By Matt Gordon
Cracker Barrel is going to begin serving alcohol. No telling what that is going to do for gift shop sales. You go in, get loaded while eating your biscuits and gravy and side of country fried steak, and walk out with rock candy and an America-inspired front-porch rocker. This could be a game-changer.
But I’m not here to talk about booze and eggs—the latest all-day, old timey breakfast eatery fad. What is far more pressing, in my opinion, is quite literally pressed into the very work attire that form the fabric of that bacon peddling establishment. I’m talking aprons, baby!
That’s right. At “The Barrel”—what insiders call it—you may have noticed hideously brown aprons. Why they are this color brown, who can say? If a large vat of molasses—or other unmentionables—spill forth, I guess it would blend right in. But another purpose of the brownness is to allow the gold to more fully pop, to illuminate brightly—to shine ever forth.
There, on each worker’s apron, is a gold-stenciled name: “Shelia” or “Barb” or “Roger.” And then above that name are the stars. These stars serve as ratings—right there, born on chest, above (and likely below) beating heart.
Before Google was anything other than obscure mathematics term, Cracker Barrel was all about those rankings. Only they’d rank people. It might be a four-star establishment, but you get a one-star Donna as a server and you might as well as bring your own whiskey with you to the table. Expect runny cinnamon apples and wheat toast when you explicitly ordered no such monstrosity.
I should be fair to old one-star Donna—she could be new. CB servers come naked into the world, so to speak. Donna could be fresh off of orientation, out back milking the cows and corralling the chickens. In no time she’ll receive her first star and then another. Get out of the way, Streisand: truly, a star is born.
Or maybe she’ll be terrible?
Worse still, perhaps she’ll receive a star or two for customer service or tidiness or prowess at checkers and grow complacent? The two-star purgatory is, indeed, like walking apathetically through the stickiest of jams. And who can say what the water cooler talk is concerning an upstart riser or a bloat-egoed four-star coworker?
Imagine if your own work prowess was plastered to your very chest. In the bathroom, out on the sales floor, in the break area—they’d all know your worth at a mere glance. Forget a chip on the shoulder or monkey on the back, you’d have a star on your chest: a summation of your vocational aptitude; your merit would be instantly attained and applied.
This weight on chest could be enough to turn one to drinking. You’d mosey into a nearby watering hole and order a stiff drink with a side of country fried steak. You’d open the hatch and remind Donna to “keep ‘em coming.” Bleary-eyed you’d eventually stagger out to the porch and rock toward sobriety. As the sun goes down, you’d contemplate the world and your place in it. The stars would come out, and you’d wonder at the number of them. What sort of rating has this world achieved? You’d rock on, munching rock candy. Then you’d load up your chair and head home to gird up strength in order to try again tomorrow. Sometimes that is all you can do. It’s all in the stars, after all.