You Know There’s a Story Behind That

“Hmmm. What’s happening out there?” I smiled, watching a young couple on the sidewalk outside our restaurant.

They were young 20-somethings. She hugged him. He twirled her a half turn. She lightly punched his shoulder. He laughed. She pouted. He pretended to walk away. She grabbed his arm and pulled him toward her. She hugged him again.

I had the vantage point. I was facing the window on my side of the booth that my GM has transformed into his “office.”

“Huh, what?” he asked barely looking up from his laptop.

We weren’t really talking about anything up until then. I was just perched there, taking a break from pounding prices into Micros.

“Out there. The couple? That’s not Jonathan, is it?” I asked. Jonathan is the other assistant manager.

“No, he’s inside doing something in the lounge,” mumbled my GM, not the least bit interested.

“Oh, but look at them. Are they fighting? I thought they were happy, but wait, what’s up now?”

This prompted my GM to glance over his shoulder.

“What are you looking at?” asked chef’s wife, walking toward the office-booth.

“Oh, nothing,” I breezily replied, now poised to get up. I don’t know any of these folks well enough to people watch with them.

But I love people watching, and I didn’t want to stop making up the couple’s story, putting their dialogue together, staging their lives’ events based on nothing more than glimpsing a few seconds of their interaction.

“Are you watching them?” she asked, pointing toward the window. “Are they fighting?”

“No, I don’t think so. They were just hugging,” I said.

“Oh. Okay,” she shrugged, and continued toward the main dining room. My GM went back to glaring at his laptop.

Fine. They might not get it, but I just knew there had to be a great story behind that little scene unfolding on our sidewalk.

Earlier in the morning, my GM had sent me a text message and left me voice mail to call him before I left for work. I couldn’t begin to imagine what was up.

“I can’t believe I am even asking you this,” he said when I returned his call. “And I am a total asshole for doing so, but I think I know the way you probably drive to work.”


“And so, would you mind picking up my shirts at my dry cleaner for me? I just need to have a different shirt today.”

Pick up my boss’s dry cleaning? Am I hearing this correctly, or am I still dense from yesterday’s fatigue? Seriously, pick up my boss’s dry cleaning? Hello, 1959?

“Sure, I can do that,” I said without hesitating. Because I can, even if it is never the way I drive to work. I can, because I am dragging behind after opening the mountain of mail I hadn’t touched in weeks and paying bills. I can, because he was so uncomfortable when he asked.

Besides, I just knew there had to a great story behind why he was still wearing yesterday’s suit.

Later, as our first, very limited mock service continued along, Chef’s wife watched her husband from the line. “You know, I haven’t seen him do this in more than a year. You know, do what he does.”

“Loves. Do what he loves,” I suggested.

“Yes, what he loves,” she smiled, not at me, but at him as he and his sous chefs plated the next course. Her expression beamed with pride, and yet it also emanated a kind of quiet relief.

I knew there had to be a very layered story behind that, too.

Later, when service was winding down and my GM and I were surveying the staff, he twisted and turned as people do when they are in physical pain of some sort. “I should never have tried to sleep on that banquette,” he said to himself.

“You slept here last night?” I asked as his story became clear.

“Yeah, not a great idea,” he laughed.

So much for where my mind had wandered.

People’s stories.

Who knew? Who knows?

Chef’s back in his kitchen, living his passion.

My GM is working 24/7 to help Chef turn that passion into a successful business.

The couple on the sidewalk eventually drove away together in a Lexus SUV.

You just know there’s more to that story, too.






5 responses to “You Know There’s a Story Behind That”

  1. Papillon Avatar


    Your thoughts, your writing –

    Beautiful, as always.

  2. bissey Avatar

    gal: longtime lurker, first-time commenter,

    with this, you f—ing nailed it. i cook in NC, and after a wasted liberal arts degree have often considered dabbling in writing about what we do for a living. your post would make a perfect first chapter. problem is, do you really think civilians would want to read about Our Thing? sure, Bourdain has done well, and there was that piece in the Times the other day about expediting at Buddakan, and the celeb-chef bandwagon continues to pull its load, but does Joe Schmoe really give a shit about what goes on behind the closed doors of the kitchen and the closed faces of the FOH? Sure, we care, because it’s in our world, spoken in our lexicon… I just wonder if the dining public really cares about our stories. I’d be interested to see your blog’s demographic; are we all cooks and waiters and hosts? or are we also investment bankers, real estate agents, and chef-worshipping foodies?

    anyhow. cheers. nice work. wish i had the energy to give to blogging like you manage to do. look me up if you’re ever in the norf cackalack.

  3. Suz Avatar

    A most awesome post, Restaurant Gal!! I’m also glad to see you taking a break to gaze at people and reflect on the layers we don’t see. I spent a few minutes in the baggage area of an airport a few weeks ago and was appalled by the lackluster reunions I witnessed. I was both sad for mankind and excited for myself because I knew the bear hug that would be mine when my passenger walked through the door. I thought then the very same way you did in this blog. What stories lie behind the outward motions we see?

    Keep your chin up. I’m betting you are making a world of difference there.

  4. Jen Avatar

    Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.
    I love blogs with heart. You’ve got it. Thanks for making it public.

  5. class-factotum Avatar


    When I’m employed, I’m a project/process improvement manager. Most recently, I was in charge of getting the data from 70 factories ready for conversion to SAP. So no, I’m not another restaurant person. But I like good writing. I like reading about universal human experiences. There is a market for good stories set in almost any environment.

    (And the liberal arts degree is wasted only if you think college is tech school.)