“Why would we go there?”
“Because they didn’t hire me.”
“Yeah, so exactly why would we go there, then?” my girlfriend asked. She is willing to be a guinea pig at any place I choose for our bi-weekly night out, but she was definitely wondering about my latest suggestion.
“Because. Curiosity. You know, how are things going there? The GM may not have hired me, but I really liked the restaurant. Perfect size, not big, not small. Just not the perfect fit, I guess, at least in his eyes. Still, no hard feelings.”
“So, we’re now touring places that didn’t hire you…”
“It was a small window. No worries, only a few on the list. I only applied to good places, you know.”
“But still…how about we alternate between the places that DID hire you, but that you turned down?”
“Ha ha,” I smirked. “I just really want to go to this one place that didn’t hire me. It was such a bizarre interview, and I know exactly why I didn’t get the job. But, still, I kind of want to go. Okay?”
I have a very tolerant, very good friend. She suffers with me through terrific and terrible meals, mediocre service, and any weather for our twice-a-month dinner. She matches my higher-than-standard tips when we split the check, this after listening with a resigned smile to the tales of woe and wonder from servers, hosts, and managers who seem to intuitively know I’ll listen to any story they want to tell.
And no, these other restaurant people don’t know me or my blog or anything else that matters about me. They just know, somehow, that I get their business because “you must be in the business” and that I am happy to lend an ear. And no, my friend is not in the business, either, but she might as well be, as much as she knows about everything that matters about me.
“Fine. We’ll go. But don’t you feel weird about seeing that GM?”
“Hell, no. He and I got along great. But I was so burned to a crisp when I interviewed with him, and when he mentioned a lot of 3 a.m. closings, I told him I wasn’t sure I wanted to work all nights all the time. All I could imagine was what I’d just walked away from. I couldn’t do that again, not so soon.”
“Right. Okay. We’ll go. Maybe he’ll buy us a glass of wine.”
The joint was definitely jumping when we arrived. The host was front and center, all smiles, fending off the leader of a 12-top who’d arrived an hour early to “make sure we get the table.”
“Ma’am, the earlier reservation is still seated. Your reservation isn’t for another hour. You’ll have the table–in an hour, I promise.”
He was so cute, so earnest, so smooth as he said this–a real pro. I love a pro. I loved this host.
I also felt a pang about maybe loving his job just a little bit more than I love my current job. Believe me, I get the good fortune that has landed in my lap with the job I now have. But watching this host, remembering the surge of adrenalin that comes with working a floor with so much energy all around you. Yeah….
“Hi ladies,” he smiled after the 12-top scout had left. “Reservations?”
“Nope, just two of us. The bar is fine if you’re full,” I told him.
“You are in luck. I have a great booth for you.”
And it was great–because we got to ogle the currently seated 12-top of recognizable everybodies as we pushed our way through the narrow path between tables to the booth.
“So, is Jim here, your GM?” I asked as we sat down, trying to play it cool, but feeling a little nervous and a lot awkward.
My girlfriend chose this moment to fumble intently with her purse and her jacket pocket.
“Who?” asked the host.
“Jim, the GM?” You know, your boss?
“Who?” Maybe I didn’t love this guy so much. Kind of vague in the brain.
“Jim? I don’t know any Jim. But maybe he was before my time,” he answered, smiling his professional smile. Hmm.
“Oh, well, maybe. I guess he could have been before your time. But I think he may still work here. Maybe I have the wrong name.” Or something.
The host gave us our menus and left as he waved to the next group of regulars crowding his small foyer.
“Weird,” said my friend.
“Very,” I agreed. “Who doesn’t know their GM?”
Our server was older and grumpy. She didn’t particularly seem to care about us, the wine we desperately needed, or anything else resembling terrific customer service. In her way, I loved her, too. No nonsense. No pretend to like you. No bullshit. Just, what do you want to eat, already? We gave her our order as she frowned.
“Weird,” said my friend, again.
“We don’t ever need to come here again,” I said, mentally adding this place that didn’t hire me to the growing list of other single visits. For a city so rich in great restaurants, we sure managed to come up with our share of not-so-greats.
“It’s fine,” she laughed. “Just weird.”
And when our server slapped our wine glasses on the table like a tavern gal from the 1700s serving up tankards of ale to the sailors fresh off the gangplank, I thought to myself, “You could have been her boss–then what?”
My current job was now at the top of my love list.
“So, is Jim here?” I asked our server as I used the bev nap to mop up the splash of wine that had sloshed onto the table.
“Jim? I don’t know any Jim,” she said. And away she walked.
“Very weird,” repeated my friend, sipping her wine. “Too bad they didn’t hire you. No one would know you, either,” she laughed.
“To being unknown,” I laughed, clinking wine glasses with her.
But still, what the hell?
We ate our meal that was just okay, marveling at the crowd packing the place on this miserable, icy, and cold evening. We covered the usual conversation ground about work, boys, husbands, new jobs that are we are settling into, the yearning for Florida climes, and the certainty of ordering another round, maybe two.
Which was when the server reappeared, a huge grin on her face.
“I KNOW exactly who you asked about!”
Well, gee. Great! He’s only your GM!!
“He doesn’t work here anymore. He wasn’t here that long, that’s why I didn’t remember him, at first.”
“Yeah, I remember him real well, now that you mention him. He didn’t stay too long.”
“Yeah, he only worked here a couple of weeks. Why do you know him?”
“He didn’t hire me to be his assistant,” I told her. And I watched the surprise register.
“You wanted to work here?” she asked, amazed, but not in a negative way.
“Yeah, but he didn’t hire me,” I repeated.
“You got a job now?”
“Yeah, a great job.” And I told her where.
“Oh my God, that’s where I go when I get off here! I love that place! The seafood, the whole place! So fun.”
Kind of like this place, I thought.
“So, one of the owners is here tonight. I’m going to get him. He’d probably hire you right now, you know. I can’t believe Jim didn’t! Oh my God.”
Nervous laughter. “No, don’t get the owner. I am really great where I am. Really. But thanks.”
She looked at me straight on: “I mean it, he’d talk to you tonight.”
And I looked at her straight on: “No, I really appreciate that. I’m just not looking.”
We stared a half second more at each other.
“It’s okay. You want another round?”
Are you kidding?
“Unbelievably weird,” I remarked to my girlfriend.
My new best-friend server brought us two more glasses of wine. “On me,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said.
“No problem,” she said.
“To glasses of wine not being bought by the GM who didn’t hire me,” I toasted my friend.
To visiting places that didn’t hire me and being reminded about that grass is always greener thing.