I was out back chain smoking when Bobbie flew open the back door in a rage and yelled “Debit’s down, H!” Before flipping her hair back and disappearing. That was my que. Bobbie wasn’t yelling at me, she was just yelling, a trait picked up by the people who had been in the industry too long. I gave a half assed attempt to flick my smoke in the bucket on my way in, but it landed just outside of it, along with hundreds of others that littered the area. I felt sorry for our back door neighbour as this building was built in a residential area and our smokes, garbage, grease and beer cans often found their way into his yard. He fought the development tooth and nail but in the end was unsuccessful, leaving him bitter. He would come by fuming with a bag of our garbage and get into it with the owner every so often. I called him “Sister Mike” because he was a pussy and always preaching.
It had been seven years… That’s right, the girl who couldn’t hold down a job lasted this long…I can’t believe it either. The restaurant had gone to shit. The GM was having a nervous breakdown in the office, as usual. The cooks were doing coke in the bathroom again, bantering loudly to each other on line and fucking the food up. Everything in the back was dented from somebody unleashing into a fit of anger and punching shit: the washer and dryer, the fridge doors. We all looked empty and miserable as we shuffled our feet, sticking to the back, as if we would want to be out on the floor facing the guests anyway. The televisions were off along with the music, even some off the lights had joined along, leaving them to sit in utter silence and darkness to eat their shit food in. This allowed them to stew in their dissatisfaction, left to pick up on annoyances like loud chewing, nose breathing or an escaped fart. It was awkward. Back in the day when this place was rocking it was so loud you’d have to yell all night, ultimately leaving with a strained voice. We used to walk through the dining room and crop dust our tables, you could always tell who was doing it, catching a sly smile as they walked around with no purpose at all, not even carrying a tray. We would look at eachother and laugh “Looks like so and so is crop dusting the guests again” all huddled together in the corner letting out menacing laughter.
When I got to expo I was greeted by the head office guys who told us they were there to help us, but I knew they had come to shut us down. The owner had been MIA for a long time. He was out destroying everything he touched with his alcoholism, only coming in to rob his own business of money or sleep in the office. We hadn’t been paid in a few months and only a few of us were left, just here for the show, addicted to the downward spiral with a need to see it end. Head office was using what was left of our sales to pay off suppliers, an act that immediately clued me in to our closing as they never took the opportunity to actually pay any of us. They were more interested in maintaining their relationships, as they used the same suppliers franchise wide. “Here, I’ve brought some candy!” A head office guy exclaimed, pouring it out into bowls. “Looked like you guys could use a pick me up” another added. What in the actual fuck. Candy? The head office guys were so condescending that it physically hurt my ears to listen to them. We pretty much had no food, an entire white board of 86 items, even the bar was bare. The restaurant didn’t have any money for food orders, so when guests came it was my job to present them with this information, which I had stopped doing, telling them at the door to go somewhere else. In fact on the shifts where I was scheduled to close, I’d come in for my shift and just lock the doors. Fuck that shit, right?
I found Bobbie waiting by the debit terminal with her head down, avoiding any eye contact with the people crazy enough to still sit down and eat here. I joined her as we both turned our backs and faced the wall. “It won’t work, H.” I looked at the connection and saw our internet was down. “Ugh, let me go check the box in the back” I managed to muster. Walking to the back I knew any attempts to remedy this would be pointless…with the GM locked in the office avoiding us and the likelyhood of the internet bill not being paid I grabbed a sharpie and wrote on a piece of paper “Cash Only ”. A head office fuck followed behind me as I taped it to the front door and once I had left he tore the paper off, tucking the ends of the tape in and taking sticky-tac out of his pockets, applying it before sticking it back on. Walking by he nodded “It’s a standard that tape doesn’t show on the glass.” My brain exploded. Are you fucking crazy! First of all your a weirdo for having sticky-tac and second are you fucked? Head office guys were always annoying, so stuck on the finer details that they often missed the bigger picture.
I got put in charge of the door as some of the girls were too afraid to tell guests that we had no television, booze, pop, food, debit or parts of our own dignity left. I was armed with a stack of ten dollar off coupons to cushion the blows. I’m great at a fake smile, so it didn’t bother me. I had a moment with one of the head office guys when he gave me the coupons, telling him “You know, businesses don’t just give away hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards, what’s the deal? If your going to shut us down you should at least make sure we get paid.” He nodded in response. That fuck, he even gave me the solomon nod too, the same shit he tried to get me to do one time. The point of the solomon nod is to make people more agreeable. “Have you tried our gravy, it’s great with the mashed potatoes!” Insert the nod, move your head up and down with suggestive eyes like a big fucking loser. Apparently it’s supposed to trick people into saying “Sure, i’ll spend $2.50 on your watered down, powdered garbage.” He spent all day once trying to get me to do it, before the end of my shift, when he gave me a pat on the head and said “You’ll get it next time.”
They fucked off around eight, just as I was coming back from outside, having just took a few pulls off Eric’s joint feeling myself become more settled. I was getting pretty stressed about money, with my wage being so small I didn’t really mind being behind in my hourly pay but I needed my tips. Gone were my two hundred dollar nights, the past little while I had only been bringing home forty bucks tops. Now that head office was gone I saw the office door open and went in to give my cashout to the GM. She was trying to be as straight faced as possible when she told me there wasn’t any money and I couldn’t get my tips. I couldn’t help but feel burned. I got my shit together and went to the bar, poured myself a beer out of whatever tap still ran and sat with all the other staff, all miserable and buried in self loathing. The thing about a restaurant is that no matter how good or bad things get, your family. These people become your people, it can be hard to walk away from that kind of comradery. After a few beers I went to the back to grab some bud off Eric and the GM pulled me aside. She told me that was that, the doors would be closed in the morning and we would be allowed back in over the weekend to get our things. The stark realities of business slapped me in the face, in the end it didn’t matter how long I worked there, the favours I did or even how close a relationship I had with them, even after seven years I was getting fucked. I saw it coming for so long that it didn’t hurt, it just left me jaded.
*Be sure to check back for more, as I go back in time, dishing all the fucked up ways the restaurant failed! I’ll be serving up 86 – The glory days*