Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
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Friday, October 27, 2006

Side Order #1


I strolled into my new night job at the bar & grill. It was day three after the grand opening. The youngsters at the host station were smiling and energetic.

“Hey Steve! What’s up?”

“I’m drunk!”

They laughed. That crazy Steve, telling another wacky joke. He’s not serious.

After all, who would show up at a brand new job so drunk his breath could strip paint? Nobody. Well, except for me. I’d been coerced into waxing a bottle of Bacardi 151 at my day job, not to mention the six bottles of Oktoberfest I’d used as chasers.

When I left the alcoholics at my first job behind, I chewed some cinnamon gum, squeezed one eye shut, and drove a mile west to the night gig.

I repeated the same answer when the general manager clamped his meaty hand on my shoulder and asked my mood.

“Drunk as a skunk, sir! Ready to sling fried snacks and radiate sunshine!”

He grinned back at me.

“You all see this guy? We need more like him!"

"Anything to keep America happy and full of greasy food, sir."

"You’re a smartass, but I like that. We need energetic people like you. Gimme a high five!”

I even scored a raise that day for superior customer service and for mentoring my less adept coworkers in the nuances of touchscreen register usage.

If I start doing coke again, I could be a manager.

I'm gonna do some short takes for a while. I don't have the time or energy for anthing more involved these days, so I'm taking the lazy route and dropping my material unpolished in small, half thought out pieces like the above.

5:04 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Perfect Kiss

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“Steve!”

“Yessir!”

“Somebody got sick in the men’s washroom. Will you go take care of it?”

During last week’s extensive training battery, one team leader offered this gem:

“We sell spicy food. We sell alcohol. Accidents happen. People eat too much, drink too much, and sometimes, they vomit. Most people make it to the toilet, fortunately. But sometimes, they don’t. Everybody is gonna get a turn cleaning up some puke. I know it’s gross. I know it’s disgusting. But it has to be done. If a customer tells you about a mess, don’t try to pass it off to somebody else. Don’t whine and complain that it’s icky. We all get a turn. Just do it. Go clean it up. It’s not pleasant, I know, but if you want to be part of the team, you gotta take the good with bad. Alright?”

In this case, it wasn’t a customer, but rather, a manager who gently informed me of the steaming puddle in the men’s john. He watched me carefully for a reaction, his eyes hard, the gin blossoms on his nose blooming like roses.

“Sure!” I was almost too cheerful, probably because I suspected this was both a joke and a test. See how I'd react. See if I'd equivocate, if I'd protest. I half expected, upon accepting the chore, that my manager would break out in big silly grin, pat me on the shoulder, and say. “Forget it, there’s no puke, I was just testing your team spirit. Good attitude, youngster!”

That didn’t happen, so I trotted to the mop sink, filled a bucket with lemon sanitizer, and wheeled my janitorial weapons to the men’s commode.

In the rearmost stall, a puddle of barely digested chicken wings and warm foamy Sam Adams Lager lay splashed out across the toilet rim and the surrounding floor. I could smell the tangy aromas of buffalo sauce and gastric acid intermingled with the dull bitterness of beer, but these freshly ejected smells were all overpowered by the ripe waves of urine stink that drifted throughout the entire cramped washroom.

Before spreading this muck all about with the mop, I deemed it smart to use paper towels to centralize the swarm of meaty chunks into one pile. I figured this would allow me to scoop it up, plop the wad into the toilet, and flush it away, leaving nothing but murky fluids to be spread thin and ammoniated.

I didn’t realize how drastically my work hours had affected my pursuit of alcoholism. As I knelt before the ejectus, the twin smells of beer and buffalo sauce triggered a deep longing within my digestive system. The dirty swirl of pre-digested gulash cried out to me, begging me to quit my depressing new job, to go spend money I can’t afford on cheap beer, to sit like a dumb thirsty stump quaffing beers in succession, quickly, until I could no longer think or walk.

Being a mature adult, I resisted these childish impulses, deciding instead to stick it out, to deal with the mess and go on with my punishing labor schedule. 16 hours every weekday is quite a lot, but I consider myself a hardy masochist, one who faces this self-inflicted mental and physical damage with a baffling reserve of enthusiasm. Yes. I would resist these urges, maintain my discipline, and get the job done.

As I brought my paper towel wad down upon the edge of the swamp, preparing to huddle it up, a lone tear squeezed from my eye. Deep inside, I was hurting. I was sad. I missed my beer. I missed the freedom afforded by a mere 40 hours of work a week, the freedom to gorge on too much food, the freedom to render myself blind stinking drunk, frequently, for no reason whatsoever.

The puddle of vomit was calling to me.

“I am everything you want from life, and you’re just going to squidge me up with your towels and flush me away? You’re only hurting yourself. You love me. You are me.”

The vomit was right. I began to cry heavily, sobbing, feeling terribly and painfully sober.

I gave in. Instead of putting the paper towels to the mess, I bowed my head to it until my forehead was an inch from the floor. The tip of my nose dipped into the bubbly froth. As a wave of joy engulfed me, I inhaled deeply. The sharp intake of air dragged slime strings of gastro gumbo into my nose. My dick hardened.

I moaned a little bit. The smell was so good! I needed more. Slowly, tentatively, I flicked my tongue out, like a snake. I licked the brownish wetness, tasting the divine mesh of flavors, a mélange of rancid syrups cavorting upon my taste buds like dancing clowns.

I lost all control and began to lap the puke up like a greedy dog at an undiscovered crime scene. When my tongue slid between the tiles and found the spicier flavors embedded within the grout, I ejaculated, creating another puddle, this time in my pants.

As it turns out, I didn’t need the mop bucket or the ammonia.

I love this new job.

4:45 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Drowning Dignity Like An Unwanted Kitten

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A brand new car was ushered before my greedy eyes, accompanied by trumpeted fanfare and glittering sunlight. My flash new ride was painted in cherry red, adorned with a ridiculous spoiler, and cranked up with an obnoxiously powerful sound system.

I enjoyed the little car for two weeks. On a Tuesday morning, I parked it in the back lot at work. The edge of the lot borders a small dirty creek lined with dense unkempt foliage. On that overcast morning, one of the trees, long dead and weakened by dry rot, cracked and fell. The main trunk landed on the gold 94 Saturn parked next to me. A thick protruding branch assaulted the rear end of my new car, removing the spoiler, the bumper, and part of the trunk lid.

Shit.

It took two weeks for the insurance and repair process, a long two weeks I spent in the suburbs under my mother’s wing. She drove me around, fed me, and provided unlimited access to her cable TV subscription. I watched Countdown, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report every night. I ate cold Chef Boyardee from the can. I stayed sober. I felt sorry for myself as frequently as possible.

With the financial deficits incurred by the insurance deductible and the previous month’s impound fiasco, the hard truth that I needed a second job arrived like an ulcer for Christmas.

A needed a tip job. Easy money, I figured, and mostly under the table. I applied at twelve restaurants, citing my lack of experience and limited availability as key selling points. Surprisingly, I failed to attract any enthusiasm from the mustachioed managers. I was shot down time after time. I became concerned.

Two weeks ago, right before I regained my wheels, I spied a series of trailers in the middle of a parking lot, surrounded by buildings under construction. I had Mommy pull in and let me out. One of the trailers was staffed by two mildly hostile grunts wielding the authority to hire new employees for a fast growing grill and bar chain. I applied.

“No experience as a waiter? Since this is a new restaurant, we need people who’ve been servers before. You can start as a cashier and work your way up, though.”

“Hmm. Okay.” I was desperate. Maybe I should’ve lied. One week later, I was decked out in a tacky uniform, ready to smile and eat shit.

So here I am. The place opens on Sunday. I’ve spent all week being taught degrading and menial things like mopping techniques, suggestive selling, and grooming habits. Yes, my dignity has been tested. Most of the others training for cashier are high school students. Kids. I’m 27. The next oldest below me is 22, a guy named John with a chip on his shoulder. He’s five years younger than me, and even he thinks the position is below him. He’s moped through the entire education, mumbling and refusing to make eye contact with anyone. I hate him.

The training courses are brisk and dense, leaving very little time to poo or smoke. I haven’t had any overwhelming cigarette cravings, which surprises me. Still, when given a break, I don’t hesitate. I go for my smokes. As befitting of this day and age, smokers are relegated to the dumpster enclosure to indulge our addiction. Last night, as I stood there smoking, a jittery guy with a bad haircut started a conversation with me.

“So, you must be a bartender. I didn’t see you in our server group. I want to bartend. Got any advice for moving up?”

“Actually, I’m a cashier.”

“No shit! You look a little bit old for that.”

“I am. I have a regular job, you see, so this is my night work. Being a new place and all, they wouldn’t let me be a server with no past experience. So I have to work my way up. I’m gonna pester the management relentlessly until they promote me. I’m here for the good money, the tip money, not for minimum wage grunt slave pay. I don’t suppose you have any advice for me?”

“No, I uh… wow. I work over at Uno’s right now, it sucks. I want to… I need to be a bartender. Bartenders have all the power, right? I’m not saying to be an asshole to the customers or anything, but you gotta put people in their place sometimes. When you control the booze, you get to do that. And there’s other perks. Not that I want to get drunk at work, that’s not what I mean. Shit. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. This is weird. But yeah, this place should be better than Uno’s. Good luck getting to server, man.”

“Good luck to you too.”

Are they all crazy like him? Are their thought patterns all that scattered and frantic? Do these people abuse drugs while working? Further research is required.

The crack training teams have been teaching us menu items and procedures with stunningly simple brainwashing methods. A trainer will yell out a menu item and have the crowd yell it back. Louder, louder, louder, they implore, scream it like you mean it! Show us how much you love this place with every shout!

It’s an uphill battle for them. They’re coaching a crowd of nervous, unsure people who are all surrounded by strangers. Timidity is their enemy. They need to transform us from ignorant rubes to expert purveyors of joyous sunshine. Not easy. To yank trainees from their nervous shells, from their anemic whispered responses to easy questions, and from their stage fright, these leaders must behave like sugar addled performers on children’s shows. This can be quite a horrifying spectacle.

More on this later.

Will this website become a boring, subpar service industry whine page, bereft of its charm, its uniqueness subsumed as the writer’s life descends into misanthropy? Will it be jammed full of mundane, obvious complaints and trite caterwauling? Should I even bother?

I don’t know. What I can say is this: the disconnect between the Mexican kitchen staff and the caucasian floor staff is pretty damn interesting and worthy of dissection. I may even get a few chuckles out of my perceptions of it. I intend to befriend each of the Mexicans. Hopefully, this will result in free food and a cocaine connection.

Until then, sorry for this sucky report.

12:31 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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