Photo Source: William Eggleston

I was a nervous kid, thus I was a goner every Sunday I punched in under Red Langfield. Nobody I ever worked for made me feel so utterly intimidated. Probably because he wasn’t an obvious sadist. Oh, he was a sadist, alright. But more of a subliminal sadist. Red Langfield never chewed you out, but he didn’t have to: he was in your head every nanosecond of every shift.

The dread would begin every Sunday as I drove to work at the Dilly Dairy. And when I pulled into the parking lot and saw his car, I nearly fainted with terror. Langfield was a full-speed-ahead Naval Academy guy, and his mission every Sunday was to get his platoon of shit-birds wired and ready to take back Omaha Beach. He would get out of his Benz, Wall Street Journal folded smartly under his arm, Rolex flashing in the sun, and assume his position at the door to let us in: ramrod straight, head like a pink bowling ball, prison-issue glasses, every inch of clothes and self perfectly polished, pressed and creased. He would offer a curt, almost-pleasant “good morning” and open the door, and the sweat circles under my arm would start their march for the day.

Langfield never raised his voice, but his tone could peel paint and make the flecks cower. His delivery was pleasant, but extremely cold. Withering cold. I worked register, and just hearing him standing behind me saying, “more FRIES please, thank YOU!” toward the kitchen reduced me to a trembling wreck. A trembling wreck in charge of a cash till. I have no idea how he pulled off such subtle intimidation, but he did, and I wasn’t the only ashen basket case at the end of the day.

The closest I ever got to a full-on reaming came once after the noon rush. I was standing at the register collecting myself, when Red came up to me and said, “DON’T you have some cleaning to do, young MAN?” in that warm-as-permafrost tone of his. Why, yes I did have some cleaning to do, SIR! And so I did, and I subliminally cleaned my room several times a day for a week after that.

Langfield was like a human incarnation of Chinese water torture. One flash of that steely “smile”, one turn of phrase, and the paranoia knocked you to the canvas for a three-count. In retrospect, it seems odd that we would all cower under the gaze of a man who was flush enough to drive a Benz and wear a Rolex, yet was reduced to commanding a shift of degenerate punk teens at a grease-pit called the Dilly Dairy. But that certainly didn’t occur to us at the time.

The restaurant went under years ago, but I still feel my butt-cheeks clench every time I drive by. I’ve heard that they’re going to tear it down and build a bank or something on the spot. Personally, I think they should open a trauma clinic. I’m tempted to learn how to run a bulldozer so I can be the first to have at the destruction. Take THAT, Langfield! BASH!!!



  1. I have both worked for and been that guy.
    Well, I wasn’t quite so bad, but still…

  2. I bet just about everyone has worked for that guy…well, mine was a girl.

  3. My “Langfield” weighed well over 300 pounds of intimidation. No need for toupee.

  4. I had a boss like that…Peter Miessl. He was a german (secretly the nazi who taught Hitler how to be tough) and I was working my first secretarial job. I lasted for 4 years but had to leave because I was on the edge of a burn-out. Not just because he took advantage of me work load wise, but when things didn’t go well, he found a way to blame me. I don’t know how I lasted as long as I did. Mind you, I was hired as a receptionist and by the time I left, I was an amazing secretary.

      • Yeah…almost ended up in the psych ward, but hey, probably why I’m such a tough shit (or I like to think so) today! 😉

  5. It definitely makes you hardcore, working for a Langfield or a Miessl.

  6. Hehe you describe him well. Some memories we just can not forget, good or bad as they are.

  7. Christi said:

    Love this! I am glad Malaina posts these…you are a great writer!

  8. free penny press said:

    Oh boy..PTSD? Maybe you can get a check for that? 🙂
    great retelling of a not so bright employment post..
    Oh I recall a Mrs Dozier….eek..nevermind!!

  9. Take the bastard’s military health insurance and apply for benefits. OBVIOUS PTSD symptoms for you my friend.
    Is he dead along with the restaurant? Just hopin’

    • dammit. someone already mentioned PTSD. Running slowly this morning…. SIR

      • Yeah, but you upped the game. And gave me an idea…..

  10. The best in the ‘Color’ series so far. You had me from ‘subliminal sadist’….and continued with ‘A trembling wreck in charge of a cash till.’

    I know something is really good when I go to click ‘Like’ only to then realize I’ve read the entire thing from my email inbox.

  11. I understand how you feel, I once worked for a boss similar to yours. I hope you get closure when the place is reduced to rubble. 🙂

  12. WHOA, mister! You keep bringing the good stuff, and I keep sitting here with my jaw flapping in the wind!

    The writing is getting tighter, the stories more evocative, and the world of Westbye is opening up in a whole new way.

    Damn, I am excited for you! (And for me! Because I get to read your work!)

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