#308 Joking with the staff

I eat out a lot.

I’m not proud of it but living alone downtown surrounded by greasy burger joints, neon sandwich signs, and late-night pizza places means I’m often tempted to trade a crinkly fiver for a waxy-wrapped package in a paper bag.

Sometimes I step into the zone of an empty sub shop or barren pizza place and it feels like I’m walking onto a late night talk show stage. Someone’s filling napkin dispensers while another chops tomatoes and they’ll be joking like Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. They’ll be in tears laughing at something funny from a few moments before and I won’t know if someone dropped a jar of olives on their foot, a customer ordered a slice of pizza for their cat, or the boss got beet red because nobody ordered receipt tape for the register.

No, I won’t know what’s going on but if I’m lucky they’ll invite me onstage.

Just a few nights ago I walked into a greasy hole in the wall with my friends Nick and Julie and two guys behind the counter were having some sort of hilarious engaging argument. When we walked in they turned to us quickly and one of them immediately yelled out “Hey … what’s a perm?”

We laughed and Nick jumped in quickly to clarify: “What, you mean like in someone’s hair?”

“Yeah, exactly bro. Like, one of us thinks it’s when you make your hair curly and the other think it’s when you make your hair straight. Which one is it?”

He leaned on the cash register with his fist under his chin and with the furrowed brow and squinty eyes sort of looked like a modern day version of The Thinker, only wearing a paper hat. The other guy was laughing behind him while pulling a dripping basket of wet fries from the bubbling hot oil.

“I dunno, I think it stands for permanent,” Julie started up. “Like, anything you do to permanently change your hair in a new way. So … you’re probably both right. Or both horribly wrong.”

A few seconds later we were having mock-serious debates and laughing out loud in a tiny hilarious connection in our dusty neon world. It was a great moment and it made me realize that joking with the staff is always a great time.

Yes, whether you’re laughing with the ladies at the laundromat, trading barbs with the barbers at the shop, or joking with the jail guards in the joint — well, it just means you nailed your cameo appearance onstage.

Congratulations on a great walk on performance.

Today you win the Best Supporting Actress of


Thank you to Erin, Hillary, Heather, Ashika, and Sarina for being the first five pre-orders yesterday!

Photos from: here, here, here, and here

50 thoughts on “#308 Joking with the staff

    1. I always think of curly hair when I think of perms … but I have a friend whose mom is a hairdresser and she said you use the same chemicals whether the end goal is curly or straight — you just change what you do when the chemicals are on your hair (for curly, hair is wrapped around curlers and for straight, it’s not).

      1. When I hear perm, my first thought is always curly.. I also think 80’s.

        To test empirically, if you go to Google Images and type in “perm”, 19 of the 20 images returned on the first page are all depicting “curly hair”.

        That being said, if you are looking to be strictly correct, I think the “both” answer works best..

        1. 90% of the time , when a client asks for a perm, they want permanent curly hair. the other 10% who want permanent straight hair are asking for what is called a relaxer. they typically have super thick kinky curly ethic type hair. but a lot of people wanting relaxers call them ‘perms’ as i learned watching Chris Rocks documentary on hair called “Good Hair”.
          the chemicals for perms and relaxers are actually quite different, but both are still extremely damaging to your hair, relaxer being the worst.

          so, technically, both answers are correct.

  1. I love joking with my coworkers. At my old job, I worked at a summer camp, so it was always pretty easy to joke around, especially when making up stories for the kids.

    Hopefully, I have a fun enough work environment when I get into my career.

    1. I don’t make as much money as I’d like, but I have such a great work environment that I just can’t bring myself to find a new job. We get work done, sure, but along the way we joke around and pick on each other (good-naturedly) all day. It’s awesome. :)

  2. Oh yeah, this is a good one.

    A couple years ago, I had some friends come into town for a visit. They got there on New Year’s Day, and we decided to go out that night. Downtown was a complete ghost town, considering everyone had filled their party quota the night before. We ended up being the only people in the whole bar at one of the places we went, and we had a great time cutting up with the bartenders. Sometimes there are even perks (read: freebies!) associated with joking with the staff. :)

  3. I like “trade a crinkly fiver for a waxy-wrapped package in a paper bag”. The crinkly fiver itself was given to you in exchange for your time spent on some endeavor, therefore you are actually giving some of your time in exchange for food. I know it’s how our world works, but I still find it kind of awesome.

      1. [Homer searches under the couch for a peanut]
        Homer : Hmm … ow, pointy! Eww, slimy. Oh, moving! Ah-ha! Oh, twenty dollars … I wanted a peanut!
        Homer’s brain : Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts!
        Homer : Explain how.
        Homer’s brain : Money can be exchanged for goods and services.

  4. Perm is short for permanent, which is short for permanent wave. I’ve never heard anyone refer to straightening as a perm, but maybe that’s just where I’m from (NJ).

    Joking with the staff IS awesome. And it works the other way around, too. When I worked retail, it was always cool when a customer joined in our shenanigans. :)

  5. LOL “..both right, or both horribly wrong.”

    As a survivor of childhood perm-trauma, may I cast my vote for “horribly wrong.”

      1. Middle school perm trauma for me. The kids at school called me “buffalo” (I’ve got dark brown hair). It sure didn’t come out looking like the picture I brought with me to the salon. :P

        1. Salon! I wish! I was the victim of repeated home-perm trauma. Once I actually “ran away” for a few hours when I saw my mom getting out the curlers.

          1. Haha, my mom went the home perm route a couple times, too. They are pretty traumatic! Partly because the average mom just isn’t as skilled and gentle as a professional, and partly because home perms BURN. And they smell worse, too. I don’t blame you for running away!

    1. That would be my answer, depends on who you are. Perms are different for white and black people, on black people, they make the hair straight, and for whites they make it curly! Thus the answer is both.

  6. I work in the service industry myself, and I completely agree. It’s especially enjoyable to joke around with a customer or coworker when you’ve had a horrid day and want/need to laugh. That, too, is awesome.

  7. I worked at a pizza place and we had this one regular customer who called every Friday at 5:30 and always ordered the same thing. We would always joke ( with him or with each other) about ” what kind of CRAZY combination is Dave getting today? ” and make up the most ridiculous ideas for pizzas – often with wacky toppings that we didn’t have and had NEVER heard of on a pizza

    1. I used to be that kind of customer! A couple of years ago I had to stay late at school every Tuesday and I’d go to the Subway across the street for dinner. By the end of the year, they knew what I wanted as soon as I walked in. (Although to be fair, there isn’t much variety when you don’t eat meat.)

  8. I remember hearing about a guy who used to run a sandwich shop in a suburb of Toronto.. I bet he was a pretty fun guy to joke around with when you went in to get a yummy toasted sub.

    I wonder whatever happened to that guy?

    Hurumph.. he probably went out and started a blog or something.. everyone and their brother seems to have a blog these days..

    1. I, too, bet he was a fun behind-the-counter friend. I’m sure all the regulars were devastated when he wasn’t there to joke around with them anymore.

      He probably did start a blog. And it probably gets like five or six hits a day or something lame like that. It’ll never amount to anything.

      By the way … I can’t just NOT comment on your website, Freddo.

      BEST. EVER.

      1. Ha! Glad you noticed.. :)

        I wish I could say something equally complimentary about your website, but quite frankly, I think it’s for the birds..

          1. I don’t think the top answer of “like very much” is going to quite cover it for the question of “How much do you like the taste of Nutella”!!??!

            1. Yeah – I kept trying to scroll further up because I couldn’t imagine that “like very much” was the top option.. In particular, I couldn’t find the “I think it’s like chocolatey-hazelnut crack.. I would mainline it if I could.. If my house was burning down and I had the choice to save my (hypothetical) children, wife or (hypothetical) dog, I would first run and get the nutella.”

              I also am a bit bleary eyed this morning as I spent the better part of last night repeatedly signing up for for the giveaway.. I sure hope I win..

              1. HAHAHAHAHA

                I choose that option!

                Also, I think it’s kind of hilarious that, in entering a sweepstakes to win a case of Nutella, one of the choices for how much you like it is “dislike very much”. Because that’s juuuuust what I’ve always loved to do — enter contests to win mass amounts of something I dislike very much.

          2. Laura – I know you’ve warned me about over-sharing when it comes to my wife, but I’m deciding not to heed your warning, as your “tell ya kids, tell ya wife” reminded me that the Antoine Dodson song ranks as my wife’s favorite internet meme.. (even above RickRolling)..

            She does a pretty mean rendition of the song herself, rolled up in her snuggie, wagging her finger at your claiming that “we lookin’ fo’ you.. we gon find you.. we gon find you..”

            1. Warned, maybe, but only for her sake. Personally, I love it. It makes me laugh. I think she and I could be Snuggie-wearin’, Nutella-eatin’, Antoine-Dodson-singin’ friends. Note: No Twilight.

              Anyway, I have to say that song is one of my personal favorites as well. So you can run and tell that, run and tell that, run and tell that, homeboy … home home homeboy.

              This is another favorite.

  9. Funny…I just learned how perms work today in chemistry class (both the straight and curly varieties). It’s amazing just how many times I’m reminded of school when I’m trying to relax and forget that I have homework that needs doing.

  10. That picture of the cat sniffing the pizza with that mmmm look on its face is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. haha

  11. I love when this happens. Its like for a second, you’re in on a special inside joke reserved for only the coolest of customers.

  12. Is this a joke? how has nobody commented on how completely racist this post sounds/is, given the historical connotations of what ‘the staff’ means, coupled with the one picture of a person of color on your entire website? Ugh. I hope this site has a sarcastic edge to it- because it’s akin to ‘stuff white people like’ only it doesn’t appear to be a parody????

  13. I worked at a CVS for over a year, and the best part of my day was always joking with the customers late at night about the tabloid magazines, or their children, or how terribly sunburned they were. Staff definitely appreciates it as much as the customers.

  14. As an employee of a popular tourist destination, I’m begging you guys to joke with the staff. A lot of the time, we only have prolonged conversation with guests with problems or grievances. Joking around with us or even just throwing a smile our way makes us remember we’re people, too. (:

    And that’s awesome.

  15. So yesterday I was buying a new toilet seat (I KNOW! My life is so very glamourous!) and the young gentleman behind the counter was like, “OK, so as soon as you open the packaging on that, you can’t return it.” And I’m like “Ew, no! I guess not!” And then we were joking about trying to return a toilet seat for a while, and yes, he had real-life examples!

    Also, my favourite entries on notalwaysright.com are the ones where the customers and staff are joking – especially if the next customer in line chimes in.

  16. Didn’t read all the responses, but as a former cosmetology student, let me clarify: perm is short for soft curl permanent. Perm make your hair curly.
    Slang may refer to perms that straighten hair, but technically, that is a relaxer.

  17. Me and my friends always get sucked into funny conversations at diners where these things happen.

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