Like most states, Wisconsin does not mandate that employers give their workers a break during long shifts. While it may be the norm, not having any time to collect oneself during an 8+ hour work day can become grating over time.
However, anyone who has worked in the service industry knows that there is a loophole — become addicted to cigarettes. Unlike petty needs such as eating an uninterrupted meal or going to the bathroom without being yelled at for being gone for five minutes, cigarette smokers are almost always afforded time to get their nic fix.
Typically, non-smoking employees just consider themselves out of luck. Jacob Lyons, a line cook at an unnamed State Street restaurant, is an exception.
“My co-workers kept taking smoke breaks during peak hours, just hanging me out to dry. Still, whenever food came out too slow, I was the only one who got in trouble,” began Lyons. “It’s my senior year — if I’m going to get screamed at, it should be because I did something stupid with my friends; not because I was unable to cook seven burgers with aoli and whatever the fuck within 10 minutes while also making food for 14 other tables.”
Fed up, Lyons, 22, took matters into his own hands. After five months of picking up the slack, he popped into Kwik Trip and grabbed a few packs of cigarettes.
“I went with Marlboros because that’s what they smoke on ‘Mad Men.’ Also, the pack looked cooler than Newports or Camels,” said Lyons.
Since making the switch, the full-time student has been able to take three 15 minute smoke breaks per shift.
“Sometimes, the kitchen will literally be empty because all of us are out smoking,” said Lyons. “But it’s not like the restaurant will fire us; the new line cooks will just pick up the habit too.”
In the month that Lyons has been smoking, he has spent nearly $200 and gained a nasty case of smoker’s cough. Still, said Lyons, the damages are “worth it to get some goddamn fresh air after standing in a steaming-hot room full of sweaty guys who haven’t showered in a week.”
The Daily Cardinal sent reporters to see how the restaurant’s food had been impacted by the development, but they were unable to order, as every single employee — including the front of house staff — was standing in a circle and smoking in the alley next door.
Mackenzie is the first ever editor of The Beet and actually made of over 62% beet.