Behind the Scenes at Wings Over
Several workers rush around filling the infamous black Styrofoam boxes, a plethora of ranch and bleu cheese dressings sit upon the counter, and a welcoming warmth emits from the fryers as Drake’s “No New Friends” plays in the background. I am in the kitchen of popular local eatery Wings Over Happy Valley.
It is surprisingly busy at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday, but the people want what the people want. The dinner rush typically happens from 4-7 p.m. after which business dies down for a bit. Once the late weekend nights roll around and the students of State College recognize their insatiable need for convenient little bites of chicken awesomeness — that’s when the magic happens.
I am led into this uncharted territory by the manager of the drivers, who scrambles around me to fill orders while calling his employees in one by one to share their adventures of late night distribution of the treasured poultry. As the various delivery drivers come in and out, I begin to get a taste of the “other side” of Wings Over. Here is what they had to say:
Onward State: What is your typical night out delivering?
Wings Over Happy Valley: A lot of the times when I knock on the door kids assume I’m their landlord or the cops. I’m just sayin’, if you order food and someone knocks on your door 20 minutes later, you’d think they’d assume it’s the delivery guy.
OS: That must be annoying.
WOHV: Yeah, a couple weeks ago, I could hear the kids in there and I’m yelling through the door ‘It’s Wings Over!’ They just wouldn’t believe me though. They were so convinced I was the cops that I had to get one of the guys here to call and tell them to let me in.
OS: Have there been any other recent occurrences that stood out to you as bizarre?
WOHV: One football weekend I was delivering to the Meridian and an alum with his family rear ended me. I don’t want to say he was well off, but… he was driving a Lexus SUV, so yeah, he was well off. Anyway, it was the kind of dent that if you walked out of the grocery store and saw it you’d be like ‘Oh, that sucks but whatever.’ I guess he was in a hurry though and didn’t feel like waiting for the cops so he wrote me a $400 check.
Another driver was unfortunate enough to have to deliver during the Mifflin Streak. When describing the unpleasant experience the only thing he had to say was that he’s never seen that many naked people. I continued to prod other drivers about their most interesting and absurd experiences.
OS: So what’s one of the weirdest things you’ve experienced?
WOHV: I was out on a delivery and so confused by all this traffic. I legit wasn’t moving. That’s when I saw elephants walking down the overpass by College Ave.*
*This was in reference to when the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus came to the Bryce Jordan Center in 2010. Although I wish it was a normal occurrence to see elephants roaming around campus.
OS: Any favorite nights to deliver?
WOHV: Halloween is a really fun night to deliver. I mean, you know, everyone is drunk, in a good mood, and dressed up. It’s always something crazy.
Sparked by a memory, one of the driver turns around to tell me a favorite anecdote of his.
WOHV: One time I opened the porch door and accidentally let their cat out. Then I had to help them chase it down. We got it so it was all good but I felt pretty bad about it. They gave me a $6 tip though.
The next to be called to the stand has been fortunate enough to avoid strange delivery experiences. He did delve into delivering in State College and the poor street etiquette.
WOHV: There’s kids just walking down the middle of the street stumbling all over the place. No one’s looking where they’re going. I see people all the time almost getting hit by cars.
OS: Have you ever hit anyone?
WOHV: Nah… but I have come real close.
While 85% of the business at Wings Over is by delivery, some hungry and adventurous souls journey all the way to the physical establishment on 244 Hamilton Ave. That’s why I had to show some love to the front counter on my way out and see if they had any stories to share.
WOHV: Oh yeah, we get people all the time coming in on Saturday still drunk from Friday night.
The two young women and a man laugh together as they throw around stories.
WOHV: The other week a guy came in, got his wings, and left. He only made it to that tree out there-” *points to tree in parking lot roughly 3 yards away* “-before he passed out.
OS: That’s a rough life. What are the customers that come in typically like?
WOHV: Tell her about that guy who was in love with you!
OS: You found love over the counter of Wings Over?
WOHV: Haha, barely. A group of guys came in after the UCF game, and one was really determined to order a diet Pepsi, but his friends made him order wings first. Then he ordered an excessive amount of drinks. When I commented on his thirstiness, he acted like I was the funniest thing that’s happened to the world. I kept patronizing them ’cause it was fun. When they left, the thirsty boy slid me a napkin with his friend’s number on it ‘just in case you have any future interest in Greg with two g’s.’
Talk about a wingman… literally. I was loving this. I wanted to hear more.
OS: How about answering the phone, any fun happenings with that?
WOHV: Oh the other week, I spent all this time on the phone listening to a horrible fake British accent. I could hear his friends laughing, but I went along with it. Then after he finished his order I let him know when it’d be ready and the fact that we just studied abroad together and I knew exactly who he was.
OS: That’s awkward.
WOHV: Yeah. He definitely felt uncomfortable. I was glad!
I don’t know what I expected as I walked into the doors of Wings Over, but what I left with was a whole new appreciation for the voices behind the phone and the men knocking at our doors. There was a pattern in their answers – the recurring theme that the friendly (but often broke) students of Penn State very often invite them in to party, usually hoping this will count as compensation. While the gesture is appreciated, the one lasting statement I heard that I believe all customers can take to heart is: “We can’t accept booze as payment… unfortunately.”