Last night a regular at my bar (“The Devil”…see People at my Job) pulled me aside and shoved his stinky-booze-breath in my face,
“Uh…dude…you should check out the bathroom…big problem.”
I opened the door and discovered shit smeared on the wall and shit-covered toilet paper all over the floor. I put on gloves, got the mop bucket, held my breath, and cleaned up the mess. Then I watched the security camera.
Two boys were the culprits. But wait a second…they were still sitting “with” their family at the restaurant! (Separate table though: telling.) I thirsted for some type of revenge, but I’m a manager and wasn’t about to make a scene, so my tactics for releasing rage were limited. Perhaps I should let the whole thing go? My nostrils were still quivering from the stench. Nay.
I approached the low table of adults and half-kneeled next to them (same plane of eye-contact, manager technique, disarming) and said,
“Are your sons feeling alright? Are they sick?” The parents and grandmother looked angry and confused.
“Well, fifteen minutes ago they went into the bathroom and smeared their shit on the wall and left shit-covered toilet paper on the floor.”
“Nooo, not them.”
“I watched the camera. It was them.” They paused and looked at each other.
“Ahhhhh, oh, yes, ____ wasn’t feeling well, we’re sorry.” They weren’t sorry. I had observed them since they sat down. They had sent food back twice and complained unnecessarily to the server. They were wretched, despicable human beings. The grandmother’s hideous face was lined with wrinkles of bitterness. The father had beady eyes, a hitler mustache, a pointy chin, and struck me as a prick. The mother was obese with sagging cheeks, bleary eyes, and wispy hair. The mother blurted:
“And?” The father added,
“What do you want?”
“Tell your sons that it’s inappropriate to smear their shit on the walls of a public bathroom.” The father nonchalantly leaned to the side,
“_____ and _____! Tell the waiter you’re sorry.” The boys hadn’t been listening.
“We’re sorry Mr.!” I walked away. Nothing had been accomplished.
Twenty minutes later I was working upstairs when I received a text message from a bartender:
“Customer wants to talk to you.” I went downstairs and saw the mother leaning against the bar.
“How dare you,” she said. “Never have I gone to a restaurant and had a waiter complain about me and my family. My son has special needs. He’s not stupid. He’s smart. But there wasn’t any toilet paper left and he didn’t know what to do. I’m writing a bad review as soon as I get home. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Sometimes, in life, I wish I was more of an asshole. Because if I was…I’d have been prepared for such an attack. I’d have lashed out with my own, doubtlessly right opinions and put this ignorant woman in her place. I’d have been quick to the gun. But I’m not. Despite being socially pounded in the ass by NYC and restaurant environments, I look for the best in people. So I stood there, in disbelief, wondering if this woman was being serious at first, then letting her rant because what would fighting against her have accomplished? I knew there had been two full rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom in which her son/s had spread their feces, yet I let her shout, nod in satisfaction, and leave.
Twenty minutes later I found a server crying in a stairwell.
“I’m leaving,” she said. “Transfer all of my tables to Caitlyn.”
“Why? What happened”
“I don’t want to talk about it. I’m leaving.”
“Was it that table with the two, shitting-boys?”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No.” She doesn’t know that I had a crush on her when she was hired, but that it faded away due to time, the seriousness which we take our jobs, her comments implying being devoutly religious, and the social barrier of manager vs. server. Again, if I was an asshole I’d probably have ignored this barrier. But I wouldn’t put a woman in the pressured, difficult place of choosing between job/livelihood and pleasing a man above her. (How many millions of women are put in this kind of wretched situation everyday?) Besides, she had developed a crush for a bartender. That’s why she was crying. He was drinking after his shift at the bar and hitting on her too aggressively. There was a regular there who liked her, too, and was also hitting on her. Then there was a drunken, idiot saying inappropriate things about her yoga pants. The three guys were all sitting in a row next to one another and chuckling. (I learned all of these details later.) She just wanted to go home.
An hour later the only barback/busboy arrived at the restaurant. He hadn’t shown up for work the past two days and wasn’t responding to phone calls or texts. The police showed up, though, looking for him. Long story short, his girlfriend had put a restraining order against him. She had stabbed his ball sack with a box-cutter (did I want to see it? No.) He had slashed her ear. He had spent a night in jail. Here’s the paperwork. He’ll be in for work tomorrow.
At 1:45am I’m sitting in the ferry terminal waiting for the boat. I’m thinking how my life is a ceaseless grind, and yet there’s no way that my perspective is unique. Other people must be going through this sort of thing too. Other people must be coping with daily depressions.
But am I paying for wrong things that I did in my past, or am I being somehow prepared for obstacles in the future? That’s the problem with justice: you never know which direction it’s coming from. Are you being punished for what you’ve done? Or bombarded by senseless pain and confusion so you’ll be ready for what will arrive?
You ever hear someone say “I wish I was a little kid again”? Ever watch a movie or listen to a song that laments lost innocence and lost childhood? I couldn’t help but fall into the fantasy as I sat there in the terminal. What happened to my joyful innocence? How did I end up here?
But after indulging my childhood memories….here’s what I realized/was reminded of while sitting there: the problem, the ridiculousness of such a desire…when you’re a kid, you’re a leech. Between the ages of 0-20 (depending on your family environment) you’ve been provided for, allowed to play, given a fantasy world. Of course the memories are often rosy and nice when you could lounge with stuffed animals, draw in coloring books, and play games without worrying about the implications and support of such a lifestyle. You could smear your shit in a public bathroom without consequences. But that’s not reality anymore…that’s not life.
I think the sign of a mature mind is how fast you move on from the pettiness and problems of the daily grind. I’m not very good at it, but I’m getting better. Because while sitting there in the terminal and telling myself to stop fantasizing, I began to look around. Already the stress of the previous shift was melting away and the events that occurred seemed funny. I was looking forward to going home and felt happy. Reality wasn’t that bad.
A pretty woman sat down next to me on the bench. I looked down at my book, then looked back up. We made eye-contact and both smiled.
“I like your boots,” I said.
“Your fly’s open,” she replied
On the Staten Island side we left the boat together.