A note to Sally, to whom this post is dedicated:
I miss working (and not working) with you. I thought the worst of it would be the pandemic. Not being able to go in the office, see everyone, or bother you at your desk. You always made me laugh, told me a story, said something wise, or gave me some candy. I’m so happy we left work that one time with Marie to go swimming. You always had an answer for me. Yesterday, I listened to a voicemail you left on my phone. It was so nice to hear your voice. This is one last story just for you. The kind of story I know you love. I hope you find your way back to your beloved ocean. We had some really great times together and I’ll never forget you.
Enough time has now passed that I can tell this story without feeling shame or possibly being sued. This is a story about a little place formerly known as… let’s call it The Lake View Restaurant. The names of things have been changed for the safety of the people and places involved throughout this story.
During the summer of 2016 I worked my tush off at The Lake View restaurant. It was attached to a golf resort and used to be a great spot for a drink with a view, until Cindy and her husband bought it and ruined everything this place stood for.
I had no problem playing their stupid, little games. No one could pay directly with cash in the restaurant. If they paid with cash you had to take the cash, go to the front desk, put the exact amount the bill was worth on a gift card, put the change back in the checkbook, go back to the computer, charge the gift card, deliver the checkbook back to the table for inspection, and hopefully, a tip.
On top of this, we were understaffed. I know everyone who works at a restaurant says that, but now having worked at restaurants that have ample staffing, I can say with confidence, we definitely were. If we were any more short of staff we would have to beg patrons to deliver their dishes to the dishwasher, Bob, and believe me, you don’t want customers speaking with Bob. That’s why he was the dishwasher.
One particularly hot, busy day, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Our uniforms were black pants and a black button down shirt. I was sweating like a… man, why are all these clichés farm animal related? Anyway, a group of four middle to upper class women who were dressed for a country club sat down. They had a lot of questions about the food, and requested a photoshoot. I obliged because I’m a slave to anything that’s going to make me a bigger tip. The last question before I scurried off was about one woman’s choice of salad. She was deathly allergic to nuts and asked if the dressing, or any other ingredient, might have nuts. I did, and still do, take this very seriously. I don’t need someone's death on my hands. So I told her I was eighty-three percent sure there weren’t any, but that I would check with the kitchen.
When I ask the kitchen, they OF COURSE give me a hard time. If you have ever worked in the service industry you know that one third of the kitchen staff are professional hard-time-givers (and hard-time-doers). Nothing is off limits. No shots are held back.
They mocked me for not knowing if the salad had nuts in it, and I did not have the energy to defend myself. I begged them to give me a confirmation: yes or no on the nut content situation. They tell me no, I report back, and all is well with the Real Housewives of Ontario County at table six.
In order to add some levity to my day, I added a note when I punched in the order from the computer. On the salad I wrote, “no nuts a-holes.” I got a good laugh out of it, and the kitchen did too.
So I continued to run up and down the patio, still dripping with sweat, and I’m starving. I dropped the check off at the Keeping Up with the Karens table, thrilled to get out of work in thirty minutes. One of them (not the one with the nut allergy) looks furious, and calls me over. Now, there’s fifteen minutes left on the clock and I have no idea what is about to happen. She points to the open checkbook, I look down, and on the check I see the words, “no nuts a-holes.” The note I wrote to the kitchen was printed onto the check. In all the hustle and bustle I never thought to inspect the check. In reality, that's what happens when you're under staffed. On a slower day I would have triple checked the bill to make sure it was perfect.
The lady with the nut allergy wasn’t even angry. Her friends lay into me, I completely ignored them, dropped to my knees in front of the one with the nut aversion, who, by the way, hadn't died, and I apologized profusely. I explained the series of events, and she sympathetically tells me, "it’s okay." This does not make me feel better.
I went into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet, fully clothed, just to take a deep breath by myself. They came in, and yes, they were talking about me. The phrase that sticks out in my mind the most is, and I quote, “I hope she learns her lesson.”
I’m sorry, what's the lesson here? It seemed that although their friend did not die I was being treated as if I had in fact killed her. The only lesson I learned that day was I needed a new job. Part of me would rather have suffered the consequences of being hauled off to prison for murder than enduring those ten long minutes in the bathroom.
The next day, one of my coworkers came into the bar area and immediately started apologizing to me, “Hannah, I’m so sorry.” At first I was confused, and then I remembered. He told me that he overheard the guys in the golf pro shop talking about a receipt that was posted to the resorts Facebook page. It had my name on it.
Yes, they went out of their way to tear me, and the entire establishment, a new one. This made its way all the way to the top. That’s right, Cindy found out and decided she wanted to have a chat with me.
I was called into the office after work. It was like going to the principal's office if the principal bought the school, fired a bunch of teachers, and changed all the rules. Cindy came out and led me to a conference room with no windows. The chairs around a table were impossible to sit in. I couldn’t get comfortable, but that wasn’t completely the chairs fault. She locked the door behind her, slowly walked over, sat down, looked into my soul and said, “Do you believe in God?”
Do I believe in God? Where am I? Does she work for the mafia? Did that girl with the nut allergy die? What are my hands doing? Is she about to bust my knee caps? Make me sleep with the fishes? How much time has passed since she asked the question? Put a decapitated horse's head in my bed? Should someone call Liam Neeson? She’s still staring at me. What's my face doing? Is this detention for the rich and famous, except I’m poor and I work for her?
It was none of her business what my religious affiliations were, but I always played Cindy’s stupid games. I said yes, and she replied with, “there’s only one person who can judge you and that’s Jesus.” I just wish she didn’t have to bring Jesus into this. I’m almost certain he didn’t die from a nut allergy, and I’m positive he would have appreciated my nut note. Anyway, I didn’t end up getting fired. Not that day at least.