Celebrate Job Loss Week / Heavenly Pizza

This morning on the radio I learned that October 23-27 is Celebrate Job Loss Week, “to focus on a plan to celebrate and move on after getting fired or laid off.” In honor of such an occasion, I will now share with you the story of Heavenly Pizza.

In the fall of 1993, after attending Redlands Community College for two years, I transferred to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma, some 60 miles away from home. I arrived in town only a few days before school began, at which point I began hunting for a job. Bad timing on my part — I was told at the time that the population of Weatherford was “12,000 when school is in, 7,000 when school is out” — and apparently I was the 5,000th person to arrive in town. By the time I began applying for jobs, everything was taken. When I applied at McDonald’s I was told I would be put on a waiting list. For the first couple of months I attended school I simply didn’t work. Then, I stumbled across Heavenly Pizza.

Day One of Three

Susan and I stopped by Heavenly Pizza for lunch one day and noticed a “Now Hiring” sign in the window. Before sitting down to eat, I asked the owner for an application. He hired me on the spot and put me to work. My class schedule was such that I had a three hour break in the middle of the day. Susan ate lunch by herself as the owner shuffled me back to the kitchen to show me the ropes. I had previous experience at both Mazzio’s and Pizza Inn, so I figured I would catch on quickly. I didn’t. Heavenly Pizza didn’t have the same giant equipment that those chains owned. Everything was done by hand and done by feel. Instead of working with a team, Heavenly Pizza only had two employees — the owner, an older, cowboy-type fellow, and a hostess/waitress gir that I recognized from school. With me, made three. After a hectic and confusing lunch period, the owner left me behind to wash dishes.

Day Two of Three

Upon arriving the second day, the owner said to me, “ok, I’m going to let you run everything today. You’ll be okay.” I wasn’t okay. I didn’t know how to do ANYTHING. I didn’t know where anything was. I don’t like being unprepared I spent a couple of hours confused, frustrated, and stressed out. The owner stuck his head back in the kitchen every now and then to assure me that I was doing fine. I wasn’t doing fine. Even if he didn’t know it, I knew it.

Day Three of Three

Found a note from the owner waiting for me when I arrived. “Good luck! Call me if you need me!” To say that day’s lunch was a disaster would be an understatement. Pizzas were late or burnt, and definitely not heavenly. I finished my shift because I figured I owed hungry lunch patrons that much. After lunch I shook the waitress’ hand, said, “good luck,” and walked out the door, never to return.

Friday (day five) was to have been my first pay day. I never went back to pick up my check. I never even went back to eat, which was unfortunate as they had really good pizza as long as I wasn’t cooking it. The best in Weatherford, by far.

I think I will celebrate this week by eating some pizza.

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