There were developmentally disabled kids working with us. We had two– one guy, Bob, who was very mildly retarded, just slow– he looked normal and came from kind of a white trash background, and was probably retarded because of his Mom’s prenatal drinking or some shit. The other, Brian, had Down’s, so he really looked full-bore retarded; him they put up front on the Filet-o’-Fish fryer so they could show him off.
Brian had it good. Running the Filet station was easy: you just drop the Filets out of a bag into the fry basket and then into the oil, and when the correct light and chime goes off you take them out and hang them up. The sandwiches are uncomplicated toppings-wise; the only really hard thing is that the Filet-o’-Fish buns have to be steamed, but it’s a moot point because nobody really orders Filet-o’-Fish. Brian would be up there smiling while his little chimes went off; when someone ordered his sandwich it was a big event and you could tell he felt excited and satisfied.
Bob, on the other hand, always got the “schwag” work: mopping, hand-cleaning the greasy implements that the dishwasher couldn’t handle, etc. He was miserable. The dish room especially would just crush him; the manager would send him back there and he would let out an awful sigh– you’d walk past him to the freezer and he’d be muttering and groaning sadly, wrestling with the giant snaking metallic steam-hoses in his big rubber gauntlets.
I wonder what happened to Bob. I wonder where he is now. Happier than me, probably. But still. He was at the exact opposite of a “sweet spot.” Where Brian was never anything but smiling his ass off, Bob was just emotionally sophisticated enough to be despondent.
I laughed at Bob then; we all did. You’re a teenager making Quarter Pounders with a bunch of other cruel Boston jerkoffs and you are around a retarded person, you laugh at them. But now I’m Bob. Now I’m scalding myself scrubbing down cruel sharp grill implements to an impossible standard of cleanliness, with enough mental gifts to feel how much it sucks but not quite enough to do anything about it.