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Paneradise At It’s Finest

I had this huge realization recently that I figured I should share.

So I’ve worked at Panera Bread since I was 16, September of my junior year in high school. When I originally got the job, I didn’t really need it necessarily. It was more my parents saying, “Hey, we want to stop giving you an allowance so maybe you should find a job”.

So I applied, interviewed and was quickly hired. At this time in my life, I was doing theatre, playing lacrosse, and was involved in multiple clubs and various activities. I had an exchange student from Denmark for a two week period. I started working in a boot because of torn ligaments in my ankle. This all being said, I was requesting a lot of days off and such, not fully immersing myself in the working world. All I knew was that a couple hours of work meant I could go out a couple times with my friends and that’s all that mattered to 16 year old me.

To be completely honest, for the first like year or so of working at Panera, I absolutely hated it. I felt like no one liked me and I just wasn’t good enough at anything to do well at this job. I’d dread going into work after an exhausting 8 hours of all advanced and AP level classes, try to fake smile my way through the 4 or 5 hour shift, and then trudge home to do 4 hours of homework. It was absolutely exhausting. It made it worse to know that I didn’t necessarily need a job. My brother, who is two years younger, got an allowance every week and was able to go out with his friends and not have a job.

But, summer after my senior year, things started changing. The money I was earning was going towards something that actually mattered — college. (Yes, I did end up spending this money on being with my friends, but thats beside the point). I was still dreading going into work, but it was better. At this point, I wasn’t new anymore and was finally feeling like I knew what I was doing. I was being complimented for my work and people seemed to thoroughly enjoy working with me. I became an associate trainer, which was also a big deal to me.

I then left for college in August. I worked a random shift on a random weekend I went home but that was about it. Then, Thanksgiving rolled around. I was feeling the whole “broke college student” weight, especially with a big NYC trip planned for the winter. So I texted my manager asking for a couple shifts, a request he happily granted. At this point, I needed to work. And to be honest, I was excited to go back to the familiarity that was Panera Bread.

I walked into those shifts knowing essentially no one at the store anymore and everyone thinking I was new (which was kind of upsetting, not gonna lie, especially seeing as I was wearing a nice associate trainers name tag [even if it wasn’t my own]).

This was when the realization finally came about. I’d hated my job before because I wasn’t going into it with the right attitude. I looked at it as taking away from my social time or my homework time. I was too busy for a job, with a vigorous course load and theatre taking up essentially my entire life. But, these Thanksgiving shifts and the shifts I have thus far worked over Christmas break were completely different. I enjoyed being there. Sure, customers can sometimes suck, but I realized that if you just smile and try to grant their requests, it all ends up okay. They appreciate the effort and just a smile can brighten someone’s entire day. Yeah, you’re probably going to be yelled at for being out of baguettes or be cursed at because you’re out of a bagel at 7pm on Bagel Tuesday, or even be treated like the worst person on the planet because you don’t have 36 cookies an hour before close (and no Kenzi, it’s WAY too much work to call the night before so that they’ll make enough and then set the cookies aside for you, it’s Christmas, you should be making that many cookies anyway even if there’s no way that you’d sell them all, that’s just how I think your business should work). But, to be honest, these make for funny stories afterwards and if you can smile through the rude customer, it’ll all be over in a matter of minutes.

These few shifts haven’t dragged on. They’ve gone by quickly and, even though I’m exhausted by the end, they’ve been fun. From having to work an extra two hours because someone didn’t show up, to dancing to Christmas music in the drive thru, to cleaning the walls of the women’s bathroom because corporate was coming the next day, I’m finally learning to enjoy working for the right reasons. Sure, someday I’ll move on to a job that I actually enjoy and want to have and pays more than a little above minimum wage (well hopefully), for now, Paneradise is pretty dang enjoyable.

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