Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Buy Books. Do Good.

This is the last of a three-part series that starts here.

My parents got through to me that applying myself – at school, at work, and with the people around me – was important.  They’d steered me right before, so I went with that idea. I hit the books harder and hustled at work.

My senior year started. My grades went up, my times on the cross-country team went down. Ziggy proved my parents right too.

Gutsy Or Foolish. Perhaps Both.

Italian Sausage Pizza

Like it, don’t smell like it (Image by gtrwndr87 via Flickr)

Three people managed Ziggy’s restaurant. One left for greener pastures, or perhaps somewhere where he didn’t go home smelling like sausage. Whatever the reason, the Ziggy’s Pizza management team was one body short.

I stopped by one Friday to pick up my paycheck. The manager gave me the check and Ziggy’s home number. “You should call him” was all she’d tell me. I dialed while I tried to figure out what I’d done to get fired. When I hung up, I was an assistant manager.

There are three things I remember from that phone call with Ziggy:

  • I’d substitute as needed for the two managers and would run the place every Sunday.
  • My hourly rate (when managing) would be $3.50.
  • I asked if he realized I was seventeen. He said he could tell.

I’m still amazed that this happened. The man put his livelihood in the hands of seventeen-year-old me. There were natural gas lines, sharp things, the health department and lots of cash involved in this little restaurant. I wondered if he was gutsy, foolish, or just smart to get someone to run his place for less than four bucks an hour.

I also wondered if I could do it.

Apparently I Could

Teen-aged manager me was not the potential bankruptcy that you might expect. No one lost a finger. The place stayed clean, didn’t burn down and the money kept coming in.

There was one challenge I hadn’t anticipated. I had a problem convincing customers I was in charge. I could not blame them for doubting me. I was only shaving every other day or so.

Night deposit box

If you could beat me to this, the money was yours. (Image by chuckthewriter via Flickr)

I worked hard, the way my folks told me to. I split my time at work between cooking and managing. Things went well. The register balanced at the end of my manager shifts. I’d put the money in a bank bag and sprint to the night deposit box of the bank at the other side of the parking lot. If I was going to get robbed of Ziggy’s money they were going to have to do it at a dead run.

Some nights I’d wake up at 2 a.m., certain I’d forgotten to lock the restaurant. I’d slip out of the house to go check the door. It was always locked. It was even locked the night the police drove up on me while I was checking the door.

Apparently the police called Ziggy. The next time I saw him he wanted to know what I’d been doing. I explained that I thought I’d left his place open. “Sunday night is a school night” he said, “nothing here is worth you getting an F.”

There was a raise in my next check.

Life Goes On…

Late in my senior year, Ziggy’s was robbed while I was working. I called one of the managers. She gave me Ziggy’s home number. “You should call him” was all she’d tell me.

Ziggy’s first question was about everyone’s safety. He and the police were still at the restaurant when I went home. He called my house the next morning to remind me I’d done nothing wrong. He said to put work out of my mind and focus on school. I did what the boss said.

I kept working.

Ziggy showed up at his place less and less.

I went to the prom.

When Ziggy did come by the shop, he struggled to breathe.

I was accepted to a great college.

Ziggy’s presence in his restaurant became limited to his signature on the paychecks.

I graduated from high school.

My last paycheck before I left for college was significantly larger than it should have been. A note on the memo line said simply “Buy Books. Do Good”.

…And Then…

A side view of a Rotary phone

“You should call” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I stopped by now and again for a cheese steak sub and a visit. They told me he was getting worse. The manager gave me Ziggy’s home number. “You should call” was all she’d tell me.

What Ziggy taught me, I think on purpose this time, was to take care of good people and help them go as far as possible. I try to follow that lesson at least as much as the ones he accidentally taught me.

What I learned that Ziggy didn’t teach me was to never miss the chance to say thank you.

I wish I’d used that number one more time.

Thank you, Bill. You did good.


44 Comments on “Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Buy Books. Do Good.”

  1. Debbie says:

    Isn’t it wonderful how a good boss can leave a lasting, positive impression on you when you’re young and impressionable? Ziggy, I’m sure, would be honored and touched at your tribute — thanks for sharing him and his lessons!

  2. We found him Captain!! says:

    This was a very interesting series. It really is about your transition into adulthood and the real world…. I am proud of you for admitting you should have made that last call.

    The most important thing back then was not “how much you earned per hour” but rather ” how much you learned per hour”. Most importantly you got some practice in the manly art of thinking with your conscience. VERY FINE STORY.

  3. This series resulted in an absolutely beautiful ending….well…a little heartbreaking, but beautiful nonetheless. Thanks for sharing…Ziggy turned out to be the boss we all want to have I think…

  4. [tear]

    Beautiful story, Oma…between your parents and Ziggy, I think you turned out pretty well!


  5. Marge says:

    I’m tearing up too! The theme of this series was awesome.

    Can I make a request? You should do a ‘Ziggy’s Pizza & Famous Subs’ series on some of the incidences there (I think you know what I mean!). I’m sure Mike would have plenty to add too. I feel a TV series coming out of this!

    • omawarisan says:

      Thanks Margie. I think I do know what you mean. Is it time for that secret to be revealed and do you still have the photographic evidence?

      There was almost a chicken lady post too. Do you remember her?

  6. Z.N. Singer says:

    A lovely tribute. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Queen says:

    I love this series. Not just cause it’s a good storyline on how you “grew up”, but also because these are issues I, as a manager, have to CONSTANTLY struggle to remember to be aware of, in the madness that is my daily work. It’s hard sometimes, given some of my staff. But it really is worth it.

  8. pattypunker says:

    awwww, now i’m teary-eyed. i like ziggy. he was a smart dude after all.

  9. What a great story! I totally didn’t see that coming at the beginning. I think Ziggy was a pretty smart guy.

  10. Hippie Cahier says:

    So you bought books and you done good, especially by Ziggy and, I have no doubt, the folks to whom you’ve paid it forward. Nicely done.

  11. Katybeth says:

    We dummy our kids down these day in my opinion offering them to few chances to do take real responsibility and do real work–nothing builds confidence and self-esteem like a job well done.
    Just guessing but it seems a man like, Ziggy would want to be remembered. . .If he family you “should” share your posts with them.

    • omawarisan says:

      It was a rare opportunity, and it was a big help to me.

      Actually, everything about the place is gone, most of the people…even the structure. The shopping center is still there but they lopped the place off. Very weird.

  12. I’ve come to the party late but just read through all the posts. What a beautiful tribute to Ziggy. I agree with Katybeth about sending this on to his family.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you very much!

      On the family thing, I don’t think he had any beyond his wife. They’ve been gone for a bit. I figure the best thing I can do is to be good about helping where I can.

  13. Kate says:

    That looks so delicious!

  14. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    What an amazing and heartwarming tale. I hope your children read this. You may not realize what a wonderful legacy you’re leaving behind. But I suspect you “pay it forward” all the time. Bravo, Oma. This post is at the top of my all time favorites.

    • omawarisan says:

      I had to laugh about my son popping up with a comment on the “technically correct” post because he’s heard the lesson without knowing the source.

      Thank you very much!

  15. linlah says:

    All it takes sometimes is one Ziggy in your life. Nice tribute.

  16. spencercourt says:

    Your sharing this great experience may finally motivate me to write about a similar experience I had in high school which I’ve planned to write for many months now but never got around to doing.

  17. Kate says:

    Oma, the visual I have of you sprinting to the night deposit box is cracking me up. Nice work.

    Ziggy sounds amazing. “Buy books. Do good.” That speaks volumes.

    • omawarisan says:

      Kate, I would hit the door running and be at a dead run by the time my feet hit the parking lot. I ran long distance in track, but I think if the coach had given me a bank bag I could have been a credible sprinter.

  18. We Found Him Captain! says:

    I still love this one a lot!! I think every man has his own “ZIggy”. Realizing THAT is what makes the difference. Having your own “Ziggy” and not knowing it is a waste. You have to realize it is your personal “ZIggy” to benefit from it.

  19. This was a great series. Made me tear up at the end! Great stuff.

  20. Great Labor Day post! It’s funny how first jobs can leave impressions on our young minds. Maybe it’s the reality of what it takes to bring in that $2.35, or maybe it’s the shock to actually be working and not screwing around.

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