The bar was half full and my beer half empty while I waited for my good friend Tommy to show up for our “Bro-date” as he called it.
What a douche I thought to myself before shaking my head. but a loveable douche. He’s one of those guys that you’d expect to hug you, slap your ass and then call you bro-buddy-guy-dude. As obnoxious as that sounds there’s something undeniably charming about him. No matter who you are, were or what you do… or did, he treats everyone like they’re number one. Which, if you’re clever enough to realize, it means that no one is special… or everyone was special to him. It was really the two schools of thought that frequented my previous job. You either love ’em or hate ’em. Speak of the devil..
He walked though the door… walked? Nah, more like swaggered. Heavy set with slicked back hair and gorilla like arms he was a 30-something Italian to a tee. He saw me sitting at the back of the bar but still had to make his rounds to 5 other people that he knew. Hugging each of them, he made sure to slap them all on the ass and make some corny joke to get everyone at the table laughing. That’s why he was the front of house manager. The man was a master at turning sullen customers into laughing, over tipping, audience members, at The Tommy Show.
Once he got to me he turned it up to 110% “Johnny!” he shouted and gave his signature quiet scream that came out something like “uuuuuwaaaaaaaahhhh” there’s no way to quite describe it unless you hear it. I got up, wearing a grin somewhere between embarrassed and sheepish. I loved the attention even if I was only as special as that other guy, no one treated me quite like he did. He grabbed me in a hug and lifted all 130lbs of me into the air, stealing the air out of my lungs as he squeezed me tight I did what I could to pat the sides of his mid-section since my arms were trapped as part of the
bear gorilla-hug. After his hands were free from the hug and my feet back on solid ground his hand slapped my ass firmly.
“What’s up baby, unemployment has been good for your ass, it’s really coming in” He said casually
“Fashionably late as always” I retorted, ignoring his flattering obsession with my ass.
“Hey, man, you don’t even know. Look for serious I was just about on my way out the door-”
“and you walked by a mirror?” I cut in snidely with a grin and he laughed it off
“Yea true story, is this shirt too tight on me?” It sounded serious enough for me to look him over.
The blue plaid shirt was a bit tight for a large if not extra large, it barely fitting over his arms – his pecks jumped in the shirt.
“Hey my eyes are up here alright!?” He snapped his fingers a few times and looked me in the eye with his best attempt at looking offended before the look cracked into a cackle.
I gave him my best dead-pan look. “Really?” I tilted my head to the side and looked over the frames of my glasses much to Tommy’s delight. He once told me that the best reaction he can get from someone is them questioning if he was for real.
The server walked up to our table and took Tommy’s order while he made banter with her I zoned out, looking over the open ceiling that exposed support beams wrapped with white Christmas lights. Two of the 4 walls in the bar were ceiling to floor glass windows that separated the patio from the interior, showing off how much fun customers were having and how good their drinks looked. Come 5pm the bar didn’t need any help drawing people in. A locally known watering hole for all the downtown business types, stocked with craft beers and good food it was a hot spot place to stop.
“I think your shirt’s not tight enough” Tommy smirked, pointing a finger and making a charming face that you could paint a monocle on. She giggled, barely glancing over at me with a look like she couldn’t quite figure out what I was doing with someone so characteristically opposite. “You good?” she asked bluntly. Tommy cut in quickly “Nah, nah, he’ll definitely need another one, just put it on my tab”
“Do you ever turn it off?” I asked, genuinely curious. “Thanks for the drink” I added
“Yea man, no problem. Seriously though I only have one position, baby. On” He gave me the same look he gave her and burst out in a big man giggle.
I sighed. I knew most of it was an act but I understood. Sometimes you had to act happy to be happy, for all his jokes and charm I knew that on the inside he was incredibly self conscious and depressed. He once told me that he used to be the fat kid with glasses in school and he got picked on a lot. It was only after he graduated that he started working out and turning his fat into something more functional and learned to talk the talk from working the bar scene as a bouncer. Still, you can surround yourself with the world and you’ll be no less lonely than you were before.
“For real though, how are you holding up?” The tone was serious and low, he leaned forward a bit.
What do you say to that? How was I holding up? There was a part of me that wanted to scream “HOW DO YOU THINK I”M HOLDING UP!?” I’d been unemployed for a week by this point and the only lead I had was on dish-washing, something I vowed never to do again after suffering though a year shit work at a place that made the dishwashers clean and unclog the toilets at the end of their shift.
I took a deep breath to calm myself, trying to swallow the memories and remember that it was my fault and no one else’s
“I’m doin’ alright, I gotta call-back today on a dishwasher job so I won’t be un-”
“I’m sorry, a dishwasher job?” Tommy interrupted, sounding offended “You’re a chef, you’ve been a chef for 10 years! You are not going to be a dishwasher at some dive downtown” For all the voice I lacked, he more than made up for it.
With my hand up trying to calm him down “Cook. Not chef. Assistant to the Chef at best and even that unspoken, my contract was as a supervisor”
“Contracts don’t mean shit you ran that place” He practically spat the words out
I leaned forward this time and gave Tommy my best wide eyed serious look “They mean everything in the Corporate world, they’re the only thing that means anything in that world”
His eyes dodged to the left and he let out a puff of air “Pfft, that’s some bullshit, this whole situation is bullshit man, you shouldn’t have been fired. You were the best thing to happen to that place”
My head fell to my hands to hide the fact that I was rolling my eyes. He was loyal to a fault, kind of reminded me of a dog if dogs could talk and you put one on the witness stand in court. Exactly like that.
“Maybe, Tommy, but they didn’t see it that way and I can’t blame them. I wasn’t cut from the same cloth as the others that worked they, they were willing to suck a dick if it came from the top floor. I’m not a corporate whore and I never will be. And agree with it or not, I gotta take some responsibility for my choices. I made a bad call and it fucked up one day too many. Nothing I can do about that now.”
I may not have liked that I was fired but there was something freeing about it. They continually tried to push me to ‘get to know the right people’ and ‘make your name recognizable.’ I was far from a charming individual, that’s why I came to work in kitchens. Sarcasm welcome, apply within. Only once I was high enough up the ladder to get my head of the clouds did I see more and more of how it actually was. The Board this, The Board that, The Board is sitting at table 42! Make it the best you’ve ever made it before. “The Board” was everything that was wrong with that kitchen. VIP’s shouldn’t exist in the kitchen experience, everyone should be VIP and if The Board gets a bad meal, we should know just as much as if anyone else gets a bad meal.
Unconsciously I wrung my hands and cracked my knuckles. Just thinking about it was getting me worked up like I was gonna walk back in there and give them a piece of my mind.
“That is total crap!” Tommy burst through my cloud of thought “You were the hardest working guy there and no gave you any cred for that, they just took advantage of the fact that you never complained about the hours. 12 hour days shouldn’t be a regular thing when everyone else is working 8 or less that’s not fair and that’s fucked”
“Life’s not fair Tommy!”
I sound like my father.
Day 7’s “Give and Take” was easily combined with Day 6’s “Most interesting person you know” since the most interesting person I know is someone I constantly disagree with on work based topics. He thinks I’m the hardest working person to enter the kitchen and I’m a bit more realistic that yes, I do work 10 hour days 6 days a week when everyone else works less but that doesn’t discount their important or difficulty of the tasks they complete. Being an asst manager is hard work, I couldn’t imagine what kind of stress the people above me must be under.
Thanks for reading!