I always tell people that Arnold’s Drive-In was my first job, but that’s not the whole story.
My best friend, Toni, worked at Arnold’s and loved it. She was always dressed like a cute 50s and 60s gal and raved about the food. Dressing cute, eating deep fried food everyday, and getting paid while doing both sounded like a perfect plan to my 16-year-old self.
I put in my application to Arnold’s, but didn’t hear anything back. So, while I was in vacation with my family at Myrtle Beach in the summer of 2000 – I accepted my first job offer at Pizza Hut (where I was an employee for two whole days, three if you count training day).
I was a horrible Pizza Hut employee. First of all, I was 16. I hated wearing the black pants. I hate wearing black shoes. I hated wearing the hat. And I had a love-hate relationship with the telephone.
They actually had a script in front of the phone for you to reference at all times:
“Good (Morning, Afternoon, Evening). Thank you for calling Decatur Pizza Hut. This is (Insert Your Name Here. Will this be for delivery, pick-up, or carry out?”
My nerves got the best of me and I read that script – word for word – without personalizing it.
I also got “yelled at” by the manager when I forgot to ask what type of sausage someone wanted.
“I didn’t know we had more than one type of sausage,”I admitted.
“YES!” He said in frustration. “We have two types. We have American. And we have Italian. They are totally different. And you always, always need to ask which type of sausage they want if they order ANY pizza that has sausage on it.”
I began to panic.
HOW MANY PIZZAS HAVE SAUSAGE ON THEM!?
I’ve never been a fan of sausage pizza…and that moment validated why!
Anyway, two days later, I was pretty defeated. I remember hiding in the walk-in freezer just so I could hide from the sausage manager and the telephone. I hated it. As I left for work that night, I saw a missed call from Arnold’s Drive-In!
MY APPLICATION! They read my application and Arnold’s Drive-In wants to hire me!
I called Lori (the owner) back the very next day.
“Hi, Lori!” I said. “My name is Ashley Bedwell. I got your missed call about an interview.”
Lori paused and said, “Oh, hi Ashley!”
You could tell she was confused and had no clue who I was, but that didn’t stop me. I was determined to work at Arnold’s Drive-In.
“I would love to meet with you and learn more about the positions you have open!” I said back.
Lori would later tell me that she never called me. And she really didn’t know who I was when I called that first time, but she didn’t have the heart to say “no” to me on the phone. She said I sounded really happy and upbeat, so she wanted to meet me.
Turns out, my best friend called me from Arnold’s for a ride home. That still remains one of the best missed calls of my life!
Working at Arnold’s Drive-In, as you know from my blog post a few days ago, was a very memorable experience. We all called Lori “mama” because she treated all of us like her own kids.
She gave us nicknames.
Lori gave everyone she loved a nickname. At first, I hated mine. She called me “Olga” because I looked like (and I quote): “A big, German woman!”
WHAT A COMPLIMENT, LORI!
I would get so embarrassed when I would be talking to a table of “hot guys” and Lori would say, “OLGA SMULGA -WHERE ARE YOU!?!”
Sometimes I would ignore her.
“Who is Olga?” people would ask.
“I have no clue,” I would lie.
But really, it was a compliment. Lori values big, strong, and independent woman. And I’m proud to be all of those things.
She played pranks on us.
Lori was the prank MASTER! And the more she loves you, the more pranks you get….so I was pretty much pranked on a daily basis. Below are a two of her FAVORITE pranks that she played on me:
-Stool sample: Lori got these cheeseburger links as a sample one day. They honestly looked like a giant turd, which inspired her idea to prank me.She put two cheeseburger links in a plastic baggie and wrote “Ashley Bedwell Stool Sample” in a black permanent marker. She then dropped off the “stool sample” in front of the high school swimming pool doors, a high trafficked area of the high school.
I was at track practice when all of this happened. So, in order to make sure she knew about the prank, she drove by the track with a mega phone and yelled, “ASHLEY BEDWELL – you’re sample has been dropped off by the swimming pool!”
-Water breaking: Jennie, Lori’s right hand lady, was super pregnant and working up until the day she delivered. As a 17-year-old, I didn’t know much about pregnancy or babies. So when I heard a giant splash of water hit the ground and heard Jennie yell, I started to shit my pants.
My mind went into rescue 9-11 mode and I thought I’d be delivering a baby myself in a booth at Arnold’s Drive-In. I remember running through the dinning area and screaming, “HER WATER BROKE! SHE IS HAVING A BABY! SOMEONE CALL 9-11!”
Jennie and Lori had planned this all out – they filled up a bucket of water and dumped it on the ground just to see my reaction. Jennie nearly went into labor from laughing so hard.
She us invited her into her home.
On a handful of occasions, Lori had me babysit her son, Max (who is now in college and makes me feel so old). I would also take her daughter Kaley, to cheer practice every Wednesday night. Her family felt like my family.
As I got older and went away to college, Lori and I still stayed in touch. I actually would come home to work at Arnold’s a few weekends each month. One weekend, she invited Justin and I to house-sit and care for her dogs while she went on vacation.
It was around Christmas time and she actually got me stocking full of goodies as a “thank you” for watching the house. She also gave Justin and I some money to spend on pizza. She told us that we were welcome to eat anything at Arnold’s too! She was very generous and so welcoming, which is why I felt horrible when we LOST HER DOGS!
They escaped from her garage and we couldn’t find them ANYWHERE. She lived in the country and we everywhere looking for them. I felt sick to my stomach. For three whole hours, I panicked and wondered how I would possibly tell her that we lost her dogs. Finally, we got a call that the dogs were at a house nearby. A neighbor found them exploring in a field and they put the dogs into a barn.
Justin and I drove to the house, which reminded me of the house from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” – no one was home and the house was CREEPY! The barn was equally as scary, and we couldn’t find the dogs at first. Just as we were ready to leave, I heard a small bark and we found the dogs in the last stable.
They smelled HORRIBLE and Justin’s car was covered in straw from the barn. We drove him in the middle of December with all of the windows down and laughing uncontrollably. Never a dull moment…
She gave me advice on boys and life in general.
She mainly reminded me that I didn’t need a man to be happy. She encouraged me to be independent and avoid spending my high school years “settled down” to one guy.
My senior year of high school, my sister took my senior pictures with a disposable camera. The hour-long wait at CVS was worth it because I was SO proud about how the pictures turned out! Lori was one of the first people I wanted to see the pictures. She smiled and said she loved them, but something seemed off. She gave me a giant hug and told me I’m such a great kid.
A few days later, I got a call from Lori and she wanted to give me my graduation gift. She had paid one of the best local photographers in town to pay for my senior pictures. She said my other pictures were beautiful, but she wanted me to experience the “real deal” – I told this story a few months ago at a networking lunch, and started crying.
How many bosses do something that kind for their employees? Those pictures weren’t cheap at all – I had 4-5 outfit changes and traveled to 4 different locations….it was an unforgettable day. I truly felt like a model.
This year, Lori said goodbye to Arnold’s Drove-In. She posted on Facebook that she is “hanging up her roller skates” and moving onto a new adventure! I was sad, but excited for her new plans.
A few months later, Lori invited all former employees to Arnold’s one day in October for a mini reunion and photo shoot. I got to spend the afternoon laughing with some of the most amazing and beautiful friends I made while working at Arnold’s. We told stories and brought up memories that I hadn’t recalled in YEARS. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.
Arnold’s Drive-In will always feel like home. While I was so said to say goodbye to Arnold’s, I am forever grateful for that first time I got to say “hello” to Lori.
I’ll always be thankful for Lori’s nicknames, pranks, welcoming heart, advice, and love.