Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Buy Books. Do Good.Posted: February 11, 2011
This is the last of a three-part series that starts here.
My parents got through to me that applying myself – at school, at work, and with the people around me – was important. I went with that advice because they had a history of steering me right. I hit the books harder and hustled at work.
The start of my senior year came. My grades went up, my times on the cross-country team went down. Ziggy was about to prove my parents right too.
Gutsy Or Foolish. Perhaps Both.
Ziggy had three people who managed his restaurant for him. One of them left for greener pastures, or perhaps somewhere where he didn’t have to go home smelling like sausage. Whatever the reason, the Ziggy’s Pizza management team was one body short.
I stopped by one Friday to pick up my paycheck. The manager gave me the check and Ziggy’s home number. “You should call him” was all she’d tell me. I dialed while I tried to figure out what I’d done to get fired. When I hung up, I was an assistant manager.
There are three things I remember from that phone call with Ziggy:
- I’d substitute as needed for the two managers and would run the place every Sunday.
- My hourly rate when managing would be $3.50.
- I asked if he realized I was seventeen. He said he could tell.
I remain amazed that this happened. The man put his livelihood in the hands of seventeen year old me. There were natural gas lines, sharp things, the health department and lots of cash involved in this little restaurant. I wondered if he was gutsy, foolish, or just smart to get someone to run his place for less than four bucks an hour.
I also wondered if I could do it.
Apparently I Could
Teen-aged manager me was not the potential bankruptcy that a reasonable person might have expected. No one lost a finger, the place stayed clean, didn’t burn down and the money kept coming in.
There was one challenge I hadn’t anticipated. I had a problem convincing customers I was in charge. I could not blame them for doubting me. I was only shaving every other day or so.
I applied myself the way my folks told me to. I split my time at work between cooking and managing. Things were going well. The register balanced at the end of my manager shifts. I’d put the money in a bank bag and sprint to the night deposit box of the bank at the other side of the parking lot. If I was going to get robbed of Ziggy’s money they were going to have to do it at a dead run.
Some nights I’d wake up at 2 a.m., certain I’d forgotten to lock the restaurant. I’d slip out of my parents house to go check the door. It was always locked. It was even locked the night the police drove up on me while I was checking the door.
Apparently the police called Ziggy. The next time I saw him he wanted to know what I’d been doing. I explained that I thought I’d left his place open. “Sunday night is a school night” he said, “nothing here is worth you getting an F.”
There was a raise in my next check.
Life Goes On…
Late in my senior year, the place was robbed one night while I was working. I called one of the managers. She gave me Ziggy’s home number. “You should call him” was all she’d tell me.
Ziggy’s first question was about everyone’s safety. He and the police were still at the restaurant when I went home. He called my house the next morning to remind me I’d done nothing wrong. He said to put work aside and focus on school. I did what the boss said.
I kept working.
Ziggy showed up at his place less and less.
I went to the prom.
When Ziggy did come by the shop, he struggled to breathe.
I was accepted to a great college.
Ziggy’s presence in his restaurant became limited to his signature on the paychecks.
I graduated from high school.
My last paycheck before I left for college was significantly larger than it should have been. A note on the memo line said simply “Buy Books. Do Good”.
I stopped by now and again for a cheese steak sub and a visit. They told me he was getting worse. The manager gave me Ziggy’s home number. “You should call” was all she’d tell me.
What Ziggy taught me, I think on purpose this time, was to take care of good people and help them go as far as possible. I try to follow that lesson at least as much as the ones he accidentally taught me.
What I learned that Ziggy didn’t teach me was to never miss the chance to say thank you.
I wish I’d used that number one more time.
Thank you, Bill. You did good.