“The money is good there,” said Upset Waitress a few weeks ago as we sat smoking cigarettes on my front porch. “As long as it’s good, use it. When the money stops being good, leave.”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “But every day the new owners change something major, then the idiot manager doesn’t tell us, then chaos. It’s getting hard to hang in.”
“Use it for the money. That’s it,” UW said, then she burst out laughing. “Damn I’m glad I got the hell out of there when I did! No amount of money is worth it!”
So much for UW’s sage wisdom.
When I returned yesterday to the dive for my Sunday shift, I donned every karma bracelet I own: good luck, health, peace and prosperity, good fortune.
“Look at all those!” exclaimed a still-drunk girl clad only in a bikini as I examined her ID before I’d serve her a Bloody Mary. “You must really need some karma bad!” she giggled.
Do you want me to believe this ID is real or what, I thought.
Memorial Day Weekend in the Keys. Everyone warned me. But no one told me the complete sordid story of the horror that plays out on this holiday weekend. “You’ll see,” was all I heard over and over.
Oh yes, I saw.
I saw a woman so high on every drug ever invented that she stood in the middle of the main dining area and took off her shirt and bathing suit top while asking if she was in the ladies room.
I saw how no one paid attention to the trashed woman who bared her sagging breasts to all, because they preferred, instead, to scoop runny egg yokes onto pieces of toast and stuff the mess into their foul-smelling, stale-liquor-laden mouths.
I saw customers bring in their own beer in coolers and backpacks, hoisting each one without buying any alcohol from me–something the dumb manager tells us to do nothing about, despite how it takes away from our sales and is likely illegal as hell. God forbid we should scare off the cheapest asses on the planet from our restaurant.
Then I went on a binge of over reaction.
I yelled at the nighttime chef who comes in to prep for dinner way too early, who always gets in my way, who sells his dinner menu items to my lunch tables and then gives them a separate check for it, and to whom I finally told after he told me I was not to move or touch anything in the restaurant unless he gave me permission, “I don’t work for you. Ever.” Surprisingly, he backed off.
I yelled at a table whose idea of splitting a check was to literally toss three credit cards at me and rattle off dollar amounts with no connection to said tossed cards, then ask, “You do understand, right? Is it that difficult?”
I yelled at the same table when I returned with the three credit cards and one particularly arrogant member of the group asked, “Do you have a problem with the way we paid our bill?”
I explained that I could have put an automatic gratuity on the check and did not. I explained that I could have charged $3 per check to split up the bill, and did not.
“Really?” said Captain Arrogant. “I heard you talking trash about us to the cook, and I really don’t appreciate your attitude.”
“Really?” I said, with a not-so-subtle edge. “Well, I didn’t appreciate you bringing your own beer into my restaurant. You do that at restaurants back home or just here in the Keys?”
“This isn’t your restaurant!” the arrogant one shouted, louder. “And I spoke to your manager, too, by the way, and I don’t think you’ll be working here much longer!”
“Really?” I asked, feigning shock. “How did you know I’d already quit this job this morning?”
And with that they left, still shouting for all to hear how my attitude sucked and so did I as a waitress and as a human being. Oh no, not as a human being!!!
Imagine the reaction of the table of six sitting next to them, who’d witnessed it all, when I calmly turned to them and said, “You are my very last table, ever, in this place. May I suggest a round of drinks on me?”
They left me $50 on a $75 lunch tab.
And with that, I had indeed, slung my last egg, my last cheeseburger, and my last “what’s the best thing on this menu.”
I am now tending bar and cooking simple fare full time. I will miss what the dive started out to be, because it was incredibly fun. I will not miss what it became as the new owners and managers took a great little place that was running perfectly, and broke it.