Dispatch 2: In Which I Bemoan My Past As A Waiter At T.G.I. Friday’s

As I revealed in my last column, I am a writer. I write things. Words are written out by me, and I write them on the page. I am all things writing, and all things writing are me. With the pen I am master of the sword; with the page I am king of the world. Anyone who reads my words will squeal with delight—they cannot fathom a world in which a man of my poetic brilliance isn’t making Stephen King levels of cash-money for the words that I tap from my veins.

…the thing is, I don’t make Stephen King levels of cash money for my words, so I have to take any odd job that I can get. Which brings me to my topic for this week: the nights I spent waiting tables at T.G.I. Friday’s, selling my dignity just to earn the tips that I didn’t always get (mostly because the customers didn’t believe in tipping—this fact they felt the need to tell me almost immediately after receiving their check).

Writers often have to take other jobs to supplement their bank account needs while they pursue their passions. I didn’t necessarily expect to talk about one of the darker supplements that I had to take up when I started to think up ideas for this week’s column; the memories of that place plague me to this day, and fill me with enough nightmares to fill up a few hundred pages’ worth of online reporting. Much of that material came about only a few years after I left that place—while I was working there (during those nearly three years of my early twenties) I mostly felt miserable, and I couldn’t write so much as a haiku. It was hell, and I came out of it alive but with a few massive scars on my back.
I had good times while I worked at that place, and I had a few firsts while I was there.
I had good times while I worked at that place, and I had a few firsts while I was there. I drank my first beer at the employee Christmas party (it was a PBR, and I quickly learned to switch over to Sam Adams and Blue Moon). I had my first post-high-school girlfriend while I put in my hours there; while things ended horribly with that young woman, I am at least grateful for the lessons I learned while I was with her (though I wish that they could have come to me without so much kick). But for all the good that came my way, that doesn’t change the cold, hard fact that there was one thing I could never shake off from the old memory banks.

It was those customers who came in to eat of our food. They were the arbiters of every server’s existential torment. And now’s the time that I must tell you the story of two particular arbiters who provided for a particular set of torments, specially made just for me.

It was late in the night, sometime in the fall of 2013. I don’t recall the exact day that it all went down, though I seem to remember it was a Monday. And Mondays are never great to begin with—either with work or with life. I ended up being the closing waiter for the night, which I wasn’t even scheduled for but I agreed to switch with the head girl who was going to close because she’d had her wisdom teeth taken out that day and was in pain (how she’d managed to make it as long as she did I hadn’t a clue). Everything about that night’s shift was set to be as boring as any other night, but I had no idea what was set in store for me come closing time.
The guy was a frat boy stoner dude. The girl was the kind of girl who goes for the frat boy stoner dudes.
The hours ground down to nearly a halt, to the point where time seemed to stretch on into forever. But finally we got down to the end of the night, and I had my last table before I could clean up and make like hockey to get the ‘puck’ out of there (yeah, yeah, I know—puns are lazy writing, so sue me). Only I couldn’t help but loathe the couple that I was serving.

The guy was a frat boy stoner dude. The girl was the kind of girl who goes for the frat boy stoner dudes. Between the two of them there wasn’t a working brain cell—try and casually mention the possibility of reading a book and they get touchier than a Boy Scout on his first date (don’t judge me; I was a Scout, and I lived through the pain). When they weren’t whispering various forms of the word ‘ass’ in reference to me—just loud enough so that I could hear—they were drawing crude pictures of male genitalia on their napkins with a Sharpie.

The guy was knocking back schooners of Blue Moon like they were nothing; he must’ve had a good six of them in a 40-minute interval. The whole time he spent making sex eyes at his girl, and as I watched him play the part of a drunken Casanova I thought back to the line attributed to Shakespeare—the one about something increasing the desire and diminishing the performance. Watching the guy act like a jerk made me feel like a donkey’s back end for sure.

I put on my best and most charming smile as I waited on them, behaving all the more charming throughout their whole meal. I brought out their 75-dollar bill, hoping to make at least ten percent (I wasn’t expecting the usual twenty that I was used to this time around) and I went about closing the place down for the night. I came back and took the guy’s card and processed it, then I returned the check for him to sign. Again, I wasn’t expecting a huge tip by any means.

I should’ve suspected something was up when the couple bolted from the place snickering like bloody fools. I should’ve expected something was up, but I had no way of knowing it would be what it was.
My manager at the time was kind enough to buy me a beer, which I gladly accepted.
I went over and opened the checkbook. On the slip, etched over the tip line, was another crude, sexual picture. All the other pictures were but a crude preamble to this, their final and excruciating masterpiece. To say that I was enraged would be the grand understatement of the century.

My manager at the time was kind enough to buy me a beer, which I gladly accepted. I don’t often drink, but on this night I took in the grand ale of the gods and relished in its wheat-laced sweetness. The beer dulled my senses and made the immediate pain go away. If only the pain that was to come later could leave from me just as quickly.

I’ve told the story to many a person, and in many a way—as a storyteller I have only my own experiences from which to draw. Some of them were grand, while others were not so stellar. This was an experience that fell in the latter category. As a writer I wanted to reopen the wounds and bleed out over the keyboard (much to my mother’s chagrin, since she paid for the laptop and its beautiful keyboard). As a writer I wanted to hold no secrets—I wanted to air out all my dirty laundry and be baptized in the truth.

This I have done, but it leaves me tired at the end of the day. These are the crosses that we working writers carry. Those of us who must tear away from the page in order to make a living are out there in the real world, and sometimes the world can be a filthy place.

I am all things writing, but some of the things I write about aren’t the right side of the coin. Heads or tails you lose sometimes, and sometimes you must face the daily humiliations with a fake smile on your face. That’s the harsh lesson that this story taught me anyway.

Well, I am truly sorry to leave you on a down note, but I promise to come back with something more upbeat in the near future. Until next time compadre.

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