To Whom It May Concern,
Yesterday I and the acting manager had an argument over a particular company policy. For the confrontational nature of that argument, it might be right to apologize. For the difference of opinion itself, to apologize would be to admit that I was wrong and the company was right. I cannot admit that. The argument dealt with some pizzas that a costumer had wanted left uncut. They had been mistakenly cut and the manager told me to throw them out. I refused and the manager sent me home.
Why did I refuse? I would think that would be clear and would not call for an explanation, but since it may not be clear let me make it so. First off, why throw away perfectly good food? It is outside the bounds of all human reason as well as all human feeling. There were four extra large pizzas that the manager told me to throw out. That comes to forty extra large slices. Let’s say there are twenty homeless men and women on the streets of Prescott on that night, though I daresay there were probably more. Instead of wasting that food, those twenty men and women could be fed and go to sleep feeling less hungry than they were in the morning. But it may be that the homeless men and women will reject the food. Having an intuitive grasp of the extent of Papa John’s unjust policies, they may refuse to eat food from a company to whom profit is God and the homeless without the means to procure food are less than nothing. Rather than be given by those who would rather take, they preserve their independence and self-respect, they stay hungry rather than be force-fed. They have long ago chosen the ragged freedom of poverty rather than the straight-laced and disgraceful servitude that often comes with the weekly check.
Let us, or rather let me, define that over-used word: freedom. Freedom does not mean doing whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. It has nothing to do with making money; money is not a part of that word is any sense. The homeless man without food or money has infinitely more freedom than the gainfully employed man who throws out food because that is the company policy. Are there not more important values? I am not talking about Christian values, or moral values, or the values of the Democratic or Republican Party, or American or Russian values. I am speaking of internal values that are unable to be suppressed by external regulation and are not conditioned by any established group outside oneself, some group that is often mistakenly supposed to be higher and greater than oneself, beyond any mere individual because shared amongst many individuals.
There is tension when the internal is opposed to the external. To go against the latter, to disobey some external command, is to honor the former, to be in conformity with the only type of conformity that makes any sense. To go against the former, to place an external regulation over and above an internal principle, is to be disloyal to oneself, to conform outwardly and so diminish one’s worth in one’s own eyes. Why should the policy of the company be more important than my own values? How is the party line greater than the line that I draw in the sand, saying up until this point: yes, and after this point: no. If my belief is strong, why should I cross that line?
On that side there may be the constitution, the policies of a pizza joint, the edict of the president of the United States; on this side, though it be miles away from any human habitation, there is a man who walks alone. He has gone against himself before; he will not do so again. He is free: that is, he acts in accordance with internal values. Instead of indiscriminately adhering to some authority, some guru, some ancient book, some company policy, some written document stamped with ink, he creates a personal philosophy. There are times when he feels a sense of kinship with his fellow beings, the sense of oneness that is often spoken of but rarely felt. He feels it in accordance with the distance between himself and others. The further away he is, the more he feels it. He knows there is truth in that kinship, that oneness, though it has become a catch phrase and bumper sticker. But that truth refers to how it was and should be, not to how it is. When he comes into actual contact with human beings as they are, he more often finds himself opposed and so must go it alone.
If a fellow co-worker and I were to disagree, perhaps we could do so respectfully. We are both human beings, and ideally as human beings we act from a set of internal values. What we do is based on how we feel and think. We might not always know where we stand, until the line we stand on is crossed. Then we know. Though I may not agree with his internal values, I can respect the fact that they come from within and are not forced upon him from without. This is interpersonal relationship between a man and a man. Unfortunately, when it comes to my relationship with this company as an employee, I cannot be so respectful. For one, who is the man I am dealing with? Who is the man who stands behind these policies? Is it Papa John himself? Can a mere delivery driver stand up to that man? But where is that man? What man? There is an impersonal nature and thus a sense of unreality to the whole conflict. There are these policies. But where do they come from? What values do they presuppose? I cannot perceive that they are based on any values at all. They seem less than arbitrary.
The manager told me he was just following orders. Orders from where, from whom? In a moment of anger, I said that Hitler’s followers were doing the same. This is where it begins. If you do not act from a strong sense of your own values when it comes to wasting good food, a matter some might think small and insignificant, why should you do so when it comes to the most significant matter of all, when it comes to decisions of life and death? How can you make the right decision there when you cannot do so here? The manager asked what orders I was following. Let me answer that here so you can understand my premises. Whether you agree or disagree with those premises does not concern me.
I follow my own orders; I track the footsteps of the leader who walks within me. Above all, I am loyal to the imperative issued from below. I cannot be loyal to any other.
Your Former Employee,
6 thoughts on “A Letter of Resignation to Papa Johns”
When we were at Kings Dominion, I was getting pizza for our group. While waiting for my order of a full pizza, I watched the worker behind the counter gather up 4 or 5 single slices, put them on a plate and throw them away! I was shocked, and asked him, “Why???” He said there was a bubble in the dough, and people don’t usually select those and he didn’t like the bubble. I told this young man that there are many (I, for one) who would have happily taken those slices, I like the bubble, and please, please don’t throw them away! I wonder how many times that happens in a day, and on who’s authority? What an unbelievable waste of food!
Why don’t you write to Papa Johns and ask them why they have the policy–the first question an anthropologist asks is “what’s going on here?”. By the way, it has been agreed upon, by serious people, that the first person to mention Hitler in a heated discussion is banished, maybe not for life but for the next 24 hours. Nonie
Yes, mentioning Hitler was an egregious error, a comment that seemed fitting in the moment but looks ridiculous with perspective. The banishment is a suitable punishment, and depending on where it is I’m being exiled to could feel more like a liberation.
Eloquentia perfecta means that we can’t claim an idea until we express it; I’d add to that definition that we can’t claim a personal philosophy until we act on it. I agree with Mom that it would be very cool if you figured out a system to distribute excess food to people who need it. The details might be mundane, but you might find the result to be rather fulfilling.
I like that you are working this through and agree with Nonie that there are more steps you can take to address this waste of food. As I mentioned on the phone, calling some of the local homeless shelters and food kitchens to ask if they would take donations of pizzas at the end of an evening would arm you with some good information. Then writing Papa Johns and finding out if it is a corporate, national policy or just this particular chain’s policy, and then making a persuasive argument (sans Hitler reference) about how it might be changed, and how you would be willing to help implement the change in Prescott. I also think I wouldn’t necessarily shy away from the idea that you are acting out of a principle–possibly even a universal principle–that people should not go hungry especially when there is plenty of food to be shared. I know you are personally committed to the idea, but it does not make it any less authentic to acknowledge a source outside of yourself for this humane idea. I agaree that listening to your own conscience and not being automatically swayed by rules, principles, orders, etc is a good thing, and so is recognizing that our conscience can be formed by ancient truths that are bigger than ourselves. Love your thinking and your righteous indignation, and am confident you will find another source of income. Who knows? Maybe even with Papa John’s–or an area shelter– if you help to create a workable solution.
I admire your standing fast for your principles. It is a sign of character and courage. I urge you to add to it a commitment to “engage.” Make an appointment with the manager and work to change the policy. That will be the constructive end to all this – saving perfectly good food and providing it to those who could use it. To do it, you have to be humble – apologize for the Hitler reference and any other over the top reference and let him know you want to work with him for a solution; you have to be persuasive – which shouldnt be hard because your position is so right; you have to be diligent – call a shelter or two and making sure that they’ll take the food; and you have to be creative – find a way to get the pizza picked up by you or others and have it delivered to the hungry. Identifying and condemning unjust policies persuasively is an important first step – you have done that well. Remedying the problem is an important second step – go for it.