Back to work for lunch, yesterday and today. I tallied $108 and $70, respectively. I commented to a regular diner who asked me how things were going: ‘Surprisingly, since the first of the year, it’s actually been busier than before. Maybe all the Bailout money’s being spent here.’
It is tough to figure. But maybe it’s as simple as people are shifting down at Michael’s from dinners to less expensive lunches.
Yesterday I told you about my first waiting job at Red Robin in the mid-’80s. My second job was at a place called Baxter’s, a mid-level lunch, dinner, and nightclub place. Very ’80s. Think torqouise and mauve and grey, Nagel-ish art on the walls. The chain may still be going somewhere else, but it disappeared from Southern California in the ’80s.
I was most excited to work there because it was a nightclub in the evenings, with a bunch of hot bartenders and cocktail waitresses. Baxter’s was super-corporate because I believe it had not just its own bureaucracy, but also a parent corporation’s. Part of Grace restaurants, I think. Not that they were any good at it. I remember my first day of training, observing the kitchen. They were short staffed, of course, so an assistant manager was chopping lettuce and vegetables, preparing the bulk mixed salad. He was pretty coked-up, bragging about how he only had two hours sleep because he was partying all night. Corporate or no, this was going to be a pretty loose place to work.
The food was a bit more expensive than Red Robin, so the money was a little better at lunch, and a little bit better still at dinner. As usual, I had a few crushes going on. I actually had two dates through the restaurant. One was a blond hostess, call her Susan. Her birthday had happened the day before, so I gave her a card when I picked her up. She read the card while I chatted with her mom. Susan thanked me for the card, then we had our date. I thought it went okay. I called her the next day and left a message. Nothing. Didn’t see her at work for about a week, while continuing to leave messages. When I finally saw her at work, she explained that it wasn’t going to work out for us. She was freaked out by my card. I’d written something like, ‘It’s great that our first date is the day after your birthday. It’ll be easy to remember when we tell our children when we first met.’
Ha-ha. I thought it was funny, my being deliberately over-the-top in jumping to conclusions. Even if it wasn’t funny, she didn’t get it, either way. ‘It freaked me out,’ she said.
My next ‘conquest’ was an even better girl. Tracy was a bartender, 27, brunette, fantastic body, very attractive. Our date was framed that she’d been dating someone for a few years, but it was kind of ending. I took her to drinks after work at a new club, themed to Italian auto racing. We had a good time getting drunk on margaritas, then went back to her place. We made out for awhile. Things were going very well. She showed me some photo albums.
I commented on a group of pictures of her and her ‘old’ boyfriend. ‘He’s a dork,’ I said. ‘No he’s not.’ ‘Well, compared to me, anyway. Come on.’
I was cocky back then, for some reason – I think because that was how my friends acted around girls, and they were almost all more successful than I was.
‘Well he’s not. And you’re not so great.’
Ho-kay! That put the ki-bosh on any more making out. Next thing I knew, the date was over, never to be resumed another time. You live and learn. Rather, you screw up and learn.
Other than those two feathers in my cap, my time at Baxter’s wasn’t very memorable. About two months after starting, I sprained (possibly broke) my ankle playing basketball. I didn’t go to the doctor, but I should have. Enormous swelling and pain. I had to use crutches for a couple of weeks. Obviously, I couldn’t work during this time. When I came back, they gave me another week off before instituting the ‘Minimalist Schedule’ waiters sometimes experience: one lunch, a dinner on-call, an expediting shift. The third week of this I voiced my concerns. They said they didn’t have the shifts to give away. If I wanted more hours, I could do some hosting . . .
That wasn’t my bag, though I did cover a couple host shifts.
The graffiti on the wall was clear. I had to get something else. So I hit the pavement again.