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July 17, 2008 12:15 am



IT NEVER FAILS: Murphy's Law. When applying for jobs, the one place you do not want to call you back inevitably will. I encountered this annoying fact applying for jobs in Richmond, when I landed one at the local Subway.

Of all the interesting, vibrant-looking places in my area that I could have worked, this was definitely my last choice. But the only other places I had wanted to work told me it would be a few weeks or months, and I had to have something ASAP so that I could pay the rent.

At first glance, the job didn't seem as horrible as it could have been. I have plenty of experience making sandwiches and working in food service, so it wasn't hard at all. The man who hired me seemed nice enough, and I liked a few of my co-workers. I even got all subs at an employee discount, which made the delicious veggie sub I love cost mere chump change. I failed to take into account, however, my inability to function in this kind of a situation for very long and my disdain for the restrictions that come with employment at any fast-food restaurant.

First of all, some of my co-workers whom I met later are not exactly savory. They are much older than me and don't seem to respect me at all, even though I am doing my best to comply with their every wish and to be the best employee I can be. The management also demands that I remove my lip rings while working--which is ridiculous considering how many people with piercings I serve every day. This makes things a bit difficult due to the fact that I don't have the extra money right now to go out and buy spacers to put in the holes while I'm at work.

The one fellow employee that I really liked has crumpled under the awful pressure and quit, and I am being paid minimum wage--a fact I did not learn until the first paycheck came out.

But what makes the situation really unbearable is not the employees at Subway or even the stupid rules and pay, but the fact that I am barely getting any hours at this terrible job. At places like this, a worker is just a commodity, serving the functions of the business--not a person with needs that should be met. Six hours a week is not exactly going to cut it for someone who asked for more than 40 hours and has rent and bills to pay. I worked more hours than that a week as an intern at The Free Lance-Star, a job that was supposed to be educational and never a means to earn a living.

To top it all off, the fast-food industry is wasteful and goes against even the most basic environmentalist practices. Mishandled food or food that can't be served is thrown away, not saved to be taken home by the workers. Each sub is wrapped in paper and then placed into a small plastic bag--basically the equivalent of a grocery store giving customers one bag for each grocery. Even the apples we sell come sliced and packaged in plastic, although they would be perfectly sellable without any of that. In short, it is all about the profit and not about the overall good of society.

So what can I do about all of this? Well, apart from complaining in my column and trying to get another job as soon as possible, not much. I just have to keep going to work and hoping for the best. And maybe, some day, I will start my own restaurant, just to combat all the evil that I see in the fast-food industry. But until then, I will have to try to content myself with the fact that at least I am getting paid.

Addison Herron-Wheeler is a rising freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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