Fitting in at work doesn’t come easily for disabled people.
Pookie White of Hope Hull, Alabama is partially deaf, but a few years ago he landed a job at his local Waffle House restaurant as a dishwasher. Not long after he started, he told his manager he’d like to try cooking, instead. Management worried he wouldn’t be able to perform the job with his hearing loss, but Pookie’s coworkers stepped up!
Since Pookie can’t hear the waitstaff as they relay customers’ orders, they came up with a unique way to communicate that goes beyond American Sign Language. Waitress Jessie Simmons said that things were especially tricky while waitstaff wore masks due to COVID-19. Hand signals saved the day, especially since Pookie tends to “perform” them, much to the amusement of the customers!
For example, when someone orders the chicken, Pookie flaps his arms and does the chicken dance. Area manager Michael Clements said he was “in awe” when he first saw the cooperative way the staff helps Pookie succeed each day.
“I’ve never seen that in my career,” he added.
These days, some customers come into Waffle House just to see Pookie at work. One person was so impressed with the accommodations staff members made for him, they called the corporate hotline to give them some love.
“He has regular customers who come just to see him,” Michael explained. “They love the show. That’s part of the thing about Waffle House, we are right in front of everybody on center stage. He eats the center stage up.”
Pookie and Jessie have gotten their language down so well, they can even joke around with each other. When asked why she prefers working with Pookie over other line cooks, Jessie offered a snarky answer that cracked Pookie right up.
“I’d rather work with him because he don’t talk back,” she quipped.
These employees went the extra mile to make sure Pookie could thrive at work, and he’s a huge success because of it! If that’s not teamwork, what is?
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