Industry Studies: Misery Loves Comradery
Dedicated to my friend Shara Haulman, now known as Shara Thiel- one of the most influential and beautiful individuals I have ever met. I thought of you the entire time I wrote this. Good times.
Just a bit of forewarning...I'm going to be heavily fucked up during this piece. Just for the sake of the topic. I aim for unadulterated realism.
This is for all the freaks I've grown to love and hate. The dirt covered gems, and the sicky sweet fakes. The innocent ones that I've seen corrupted by this den of assholes, and the assholes that brought personality out of the meek. The people you were positive you'd keep around forever, until a change of stores and an added distance of a couple blocks shuts things down. But I guess I prefer to not look at it that way, despite what it may look, or feel like. I think the mark of a real bond built through the restaurant industry lies in being able to distinguish between pause and play. Because in my head, those are the only two modes we have when you take into account what we do. We pause ourselves throughout the shifts. We hit that play button with a ferocity afterward. And while our relationships that we build may be left on pause for a while in this constantly shuffling system, I like to think it's only a press of a button away from being like how it use to be. Picking right up where it last left off.
It's 2:34AM. Two hours removed of my lucky number of 1234. All of that cutesy shit died eleven conversations ago though. Somewhere in between hatred of management and disappointment of family. Lights are coming on, and I'm fucked up. If I'm fucked up, then everyone else around me is probably teetering upon death. Maybe that's just my sense of invulnerability talking, but I know for a fact we've all had enough collective Jägermeister to make a rhino want to file away it's own horn into tiny Chinese pill capsules. Which, makes no sense...because I don't think that shit is even taken in pill form. Ugh...I'm not about to Google this though, as I don't care to be on that kind of a watch list. "How does one consume rhino horn?" With my luck, it'd be rectally and the FBI would have cliff notes on me that not only do I need Chinese medicine to get my dick hard, but I'm willing to take horn-dust up the ass. No, thanks.
It's 11:34PM. One hour away from my lucky number of 1234. Three hours away from being fucked up and discussing rhino horns. Everyone closing the restaurant is finally done with their shit and are ready to catch up on the buzz their co-workers have been nurturing; assuming the closers haven't already been sippin' on some sweet sumthin-sumthin. Tally ho' fuckers!
It's 11:52PM. Somewhere in between who gives a fuck. The ones who still feel fuckable have changed into their after work clothes after taking their whore baths & applying whatever scent you'd one day love to use for an actual night out not leading up to a last ditch effort to completely numb yourself before opening the restaurant in nine hours. C'est la vie, am I right? The rest of the crew is bumming it in their work clothes. Content with smelling like fajita smoke, a hint of rotten veggies and the occasional whiff of B.O. if you a real nasty mu'fucka. Funny enough, a dog's wet dream of smells and tastes.
Who cares, shots! There's really two different schools of thought at this point. The real ones go buy rounds, which in turn means that you're getting whatever the person buys. The cheap and/or less connected crews gauge interest, and then maybe a third of the group reluctantly go to the bar together to make sure those tabs stay correct. I like the first school of thought. It's nice and seamless. If you're in the establishment that these industry individuals happen to be frequenting, it makes your job easier and more lucrative as well! You begin to associate the person with what they order, which makes everything flow just that much better. In reverse, after your tender of ze' bar realizes you're low maintenance, drink a lot, and tip fat, you tend to get stiffer drinks that magically don't always end up on the bill. As a side note, that's one of the cool things about the industry. It's universal. Once you earn and/or pay for respect, you get the hook ups. There are of course limits and diminishing returns, but it's a standard way for industry to keep the money flowing back and forth between one another. It's communal economics. And, community can be beautifully intoxicating. Cheers.
It's 12:15AM. I'm briefly regretting my decisions. Shoulda' gone home. I have stuff to do in the morning.
It's 12:15AM and like, twelve seconds. I'm ordering another round of shots despite the initial forewarning of my now quickly dwindling conscience. YOLO. Don't be a bitch.
It's 12:32AM and the social lubrication is taking effect. I'm two minute away from my lucky time of 12:34AM/PM - unknowingly of course, or else it'd just be an annoying alarm. That's the magic of it; a mix of the inner clock and thrilling happenstance that makes you want to break down universal patterns and threads because you see a number more often than you feel you should. Look, some people won't walk under ladders, worship cows and paint t's on their foreheads with ash. Don't judge my shit, alright? This is about that time by the way where enough pleasantries and gripes about work have passed. We're now encroaching upon the dark moments of the industry. The ground hog day build ups. The pivotal moments where many life changing decisions are made, but very few are remembered eight hours from now. The interesting sides of us come out. The sad sides. This is where you expose a lot, and learn a lot. Think of a confessional, but with less judgement...assuming you're running with the right crowd. Misery loves comradery, and I purposefully do not use, nor seek company beyond.
It's 1:18AM. I've officially become a psychologist on the fly for my friend. We'll each take turns inevitably, but I know how these things go. Always tread lightly here...things can get volatile when toeing the line of supportive, yet critical. Someone is probably crying by now. May or may not be the person heavily involved in the conversation. There's most likely a couple of people that don't express themselves that well and haven't had a chance to jump into the conversation, or just have nothing to add. So they're texting a lot and every once in a while interrupt to show something fucking retarded off their Facebook. They'll get irritated soon and go off to somewhere else to indulge in something more, simple. No harm, no foul. By now, you've probably had either an awkward person that works with you join the party, or have who I'll just call "Steve" stumble over and insert their same tired story as always. The unlucky son of a bitch that gets stuck listening to "Steve" will nod along and placate until the metaphorical helicopter with a rope flies by to save them. Just don't try to escape by going in to buy shots...cuz' you don't wanna' buy shit for "Steve."
See, a "Steve" can be any individual that tends to always be hovering around during these late night sessions. "Steve" might work there and tend to hang around after clocking out. "Steve" might still be working, but just wants to bum a smoke. Again. "Steve" could also be a fellow patron that also drinks from the same well as you every night. "Steve" might just be a bum everyone tolerates out of the kindness of their blackened, but still sympathetic hearts. Shit, the mother fucker might be all of the above. Point is, every group has a "Steve."
It's 1:26AM. Shots! What morning plans? Lets be real. I was just going to toast a bagel, masturbate, and watch a podcast anyways. Shit, what'd I make tonight? And my tab is what? Ahh fuck it, I'll start being responsible tomorrow.
It's 1:23AM. No it's not stupid. That would be going back in time.
It's 1:32AM. You're arriving to the table with shots, and there are now four different conversations going on. Jump into one and avoid eye contact with "Steve" when you cheers. Most likely the conversations are about either family, relationships, or work. How important do you feel at the time? How much patience is in the tank? Do you want to get dragged down into the murky waters that is family cry-fests? Do you really feel like talking about work? You just spent ten hours there, Jesus Christ. With that being said, do you really want to give relationship advice to someone, when you could just bandwagon on some work bullshit? Depends...do you want to fuck said person that has relationship problems?
It's 1:49AM. I've determined I'm not fucking that person tonight. Back to talking about work. If they don't stop fucking with my section, I'm fucking quitting. Hosts are so fucking retarded, seriously, you fucking triple sat me! Tip outs were what?! Management are so inept. Yeah, can't believe I had to train that fucking idiot. He won't last, believe me - dude offered coffee. Coffee! I had to fucking make it. Fuck that fat fuck that ordered it too, R.I.P. to that entire sugar caddy. Of course sugar caddies were my side work tonight. And those god damn kids...ahh fuck, your table had twelve gift cards?! I should have stuck with pre-med.
It's 1:58AM. Numbness sinking in. Dread of tomorrow is close behind. It's last call and like avian flight formations, we all at once have that mutual understanding to swing right and order one last round of shots. Fuck off "Steve."
I don't want you to think that this is just getting fucked up after a shift. That's just like, 35% of what makes it all so enticing. The conversations that take place are some of the most treasured moments of my life. One on ones, group settings, shit even the conversations you have in your head during whatever is being discussed. Yeah, that's right, Inception-esque dialogue. A conversation within a conversation, that sparks a conversation. Might actually just be called poor listening, now that I think about it.
I've built friendships that will hopefully last a life time off of these nightly moments. I've grown tremendously from them. There's something really invaluable about learning a little more about someone after being in the restaurant trenches with them every given night. All the while, sharpening your wit against these sarcastic assholes. You think you gotta' be on your toes during your shift? All that tension build-up has to be released somewhere other than those moments of slamming shit around in the BoH. And what better way is there to face your own aspirations by hearing others talk about there's? Other flawed vessels. Sharing nightmares that'll haunt you well past imposed boundaries. There's a real dangerous aspect to being open.
It's the easiest thing in the world to give the advice you don't follow. It's even easier when you're drunk. I think the limbo that a lot of us find ourselves in is very similar to faking it until we make it. Until we graduate into actually following that advice. Until then, late night sessions like these are exactly what we need and exactly what we don't. They stunt growth all while nurturing whatever has damaged you. At the end of the night, we're just trying to be heard. Longing for others to want to listen to us. Perhaps it's a side effect of being at the beck and call of others all day long. Maybe I'm just a flawed vessel that missed its mark. Maybe it's just a human thing. Maybe, I'm just human; afloat and traversing my own stream of whatever.
Pandora's Box opened just long enough for the caged crazy to wreck havoc upon themselves, only to be repackaged in time for tomorrow's table. Flickering aspirations and preconceived notions of what is suppose to be, and what is...going through the Ground Hog day motions...just, going through them.
It's 2:37AM. My songs on. I'm fucked up. Better tab out...gotta' get my friend home. Shit, gotta' get me home. Don't worry; I'm fine. I'm always fine. It is now time, like Bourdain so eloquently put it in the beginning, to retreat. To remain infallible another night. I got you, Shara. Let's get some burritos.