Thursday, April 14, 2005

Beefy King

Beefy King
Originally uploaded by Marinade Dave.
Years ago, I was a hardline artist for an ad agency here in Orlando. I also designed and built ads for a department store chain that ran in various newspapers throughout the state. Previous to that job I was mostly in the restaurant business. Soon after I started working there, I saw a sort of fast food place up the street called Beefy King. Since I had come from a background in that industry, I thought it would be nice to meet these people. We soon became good friends.

One of the interesting, if not quirky, aspects of my job was break time. My boss insisted that we all come in at 8:30 in the morning, but we had to take a break from 9 to 10. Strange, but that was the way it was. Pretty much every morning I would drive up the street to Beefy King, make myself a sandwich and pour a cup of coffee. Sometimes I'd help slice meats or whatever, but most of the time I'd stand at the front counter reading the newspaper. They weren't open that early, so I wasn't getting in the way of customers.

One morning I went in, there was a short, chubby man working on an ice machine that had broken down. Seemed like a really nice fellow. The next morning he was still working on it. On the morning of the third day, as he was finishing up, he and the owner, Roland Smith, were standing in a hallway between the dining area and the back room, probably working out the bill. He whispered to Roland, "Hey, that guy up there. He's been here every morning just standing there reading the newspaper. What's he do for a living?"

Now, the acoustics were just right and I heard every word of it. He didn't know. Roland said, "He's a professional newspaper reader."

The guy said, "No way. There's no such thing." Roland told him to go ask me, then.

I was standing there, seriously reading my paper, acting oblivious, when he sauntered up. He very politely said, "Excuse me."

I looked up and in a face that showed great concentration, as I was very deep in my work, replied, "Yes?"

"Well, I've been here three days now and I see you reading the paper. I was just wondering what kind of job you have. What do you do for a living, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Why of course not. I'm a professional newspaper reader."

"No way. I've never heard of such a job."

"Yup. That's what I do."

"No kidding! Well, I'm from Florida. Born and raised. What's the name of the newspaper in Leesburg?"

"Which one? The Commercial or the Gazette? Plus the Orlando Sentinel has a zoned edition."

"No kidding! Alright. What about St. Augustine?"

"The St. Augustine Record."

And so it went. No matter where he asked, I had an answer. I mean, we advertised in all of those publications.

"I believe you. I think I've heard it all. I can't wait to tell my wife tonight. She's not going to believe it."

Later, Roland and I got the biggest laugh out of it. To this day, I'm sure he's still telling people about the job to stump all jobs.

One thing about the Beefy King. Having hung around there for many years, I can tell you that it is, by far, about the cleanest restaurant I've ever set foot in. You could practically eat off the floors. Really good food, too. The same family has owned it since 1968, with the third generation in charge now. If you are ever in Orlando for business or whatever, try to stop by. It's on Bumby. Tell them Marinade Dave sent you.

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