Hello, and welcome back to Off The Menu, where we explore the craziest stories about food from my email inbox. This week, as we come up on the end of Off The Menu, we’ve got a grab bag of stories. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
Once upon a time, I lived in the dorms at a California state university. It was my senior year, I had a bunch of studying to do, and on this particular day I wasn’t feeling particularly well, so I figured I’d grab just a PBJ from the dining hall and bring it back to my room. I figured this was a perfectly reasonable plan, as I had been doing this sort of thing for four years now — taking some food out with you in a napkin, box, or even an entire cereal bin was acceptable behavior. Little did I know that the best laid plans never survive contact with the Sandwich Nazi.
The Sandwich Nazi, whom I had never met until this point, was apparently the new dinner shift manager at the dining hall. Tall, lanky guy, no more than a year older than me, but I guessed that he wasn’t a college student because of the inflection he would later use when he said the word “student.” When I walked in, he was lounging across the single cashier’s table at the front in that casual I’m-the-dressed-up-boss-and-I-have-you-physically-trapped-in-this-awkward-position-so-you-can’t-run-away-while-I’m-hitting-on-you manner while leering at the poor short blonde girl stuck working with him.
I swiped my dining hall card, made my PBJ, and started walking out the front with it. I noticed Sandwich Nazi murmur something to the trapped cashier. Then, with a heroic leap, he jumped in front of me to bar my way out of the dining hall.
“Halt!” he said.
“Hammerzeit!” I thought.
“You can’t take food out of the dining hall!” he continued. We went into a brief back and forth about how students have been taking food out with them for years now. A group of girls walked past us carrying fistfuls of cookies and other desserts. I gestured at them with a questioning look on my face, to which the Nazi replies “they’re not carrying food.”
Stunned by his amazing logic, I walked back into the dining hall. I decided to go to the back patio; there was a gate that was sometimes unlocked that I could use to carry my sandwich to freedom, and if it wasn’t, I’d just eat outside. The door to the patio hadn’t even finished closing behind me when Sandwich Nazi came flying through the door, screaming “THE POLICE WILL BE HERE IN FIVE MINUTES!”
“I called the police! They’re coming in five minutes! Plus, the patio is closed!”
I carefully considered the “Patio is Open” sign on the door, then studied Sandwich Nazi for a moment. His chest was heaving with exertion and the thrill of hunting down an escaped sandwich, head held high in triumph.
“Fuck you,” I said. With that, I walked past him back inside, past the rolling eyes of the cashier, and out the front door.
Naturally, the Sandwich Nazi pursued me, yelling at me to stop. I turned for a moment to look at him, and he lunged at my sandwich. I dodged gracefully, and we proceeded to play a ridiculous game of keep-away. A crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the idiot in business attire flail about while trying to grab a sandwich out of my hands. All that fancy footwork from my fencing classes really paid off there.
After a few minutes of sweating and cursing, Sandwich Nazi gave up trying to snatch my Precious from my hands and pulled out his phone. “I’m calling the police!” he declared.
“I thought you did that already?” I asked.
He didn’t reply, just started yelling into his phone. “There’s a STUDENT trying to steal food from the dining hall!” After he hung up, he smirked and said “they’re on their way!”
“Sure they are,” I said. “I’ll wait.”
So we waited. I cracked a few jokes with the onlookers. Some minutes passed, but there was no SWAT in sight. All the dodging and weaving made me work up an appetite, so I started eating my delicious sandwich. Sandwich Nazi looked at me in horror as I consumed the evidence of my dastardly crime. A few more minutes passed and I’d eaten 3/4ths of the sandwich, there were still no police to be had, and I needed to get back to studying.
“I need to go now,” I said. “You want the rest of this sandwich? Go get it!” And with that, as Thor hurls his mighty hammer, I hurled the quarter sandwich onto the roof of the dining hall. I walked back to my dorm to giggles and scattered applause while Sandwich Nazi stood wordless and dejected, abandoned by the police.
But it doesn’t end there. Oh no — that kind of asshattery cannot go unpunished. This was my senior year in college and I felt the need to bring some justice to my campus. Over the next couple of weeks, with the help of my buddy, I would stake out the dining hall parking lot to figure out which car Sandwich Nazi drove. Once our intel was gathered, we then proceeded to the nearest grocery store, bought some Wonder Bread and some jars of peanut butter and jelly. Then, with careful attention to detail and ninja-like stealth, we proceeded to slather that slimebag’s car in PBJs. Windows, door handles, headlights, the whole damn thing, bumper to bumper covered in gooey peanut butter and jelly.
Fucking Sandwich Nazi never bothered me again.
Years ago I use to work at an Arbys. The location I was at was being demolished and rebuilt, so we had to close for a few months. On the first Monday of demolition, the chain link construction fence was up and surrounding the entire parking lot. There were two crane trucks there, and the first was removing the big street sign and the menu board. The second crane truck was removing the AC units from the roof. We also had a large banner on the fence that said closed for construction and some bad Arbys pun about slow roasting a new location and we will be open in six months.
With all this going on, I saw perhaps the dumbest customer I have ever encountered. I watched a car pull up to the entrance of the parking lot and try to pull into the parking lot. She couldn’t, because of the fence in her way, so she backed up, drove over to the other entrance and tried to get in that way — again, it was blocked by a fence. She then got out of her car, moved the fence out of her way, drove into the parking lot, drove around the two crane trucks, and stopped where the menu board used to be.
I walked up to her and asked if I could help her. She told me she wanted to order lunch. I informed her that we were closed for remodeling. Her response still haunts me to this day: she said she was ok with waiting. When I informed her it was going to be around six months, she got mad and started yelling at me and told me we should have the place blocked off if we were closed, and she was not leaving till she got her lunch. I just walked away.
She finally gave up after 15 min and drove off cursing at all of us.
When I was home from college for winter or summer breaks, I worked as a pizza delivery driver. It was the ideal job for me. You get to sleep in late, you only work for a few hours per night, you make cash (totally under the table back then), and unlike other tip jobs, you don’t have to be nice to people. Over the years, I had worked at several places, including a couple of the big chain pizza places, but I preferred working at local pizza places with awesome pizza. You make more tips at the big chain places because they do much more business, but the free pizza sucks, and free pizza is one of the few fringe benefits of being a pizza dude.
For a good while I worked at a place called Valle’s (pronounced like Valley’s). These guys made excellent pizza, and we had a deal with the pizza chefs to deliberately mess up a couple of pizzas per night, because mess-ups were given to the staff to eat. We got a single “crew pie” every night, but it wasn’t enough and it never had toppings. In addition to the pizza delivery, we had a full Italian menu, and a front of the house with wait service.
During our busiest days of the week, the manager would act as an expediter for our delivery orders. He’d group pizzas by location, so every delivery was a stack of about 5 orders — all in the same neighborhood. You could knock out several orders nearly as quickly as you did a single home. It was a great system for the drivers, the restaurant, and the customers. The manager was a really nice guy, who looked just like John Ritter, so we called him ‘Tripper,’ which was Ritter’s character’s name on Three’s Company. Tripper never lost his cool and he had things running like a well-oiled machine.
Except on Fridays.
On Fridays, the busiest day of the week for pizza places everywhere, the owner would come in and micromanage everyone from Tripper down to the 16 year old hostess. His name was Craig, and he was an Italian hothead, who wore hideous Cosby sweaters and gaudy jewelry. His idea of managing was to undo all of our routines and scream at everybody. He was a pretty big dude and could be really intimidating, and he’d lose his shit on you over anything. His face would turn beet red and veins would pop out. What Craig really couldn’t tolerate were orders piling up, and losing business as a result. The irony was that it was his own psychotic interference that directly resulted in orders getting messed up, the kitchen getting jammed up, and customers being dissatisfied with the wait.
No matter what your job was, Craig would come over, criticize your technique, berate you, and eventually tell you to step aside. He’d do your job for about 15 minutes, frothing at the mouth, until he totally screwed it up, and then he’d tell you to take over again. Every Friday, he banished Tripper from successfully expediting the delivery orders, and took everything upon himself. So, when we drivers would come back to pick up, he’d have a huge stack of 20 orders waiting, all of them late, and with addresses all over town. Instead of knocking out 5 orders on the same street, you would be crisscrossing all over town. Each delivery run took forever, and when we came back to the store to pick up the next run, he’d scream at us for taking so long on deliveries and shove the pizzas at us.
On one memorable Friday during the winter break, we had a snow storm hit during the dinner rush. Snow has two effects on pizza delivery: It makes it harder to drive deliveries, naturally, and it causes a huge spike in business as people figure they’ll just order out rather than deal with slippery roads. We were slammed. At the time, I was driving an ancient Honda compact, with balding tires, so pretty much the worst car in the world for snow.
Craig’s mismanagement of deliveries combined with the bad weather and additional orders put us majorly in the weeds. Even though the pizzas were getting to the customers far later than usual, we were making crazy big tips, because customers generally appreciate that you’re out busting your butt in terrible weather. Despite the fact that I was making crazy loot, I began to have major troubles keeping my car on the road. They couldn’t plow because there was too much traffic and the storm was not really predicted to be as strong as it was. At one point I was waiting at a traffic light on a hill, and my car slid backward down the hill about 20 feet and sideways into the shoulder. I was lucky as heck that I was able to get enough momentum and traction to get my car out of that situation. At that point, I figured I had pushed my luck as far as I could, so when I went back to the restaurant I told Craig, the roads were too much, and that I couldn’t deliver anymore.
Craig fired me on the spot. Then he told Tripper that any other driver who won’t deliver is fired.
The next day, I got a call around 5:00 in the evening. It was Tripper. He told me he was calling because I was scheduled to work at 4:00, and he was wondering where I was. I told him that Craig had fired me. Tripper said, “After you left, every driver came back and said the same thing. That the roads were a sheet of ice and they couldn’t deliver. Craig fired all of them, one by one. Then he tried to make deliveries in his Range Rover until he got stuck. He called me to call a tow truck and pick him up. Anyway, I don’t think any of you are really fired.”
Tripper was right. I went back to work that night, like nothing had happened. Years later, I heard Craig died fairly young of a heart attack. Sad, [Editor’s Note: “Sad?!”] but I wasn’t exactly shocked.
I was working a closing shift on a Friday night at Papa John’s. At around 10, we got a call for a delivery. I don’t remember what he ordered, but it was around a $20 order. We had no other orders to work on, so it didn’t take long, and I was at his house within 15 minutes. I knocked on the door and got no answer. I knocked a few more times, still nothing. So I called the guy a few times. Still nothing.
All told, I knocked and called for 10 minutes before giving up and going back. I explained what happened to the manager, and he called him a couple times before the guy finally answered. Turns out, he was in the shower. Since it was like 20 minutes from the time I showed up to the time he finally answered, I’m assuming he got in the shower like right before I got there. What kind of person orders pizza at 10pm on a Friday, waits 15 minutes, then gets in the shower?!
Anyway, I had to go back and take this guy his pizza, and he tipped me less than 2 dollars. When you factor in gas and the lower wage when clocked out on a delivery, and that I spent almost half an hour out of the store dealing with this moron, I essentially lost money on that delivery. I was not pleased.
Do you have any food-related stories you’d like to see included in Off The Menu? Feel free to submit them to WilyUbertrout@gmail.com. New submissions are always welcome! (Seriously, you don’t need to ask if I want you to send them in, the answer is always yes). If you’d like to stay up to date with OTM news, my Twitter handle is @EyePatchGuy.