Confession: My first job out of high school was at Panda Express.
1995 (yeah, I’m old. GET OFF MY LAWN!!) ended with a massive whimper for me. Thanks to all the napping I did my senior year, UCLA withdrew their offer of admission and I was left without a school to attend. I was completely lost.
And what better way to cement my loser status than to take a job at the local Panda Express?
I worked there for six months. That was all I could take of the public harangues every time I made a mistake (which wasn’t often, but still). The managers were short-tempered (I worked at two different locations, just to make sure), the work was hot and sticky, my hands became dry and cracked from the constant washing, the uniform was undeniably goofy, and I left work every day reeking of grease.
Those days are long behind me, but it all came screaming back when I decided to stop by Panda Express to try out their new Sweetfire Chicken.
As I walked in, I was greeted by the sight of the store manager, viciously shoving bottled drinks into the ice in the drink display by the cash register. “NO!” he snarled at the goofily-uniformed girl standing by him. “It has to look like THIS! Just… just DO IT LIKE I WANT IT!!”
Heedless of the fact that he was making the customers uncomfortable, he continued growling at her and slamming drinks into the ice. To the girl’s credit, she didn’t get angry or lose her cool. She simply raised an eyebrow at another coworker and turned to me with a smile and asked for my order.
I got the Two-Item Combo with chow mein, orange chicken and the new Sweetfire Chicken.
The chow mein might well be my favorite thing at Panda Express. It’s just so hot and noodly and delicious.
And orange chicken is everybody’s favorite. No wonder people keep stopping Jo Koy to tell him that they love it. So tangy!! Just like mama make it!!
The Sweetfire chicken was a disappointment, however. Just take orange chicken, remove all the tang, and toss in a few pineapple chunks and KABLOW!! Sweetfire Chicken! I definitely won’t be ordering that ever again.
I much prefer the black pepper chicken or even the spicy eggplant with tofu. Yum.
And the biggest disappointment of the evening was when I paid. They raised their prices? In this economy? I’m pretty sure that they’re only paying their workers minimum wage or just a hair above minimum. But if I’m going to pay $8 for dinner, I’d better get a lot more than chow mein, two items and a medium Coke.
1350 S. Beach Boulevard
La Habra, CA 90631