On my second cup of coffee this morning, I am still reading a thread about how people are currently walking out of restaurants nation wide and it’s all the same; people are assholes. Management is spineless and shifty, more and more customers are just itchin’ to fight….it’s almost post covid (is it, really?) at the ass-end of July 2021, and woe is us, right?
People have always been bitches, they’ve always been entitled. Our social media culture (the real scumbags) thinks it’s new and weird and they don’t know how to respond, because: I don’t have to deal with this shit, man! And, I dunno, maybe in your situation you don’t have to, maybe you really do have something to say. In light of this the only thing I can do is relate experiences. People are still people, the same for millennia – same problems, same desires, same motherfuckers, same entitled. It’s not new at all, it’s new to you – what you should do is learn about it before acting all crazy and that means shutting your mouth and using your ears and senses, and, smarts if you have any. You’ll know.
On the day of my 16th birthday I got a job at a burger king in central Massachusetts. It was 1983. The burger king was across from a mall on a busy road that was nestled between 2 other busy roads and it was always busy and I bought the boat shoes I needed to navigate the floor, so, I was serious. Upon reporting I received some training: a video I watched alone in a closet, and then I went to work on the fries and a mop. I was so psyched. I was no stranger to work.
Within a month I made up some weak lie, that was seen through, as an excuse to call in. I hated doing it, lying was for assholes, but I didn’t have the guts to be honest and I didn’t want to ‘hurt anybody’s feelings’ with it. On the phone the manager gave me a choice: come in or you’re fired. I said I wasn’t going in. Working at that burger king sucked, nobody was happy, the staff was a horrible sitcom, the manager had impeccable hands, and I wasn’t slipping on that floor another time balancing 4 fry boxes. I took a much better job that week, washing dishes at an even busier place.
Loved that job so hard and only quit because I could no longer get there after moving to the city.
My shift at the restaurant was five to midnight, one-ish during the week; 2, 3, and 4 day schedules. I don’t remember any weekends at all. The work was furious and nobody there wasn’t moving all the time. The owners were there, and their sleeves were rolled-up sometimes, too. Well, not so much the Mrs. but certainly the Mr. She was mostly poster.
The chef was scary, the other dishwasher, on those rare occasion I actually saw him, was scarier, none of the waitrii were younger than 28, constantly flirting with me, and with a little help that one time getting it up there, I walked half a keg out to the bar on my shoulder. When I tell you that we worked, we worked. The chef would sometimes steal a minute outside in the back to have a smoke. The waitrii got breaks (like, a minute here and there), but, nobody else did. I didn’t care at all, I took my smoke breaks in place navigating soggy like a pro. I owned my job and nobody was better at it. Everybody there flourished in the efficient chaos and everybody there loved everybody there. I think it’s completely different today. I don’t think there’s enough high-fives anymore. I don’t think anybody knows how to love anybody anymore. I don’t think anybody can stfu for 1/2 a second and see what’s right there in front of them anymore.
I made $3.15 an hour. Proud of $56, though on many weeks my take-home-pay was less than what I made with my paper route years earlier. I even made jokes about it. And, rightly so because it was funny. I worked ten times harder earning less money – and here’s why I loved it:
- I made a difference in a crazy environment and people told me, and they also told me how much they appreciated it
- Mike the bartender served us up after we closed. Every time. I always had 3 Lowenbrau darks, for the walk home. We got to relax with each other and wind down, and Mike was always smiling and had a cure for everything. I remember almost everybody’s face, everybody’s voice
- If I even looked like I was struggling – rare – before I could suffer from it, or, we could, someone was there lending a hand, with a smile. There was a ‘we’
- everybody shared stories and I fell in love with all of it. everybody, even me, had a story
- everybody worked. nobody didn’t work. everybody helped, nobody whined about it, except, on those wicked rare occasions, one of the waitrii might, and they could because they had to deal with the people. Like I said, wicked rare
- When I left, I was the turn-over. There was no turn-over though the chef and owner had legendary brawls, like family
- I learned so much. So, so much. Even that; I learned that 16 year old me with a tan in a white oxford was smokin’ hot, lol, omfg.
Our manager was Louie. Louie was the man. Any restaurant manager ever, anywhere, could learn from Louie. Any coach, teacher, brother, clergy, could learn from Louie. Listen, food is love. I didn’t learn that from my family, where I owed my mother for feeding me cubed-steak (I am grateful for all my fingers), I learned that from Louie, and the staff at a bat-shit crazy busy restaurant. I learned that from busting my ass next to other people busting their ass to deliver a plate of it to any random stranger.
Jesus, fuk, I learned so much as a dishwasher.
There’s a lot of reasons why I can look back fondly on this time in my life, working this job. For me, then, it was the best thing ever. It was the early ’80’s and it was different. People were different in society. We still dressed up to go places. We were still generally polite and in general it was a more grueling time, but we waited in lines and talked to each other. You should have seen the lines at my next gig, where hunting season was like black Friday; selling licenses. Nothing but smiles…Help wasn’t a dirty word, share didn’t make you weak. The only people I ever heard of that gave a rat’s ass about ‘color’ were the Catholics in my family. Community really was a thing.
Importantly, we had time. Nothing was instant (well, photos and shitty cocoa). When you have time to do stuff, or not, expectations don’t get carried away. There were ‘karens’. But, if Karen got too carried away she got a bag of shit on fire on her front porch, or something wicked on Halloween, or a fish in her car. Could be eggs involved, maybe rotten tomatoes. It was all, ‘yes, ma’am, no, ma’am’ sure, but, there were lines. Sure, we’d cut people slack in order to learn, grow, everybody fuks-up, but, if you were just outta hand then we had a cure: you would definitely be shamed. Yeah, we had that, and it was a good thing. Shaming worked and when it did, open-arms again greeted you, there was a place set for you again, like at church, or the deli. Everybody farts, everybody picks their nose.
It seems like there’s no more of that. I had quite-a-few jobs working with people when I was young, restaurants and retail, and they were non-stop and glorious. Hell, I even served the old-ladies coffee and whatnot after church. Know what? Karen got a dribble-cup. 14 year old me had no problem at all poking a little hole under the rim of some douche-nozzle’s cup. I never got trouble for it and she always got a coffee stain on her blouse and if she wanted to keep on with her bullshit, she’d go through a lot of blouses. Shaming someone worked because it was real and we had community and nobody wanted to be shamed – hell nobody wanted to do the shaming, nobody was proud of that shit. But, like I wrote, we had community. We don’t have community in a lot of places today.
I understand why people suck today, why working with them sucks, why so many jobs suck. You think I haven’t seen changes over the decades? Millennials a little bit and gen-z can know it and wonder why, but, ask their parents and they will tell you, if they’re honest: participation trophies, ronald reagan, and tipper gore. It’s ‘history’ to you, reading, but, I was there. It was easy to see. Couple of gas crunches in the ’70’s, and the sheer terror of being alive in 1980, when the nukes almost flew were a lot to take post civil-rights. Post roe-v. wade. The quick and selfish remedies our politicians implemented on the boomer crowd were easy and wrecked us. Liberals were gross, conservatives were grosser still and lines were drawn in the sand. And always religion. Religion made dogma sexy. Shame got twisted into – you must hate the children.
I know it’s tough to deal with people today, but, I still make friends every time I goto the market, whenever I am on foot. And, I bet you do, too. Whenever I am in public among people I still give and get smiles, greetings, stories – happy moments, questions answered, camaraderie. I don’t ever experience racism, hate, from any age group. I do experience assholes. In fact, every time I drive. Nowhere do I see more of a lack of community than on the road today. Every car seems to now be its own autonomous country – with ‘rights’ and whatnot, on their phone. There used to be a politeness on the road that no longer exists. If we can’t drive together how can we work together?