The Toast Technology of a Chicken Maniac

He unlocked the front door of his square apartment that reflected the colors of a pumpkin patch and went to take a warm bath with bubbles of a rainbow sheen.

For The Toast Technology of a Chicken Maniac

The world is full of those who claim to dance with the vigor of advanced toast technology. But Henry Towel was like a bagel in a four-sided slot. He was an overly wired individual with exponential 1970s Art Garfunkel hair. But it was beyond even that. Henry Towel liked to play with light sockets. He claimed it never burned, but that it gave him something that made his mind anew. “It clears the pathways.” And made his hair poof and revel in a wild bounce when he walked or talked or whatever he did because he often jerked with a nervous energy. It was something akin to the teachings of the Elaine Benes Dance Academy.

Henry Towel was unemployed, once again. He could never seem to hold down a job for more than a few months, weeks, days, or even hours. He never fit in, anywhere. His attention span was that of a finger snap. Nothing ever kept his interest for very long. Not many things, at least. But he did like the dancing. He often danced all alone for countless hours in a dimly lit room near a window. He moved wildly to music by The Cure or Joy Division or other post-punk goth rock goodies. He would crank up the volume and shake, weave, thrust and jiggle like he had gargantuan ants in his parachute pants.  

Henry once took a job as a night auditor at a hotel of mediocre niceness. The man who had hired him was a cold and salty old sod, like North Atlantic cod, with no hair and no sense of humor. On his very first day, Henry began training on the morning shift with a woman who needed to lose weight and brush her teeth. None of what she explained to him made sense. She was mean. She was short with him. She expected too much for his first day. She told him to take notes, but Henry just tapped at his oversized head with a finger and said, “No need, darling. I’ve got a mind like an aluminum trap.”

The procedures and rules and regulations of the job were so incredibly boring, the tasks so pointless and soul crushing. Henry was ill at the thought of having to do such a thing night after night. What kind of life is that? It was no life he wanted. What sense was there in continuing to live if that’s all it was? None he decided. That’s not why he was created by great Bog the fate sprinkler who sat on his crisp British biscuit out in space. And so, when it came time for Henry to take his very first lunchbreak, he walked out the heavy front doors of the hotel and never came back. He never said goodbye. He told them nothing.

It was January in a place called Colorado and absolutely freezing outside. It was all made worse by a bitter wind. Henry hadn’t even bothered to grab his winter coat from the employee lounge. He just walked out into the cold and drove home. He unlocked the front door of his square apartment that reflected the colors of a pumpkin patch and went to take a warm bath with bubbles of a rainbow sheen. For more than an hour he bathed and screamed at the gray day monochrome burst that rested there like a paralyzed cloud. The hotel manager never called to find out why he did what he did. Henry never got his coat back. He didn’t really care.


Henry Towel sat mostly naked in front of his computer and skimmed through job listings on Al Gore’s Internet. He was sloppily spooning cereal into his mouth from a round white bowl. Milk dribbled down his pale, thin body. He had no interest in making himself look any better with muscles or rock-hard abs or a firm ass. Even if he had the body of the greatest man ever made, it wouldn’t matter because his personality was so strange, awkward and raucous, his heart and soul so wayward, that no woman would be able to stand him for very long. “I’m a confirmed bachelor.” At parties, he would drop that particular cliché to anyone who listened, and then he held up his glass like Jay Gatsby and smiled and pretentiously laughed like he really meant it.  

A job for a crew member at a local fast-food restaurant caught his attention. There was one line in the advertisement that for some reason spoke to him like nothing else had ever done before. It was a desired prerequisite by the company, a quality they were seeking… And this part is true, apply if: You want to make your customer’s day and it shows in the way you are maniacal about serving great-tasting chicken with a great big smile.

“Maniacal about chicken?” Henry thought aloud. “Do they really want someone like that? Because I can be maniacal. I can give them maniacal.” He went to the online application and filled in the blanks. Some of what he put down was true. A lot of it was not. They were probably so desperate for help that they would be willing to take anyone. Even an odd, fabricated individual with no sense of purpose in life. He hit submit, yawned, and went to bed.

It was snowing outside on the day a woman named Susan Gregory called him about the job for a chicken maniac. Henry agreed to come in for an interview later that same day. He even brushed his hair until it looked like golden spun sugar. He shaved until his face was smooth as mirror glass. He wore clean clothes. He was even somewhat excited.

The woman named Susan Gregory sat with him in a plastic booth in the corner of the dining area. She was the general manager and she smelled nice, like chicken and flowers, but she had those big artificial injectified lips that artificial people opt for, and she looked stupid. It was unflattering. Henry had a hard time focusing on the questions as he watched her mouth flap around like a swollen clam as she talked.

“Are you available to work all shifts, including nights and weekends?”

“Sure. I’m a very flexible person. You should come over some time and watch me dance.”

“How would your past co-workers and supervisors describe you?”

“I’m upbeat and easy to wrestle. I’ve got perfect tempo when I hum and walk. I can be a sophisticated jerk at times, but overall, I get the job done when it needs to be done. I can keep a secret. I’m a creative thinker. But I dislike people who have birds as pets.”

“Would you consider yourself to be a team player… And why?”

“Absolutely. The game of life can’t be won by just one person. Or maybe it can, but it generally takes an entire team working in synchronicity to achieve a common goal… And I believe here, in this kingdom of chicken, that common goal would be customer satisfaction.”

“It certainly is. Every day in every way. Because without the customers, we wouldn’t even be here. We would have no reason to exist. Now… Tell me why you want to work here?”

“Because I want to be maniacal about serving quality chicken with a great smile. I’m somewhat of a maniac in real life so this sounds like the perfect place to express myself, earn competitive wages, and have fun. Right? Because that’s how you all portray it in the job description.”


It was 478 days later, and Henry Towel was the new general manager of the fast-food chicken restaurant. He was sitting in the same plastic booth he had sat in with Susan Gregory when he himself was interviewing for a position so long ago.

The female teen who now sat across from him was nervous. She kept playing with her hair and biting at her lip. She had wandering eyes and a shaky leg. She kept sipping at her complimentary soft drink. Henry had his doubts about how intense her dedication to serving delicious chicken with a smile might be.

“So, Tina,” Henry began as he looked over her application. “I’ve worked here for a long time, and I must tell you, it’s the one job in my life I have stuck with… And do you want to know why?”

“Why?”

“Because I get paid to be maniacal about serving the best chicken, and I get to do it with an upbeat, electrified, often questionable attitude. But people love me for it. I’ve become a great success here. And if I can do it… You certainly can. Does that prospect excite you?”

“I guess so. I really just need to make some money to help pay for college.”

Henry was disappointed, but curious. “Oh. What do you plan to study?”

“Elizabethan literature… And business.”

“Business! Well, that’s fine, just fine,” Henry gleamed. “Working here could be an excellent opportunity to learn about business. And you get to be maniacal about chicken at the same time. Maniacal!”

“What exactly do you mean by that? I’ve never heard anyone anywhere ever say that.”

“I’m glad you asked, Tina. Being maniacal about serving the best chicken in the business with a great attitude… That’s our culture here. You can taste it in the air. Literally. There’s nothing like a bead of grease being flung from a piece of hot and tasty chicken and landing on your face. It’s akin to an African rain. In my time here, Tina, I’ve adopted new procedures that make the job fun and exciting and worth waking up for. I’ve untethered my workers from the restraints of the dull and mundane. I’ve released them from the confines of corporate jabberwocky. They are totally free to express themselves. It’s not just words anymore… I’ve given the work here a heartbeat. I’ve given it life! To be maniacal about chicken is to throw it around, to yell, to scream, to cheer, to smile madly, to be whimsical, to be fully enlightened by what we are doing here. And in that rabid enlightenment, we are fully engaged with our customers. Fully engaged and plugged in to all their needs. And people really appreciate that. That leads to success. Success in the fast-food chicken arena means everything to me, Tina. Everything… So, does it sound like something you could get into?”

Tina the teen slid out of the booth, reached down for her backpack and hung it over a shoulder. “I don’t know if this would be the best job for me. I appreciate your time, but I think I’m going to keep looking.” She started to walk away.

“Hey, Tina,” Henry called out before she reached the exit. “I’m concerned that you might regret this. Are you sure?”

Tina stopped. She looked toward the back, beyond the customer service counter. She saw the smiling workers, she heard laughing and yelling, and even the maniacal screaming. Chicken was indeed flying through the air. The employees seemed very happy. Maybe it would be the best thing for now, she thought. Tina reconsidered. “Okay. I think I’d like to give it a try.”


Fourteen years later, Tina the teen, now Tina the adult, sat in the same plastic booth of the fast-food chicken restaurant she herself sat in with Henry Towel so very long ago. It was showing its age now. The whole place was. She looked across the table at the young man and smiled. She looked over his application. He shifted uncomfortably. “So, Dylan,” she began. “I’ve worked here for a long time, and I must tell you, it’s the one job in my life I have stuck with. I ditched a college education for this. And do you want to know why?”

END


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