The legend of Bun Man

My second job was at a McDonald's, near the main entrance to a huge and busy factory. Mondays-Fridays, a million hard-hats lined up to buy lunch.

You're supposed to have four people working in the grill area when things are crazy busy like that, but our McD management "controlled costs" by usually having only three workers in the grill area. Sometimes two, with the fry-man helping out when he could, if someone called out sick or didn't show up.

By the third day of working with just three on the grill team, the tall guy who worked the bun station was short on patience.

He asked, Do we have four people today?

The boss said no.

And at that, our hero — let's call him Bun Man — grumbled, but he took his assigned place by the toasters, and did the work. Twelve buns at a time go into one toaster, six buns go into a different toaster, twelve into a third, and tray by tray he handed the buns over to be mustardized and catsupated.

That's what he did, until the McDonald's got real real busy, and then he stopped toasting buns and started throwing them — at the shift manager, mostly.

Two at a time, buns went flying across the grill, toward the boss. Some buns hit him in the face, the shirt, and one bun flew past him and hit me in the head. I was working one of the cash registers, and getting bunned was my first clue that this wasn't going to be an ordinary day.

Regular buns, Big Mac buns, and Quarter Pounder buns hit the Coke machines, the shake machine, and the shift manager, and landed in the french fries, or smacked customers waiting in line. Buns flew wherever buns might fly if buns could fly, and that glorious day, buns could fly.

Meanwhile, the meatman's meat was sizzling, but there were no buns dressed with condiments, so he piled cooked patties into meat skyscrapers at the back of the grill.

The shift manager was a little guy, but Bun Man was tall and big, and he would've been hard to stop, so nobody tried and the volcano of buns continued.

By the time the cops came and invited the Bun Man for a ride, hundreds of buns were on the floor, and on the counters, in the fry vats, on the seats in the eating area, in the light fixtures, and all around the Ronald McDonald statue's feet.

Half an hour of the lunch rush had been ruined, with some customers laughing but most simply leaving. Another half hour was spent cleaning up. It cost the restaurant lots of money, and of course, it cost Bun Man his job, but magnificently.

The next day, a full staff of four employees were assigned to work in the grill area during lunch, not three and not two. After that and for as long as I worked there, there were usually enough employees for the lunch rush.

As for Bun Man, I never saw him again, and I'm sorry to say that I don't even remember his name — but he was not forgotten. Even years later, you could go to that McDonald's and ask any kid wearing a paper hat, even the newest hires, and they'd all heard the legend of Bun Man.

Republished: 8/1/2023   


  1. I don't think Jack Smith is just fucking around. He spent 10 years prosecuting genocide and he knows how to hunt big game and stay for the kill.


    1. But what possible punishment can fit both the crime and the man?

  2. Leonard Cohen was pretty much down for the count. He was 72 years old, lived in a modest bungalow in LA, and he was broke. He had spent a few years at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center, eventually becoming a monk, then tried to get an album out, but his old label wasn't very interested. Leonard's daughter Lorca discovered that Leonard's manager had absconded with all of Leonard's assets, a life savings of about 5 million dollars, and had simply spent it all. It was gone. All those years on the road, the bright lights, the indifferent crowds, an occasional cup of coffee with Dylan (who, for ten years was literally the only musician in the world performing Hallelujah) to break the monotony -- now the house taxes were due and Leonard was broke.

    So at 72 he called his old band, asked them if they could wait a bit to get paid, and booked himself a tour, hoping to sell half the tickets and come out ahead after expenses.

    It took a couple of years of reluctantly borrowing money so he could rehearse (he hadn't toured in 15 years and had rarely performed in that time) but in 2008, at age 74 he announced a world tour, which quickly, to literally everybody's surprise, sold out. Here he is, charming the crowd at the O2 Arena in London with one of my favorite Cohen songs, Tower of Song.

    (Leonard ended up touring for two years, resting a bit, then touring for a couple more; he recouped his financial losses, and, more importantly, placed a dramatic exclamation mark on his career.)



    1. Cohen's novel Beautiful Losers has been on my reading list for a long, long time. Have you read any of his books?

    2. Doug, as you know, Cohen is one of my favorite songwriter/singers, and his books were well reviewed in Canada, but I've always been reluctant to try to read a Cohen novel. I love his lyrics, but I'm afraid I'd find his prose ponderous. If you beat me there, be sure to review it. I hope I get there, but I never pray.


    3. Bob Dylan wasn't the only person covering Hallelujah. Jeff Buckley had done it regularly when he was alive. Rufus Wainwright kept it in his set..

    4. Jeff Buckley recorded Hallelujah in 1994; he had been playing it since about 1992. If he played it before that it was for 25 people in a coffeehouse, but I don't think he did. Rufus Wainwright recorded Hallelujah in 2001; he had been playing it only a short time. The third person to include it in live sets was John Cale who recorded the song in 1991 after having been faxed all 80 verses by Leonard. He added it to his live show about that time. Dylan started performing Hallelujah shortly after Various Positions came out in 1984, so he was seven years ahead of everybody except Leonard. (Cale recorded the song for a tribute album to Leonard, I'm Your Fan).

      Leonard Cohen wrote Hallelujah from 1980 to 1984 and included it in his 1984 album Various Positions.

      Jeff Buckley did slow the song down and change it to its current form a decade after Leonard recorded it.

      So John Cale was about 5 years behind Dylan.



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