Edgar Rider has worked as a paraprofessional for two districts and also as a Child Advocate for a domestic violence shelter and was a Playologist for a Children's museum. He has just published his first book Riding Out The Kipling Effect. Other fiction appears in Criterion International and Birmingham Arts Journal.
CHARRED FRIED WORKS (True Tall Tales or Real Life Fables)
Beginning of The Works While attending college for the first time,one of many times, I decided to get a job at a burger restaurant. It was a place nicknamed the Works. The walls were aligned with Cola, and Crush memorabilia. There was also a traffic sign with an old gas pump next to it. The place contained everything you could ask for from a burger bar restaurant.The food establishment contained an assortment of items mixed in with experiences - Cottage cheese, Cocaine,Cauliflower, Degradation, Drugs, Disease and Drumsticks. There were certain moments working there the sign should have read Burgers ,beer and broads.The name of the establishment “the Works” would exemplify the salad bar and the melodrama in the back. The benches that people sat on were made out of wood just like the tables. This place had a southwestern feel. Outside on the patio people could play horseshoes. From a patron’s view, the place looked like a family restaurant but what I would learn during my burger tenure was that this place held dark secrets. Of course I had not learned what went on behind the scenes not as of yet.. I was in for a wild roller-coaster ride. In some sense of the word, I was living in a real life fable or found myself in a true tall tale. This place blended perfectly the ordinary with the extraordinary. So what was on the menu. Through the years the menu would change but the basic items stayed the same. As far as hamburgers go you could chose from a Small one, Big One, Great Big One or a double Big one. The smallest one was a quarter of a pound and the biggest was two thirds. All kinds of marinated grilled chicken to choose from Teriyaki, Italian, and Hot and Spicy. For those vegetarians there were also garden burgers. Sometimes we would grill those on the meat side. It didn’t make sense the customer was still getting the burger grease on their veggie burger. As far as the fried items, you could chose between Onion Rings, Fries, Zucchinis or Mushrooms. As far as myself, I have been described as skinny and sometimes quiet . The pockmarks on my face have left me under-confident. Some say I mumble when I talk and have a tendency not to look people in the eye. I shortened my name to Ed easier to remember. I don’t believe I ever had a pretension for customer service. I hardly ever smiled and my demeanor could be described as always stoic. But as soon as I got to know people I would brighten up. My reasoning for applying was simple I figured I love hamburgers so it would be fun to eat them and work with them. I filled out an application and was hired by the boss ‘Nerdy Jim’ . Nerdy Jim wore coke bottled rim glasses and a pocket protector which he only kept one fancy pen in. He asked to speak with me on a Saturday afternoon. At the interview, I sat there fidgeting. I kept thinking was I going to be stuck here forever immersed in hamburger training. Immediately thoughts ran through my mind of ‘Cheeseburger College ’ the motion picture. A bad movie from 1986 about an unambitious guy who ends up going to Consistency University. The students go to the school to learn how to become franchise owners. I was afraid that I would end up a burger flipper for the rest of my life. This was not a career choice or would it be. He sat with me at a table going over my application. “Yes this will be an excellent job to put on your resume.” I looked around for some reason I wanted to make a break for it. Maybe this was not the right job for me. “Gee you will learn a lot from this job.What are you taking in school.” “Just the basics.” “Gee that’s good.” I Iooked for an escape route. Did I really need this job. I kept debating with myself. What should I do. I hated to admit it but another part of me really liked the food. In your life don’t you always have to weigh things out. Jim smiled at me with an inviting but disturbing smile “Don’t talk much do you.” I squirmed in my seat. I felt like I was in the dentist chair not knowing what to expect. Also the hard bench seats were hard to sit still in for an extended periods of time. I had to reposition myself more comfortable As he spoke I only remembered random words he was spewing. “Teamwork.” I looked down at my paperwork. Going over the details. “Responsibility.” Is this guy done yet. So much paperwork and too much time. “Protocol.” I noticed that Jim smiled too much as if he had a permanent smile stuck on his face . And his coke bottle glasses and pocket protector was a dead give away to his nerdy inclinations. . “C’mon I will introduce you to everyone.” The first crew I would hardly get to know because they all quit fast and furiously so to speak. “This is Ed. He is a little timid. Go easy on the guy.” Dwayne was the first shift lead I got to know. He reminded me of an anorexic Trey Montana with a spiffy shift lead polo shirt and shorts that were so tight most people would believe they were reserved for only for guys who reside in Europe. This was during the time of the first trial of noted athlete Trey Montana and the racial tension was at its worst. He married an Asian woman reportedly snuck up on her found her with another man and killed both with a nine iron. I remember watching the verdict while taking classes at the local college. The black people cheered and the white people shook their heads in disgust. As I made my way to the restroom and entered there were some black people playing craps. “Your throne awaits Marty Smith.” Where I was from that was supposed to be an insult towards whites. I smiled and waved and entered the stall. At my new job The Works, Dwayne was a character .He would sing songs like ‘It’s Your Burger Do You want Cheese’ while flipping burgers. Not a good song but he was however very good at making conversation. He made people feel like they were the most important person in the world until another person showed up. Jim took me through the whole place. Showed me the grill where people watched you cook. He showed me the spray room where they washed off the mats. He introduced me to the bartender. I learned starting there that Jim would take one of the order taker girls to Costco they would be gone an extra long time. Me and some of the other employees joked we wondered what kind of noises he was making when the van was rocking. When Jim returned, he would tell us to make fresh beer battered onion rings and zucchini. That may sound good when you see the big buckets filled with beer batter. We would dunk them individually and it didn't matter if you had cuts on your finger as long as you safely applied a band-aid. However the band-aids would fall off into the batter and we just kept going. "Where are those onion rings ; we got hungry people ?" Nerdy Jim would say with his patented pasted on smile. My manager was a little reluctant to really get his hands “dirty”. He would hold the tray when handed to him as if it contained some natural disaster. He held the end of the tray with the tips of his hands as if it was excruciatingly painful. Speaking of the rings, Years later we would switch to frozen rings people would complain that they didn't taste the same. I wanted to tell them we are sorry we gave up on our original open sore flavor . Jim, every once in awhile, would even come out of his office to help us. He smiled at us like he was with us. " I will work the cash register." He told us this a lot of the time and that’s all he ever worked. He would tell us the customer is always right. Why then did it seem like the customers were usually wrong. Sometimes patrons seem to have a sense of enlightenment. because they are paying six dollars for a meal that automatically makes them co-owner. Customers love to complain. They complain that there cheese isn't melted enough. Just because you pay six dollars for a burger fries and cola does not mean you get to rearrange the furniture. People on their cell phones were the worst. They would stand in line phone to ear disgusted if you asked them a question. I would furtherly be enraged after trying to get their order right they would pick it up and complain that it was incorrect. As far as Jim was concerned he would come out ring two orders and go right back into the office. Some team player he turned out to be. COSMETOLOGY VAN At this time, I had met a friend or a partner in laziness, his name was Mike. He would say ,"Watch this," he took off his hat, combed his hair slightly parting it sideways trying to get rid of his impending bald spot. He would smile,showing his two front missing teeth, as if he had just achieved a major accomplishment. He was also, from his point of view, an accomplished comedian. He repeatedly told me bad jokes. I must admit, his show stopper was terrible. He would say I am a dyslexic on coke. Instead of snorting the powder on the table he would blow it off the table. He would then laugh like he was an interchangeable cross between Delinquent Dave and College Pete who had a cartoon show called Shenanigans. The show consisted of Dave convincing Pete to stop being a goody goody and steal cars and other what not. Dave had a low chuckle Pand Pete had a nervous high pitched one. During our shift , Mike always wanted to be the order guy. We would become bored of course due to the day to day monotony. “What Time is it now.” Mike said 6:23” I retorted. “And Now.” He said smiling showing his two front missing teeth “6:24.” “Cool. Were making progress.” Mike said rather sarcastic. This is how the day or night in our case would start. We would sit outside, right after Mike opened his locker and showed me vodka bottles in it. He would mix it with Coca Cola before he got ready to clock in for his night shift. During, the evening a vehicle vaguely resembling a Winnebago would pull up. We sat outside and watched people come out of this van with the word Cosmetology on the side of it. I became suspicious because everyone that came out of it didn't look any different. The owner of the van was named Raphael and had the worst perm I had ever seen on a woman much less a MAN. He was a regular barfly. He sat at the end of the bar watching sports and betting til the end of the evening. He was friends with Gene, the main bartender, Gene hooked everyone up. He was always rubbing his nose and seemed to moving at an always increasing speed. He looked like a cross between the kid from 7 Is Too Many and Tom Cantaloupe . Tom Cantaloupe sang songs like Mike repeatedly would tell me that the van was a place you could readily buy drugs. Gene the bartender would randomly come over to the food side. He would show his tips would consisted of almost a hundred dollars a night. He would shake our tip jar with only loose change in it and chuckle “I hate that guy and don’t even know him.” “Your instincts are well founded.” Mike said chuckling. The nights we were closing we spent drinking at the bar. We watched more episodes of Delinquent Dave and College Pete . Mike tried to get their mannerisms down. He definitely had their laughs down. But now he had Pete’s twitching and Dave’s stumbling down pat. He started laughing like both but settled on a twisted version of Pete. We spent most of our time watching music videos and tv shows commentating on what was cool or not. Mike commented on an Zylie Spinner video called Got a new permit The song “ Couldn’t do what I do now. I gotta ne Colt 45 now.. One point of the song, Zylie sings Ain't a lock-in for trouble .“ The music video consisted of Zylie in a courtroom . Zylie is in handcuffs a lawyer shows the judge a document. The judge orders Zylie freed. Loud guitars screech as Zylie exits pulling out the glock. The audience screams in delight. Mike tried to remember the words as he danced around the room to the song. He would carry a loaded handgun into the restaurant strapped in a side holster.. He pulled it out and put the gun back in the holster.” I got a permit for my gun. Cool song.” Mike was always scheming. One night he said to me, “Dude let’s go to this place to pick up chicks” As soon as we walked in the door, I knew there was something amiss. The sign of the establishment was called Talk of The Town. It turns out Mike wanted to pick up chicks in a lesbian bar. “This is the worst idea I ever heard of.” I said looking around. “I don’t think they are going to want anything to do with us.” Although, the bartender did not hear me she seemed to agree. “You guys do know what kind of a bar this is.” “Yeah,” Mike retorted, “Watch this.” He went over to a group of girls and asked them to dance. They didn’t reply just shook their heads. I tried to talk to a few of the girls and they looked at me as if I was another species. After a couple of tries, I just gave up. I watched Mike still trying to convince them that they should try a man for a change. Let’s just put it this way. It was just an unsuccessful night. We also decided to start making comedy videos. We enrolled in a Public Access channel class to get access to the equipment. I would look into the camera “ Beer is good.” Mike looked into the camera “Cool” is all he said. He then knocked the stacked beer cans down. We watched our bad videos on the television at our workplace, drinking our beers just trying to get through the night. FERMIN THE VERMIN After a few months I was no longer the new guy. At about this time a young Hispanic kid started working with us. He was puny and skinny his ears were pointy. We would mess with new employees to see if they had what it takes.He was a nice kid but one day he went missing. we did not hear from him for a week. His mom came in and told us a story about how her son went to a party on the Westside. He started hitting on another guy';s gal one thing led to another and the boyfriend jumped him. soon his friends beat on him as well. In some strange initiation they bit his ear off. I called him Fermin the vermin because face it nothing else rhymes with Fermin. There was also Sid another dude I started hanging out with. He was a long haired hippy who used the spray room to toke up. He was with me during the Fermin incident. We sat there as loud Barky Doggy played.. We all shared hits off of the bong. Sid laughed at me as I tried to take a hit. “Having fun. You got to hold it like this.” Immediately he gave me an education on where you’re supposed to put your fingers.We left early waving to Fermin it was the last time I ever saw him. The story of Fermin is told because it was symptomatic of things that just kept happening. Strange occurrences. People in the restaurant industry were literally casualties of a high turnover rate. Fermin was the first casualty and there would be many others. Ed Verdugo was annoying fry cook nobody liked. He bragged about scoring with lots of girls and thought he was the fastest hamburger flipper. He said he was faster than Rigoberto who went from dishwasher to fastest spatula slinger in the wild Southwest .Verdugo came back several times to the same place and left again frustrated by the atmosphere. Some of us knew we could do better if given a chance. Several managers came and went there was Rob who had some white supremacist ties. He told us he got out of prison. He told us Mexicans were friendlier than blacks. I wondered what the criteria was to become management material of the Works.There was Cain and Geoff two buddies who came over from another burger joint. Cain was a hipster who constantly quoted lines from films like Retro Vinyl. Geoff would sometimes laugh like a psychotic clown who just got put in a padded cell. The only thing was he did it with such a sense of humor it was somehow non threatening. . Eventually two of the longest staying employees Verdugo and Rigoberto would fade away. I never knew what happened them. Most people would disappear. I wondered how long was I going to be here for. What was my fate going to be some terrible tragedy or just a case of heavy burnout. TAKEOVER NEW OWNERS Nerdy Jim sat us all down. "Let me introduce the new owners of the Works". The new owners names were Roger and Paul. Roger was Hispanic looked like a football guy big torso wearing an Oakland Raiders t-shirt. Paul looked like a hippie with a slight mullet and cheesy moustache. Jim no longer cared about this place or who the new people were. We all wanted Jim to leave including Jim Roger looked at all of us.“My name is Roger I am the new owner. There's going to be some changes around here.” They weren’t kidding and they weren’t just talking about the onion rings This place was about to go from bad to worse. Usually hiring hot chicks from the strip club would be a plus but in this place it was another sign that it was going into the crapper. .“This is Jim your new manager.” Roger said. “Nerdy Jim One meet Nerdy Jim 2.” Mike said whispering and laughing toward my direction “That will be all.” Roger looked at Nerdy Jim 1 and shooed him away. “Gladly.” He said although he seemed somewhat hurt by the dismissal. “The way you guys do your onion rings is nasty. All fried items from now one will start out frozen. Were also going to have combo meals. Make the sale you guys. Make them feel like theya re getting a real deal.” Roger said surveying the room “ I will be here on Fridays when you really need me.” His somewhat silent partner Saul chimed in. “Let me tell you about myself. I bought this place along with Saul.” Roger points his index finger at Saul and then back at us “I also own the Monastery.” “Cool you own a strip club and a monastery.” I yelled out. “No he owns that place. We are partners in the monastery as well as this place. The Monastery is an outside grill. They cook their food themselves.” Roger says and then changes his though process“What’s so funny.” Roger shakes his head. “I have worked with clowns like you two.” He took two of his fingers and scanned the room and then pointed directly at us. “I got my eyes on the both of you.” “What’s the deal with Saul. “ Mike asked me completely ignoring Roger. We both thought he was strange he talked to the customers but not to us. Including this situation, Saul always had an attractive dancer accompany him when he visited the Works. Each one seemingly more plastic than the one before. At this moment, Gene the bartender stood up without being introduced. “My name is Gene. I inherited great genes. My mother was a model and my father was dapper. Put the two together and look at me. I don’t know why I am in this meeting. I work over there in that section.” There was something about Gene that the girls really liked. It was an instant attraction. It must have been the drugs. At the meeting Tanya our manager in training was introduced. I saw her almost everyday and the more I talked to her the more I observed what she wanted and what she was there for. She would change from here provocative outfits into her sleazy work attire. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail to disguise her impending mullet. Her jeans were slightly ripped for customer appeal. Tanya looked over smiled at Gene. Tanya would eventually began a torrid affair with Gene. She would invite him in the office while she was doing her “paperwork”. “ Hey Hun,” she called him as I stated before she also said that to everyone else. WORKS SYMPHONY Despite how much some us hated each other, as soon as it became busy we were all business. We went to our stations and helped each other out. It was time to get down to business The order taker after getting the order receipt would pass it off to the cook. The cook prepared some of the food ahead of time. The order would person would call out to the fry station person whether it was wings, fries, onion rings, zucchinis and mushrooms. The cashier already collected the money from the transactions either cash or credit card. We worked together like a disciplined orchestra We all had our usual places I was always stuck on fry station, Mike always worked the order station, one of the guys with bragging rights worked the grill. Sometimes the new owner Roger stepped up with his own special spatula. He carried it out of his special briefcase. “Stand back fellas.Get your game face on.” The closing duties consisted of taking floor mats back to the spray room. We also had to empty the oil grease from the fryers. This consisted of filtering them every night and once or twice a week putting in new grease. One of us would have to clean the salad bar take all of the food out of the containers and wash the dishes. We were a well oiled disciplined machine. And at the Works we knew the pressure was on. We were all united in helping each other give the best service possible. We all stood together as a team waiting for the line of hungry customers. STICK TO THE CHEESE The new owner Roger said “We are about to shake things up a new manager is coming in and this guy is good.” As soon as I saw Nerdy Jim 2 I knew I hated him. He twisted his handlebar moustache and looked at the grill put his bacon on way to carefully. As if to say look at how much of an expert I am at layering a hamburger. Eventually we grew to hate each other. Sometimes we would literally get into a fight when the customers weren’t looking. Our final showdown consisted of us strangling each other out in the open. Although we hated each other there was one thing we hated more our work place. I hated him even more when he told me Linda Butterfly was a significant artist. She sang songs like ‘You are the sunscreen in my life”. It is painfully obvious why I felt the needed to confront him. The owner Roger and my manager Jim were staring at a hamburger. Nerdy Jim 2 places the cheese on the burger sideways. He then places the cheese straight on. He reaches for the bacon Roger stops him. “Start over. Cheese on top. Cheese on top,” says Roger who also owns a strip club as well as this family restaurant. “I just thought that if you put the bacon on top then the bun wouldn’t stick.” Nerdy Jim 2 questioned pleased with his professionalism. “That’s what I want. Stick to the cheese. The cheese must stick. Presentation is the key.” “Yes it is.” Nerdy Jim 2 puts the cheese on top of the bacon it slightly melts. He puts it on a bun. Jim and Roger look at it as if it is a work of art. Jim smiles. “Perfecto.” I was standing in the corner watching this spectacle. After Roger left, it was just me and Jim standing there. “You have potential but you just,” He said glaring at me. ” You could be like me management material.” I immediately looked at his short brown shorts white legs with black socks. And also remembered he had t-shirts that said things like Sci-Fi is sexy. No I did not look up to him. “I don’t want to be in the restaurant business.” “Couldn’t understand you. Mumble mumble business nothing nevermind.” “I hate you.” I retorted not being able to think of a more clever comeback. “Clean the countertop cattleboy.” Nerdy Jim 2 snapped. My manager and I began strangling each other. We thought for sure we were going to get caught as we looked around no one was there. We continued our angry horseplay. There was only one thing we hated more than each other and that was our job. It was incidents like this that made me realize I needed to get out of my job. MEETING MR. HAPPY At my job, I had become friends with, Tanya, the manager in training. It was only logical that we would eventually start hanging out. One day she asked me if I wanted to go to the strip club. This was the first time I ever met a woman who was asking me to go to a gentleman’s establishment. “I don’t know what the big deal is. Why women won’t go to places like that. I would rather watch women dance anyway.” Tanya said twirling her hair “Okay.” I said of course ready to go. We entered the Excalibur strip club. Immediately, I noticed a huge poster, of a dancer,with the words now appearing in a movie with Steven Esteban . This was when Steven Esteban,in the nineties, was making action pictures. This particular film was entitled Turbulent Ricochet. Definition of Turbulent Ricochet : the velocity at which a falling body moves through a medium, as air, when the force of resistance of the medium is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force of gravity. In the movie, Steve Estoban plays a skydiver who gets caught up in some international intrigue. What I learned from the movie Turbulent Ricochet was that own My life needed a parachute and I needed to eject myself from the dangers of my surroundings. The only thing that was missing was for me to turn to a camera and say in a Estoban manner smile to the camera and say “It’s Turbulent Ricochet dude.” I looked at the stage and watched this dancer. I could see that this stripper thought she was high class and felt she was too good to be working this particular stage. We sat at a table. Tanya began prodding me. “Give her a tip. Go get her stud.” I fumbled through my wallet and picked out a bill. I walked over to the stage with her pointing for me to come over. I slightly slipped , while trying to put the dollar bill between her appendages. She slapped me hard. “Dude what do you think you are doing? I’m not that kind of stripper.” I walked back over to the table with Tanya laughing at me. I shrugged my shoulders, “ Should have given her a five.” “C’mon let’s ditch this place. “ Tanya said still laughing. We ended up back at her apartment. “I need to get something out of the bedroom.” I immediately became excited and intrigued. Was this my shot. She came back with a bong. “Ed. Mr Happy. Mr. happy Ed,” She handed me the bong but I politely declined. “BRB. Be right back.” I stared into space thinking about my life. I don’t understand why I made such bad choices. Is this all there is. Is this the best I can do, working in a burger joint. suddenly, I heard a voice, a simple calm voice, calling me. “May I ask you a question.” I looked at the bong somewhat surprised. “Are you talking to me.” “Yes just a moment of your time.” “About what.” “Your life ,Ed, your life. “What about it?” “What are you doing with it?” “I’m in school.” “One class a semester.” “How do you know all of this?” “I am a talking bong. I know all I see all.” “So what should I do?” “Take charge of your life,Ed. If you want to change your life. Get serious. Work hard. Stay in school. Graduate.” Mr. Happy smiled back at me encouraging. How strange that the talking bong was making more sense than myself. Tanya came back into the room. She paused for a minute as she watched me talking to the inanimate object. I realized I had been talking to myself the whole time. What was I doing here. How was I going to get out of this. These were serious questions I was pondering talking to an inanimate object. “You and Mr. Happy getting acquainted.” She looked back and smiled. “ You sure you don’t want any.” I grabbed the bong. “What the hell.” “Smoke me,” Mr Happy said with a grin. At this particular moment in my life, Mr. Happy made a lot of sense. YELLOW MAN AND HIS BLUE FATHER Ecclesiastes 10:1 As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. Mike was growing weary of the hamburger factory. We were hanging out less and less. He called me one day and asked me to go to the doctor. He said “I need to pick you up and we need to talk.” He still chuckled like Pete from Shenanigans but this time his voice seemed a little distorted. He arrived at my apartment complex. I turned around as I got in his car and was completely in shock discovering he had turned a peculiar shade of yellow He told me, “I got a condition called Jaundice dude. It is because of my drinking and my father has been diagnosed with tuberculosis.” He said anyone who was in contact had to go get tested. I had not contacted tuberculosis. I was unsure about the Jaundice situation. Never seen anybody with that condition. After all, I was drinking a lot too his poison was Vodka and my poison was Bud Light We went to the health clinic. I felt a sharp prick to my finger and that was it. On the way home, Mike took a sip from his styrofoam cup. I wondered what was in it. He looked down again struggling to put it in the cup holder. “ Before I drop you back home I gotta make a stop first dude. “ We pulled up in front of the main library. It had five floors. We got in the elevator Mike started humming the song in the elevator. We ran through the library. Eventually we ended up at a section of books. I became very curious as to what he was searching for. “Here it is huh huh.” he picked up a book “Gary Updell huh.” He looked at it more thoroughly. “Wrong one.” I only had one question for Mike,“Who the hell is Gary Updell?” “My dad’s favorite author. Author of Warlocks of Oakland and Go Horsey Go. I promised him I would get the newest one. Here it is.” He showed it to me ‘Legend of Pigeon Droppings’.He grabbed the book and chuckled running toward the elevator. On the drive home, Mike was quiet. Suddenly, he laughed and said. “ That movie you loaned me was pretty sweet. I liked the ending of. I liked how they used various japanese weaponry on each other. Shurikens, Stilettos and throwing stars so cool. However, Me and my dad could have done without all the F words..” He paused and reflected for a serious moment. “The only one who got away was Mr. P.” “Mr. P” I said right back to him and we both laughed. The next day I went to the clinic. And found out I was fine. No TB. I didn't see Mike much after that until one day when I walked into the bathroom and he was standing there. He had a knife in his hands and was twirling it around. He laughed and told me his father was dead. He said he looked in his chair and his father wasn't moving. He knew he was dead because he turned a lighter shade of blue.I found it odd that he was chuckling about his father’s death. It seemed like all of us were becoming detached from our surroundings. “Poke. Poke.” He said illustrating and finally realizing that his father had passed. He continued laughing like Pete which went back and forth between amusing and then became quite disturbing. Just as I was about to ask a question, he faded into the dark. Never saw him again. Another burger casualty It was like being in a real life fable or a true tall tale. As he faded away I was reminded of those stories about the troll under the bridge and the Grimm fairy tales. What was Mike trying to teach me . Sometimes someone else has to be the example in your own life. A warning board if you will. I realized the Key to my own life is in one word ‘Moderation’. REASONS FOR SECURITY CAMERAS REASON 1 The First reason for security cameras was because of the beautiful bartenders. The sign on this restaurant nicknamed the Works should have read Burgers, Beers and Babes. I wasn’t allowed to bartend ,even with my Bartending Academy degree , which declared me a certified mixologist.. The reason they gave me was that my social skills were not up to par. They put the hot girls behind the bar to draw more attention. Sometimes barflies would get thirsty. The girls would sit at the end of the bar reading a magazine ignoring the patron’s request. The girls would say , “Get it yourself.” The next thing we would notice the patrons would shrug their shoulders walk behind the bar and help themselves. This was only a precursor to management catching on. REASON 2 The second reason was because those of us working in the kitchen were also goofing around. I started hanging out with a new employee. Me and the rest of the crew affectionately called him Illegal Isaac. We would hang out at the bar after closing and for some reason, the owner trusted me to lock up. We tapped the kegs. And drank every new drink available Mudslides and Margaritas. We turned on wrestling and we would argue about who was better. For a brief moment, I was not happy at my job and saw a bleak future for myself. “The world is coming to an end.” I said “YES it is.” Illegal Isaac looked at the television perplexed. “ Nice Guy Nathan just became a bad guy.” We were in shock as the Nice Guy Nathan we knew and loved had turned his back on his friends and fans. At first it was the Really Tough guys, a mediocre tag team with a bland name, but good ole boys fan appeal . Nate used his finishing move he called the Next Week on both of them . He would yell “ See you next week,” and then cause his opponents lights to go out. He then turned his sights on betraying long time fan favorite Eric the Eagle Endell . Suddenly he became a heel named Notorious Nate . We were hooked and couldn’t wait to see who Notorious Nate Norton would take out with his renegade group called. HOS stands for Hostile Override Syndicate . We saw the fans throw their Nate dolls break off the heads. Nate set a couple of dolls on fire. HOS consisted of two other guys who were 6 foot nine and were real life brothers with tattoos that said sabotage and extinguish on the same places on each others arms. Suddenly no one knew what happened to Eric the Eagle Endell was no longer on tv . Would he return . Would he come back and save the fans from this new virus . One night the eagle returned at sat high up on the catwalks .We were hooked on the show. What was going to happen next? At my job , I wondered were we either the bad guys or the good guys? I guess it depends on your perception. I say this mainly because we stole a lot of beer and one could argue we were either getting back at the management or we could appear to be just delinquent bitter employees. Like that renegade group we would lie and steal but other than that we did our jobs quite well most of the time. REASON 3 The third reason and most significant was the infamous “Salad Bowl Incident”. We spent our nights arguing with each other and the days arguing with customers. “Just one question what fence did you jump over to get this job.” I asked illegal Isaac. “Screw you Barney. Dobie. Goober . Googie ." Illegal Isaac says with a smile. “What’s your name again. Illegal Francisco or Illegal Fernando.” “My name is Isaac. Just Isaac. There is no illegal in my name.” After a moment of silence and battling each other. We turned our attention to more important conversational themes “What time is it now.” “7:23” “And Now” “Still 7:23” “Regrettably no progress.” “What happened to the clock.” “Budget cuts.” As the customers came in I looked toward Illegal Isaac. “Ready for battle.” “Ready.” He said with a smile showing his missing front tooth. He grabbed a spatula twirled it around like a gun. I grabbed a pair of tongs twirled them like nunchucks. The customers came in. It was an angry sea of them with cell phones attached to their ears. There was one particular customer who was extremely rude. We decided he would be our example. He ordered a salad bowl and acted as if every question we asked was an invasion of his privacy. Illegal Issac asked him.”Do you want cheese on that?” “No. No. No.” He answered every question becoming more and more infuriated because he was too busy talking on his cellphone. He walked over to the cash register and I was more than willing to make an example out of him. He waited for a minute. I said, " You were not nice to my friend. Apologize." Me and Illegal Issac took a stand. We would not let this customer have his salad. “I will not give you your salad until you apologize.” “I will not apologize.” “You were rude.” “No I wasn’t.” Illegal Isaac chimed in. “Yes you were.” We continued the verbal tug of war over a salad bowl. I put the salad bowl on the table he reached for it I grabbed it back. “I want to speak to the manager.” The customer said reaching the boiling point. “I am the manager.” I replied even though I really wasn’t Eventually I relented and gave him his salad feeling confident that I had already worsened his day. It seemed like no coincidence, after these three incidences, that several days later security cameras were installed in every room and every area. BRAND NEW DAY (BND) and NOT the (SOS) I told the OHW I would be leaving soon. This was the fourth time I had quit and came back. Of course unbeknownst to me there would be a fifth. My manager was pissed off. He grabbed me by the arm and twisted it back. I said “Get your hands off me Bean Burrito”. This was not good because he was half Hispanic. He said “What did you call me. “ He twisted my arm further. I was in shock and suddenly soiled myself. Time now for another definition :A “fartleberry” is where you crap your pants and just a little bit is left over . It was that uncomfortable embarrassing feeling that you just want to leave and go home. And that feeling of pulling your underwear out was symbolic of the situation I was in. Everything about that place felt uncomfortable. Roger twisted my arm back his face turning angry like a red ogre. "No, no don't call me that racist "steam came out of ears but it seemed like he was getting close to boiling over hitting me with everything he's got . He noticed my discomfort. The red ogre turned back again into his normal self. “Did you just shit yourself. Disgusting.” Roger said. “ You want to leave then go. But I’m going to tell you something. Go, but you’ll be back.” I walked away trying to hold the rest in. The red ogre came back again as I walked away he was still shaking his head. “Really disgusting.” I went out into the world and Got a job as a security guard. I worked the graveyard shift with nobody around. My new boss told me ‘Don’t worry if anything happens will be there in fifteen minutes’. “Fifteen minutes,” I said to myself as I imagined my dead body thrown into a dumpster by the time the police arrived. I spent the graveyard shift wandering in the dark trying to find ways to pass the time. I quit after two days. This was not for me. Next. I worked a manual labor job. In the hot desert sun I lifted chairs, tables. I kept thinking to myself is this what I went to school for. Granted I did not have a college degree. But I was a few credits shy of a Associates degree clearly there was something else I could be qualified to do. Could it be there was even worse things out there. There is an old saying better to stick with the devil you do know then the devil you don’t. I made a decision and came back to the “Works.” I looked around where were my friends. It seemed like there were all new employees. Illegal Isaac had gone back home to Mexico. I walked into Roger’s office he looked at me with a victorious grin.“I knew you would come back. They always do. Looks like your friends are gone. Have you heard from Mike. Tanya’s gone. She’s pregnant probably by a customer. ” He looked away from me and began glancing at the security monitors. “ I know everything that goes on here. Everything. Whether you think I do or not.” He handed me a new jersey employee t-shirt with the words “The Works” written on it in huge letters. The truth was I liked my boss he was kind of a cool guy. But the fact remained the same, I hated my job. Going back to the kitchen. I looked at the empty wall remembering where the clock used to be. ‘More budget cuts’ I said to myself. All of my friends were gone there was really nothing left. I made a decision. It was time to go. This time for real. I realized sometimes if you really want to start your life over sometimes you just have to walk away. I felt like a person who needed gastric bypass surgery. I needed an outside source to help me and make sure that I would never came back. It became clear that the only reason I came back was due to low self esteem and it was time to end it once and for all.. Ironically , I sat in another burger place called Burger Factory contemplated my situation and realized there was only one way out and that was just to walk away. I put my keys in a long vanilla envelope enclosed it and sent it through the mail. The solution was easy make sure they would never hire me back. Time had passed and I found myself working in another customer service job. No Hollywood ending for me. Just another job. But as I stood waiting for some people to order their Cafe Mocha. I looked up and my old nemesis Nerdy Jim 2 was standing there. By his side was an attractive Vietnamese woman, I immediately wondered what chat room he met her in or what catalog he ordered her out of. “Hey you. So you got out of that place. Me too I now manage a Burger King.” Nerdy Jim 2 said with a smile as if he made a complete life changing decision. “Yes well.” Sometimes I must admit I was not clever with the snappy comebacks. We looked at each other never having much to say anyway. After an awkward moment that could have been considered a staredown, we looked in opposite directions. I watched them walk away glad that I didn’t have to deal with at least certain people anymore. I went back to my job of making coffee hoping desperately this was a BND a ‘brand new day’ and not the ‘same ol shit’ or SOS for short. I wished for one moment I could have written that on the daily special chalk board and then before anyone noticed it wiped it clean. Yes there would be another episode coming in the near future. But that must be saved for another time. Sometimes in your life the best you can hope for is that there is something that was missing before at your last job and ever since then you found it ,a new sense of hope, at your current one. Remember, BND.