Employee of the Month

As you may know from earlier posts, I sometimes go to El Pollo Loco for lunch. It’s surprisingly good and if you don’t eat the tortillas, it’s pretty healthy (I get the 3 piece combo with pinto beans and fresh vegetables).

Anyway, I don’t go every day. At most I go twice a month. But I always get the same thing. (I usually settle on a go-to order at most places and just stick with it forever.) Well, this one woman taking orders, Laura, not only recognized me, but she recited my order perfectly.

“Three-piece combo, dark meat, pinto beans, and veggies, no tortillas.”

I was stunned. I was like, “How did you remember that?”

She said I always ordered the same thing.

I was like, “Yeah, but how many other people also come in here every day?”

She just laughed like it was no big deal to remember customers’ orders but I was seriously impressed.

So much so that while I was waiting for the food I asked to speak to the manager. It was a short Hispanic lady and I told her that I was very happy with Laura’s service. I told her how welcome she made me felt and that employees like her build customer loyalty. The manager thanked me for my comments. I definitely got the sense that paying her employee a compliment was a rare occurrence. My food came out and I sat down to eat. Laura wasn’t privy to my conversation with her manager, but after lunch, I made sure to say “Have a nice day” to her on the way out.

On the way back to the office I was feeling good, wondering if this would help her get a promotion or something. But then I started to doubt my feelings, like I was patting myself on the back a little too hard. Something one of the commenters said last month about how the whole blog is a series of self-congratulatory stories where I portray myself as an amazing person because I deemed to talk to some lowly cleaning lady, or something like that. I honestly felt good about saying something nice to the manager because I thought Laura deserved some recognition. But then I felt guilty about how good I felt, like I was being patronizing. I’m not sure how else to explain it. I know I was over-thinking it. But  this moment of existential doubt did in fact sour my mood.

El Pollo Loco

I was in the mood for El Pollo Loco for lunch yesterday. Don’t ask me why. I just felt like it was time to go back.

So I drove to the El Pollo Loco and ordered the three-piece combo. Oddly, the place was jam-packed. No open tables and the counter was full, too. So I waited by the salsa bar until they called my number, and when I got my food, I scanned the place for empty seats at tables occupied by friendly-looking people.

Being a people person with a lot of experience talking to strangers, I picked a guy in a shirt and tie (like me) sitting alone at a table for two. I walked up and said simply, “Hey, there’s no empty tables, mind if I join you?”

He looked up at me and said, “Fuck off.”

Seriously. I was actually startled by the reaction. I didn’t even respond. I just turned and walked away.

This guy totally crushed my confidence for the day because I went back to the counter and asked them to wrap my order to go. Then I ate the food in my car.