I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
My first real job – one where I wasn’t being paid under the table or being exploited for underaged labor was at Pizza Hut. Four days a week, five hours a day, I clocked in a whopping 20 hour work week at $3.25 an hour. At the time, it was literally the least amount of money the company could get away with paying a kid like me. I had no idea how difficult actual work would be. A manager on a power trip constantly yelling obscenities at me, the heat from the oven two feet behind my back, and the pressure of keeping up with the line really messed with my head. In order to maintain my sanity, we would intentionally mess up pizzas and since the line was always busy, they would take the messed up pizzas and just stack them in the corner to be thrown away by the manager when he had down time. But we were all in on it so we would run them through the oven, say we had to go to the bathroom, then sneak the pizzas off to the mop closet and shove as much scalding hot pizza as we could down out throats. It kept us going knowing we were screwing the place – even if it was just a pizza here and there.
Eventually, I quit Pizza Hut and after a brief stint at Dominos, I found myself working at a little independent place called Angelo’s Pizza. I absolutely loved it, but it was the most popular carry out pizza place in the town and they worked us hard. But this time I didn’t mind. I felt a connection to the place. When the owner wasn’t literally throwing messed up pizzas at the wall in fits of rage, he was actually in the trenches with us sweating at the oven or frantically shoving sausage toppings on pizzas. He actually recognized the amount of work we were putting in and would personally thank us after a rough night. Sometimes he would even make us dinner and give us little presents. I felt good there and actually looked forward to coming in, even on my days off. Over time, I became the fastest dough roller at the place. So I was always called in on the busiest days of the year to take the helm. I was the beginning of the chain. I rolled the dough while the rest of the team waited for me. I set the pace. We became a machine. I would look at it like a big game. I would even stretch and drink Gatoraide before walking in for my shift. People looked up to me. The owner recognized my skills and even gave me a raise. And at 17, being a big deal at a pizza shop, well… was kind of a big deal.
But after a couple years, all of that started to fall apart. The owner began drinking again which meant wholesale orders weren’t placed on time, prep work was rarely done, and the new he hired manager was a bully. She was much older and would physically hit us on the side of the head when we weren’t obeying her in a timely manner. I brought it up to the owner but he was always drunk so things never changed. It got to the point where I began to be resentful. It made me want to start stealing food. So I did. Going into work had gotten to be so unhealthy that I would feel physically ill knowing I had to go into work that night and that was when I knew it was time to leave. When I told my co-workers I was planning to leave they begged me to stay. I was the best at what I did and it would mess up the line and it would screw that little pizza place that was already on it’s last leg. I knew that I was vital to the operation and that if I left, it would screw over the place and I reveled in the fact that it would not be able to continue on without me. So I told myself that it was good to teach them a lesson and I walked out and never went back.
A couple weeks later I got a phone call from a co-worker. I couldn’t wait for him to tell me how badly the place was running. I wanted to sit back and gloat and marvel at the damage I had left behind because I knew they could never replace someone as amazing as me. But what had happened was they hired a new guy. Some good-looking muscle head kid who came in and knew how to roll better and more effectively than I did. My friend kind of laughed and said, “Man, it’s almost like it got better after you left.”
I still remember that feeling. At first it was like a punch to the gut, then it was disappointing that my big plan backfired… then I was just sad. Sad that I had been replaced not only so quickly, but that they were almost better off without me. I remember thinking, this is the exactly opposite of what I was trying to accomplish. Sure, it was just a stupid job at a stupid pizza place but I had built up this massive ego. How could this have happened?
Because my skills were replaceable and I had the arrogance to believe that I was the only person who could show up and do my skills and without me, the business would end. But they found a new kid, just as good – if not better. And on top of it – taller, stronger, smarter, and better looking.
So many people like to believe they are the end-all be-all of partners. That if we left someone, their lives would be over. And some of us have even been convinced by master manipulators that we would never be able to survive without our boyfriends or girlfriends or husbands or wives. But that is simply not true. The exs who would rest their heads on my chest late at night and whisper amazing words like, “I would die without you,” have gone on just fine without me. Oh, sure I’m sure they had their fair share of sleepless nights, but at the end of the day – they found a new dough-roller. And on top of it – a taller, stronger, smarter, and better looking, dough-roller.
Never get so arrogant at your station that you become blind to the possibilities that surround us all. Because there is someone out there that is willing and excited to be the dough-roller with your girlfriend or boyfriend. And if you’re not taking care of your pizza place and running things with a healthy level of appreciation, you run the risk of someone up and leaving. But conversely, if you’re constantly being taken for granted, there is a pizza place out there that would be more than willing and excited to hire you. Because when you toss the arrogant and egotistical person in the partnership – sometimes it’s almost like it gets better after they leave.