Saturday, May 09, 2009

From Dishwashing to Espionage

Looking at the 16 year old kid in this picture, would you ever guess that he was a spy? No? Then you'd be wrong. A little back story first. My first job that didn't involve newsprint was at one of the many pizzerias in my town. I started as a dishwasher and mop up boy when I was 14 which was completely and totally illegal. Of course, I didn't care about the law, because I was banking big money each week. I made three bucks an hour and I worked about 10 hours a week for a staggering paycheck of thirty bucks, albeit tax free.

As the years passed I started to make more money, and work more hours. It got to the point where I was like a second lieutenant in the place, and I was often trusted with important tasks. By the time I left I was making 7 or 8 bucks an hour, plus another $10 or so an hour in tips. At 18, that was pretty big money. I have a ton of great pizzeria stories, from nasty things done to people's food to buying stolen goods from one of the many fences who came into the shop. Today's story, however, is about my introduction to the world of business espionage.

My bosses would have me apply to one of the many other shops in town, or after I got my licences, a few towns away. I would only stay at the rival shops for a few days, usually not even long enough to get paid at the end of the week. But, I got my payday when I returned to my boss with all the information I could glean while I was undercover. Things like: who was their supplier, how did they make their sauce, what type (or types) of cheese did they use, what was their estimated take at the end of the night and so on. It's because of this side-work that I had quite a little collection of tee shirts with pizza parlor logos on the left chest.

I'd love to say that these little information gathering missions were one of the bad parts of my job, but that wouldn't be true. In fact, I quite enjoyed them. There was an edge to these days spent undercover, and it was only amplified by the fact that most of the guys who work New Jersey pizza places already think they're in the mob. I'm not going to say that I took an omerta' when I started, but only just. The way they dressed, talked and acted was right out of Goodfellas or the Soprano's, and, I'm being honest, I enjoyed that too.

Maybe I should check the want ads for openings in the pizza world.

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