Very soon after arriving in this valley city I sought employment, partly to pass the time since I knew no-one, although I was not overly inclined to know anyone, and partly because I was working on my escape plan. I lucked out at a local restaurant, located just off of the downtown core, which wasn’t saying much considering every business was just off of the downtown core.
My job was to do everything everybody else didn’t want to do. I didn’t know it at the time but the business was failing and the owners were bailing, which didn’t make any sense as to why I was hired, other than the other staff that did work there saw the writing on the wall and took off before the doors closed permanently. I started in the kitchen, doing prep, cooking, dishes, ect.
Prep meant peeling potatoes and then slicing them into homemade french fries, filling a five gallon bucket, covering with water, and then adding a generous portion of MSG. I tried not to breathe that stuff in as it would burn the throat and make my eyes water, and yet it seemed perfectly fine to pour generously over top of raw french fries.
I had another task as well, which was to take my break and eat my meal in the front booth beside the windows facing the street. This was a strategy of the owner to make it appear that there were real customers sitting inside enjoying a meal. I even felt compelled to show off my food as I sat there, offering a ‘thumbs up’ to those who happened to walk by.
The job wasn’t without its perks, however. The head cook was an amazing baker and would make every type of cheesecake you could imagine. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t sell most of it, but instead of throwing these deserts and other treats out, they would put them on a four wheeled cart in the cooler for me to enjoy when I came in. And, although I was paid minimum wage when I started there, shortly after, when the restaurant went into receivership, and some very official people showed up, representing the bank, I received a raise and continued to work there for a few more months while they wound down operations.
I also gained a nickname at this restaurant – Binky. I am not sure of the origin of the name, or the meaning behind it, but it did come about one evening in which I attended a party that the staff members were at and I wore a dress. That is all I remember, and although the dress only happened that one night it would live on in infamy, an inside joke shared by those in the room and brought up with me in public places for years to come, subtly referring to the incident as simply, “Hey Binky…” with a sly grin on their face and a quick wink.
After the restaurant closed I found employment at the local dealership run by a member of the establishment, which is code for a rich asshole who was on several community organizations and who could do whatever the hell he wanted to because he was some rich white guy. Fortunately, he was hardly ever around, spending most of his time meddling in other people’s affairs, while trying to get par on the region’s golf courses.
My job was lot attendant, which also meant I did everything that everyone else did not want to do. The perk for me was occasionally I got to drive new vehicles around town – or the lot – which was a lot of fun – unless they had manual transmissions. Surprisingly, a lot of vehicles back then did have manual transmissions and this continued to vex me during my employment there. Consequently, I picked up another workplace nickname – that being ‘auto’. I did eventually learn how to drive a stick but not before ‘auto’ was ingrained into everyone’s heads.
My time at the dealership would be short lived, but this time it was my choice, as the owner was such a slimeball that I couldn’t continue working for him. Instead, I focused my energy and effort on obtaining another restaurant job, this time at a large family chain restaurant at the top of the hill heading out of town. My strategy was simple in getting this job – I would simply go there every day right after school and ask for one.
On the seventh day I walked into the restaurant at exactly the same time and approached the front desk. The owner was sitting down enjoying an afternoon break and a coffee a few booths down from the counter. He saw me as I walked in and I could hear his groan from the front door. “Oh, man, it is that kid again. Give him a job already.” It wasn’t the most glamorous way to find employment but it worked. Afterwards I realized that I had an ‘in’ at the restaurant, who had put in a good word for me – the old baker from the previous restaurant.
Fortunately, she kept the ‘Binky’ story to herself.