Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On Cultural Discrepancies

I drove down to Wendy's at 9 o'clock last night to pick up something I could eat while watching fireworks down at my lake. This sounds amazing.

Pulling into an empty parking lot so I can make a legal U-turn and getting a giant pink heart with a green starburst at its center RIGHT IN MY (car's) FACE sounds even better. All-in-all, it was a good night.

Here's the thing: except for one Hispanic lady I heard yelling angrily from inside, clearly the shift supervisor, and of course excepting Skinny Black Kid With An Afro who has been the night manager for at least seven years now, every single person I saw staffing this Wendy's, a restaurant usually staffed exclusively by Latina women shorter than 5'1", was an intelligent looking, down-to-Earth white teenager.

I have no problems with this on a social level. I'm aware that outside of the New York City Metro region, most restaurants are in fact waited by non-immigrant persons. What I'm more confused about is the logistical reasoning behind it.

Why were all the non-young, non-Caucasian employees missing? Is it simply that young, low-income individuals do not have the financial means or señority to request off on holidays? Or is it perhaps something more sinister?

As I said, that one lady I could hear yelling in heavily accented language was rather miffed to be working at all, it seemed, and she was clearly barking orders. A top-level supervisor who could not get out of work that evening fits the profile.

Are all immigrants of questionable-legality super excited for July 4th? Is it, like, a thing for them? I know we white people freaking love Cinco de Mayo; maybe this is a revenge holiday? Like Boxing Day mixed with "A Day Without A Mexican." Or maybe they simply love freedom and independence so much that this is like their Labor Day. Maybe they get little Washington-shaped piñatas and beat them with muskets made of hope and licorice.

1 comment :

  1. I think part of this phenomenon is that the in retail and food service industries, most places will make all government holidays "blackout periods," when nobody is allowed to ask for time off outside of their regular availability -- even though, of course, not everybody will be scheduled. This never works, and people always ask for time off anyway, and unless they've been particularly annoying lately, they don't get scheduled.

    In places with a smaller staff (50 people or less, excluding management), deciding who to put on shift tends to start with the employees who volunteer to work the holiday, or at least say in advance that they don't have a problem with the possibility. For my four years in retail, I worked every Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Christmas/New Year's Eve and bank holiday I could get. Why? Time and a half.

    The older employees in any given Wendy's generally have families--large families that they are at least partly responsible for taking care of, and want to spend time with during festive occasions. Caucasian teenagers tend to hold holidays (especially those that don't grant time off from school) in much lower regard, and anybody who has worked during a month with a government holiday knows about holiday pay.

    Or the scheduling manager just doesn't like them as much and wanted them to be covered in Greasecutter+ instead of out mischeif making among the explosives.


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