders with handles. That was long, long ago - - - - - - - long ago.

Brian Miller said...

ha. i worked as a waiter once for about 3 months between jobs...sometimes its hard for me to eat at a restaurant now that i have seen behind the scenes...i woulda taken your donut...smiles.

Bonnie said...

Your quick thinking seems to always get you out of a pickle (or a doughnut)!

Anonymous said...

I was a waitor for all of an hour.....c ould not deal and walked out....

your life just gets more interestring with each tale my friend ;)

Anonymous said...


Cheeseboy said...

The image of you scalded with hot chocolate, screaming while running into the bathroom did make me smile. I hope that does not make me sick and twisted.

Betty said...

Love this post! So well-written as usual. Loving your stories, Pat.
I can picture you made me smile.LOL

Have a great Monday/week!
~B xx

A New England Life said...

I was a waitress for several years, too. I remember spilling a beer right down the back of a State Troupers suit in the conference room. He was so angry with me!
I also remember falling with a whole tray of food as I came out the kitchen door, so I went back and they re-made the food. What happened next? I fell again!

Oh how I hated waitressing but the money was decent. More than I could make working in a department store!

Gail said...

I am just a jerk but I eat ice cream and loved your story.

Eva Gallant said...

I worked at an ice cream parlor one summer...39 flavors. It was fun and yummy. Employees got one free ice cream or sundae per day!

Bossy Betty said...

Loved hearing about your experiences as a jerk--a soda jerk--that is, of course!!!

An underwear tip, eh?? Hummm.....

Donna B said...

First, I LOVE ICE CREAM...especially HOT FUDGE Sundaes. I was a food server (that is the politically correct term these days) and loved it. I got some advice from another wise co-worker who trained me. "Treat all your customers like you would like to be treated and served." Her second advice: "NEVER, NEVER, NEVER count your tips until the end of the night. Just thank them and stuff it in your pocket. Some people will not tip you and some will, but if you start judging your service by their tips, you WILL stop treating people like you want to be treated, and it WILL result in poor tips."

Best advice I ever got. I supported my family when my husband was out of work and make really good money. I kept in shape and met lots of interesting people.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Thanks for the belly laugh..... I needed it!

Valerie said...

Sounds like a lot of fun, Pat. I had a bar job for three weeks, and hated it. It ended when a guy decided to pay his bill with pennies, six pounds worth. I had to stand by waiting while he paid me.... and the boss didn't like it. Not my fault but I was glad to get away.

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

OMG - you crack me up!

I was such a klutz growing up (and still pretty klutzy) that my first boss used to call me "grace."

Rae said...

Hilarious. It would have been worth the trip there just to watch you work. What a comedy routine - and you weren't even trying to be funny. Great story.

otin said...

LOL!! You should do a sitcom!!!

I am currently a Blog Jerk!

Did the guy get mad at ruining his book?

Mama Zen said...

I would never make it as a soda jerk!

becky said...

Ha! Cracked me up again! I love your klutzy stories! I have a few myself from my waitressing days... like dropping a tray (6 huge plates) of BBQ ribs at my customer's feet... or the time I spilled one of those fancy coffee drinks down someone's back... oops! I would think working as a soda jerk would have been fun. As an ice cream lover, I'd have been in heaven!

Ruth said...

See, you know how to make the most of a situation.

Yikes about the woman and her fling!

I'd like a strawberry sundae and a plain doughnut, please.

SquirrelQueen said...

OMG, I laughed so hard at the whipped cream canister. I can just imagine you and your co-worker doing a "Lucy & Ethel" routine.