LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The country roots are obvious as a plate of fresh homemade biscuits and gravy adorned with a minimum of three strips of fried bacon are placed on the table.
The clatter of the fork against the serene porcelain plate is the only sound as the hungry patrons devour the breakfast feast that also includes hash browns and eggs -- all fixed atop of grease-laden grill.
Streams of classic rock, country and some country-reggae blend echo in the building as the sizzle of steaks, hamburgers, bacon and other menu items hitting the grill provide brief interruptions in the usual routine of employees exchanging orders, delivering food, and talking with customers.
The heat from the grill and fryers never leave the employees cold until a door or drive-thru window lets in the outside air. Inside the building, it is a world within itself, obscured from any reality other than preparing food for customers.
The duty varies from cooking and cleaning, stocking supplies, and providing prompt, courteous service to the customers who enter the doors. The pay is low, and many of those employed in this business environment struggle to keep a car operational enough to transport them back and forth to this job that brings little respect from the general public. The tips are the butter for the bread for most of the workers, whose pay ranges to minimum wages of the 1970s.
Irate customers who insult and degrade their livelihood and/or lack of education for a “better” job create a greater sense of despair for these workers whose managers and owners also often contribute to the destructive spiral of poverty and diminishing self-esteem. It is nothing to ask these workers to serve food, then scrub the baseboards of the tiled facility in the same shift. It is nothing to ream them for exceeding their time limit in serving an order, then ask them to mop the floor and risk falling on the floor where they will be walking to serve that food. The hours of standing on a concrete floor take its toll on the circulation system, causing swelled feet and legs.