As in, "Hey, What-a-Buger!" Not "Waterburger." Not like an aqua burger that's served in a fishtank.
Learn it. Live it. Love it.
When I was in high school, I decided I needed a job. I hadn't been living for too long in Midwest City, Oklahoma, but I had plenty of work experience. In Germany, I'd work in several offices and right before I left, I'd made mad, crazy cash as a commissary bagger.
My resume was fat with minimum wage experience.
I had a friend, Michelle, who suggested I come work at Whataburger with her. I don't remember why this was or what compelled me to go there and apply. To this day, I wonder why I didn't go work with all the shiny shirts at Jeans West or man the Chick-Fil-A at the mall or work anywhere else but in fast food. I was a fast typist. I had good communication skills. Why did I end up wanting to flip burgers?
Like fuzzy memories of a war long past, this is a mystery I probably will never figure out about myself. I fell into it the way some people fall into marriages and office jobs, where they suddenly realize, years into it, that they were somehow swindled or abducted by aliens and have no idea how they got there.
That's what my Whataburger days are like for me now: A place I don't remember arriving at, but which was a huge part of my life for almost two years.
The day I applied, a man named Larry, a round, squat Latino who would became a fatherly figure at work, looked over my nearly illegible handwriting on the application. I think it was illegible. To this day, practically everything I handwrite is illegible. So I can't imagine my handwriting on those little tiny boxes was beautific. Nevertheless, Larry hired me on the spot. I was given some Whataburger shirts (I don't remember what the uniform looked like. Striped baby blue shirt, I think, and dark black pants, black shoes) to take home. I remember being happy to have been hired, as if there was the possibility that I would have been turned away for incompetence: "Sorry kid: You're just not ready for the fryers."
I worked there for more than a year and a half, through most of my junior year of high school and all of my senior year. In fact, the only reason I quit my job was because I was leaving for college 30 miles down the road in Norman. My manager at the time asked if I wanted to transfer to the Whataburger in Norman. I'd just gotten hired at the campus newspaper before I'd even started my freshman year. I politely declined.
The thing about Whataburger, though, is that years later, I still look back on it as a great, fun time. I still love to eat at Whataburger, as most native Texans do. Whataburger is mythical here. My family loves Whataburger. My Mom still gets 1 a.m. cravings for Whataburger that are easily accommodated because of the 24-hour availability of a #1 with Cheese or a Breakfast on a Bun (BOB, which is actually only available from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. at most Whataburgers).
In Oklahoma, however, Whataburger is not "all that." It's not even "half that." It's "about that." In Oklahoma, Whataburger pales behind the Braum's chain, which is like Dairy Queen with crinkle fries. They serve ice cream and Whataburger serves, well, Whataburgers. And that's it.
Working at a Whataburger in Oklahoma lacked the popular-kids flavor of working at a McDonald's. It lacked the romanticism of Braum's. Whereas you could offer a pretty girl a waffle cone at Braum's for her to lick in sensual acceptance, the best you could do at Whataburger was to offer to Whata-size someone's fries and hope they got the innuendo.
More tales from the Whata-trenches ==>
They had gotten all of themselves in a row. Now it was just a wait until dawn to strike back at the bastard humans.