I’ve never seen the program Undercover Boss, but I have worked at White Castle’s corporate headquarters. Back in the mid-nineties, one of my part-time jobs was updating law books. Most of the time I went to law firms, but twice a month I would go to the porcelain palace home office and file the updates in the tax law books.
Stepping into the office was like a jump back into the seventies. The walls were covered in the hippest faux wood paneling. The offices were connected by uneven hallways suggesting they were added on as the business expanded. The file room was full of files because the company had yet to go electronic with that stuff.
In fact, when I first arrived there, the place had just been equipped with PCs. You could tell who was an executive and who wasn’t just by looking in a little square hamburger office. If the occupant was playing golf, he was probably an executive. Everyone else played Solitaire all day.
I usually wore slacks and a blouse to work. My employer asked us to dress down and try to blend in. One day a White Castle employee with a compact beehive hairdo approached me. She was wearing a longish skirt and a blouse. She could have been mistaken for a Utah Mormon escaped from a polygamist compound. (I don’t watch Undercover Boss, but I do watch Big Love.)
“In the seventies, they told us we could wear pantsuits to work here.”
“In the seventies they told us we could wear pantsuits to work here, but they had to be those nice matching polyester ones.”
Ooookay. She scurried on down the crazy maze of hallways to a hidden work space.
Many of the employees seemed to be lifers and stuck in the time period in which they were hired. Though I didn’t see anyone wearing a polyester pantsuit, I’m sure I heard the ghostly whispers of polyester thighs whooshing in the corridors.
One surprise I found there was a fantastic cafeteria in the basement of the building. I would take a break and get a piece of freshly baked pie and a cup of tea for less than $2. Lunches were nutritious and inexpensive. They did not make White Castle hamburgers unless there was a special request. I think I was the only person who ever made such a request because my kids asked me to bring them a sack home one day.
Somewhere in my piles of papers and memories I have a xeroxed collection of recipes given to me by one of the employees. She also invited me to partake in the smorgasbord of office employee entries into the White Castle recipe contest that was held each year. I had to pass on the offer as I was not drunk and I have a strict personal policy of never eating Slyders while sober. Not even if they’re baked into a chili bean casserole.