When your Crust is Stuffed (Part 2)
I'm going to work at Pizza Palace for the rest of my life. It's not a matter of when I'm done or how long this "phase" will last. I'm always going to be working somewhere or doing something for money that isn't my highest passion. This came to me when I drove to Minneapolis to have lunch at an organic cafe in Uptown. Spotted across the street, was my beloved Pizza Palace. I lived in Minneapolis for five years during the time of my wasted college education, but not once did I notice how many Pizza Palace restaurants saturated the area. You notice them everywhere once you become a thriving cog in the machine.
I can work at Pizza Palace no matter where I live. That's the kind of job security that lights my fire. If you're like me and work a non-corporate job with no benefits and a flexible work schedule that always seems to keep you busy when others are not, you'll get a lot of unnecessary feedback from said people with nine to five schedules.
"Yes but, what's your next move?" They say.
Everyone makes the assumption that I won’t be slinging pizzas forever. I myself hope that I won’t be coming home for the rest of my life smelling like a deep fryer, but you know, I might. I will always be a byproduct of American consumer culture, because one of the most flexible schedules in the world is food related. How can I have entire days to write to you about my pizza-infused life while also staying afloat via cash money? The answer is to work the strangest schedule known to man. My weekends are when I make real money, because that’s when people eat their feelings. My weekdays are when people are trying to get their act together and eat salads, therefore I am not in high demand. It’s a rarity that I get to see any friends or loved ones, and when I do there’s the same question:
What are you doing right now?
This is a question worded so vaguely. Do they want to know I’ve been really getting into Tarot? Do they want to know I’ve been obsessively Googling astrological signs? Do they want to know what books I’ve been reading or what creative project has been occupying my time? No. They want to know how I’m contributing to a broken America, because when you file your taxes, the paperwork isn’t going to reflect the projects that have helped you grow as a person, it reflects how much you’ve given to Social Security.
So I laugh in their face, because I have no answer to that question. The only way I can physically cope is by smiling about it in a nonchalant we’re all fucked kind of way. It’s the first time in my life that I don’t know the answer to this question, and what is even better is that I absolutely do not care. I’ve stopped grasping for the answer. Should I care that my life has become more aimless than intended? Probably. What I’ve come to realize, is that there’s a bit of magic that happens in the present that cannot be created when concentrating too heavily on the future.
Still I gather a few options and put them in the back of my mind. I think about moving to New York and working in the publishing industry. I think about moving back to Asia every day that it’s cold, or when I miss living like a millionaire and getting massages every day. It is the most comfortable day dream with this round of government leaders. Then there is that over-whelming gloomy decision to make my way to Los Angeles, which seems hasty for someone with zero full-length scripts, zero short films, and no relevant resume experience. I’m still in my parent’s basement after nine months because I’m afraid of making the wrong choice, but like to be honest, my bed is also really comfortable. There are no wrong choices, yet there are simply too many.
Pizza Palace cushions my prospects. I’ve looked and there are about three shops per location. I picture myself cycling pizza to hipsters in Brooklyn, while serving stand-up every other night paying for my slots with my hard earned tips. Deep in the future, I picture myself hitting it really big in LA. I’m some sort of Amy Schumer slash Chelsea Handler figure with an Oscar nomination like Steve Carrell or Bill Murray. All the while, I keep a part-time position driving for Pizza Palace, just because I like it.
I create an Emmy Award winning television show. I go to set, and it's full of powerful women filmmakers. We shoot until the early morning hours, and afterwards I report to Pizza Palace for my 11 AM driving shift. Portioning sauces and cheese soothes my inner thoughts about paparazzi, publicity stunts, and the trolls on the internet who shame me about my fluctuating waistline.
Families gather around their living rooms to watch my — let’s not forget — Emmy Award winning show.
“Gosh, she’s so down-to-Earth.” They think.
The wife turns to the husband, or the wife turns to the wife, or the husband turns to the husband, or the person turns to the person and says:
“Let’s order Pizza Palace maybe Lindsey Wente will deliver it.”
“What if she’s working tonight? I’ve always wanted to meet her.”
“That Lindsey Wente, she’s your ever day Sandra Bullock. I just love her. Let’s order pizza.”
I arrive at their door to hand them a large pepperoni and sausage pizza with a side of cheesy bread. They tip me, not only five dollars, which at this point goes to the charity in my name, but they sheepishly ask me for my autograph. Since I’m such a chill celebrity, I oblige.
I’m all over E! News.
“Guess what Lindsey Wente does on her weekends! Stick around to find out!”
It lasts for a while until I’m forced to resign after a fan goes too far and cuts off my ponytail.
While slightly romantic, the idea of working at Pizza Palace until I perish, this day dream is crushed the second I’m in the car and it’s too dark to see the house number. I get tired of creepy men commenting on my curvy bodice as I hand them their change. I have a degree in literature, where I used to discuss the complexities of feminism in historical novels, but now I discuss the complexities of different crust types.
“Pan crust is our thicker crust, but if you’re wanting a lot of toppings with no distractions, I would go for hand-tossed.”
I hear the words “What are your specials today?” and I’m certain this is the day I lose my mind.
My wandering mind helps me go in and out of being a real human being with a dying vehicle and a weeping bank account to being a secret agent on a pizza mission for the gods. I drive the company’s delivery car with bat mobile intensity, and then arrive at the customer’s home that has dog feces up and down the sidewalk. They tip me in quarters and comment on my face, arms, and legs.
I alternate from dealing with irate customers to being one with the pizza. I send a supreme through the oven with love. I sprinkle on the green peppers and mushrooms and tell them I’m proud of them.
May you go into the world remembering all I’ve done for you.
I’m a mother proud of what I’ve created.
An hour later a woman comes in and orders the wing special. She waits until the wings have been thrown into the grease to complain about the price. I end up having to calculate eighty cents twelve times, so she understands the math involved. She continues to stare at me, as if staring will cause me to discount two dollars off the original price, and it works, which makes me feel like a weak piece of sludge on the Earth. Because all in all, you can be an angry redneck axe murderer with sexual assault allegations, and I still have to make sure you’re happy with your Pizza Palace experience.
I get phone calls where the voice behind the phone tells me their dough is too doughy and that they want future credit and another pizza sent their way. I get phone calls where the customer tells me their pizza just “wasn’t good.” I politely tell them how strange that is, as we make our pizzas the same every time.
“Here, let me send you the same pizza, only this time we’ll make it with extra love. Hopefully that will help your tastebuds explode.” I say, “I’m so sorry I ruined your night with how average our pizza was. How about a future credit?”
Some people tell me they’re never coming back to Pizza Palace ever again. But they’ll come back. They always come back. After a month or two, once they forget, they’ll start yet another vicious cycle of eating grease that goes straight to their thighs, because they know it’s what feels right.
I go back to my life where the customer doesn’t scream at me, and I’m a very important delivery person. There’s only the sound of the deep dryer and the cheese between my fingers. These moments are scarce lasting up to a minute before another person comes in with food addiction problems. In my mind, I’m still Baby Driver or Batman. I’m a celebrity families wait outside their door to meet. However, the crash down from the clouds and onto the hard pavement becomes more and more frequent.
I like to think of myself as a local hero. I can feel it. I feel it whenever I go to Walmart. There I am trying to self-check out, scanning my collection of Reese’s Puffs and Flaming Hot Cheetos, and the eyes are everywhere. Hushed whispers fill the air, and I know that it’s about me.
“Isn’t that the girl who works at Pizza Palace?” Says one.
“The one who says ‘have a good night’ and I see in her eyes she truly means it?”
“Do you mean the girl with the smile of an angel and a positive attitude that makes me want to be a better person?” Says another. “I can’t believe it.”
“She looks so different in real life than when she comes to my door with a handful of pizza.”
“Good for her, you know? Just living a normal life.”
Everyone knows who I am.
In a new social situation, people are likely to say things like:
“Don’t I know you?”
“Haven’t I seen you before?”
“Why yes,” I say, “Odds are I’ve probably delivered a pizza to you.”
For a moment they’re confused, almost as if the realization takes time to settle in. The feeling of Is this person really present before me? I patiently wait for them to remember the time they ordered two large pepperoni stuffed crust pizzas with a side of boneless honey BBQ wings and had this tall glass of water bring it to their door.
“No, didn’t you go to Faribault High School?” They say.
“Oh yeah,” I say. “I did.”
“Yeah, didn’t we graduate together?”
Just like that, I'm nobody. My Emmy award winning television show is gone. Driving with Baby Driver enthusiasm becomes just speeding. No one is waiting at their door to hear my perfectly timed zingers. They want their pizza and for me to move on with my day. Contrary to the beliefs I have about myself, the average people are just average. The everyday workers do go unnoticed. The hard work and the sacrifice is rarely acknowledged. I go to work alone. I come home alone, and the thoughts of the people I’ve served are rarely about me.