“Will you be on time?” “Yes.”
“Will you work hard?” “I will.”
With a two question interview, I was hired for a job that helped shape the way I think about loyalty, team playing and a work ethic.
The interviewer was Jack Fasciano, 30-something manager of Angelo's Italian Foods. It was 1974. I was 16 with long hair and a short attention span. Now, a busboy. Black pants, white shirt, white apron, and the pièce de résistance, a paper soda jerk-style hat with the distinctive Angelo's graphic script in red and green letters on either side.
Jack was first generation American, son of Angelo Fasciano, born in Caltinisetta, Sicily. Angelo moved his young family to Wichita in the ‘50s to take a job at Boeing. Neighbors and friends liked his cooking so much, he opened a restaurant, then two, then three.
|Also the best Italian cuisine. Ever.|
Jack’s Italian heritage was unmistakable. Olive skin, black hair, mustache. He wore these yellow-tinted aviator glasses, leather jackets, alligator loafers and triple-knit polyester pants. To teenage busboys in Wichita, Kansas in 1974, Jack Fasciano was an Italian-American demigod.
Jack had a little Sonny Corleone in him. His brother, Lenny, was a cook and they’d engage in crescendo-ing conversations, which often ended with one of the brothers shouting, “Vaffanculo..!” (Look it up).
Back in the Heights High hallways, when encountering a fellow Angelonian, we’d greet each other with “Vaffanculo..!” incomplete without the accompanying gesture often associated with 16-year old know-it-alls.
It was like our own little secret Sicilian society. With a patina of olive oil.
Bussing tables is an under-appreciated art form. Glasses first, then silverware, followed by plates, cups, saucers. Swoop the paper placemats and napkins into the trash and wipe that table clean. I could do a four-top in 30 seconds.
Jack noticed. After three months he gave me a dime raise. Now earning $1.70 an hour. Jobs for Wichita high schoolers in the ‘70s were not hard to find. The new Furr’s Cafeteria down the street was offering $1.90 to wash dishes.
Furr’s wouldn't give me a week off for a church youth group retreat, so I quit. Just walked away. Then I went back to Jack and asked for my old job back. I could start as soon as I got back from Colorado.
“I already hired a new busboy,” Jack was unapologetic. He had a business to run. I never even had a chance to remind him of my table bussing artistry. “But I could use a dishwasher.”
Washing dishes at Angelo’s was hot, greasy work. Lasagna tins with baked-on cheese remnants had to be spotless. I’d scrub those tins until 4 a.m. some weekends. Compared to dishwashing, busboying was glamorous. You stayed (relatively) clean, could engage with customers, flirt with waitresses, sneak the occasional zeppi.
Fed up with dishwashing, I hatched a plan to get back to busboying. Whispered in the new busboy’s ear that Furr’s was hiring at $1.90 per. If I bit, maybe this genius would too. Then I parallel-tracked Jack and encouraged him to think of me for the first busboy opening he had. Even if it meant a pay cut.
It worked. And he kept me at a buck-70.
Jack didn't have to hire me back. And he didn't have to move me back to busboying.
I learned to appreciate what I had. The other man’s eggplant is not always purpler. I learned impulsive decisions were nearly always wrong.
If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. My father tried to drill that one into me for 16 years and it never seemed to take.
Working for Jack Fasciano, I got it.