Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns


March 17, 2008

Papa Murphy’s Pizza and the Kid on Break


The next time a client needs something from me, I’m going to say I wish I could help, but I’m on break. I figure that if I do this continually for about a week, I will have no clients at all, which will make it easy for me to just skip work every day and go to baseball games.


I came up with this plan at Papa Murphy’s.


Papa Murphy’s offers a very agreeable concept in pizza. You buy the pizza assembled but unbaked, take it home and stick it in the oven for 12 to 18 minutes (I recommend the low end, but that’s me), and you’ve got yourself a hot, fresh pizza.


This concept was first introduced to me by fellow North Star Writers Group columnist David Karki. Once we maneuvered our way past the lack of a pizza cutter in his apartment, we ate like kings. And now that a Papa Murphy’s has opened less than a mile from my house, I suspect I’ll be overlooking my inherent skepticism about Irish people preparing pizza, and patronizing it quite a bit.


Earlier this week, I went with Mrs. Krause and seven-year-old T.F. to the new Papa Murphy’s to order a beautiful array of raw dough, uncooked meat and unmelted cheese. I dream about stuff like this. We walked in and looked at the menu on the wall, but we couldn’t order yet because the only employee in sight was on the phone in the back.


So we waited.


“Uh huh, OK, and then what?” he said.


Mrs. Krause pointed out that they have cookie dough! And we waited some more.


“Can you repeat that please? I didn’t hear what you said,” said the employee on the phone.


T.F. pointed out with excitement that they had schedules for the local baseball team! We took 25 of them. And waited some more.


“Yes, mm-hmm, OK, yep . . .” said the employee on the phone.


Once we had been there about 10 minutes, I turned to Mrs. Krause and did one of those hands-in-the-air gestures that wonders non-verbally if we’re ever going to get service.


“He’s the on the phone!” she said. “And he’s the only one here!”


“Maybe he should get off the phone,” I said. “There are customers here.” Right at that moment, more customers walked in.


Mrs. Krause used to work in food service, and she instinctively defends all food service workers, no matter how poorly they serve customers. They’re like a big national fraternity, but with girls, and there’s no point criticizing one to another.


Just then, a second employee emerged from the back to take our order and make our pizza. Who was this guy? Where did he come from?


“I’m really sorry for the wait,” he said. “I was on break.”


Ah. Break. I looked at Mrs. Krause. This time I made no physical gestures. My eyes spoke. Had they been a mouth, they would have said, “On #$*($@ break? While customers are standing here waiting?”


“He was on break!” she reminded me.


The concept of the employee break is truly fascinating. It is 15 minutes in which you will not do any work no matter what happens. You will not wait on a customer. You will not help an overwhelmed colleague. If you’re a union member, you can get hauled before the shop steward for so much as thinking about work you might do.


It is a period of mandated sloth. Smoking three or four cigarettes is encouraged, but no break-taking employee is perfect. At least make a mess and don’t clean it up – or something.


Of course, you can presume that the opposite is true, right? If you work a six-hour shift, and you take a 15-minute break in there somewhere, that other five hours and 45 minutes is nonstop, nose-to-the-grindstone productivity. No customers around? Scrub table legs! The place is immaculate? Devise marketing gimmicks to get people to come into the store! Maybe you could build a 200-foot-high inflatable Irishman who holds raw pizza dough.


That’ll stop traffic.


No employee would ever stand around and do nothing during a non-break portion of a shift. That would adulterate the whole concept of the break. It would be wrong on so many levels. I know, I can’t imagine it either.


That’s why, once the break begins, no work can be done. Waiting customers? Swamped co-workers? Place burning down? Sip your drink and inhale that nicotine, Sparky. You are on break.


Don’t worry. The world will wait for you.

© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # DFK125.  Request permission to publish here.
Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause