How I Got To My Fourth Waiting Job

Fourth Of July holiday is tomorrow. As I am taking a road trip up to Ojai, then on to Carmel – total five days off – I’ll drop a post on you before I leave.

Recap of the last almost two weeks:

Carney’s Corner (week ago) weekend roundup: Fri-Sun, $169, $195, $125. Then I yesterday (Thursday) and had a great night of $185. Only tonight’s shift to go before starting my vacation.

The previous week at Michael’s was a good one. Off Monday, then on-call (and not used) Tuesday. I worked Wed.-Fri. and averaged $117 per shift. This week I got four shifts, for which I’m grateful. However it was a bad week: averaged only $50 per.

But that’s now.

This is then:

In 1986 I was everything. Fresh out of college, young, good-looking (at least, as good as I was gonna get), poor, bereft in love, motivated, excited about the future, and moving to another place.

Get In The Mood – Right-Click Image <open in another window> To See or Listen To Sledgehammer Video

Southern California had been my home after high school in No. Cal. The parents had moved, and I moved with them.

I underwent college. I emerged alive. I got a job . . . three jobs waiting tables.

Six years into Southern California, I had made some real friends. I even resurrected my sex life – my big-time high school romance back in ’79 yielded the end of my virginity, but also marked the beginning of a massive drought. The biblical seven years of blight and famine (lost virginity in 11th grade) were punctuated by a slight cough in Year Four when I hooked up with a voluptuous brunette at a Roy Buchanan concert in Palo Alto.

We went to her friend’s abandoned dorm room on Stanford campus, as it was May or June and school was over . . . but I digress. It’s easy to do when you’ve been waiting that long . . .

I only bring up my sex life because it plays a major emotional part in the move away from So Cal. My situation begged the question: Why the hell would you move away when A) you’ve finally gotten some friends, B) you’ve finally started making some decent money, C) you’ve finally finished college, and D) you’re already living in the best place in the world?

Because heartbreak knocked me into an ‘early-life-crisis.’

My romantic affairs had become just about normal for a healthy single not-unattractive man of 24 years. I say this because there was no ‘normal’ ramping up like most would experience. I had a girlfriend in high school. Then nothing. One night in 1983. Then nothing. Until finally in 1985 I started to go out, date, ‘hook-up’ if you will.

At the peak of my new-found powers, I completely flipped for a young girl. We became official boyfriend/girlfriend. We never had sex. The meaty part of the ‘relationship’ lasted about a month. But I was totally smitten. As such, and having been barren for so long, I lost it thoroughly when she disregarded me. I just didn’t understand these things. She was just a high school student.

(Yes, I was more or less innocent. I met her working as a doorman at a nightclub. Her ID was reputable – which wasn’t hard in those days – so she was 23 years old to me. After romancing her, eventually meeting her parents, and then standing/observing as her house of cards tumbled, it came out that she was a 17-year-old in her last year of high school. To be honest, at that point, I didn’t care anymore. I was in love. I guess I can say now I’m glad we never had sex, because of course it would have been highly illegal, but at the time I didn’t care in the least. I did have opportunity, had I been willing to be persuasive, but that’s not generally my nature. And anyway, I thought this was the love of all time – so I was in no hurry. When she backed out of our ‘relationship’ and eventually slept with another full-grown adult, I was brutally traumatized. I just wasn’t ready – I’d had no experience in the normal ways of dating – to handle what I considered infidelity. Of course, what should I have expected of an 18-year-old? That’s why I wasn’t ready.)

That’s why I included Peter Gabriel above and the link to his epic Sledgehammer video. This was the internal theme song of my deepest love and yearning for this girl. Sheesh!

But it’s an awesome song. And a really great video that until now I hadn’t seen in years.

So here we are in 1986. It’s summertime in So Cal. I might have love interests, but I’m obsessed with my erstwhile 18-year-old girlfriend. Driving place to place, I’m listening repeatedly to the 12″ single cut of Sledgehammer on the tape deck in my 1979 red Honda Civic. All of ripe, juicy life beckons me . . .

Meanwhile, I had kept contact with good friends from high school in No. Cal. My best friend, Dick, was/is a funny, inventive, energetic type. Through various correspondence, we had trumped up the idea to write a novel together. We hashed out the general concept of a ‘woman’s novel,’ as that was the most marketable and (we thought) easiest kind to write. We hashed out a fragile bones of a plot, as well.

Well, I wanted to be a writer. I was through with college. I had been devastated by a heathen woman (actually a naive teenager, but who’s counting?). I had no decent career. As far as work went, I was waiting tables at Olive Garden (check here for that story) and making no money, having no fun, and not even eating any good food for the trouble.

Under those conditions, moving back to No. Cal. with my best friend from high school seemed an attractive proposition. Dick was ready to move out of the family home as well, so he lined up a place (with another good friend) for us to share. Memory is hazy, but I think the rent was like $750 a month for a three-bedroom house. The master bedroom guy would pay $300 and the others would split the rest.

I know what you’re thinking, and I thought the same thing: That’s pretty freaking steep!

But anyway, I did it. I packed all my albums and other possessions into my little Honda and made the trip. Do you realize I had three fruit crates of vinyl albums? (What’s a fruit crate of albums? It was 1986. You had to be there.) That’s like 40% of the storage space in a 1979 Honda, including the body of the driver. Oh yeah. I also had an Apple II computer with monitor (actually a clone made by Franklin), and of course an amp, speakers, and a Technics turntable to play the vinyl. And my whole wardrobe. I have no idea what I was thinking, or how I did it, but me and my stuff got up there.

I remember the night I left. That car was an empty driver’s seat, with the rest of the interior packed as dense as a black hole. There were no rear sight lines besides the driver’s side mirror. It was night. Before I left home, I topped off the oil. On the way to the freeway I stopped at a mini-market on the main boulevard (coincidentally only a couple of blocks from the Olive Garden) for salty snacks and Coke. It was about 11 p.m. Walking back to the car, I saw smoke shooting out of three sides of the hood like someone had forgotten about a grilled cheese sandwich on the valve cover.

I opened the hood and discovered the oil cap was missing. Engine oil had been splattering all over and burning on the hot metal. I couldn’t believe how stupid I was. At this point, five miles from home, I didn’t know if I could safely drive back without blowing my engine. I mean, are there any guidelines on how much oil you lose when your oil cap is missing?

It would be really embarrassing and irritating (not just to me, but to my family – who were probably ecstatic I was finally leaving for good) to return home after all the hoopla of my leaving. This just had to be a freakin’ joke . . .

So, in the mini-market parking lot, I took another look at my engine . . . and saw the oil cap nestled cozily in the web of spark plug wires.

Okay, so that’s a long way to go for a false ending. But that’s actually how my trek started. 11:30 p.m., at a mini-market with a tight oil cap, but a still-smoking engine, finally on my way to Northern California.

* * * * *

. . . I’m sorry, but that’s all for now. I ran a little long in the preamble. Check the next post, probably after I get back from vacation, to get the details on my actual Fourth Waiting Job.

Have a happy Fourth!

[Here’s the link to what happened on My Fourth Waiting Job.]


4 thoughts on “How I Got To My Fourth Waiting Job

  1. GH Sun, July 5, 2009 / 1:01 pm

    So, i’ve been reading your blog for months and I love it.. Would you link to exchange links?


  2. waiternotes Sun, July 5, 2009 / 2:33 pm

    I like your blog too! Done and done. Check out my blogroll. And thanks for reading!

  3. nativenapkin Mon, July 13, 2009 / 4:36 pm

    I did the same trip, but in reverse, in the same Honda Civie, same color and everything. Only in my case the breakdown was a clutch, slipping and sliding all the way up the pass before San Luis Obispo. Car loaded the same way (no vinyl, CD’s and cassettes, although I am familiar with the “fruit crate” measurement).

    As a career restaurant guy, I can directly relate to your stories. I posted a your link on my site,

  4. waiternotes Wed, July 22, 2009 / 9:07 pm

    Nativenapkin: I’ve also made that trip with a slippy clutch! Sometimes you wonder if you’re gonna make it, eh? Thanks for reading. I’ll check out your blog.

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