On Opening a Small Restaurant


A Small Restaurant Some believe man's world is built on survival. I say it is built on folly. The efficiency manager had been brought in from Dallas, is "highly professional," stands about and scrutinizes. The night cook says this turkey will get nothing done either but may last into the winter as he should impress Brandon when winter picks business up. The first night the efficiency manager could think of nothing so ended the shift with decision all male wait people would be fired and replaced with female wait people, two chaps fired then. Perhaps he read over night that people cannot be fired for their sex, and that with poor reason for firing someone the business can be made to pay half the unemployment. The next day he hired them back, said he changed his mind after sleeping on it. I was looking forward to unemployment, but the Dallas efficiency manager is starting to relax and take off and I'll have to wait, I'm afraid. We have the efficiency manager, the day manager, and the previous night manager who is host again but keeping his manager salary. Elsewhere in man's world workers are kept down and fearful. Elsewhere in man's world workers are kept down and fearful. Elsewhere men need exercise and drive forty miles through traffic and smog constipated. Decisions are made, people are bombed and imprisoned. Men learn how to dress. How to fuck. How to think. Books are sold telling women how to raise babies. Great conclusions are drawn as to what movies people would pay to see, what food is good for people, what food is pretty. People go to therapists, people hate Iranians. Some people are fishing on the sea without gasoline. People are herding animals. Give them a little power and they will be crazier than they are now. Or shoot them and they will probably do what is wanted. We all know this. Truth is easy. Give us food and rest and we can be spiritual.

I have not been inspired to write about the job at Schlugg's restaurant, but friends wish me to. After washing dishes a year I am long sick of the matter, even be it the easiest job I have had in say twenty years. If I started working at age twenty. If I ever started. Never have worked much. I had two or three jobs lasting a month or two before age twenty. My family was lower middle, but I hated eight hours of shit as a teenager, never have changed as an adult. Also could not bear four years high school. I was told I would be a bum all my life without a high school diploma, and this is fairly true, though meantime my friends who have high school diplomas and college degrees are bums also. Never have I held a job one year before. I fell into this one, because my teenage girlfriend had left me after footing most of the bill of our camping a couple summer months out of my pickup, and, my wife, during our separation, had taken this live in nurse job at Rice U. while she studies at another school in Houston to get her BS as an RN, but had wanted me to move back in the house and help hold down this Austin rent, and a cook friend of hers had told her Schlugg"s can't keep dishwashers. An old roomer friend of hers, Dick, a strange case but he is another story, had moved in here to help with rent after she had seen me move, he was here the morning I came in and ran off my wife's boyfriend before going camping with the girlfriend, so he knows enough about me and we are splitting two hundred cracker box rent, rent being harder than ever in Austin which Dick and I understand. Another problem besides car trouble is almost soon as I got the job one of the owners invited me to a wine tasting ceremony and I got a DWI that night for which I am still paying. I could possibly be here till two years later my wife has her BS and we go west to seek land. I rather doubt it. I'll survive, I tell her, always have, one year after another, each a separate trip.

I don't know. They call me the "star dishwasher." I do the evening shift four nights a week. It is an easy job because of the family atmosphere among the various eccentric workers, no pressure and tapes played, dope smoked, alcohol consumed. The three owners do not hang around. They are Brandon, who is considered alcoholic-schizophrenic and may be missing a couple weeks on a binge, and Terry, a swaggering jovial ex-jock, and a woman whom I met once but she is not seen, whereas the others are seen a couple times a month on the average maybe. Besides doing the labor, I close up. It can be very difficult for them to find a person to fill this position. The first few nights I would drink Heiniken when alone, think profound delirium off a broken heart along with the tapes playing, would try to save the drinking till then, but I became more tired of the job and started drinking earlier. By now this is how I begin the work, though being non-alcoholic by chemistry I tire of the cheap booze. Heiniken became worse in quality and I drank wine for a time, a bottle and half a shift, got tired of the wine, and am back to beer, Carta Blanca, but am down in beer consumption, maybe four a night. Tea and coffee are free for the workers at Schlugg's, and they are told to pay half price for all else, but I never pay, I have compunction about lying and sneaking about, wish to do this only with policemen and such strangers who may not be friendly, and I began friendly relationship with Schlugg's owners, though in the year they cause me less respect. Recently a young criminal friend asked me to allow him and two others to burglarize-steal wine and dishwashing machine and anything they could sell and give me two hundred to keep quiet. I refused, not only would that be an act of war, it would throw friends out of work for at least days, if not destroy their jobs at Schlugg's, for it is invariably remarkably ill organized. Not to bother with many details of Schlugg's physical illness, I'll mention the board-a two by six-nailed in the cubby hole with the dishwashing machine, from which several wire brushes and such damn things are hung and get in they way. I never use any of that junk and it's always falling in the sink, so for a bit of personal joke I took a railroad spike from the back of my pickup and jammed it between the board and wall, for a place to keep more of the junk. It took the other couple dishwashers a time to catch on what the spike is, and I kept finding the spike in the sink, but I believe people are learning the spike is a holder and not a scraper.

The owners hate being there, and Schlugg's cleared two thousand in three summer months. The owners can't be upper middle like that so they hire managers. The managers don't last. We had one back in the year when I was at my beer drinking peak. One night Brandon and Terry had the new manager at a table sniffing cocaine when all workers were gone but myself and they invited me to join them. They gave me a Budweiser and a snort and asked what did I think might be done to improve the food or whatever. I thought hard - everybody inclined to jabber, especially the new manager who appeared a bit competitive with the dishwasher - I remember telling them I didn't much like the food, being a meat eater and the roast beef is over-cooked. We had another round of coke and they brought up the consumption of drink and dessert the employees don't seem to be paying for. Now I notice you aren't paying for all your beer, said the new manager. Oh, I drink the beer, I said. They wanted to know how much was I drinking and I told the truth, averagely six a night. It was mild shock to them, for which I countered by saying I knew they had trouble keeping dishwashers and I felt like a particular character. This did amuse Terry the ex-Jock. More jabber came forth, that I could drink Budweiser instead of Heiniken, that I might chalk it up instead of throw off their books. I asked them for a conclusion, but there was none. Sometime later that manager was dismissed for having lied about his qualifications.

The next manager was Bret, a tall athletic aggressive bi-sexual in his thirties. Said he was going to be a "friendly dictator," and none but myself liked him. He would put up notes about things, threatening "extermination" of those who did not comply, ending the notes: Ach tung! I got the beer thing straight with him first thing, informed him the matter had been previously discussed. But later, Bret caught me while I was pretty stoned at the dishwashing machine, to say word had come down that I was to only have two a night. I thought on it, in a few minutes went to him to say I refuse to cut down. But, Bill, he exclaimed, it is not part of your pay! I brought up the "particular character" bit. Now that you are, he granted. Another incident with Bret was Dick, my room mate, had begun doing part time at the dishwasher machine, after a couple months composed a business like letter to Bret requesting a raise. Bret was impressed with the letter - wondered if Dick were a writer - and got him a quarter raise. Having been there eight months I figured I would get a raise too. The next paycheck did not have my raise and I asked Bret why. Well, Bill, he said. In this kind of business it is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. But you can have your raise on the next check. Then Dick quit and Bret felt betrayed. Shortly after that Bret was fired for theft, though he says reason given was not theft but for not seeing the lawn watered.

Schlugg's had a cook changed to day manager and a host changed to night manager. The cook, previously a nice fellow, became unpopular under the pressure. The night manager remained the same, but feuded with the day manager. The day manager did some behind scenes talk with Brandon. Terry is in New York the whole summer. It was decided to hire an "efficiency manager," and fire most of the employees including the night manager. I came to work, heard this, met the efficiency manager, started to leave, not get that last day's work like all the others sadly needed. The day manager took me outside and talked all this with me - I am one of those he likes - quoted Brandon: Why he is making nine dollars an hour! That I was number one on the list to be fired, and the day manager was trying to get me to stay the evening when up came Brandon, smiling, charming, in one of his likeable states. He wished me to not leave. My little stand, Carta Blanca in hand, was I am the best dishwasher, have got so good I only work about seven hours, that in one year I have had only a quarter raise, am tired of this cheap beer and not drinking so much as I was, but will not work without access to the beer. Other side of the coin, however, I now steal bottles of wine, my age twenty-nine girlfriend being a wine drinker. But Brandon wanted me to please not leave him short now, to drink - "But only two!" - that I would be getting a raise so I could bring my own beer and not throw his books off. Consequently, my job remains the same. Hell, said the night cook, if I start drinking maybe I'll get a raise.

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