I’ve worked in the restaurant business on and off for two decades, but it wasn’t a field I was born into or consciously chose. I fell into it.
My sophomore year of college I was working as a magic demonstrator in a giant plastic top hat in Quincy Market. I performed card tricks, turned nickels into dimes, messed around with sponge balls and sold wiggle worms by the busload.
I also watched 100 townie kids shock themselves on the gag pen by the register and listened to Sun Splashin’: 16 Hot Summer Hits (including The Pina Colada Song & Hot, Hot, Hot!) about 300 times. A voice in the back of my head started screaming at me to get an “adult job.”
I went on Monster.com, posted my limp salad of a resume and promptly got a spam offer from Kinko’s. I was a writing student, so free copies for my workshop classes sounded good.
Kinko’s only lasted a few weeks until one night I came to work and discovered that most of the staff had been fired and/or quit following an altercation with a customer. That night I worked completely alone, not knowing how to use any of the machines. Not many folks came in, but I remember failing hard at helping a nude model accurately color-adjust her sample shots.
That was my last shift at Kinkos.
Getting back to the dorm that night, a student on my floor informed me that the Hard Rock Cafe was hiring.
“They’ll hire anyone! They hired an asshole like me!” she said before running at full speed down the hall and cracking a rib as she barreled into a water bubbler.
I went down to Hard Rock and applied.
After filling out three applications on three separate visits, they finally hired me for the retail store. I started off in a box hawking T-shirts and teddy bears, so after all that I’d made a lateral move at best.
Six months later they surprised the entire restaurant staff by making me a bartender.
Everything about restaurants clicked with me. The pace, the odd mishmash of personalities, the food, and the entertainment. It was loud, crazy, hard, fun, and exhausting.
Every time I left the business I’ve missed it. I keep returning. Sometimes as a server, a few times as a cook, a dishwasher, a baker, and a manager.
I can’t stay away.