I apologize sincerely for the lapse in posts. Writer’s block happens to the best (and most average) of us. More to come in the very near future.
At some point in the early 1500s, the Spanish government spent a ludicrous amount of money building ships and providing supplies in order for explorers to discover more of the New World. These rigorous trips across the Atlantic Ocean could take months, and success was far from a guarantee.
After mind-numbing, spirit-breaking days and nights aboard these ships, these conquistadors finally made landfall in a place we now know as Florida. They were greeted by hellish heat and humidity, relentless swarms of mosquitoes, poisonous snakes and massive alligators. Even the foliage was ruthless. These explorers had their legs sliced open by the serrated edges of the blades of sawgrass as they trudged through thick, murky swamps. It was hell on earth.
Many conquistadors died. Some got malaria from mosquitoes. Some suffered severe dehydration. Some were attacked by wild animals. However, at the end of the day, the general consensus amongst the conquistadors and the Spanish government was essentially, “Yup! This is perfect. Let’s set up shop here.”
While many will praise the conquistadors for their bravery and their perseverance, I think they were just fucking deranged.
I’m writing this passage in the second half of the year 2015. Over five hundred years have passed since my home state was discovered. As a species, we humans are exponentially more intelligent than we were back then. We know just about all there is to know about the geography and weather patterns of every square inch of this planet. Yet, here we are. People with poisoned brains are still voluntarily subjecting themselves to some of the most disgusting conditions that Mother Nature has to offer.
I strongly dislike Florida and I’d love to leave one day. I’ve never lived anywhere else, but it’s never felt like home. The heat, humidity and sunshine do to me what I assume the cold does for people that moved here of their own accord. The heat depresses me. It makes me bitter. It makes me sad. I live for cool, gloomy rainy days during the summer and our pitiful two-month excuse for a winter. Those are the times I feel the most alive.
I need to get my degree and get the hell out of here.
As a server, my duties consist of nothing more than giving my customers what they want and making sure they’re satisfied. This is exactly why most people go out to eat. They don’t want to cook, clean or provide service. They’re willing to pay a significant markup to avoid such chores. Therefore, it angers and confuses me when people treat me as if I’m inconveniencing them with my presence.
Countless times, I’ve greeted a table with a smile on my face, told them my name and asked if they’re ready for something to drink, only to be met by dead silence and a look that says “what the fuck do you want?”
“Hey, guys! How’s it going?”
“My name’s Cullen, I’ll be taking care of you today. Can I get you started with something to drink?”
“Any kind in particular?”
“Draft beer. Cold.”
“Well, on draft, we have Bud, Bud Light, Miller Light, Amberbock, Shock Top, Yuengling, Sam Adams, Florida Avenue Ale, Stella and Landshark.”
“For bottled beer, we ha-”
“Stop. Just give me a Bud. Jesus.”
I’m always curious to know how these folks would prefer these interactions to play out. I really don’t think I’m being a pest. I’ve toyed around with the idea that they’re actually more advanced beings than myself, and are capable of telepathy. In this scenario, they’d prefer their server to take one brief look at them and instantly know their exact food and beverage order. Their bitterness would then be slightly more understandable, as I’m sure it’d be frustrating to possess a mind far more evolved than most, yet rarely be presented with the opportunity to utilize it.
Though it’d be nice to have such a cut-and-dry explanation for this behavior, I think the cold, hard truth is that some people are just assholes who look down on those in the service industry. For whatever reason, their disinterest in preparing their own food at home doesn’t outweigh the fact that they think they’re better than us. I often wonder if they’d still treat me like a voice-activated robot if they met me on the street, unaware of my line of work. I wonder if they ever think about the fact that I’m a person who’s lived a life and has stories to tell. A person who has goals. A person who could quite possibly teach them something interesting that they didn’t know before. A person with a blog.
I’m currently writing from a Starbucks coffee shop. Starbucks holds a very special place in my heart. Not only for the decent coffee and exemplary treatment from the baristas, but because it is the polar opposite of my work environment.
Starbucks is a little slice of heaven for me. Modern and minimalistic architecture, central air conditioning on full blast, dim lighting, and most of all, not a single drop of alcohol (I abstain from the consumption of alcohol, or any mind-altering substances, barring caffeine and nicotine).
The patrons of Starbucks are a polite, mild-mannered and multicultural cornucopia of folk. All speaking at a reasonable volume, if not doing homework or reading. Reading. Such an awe-inspiring spectacle in this day and age. As I type this passage, I am surrounded by several scores of people, all of which I could probably have a stimulating conversation with. Not a Confederate flag in site.
This place is mellow. It’s tranquil. My heart beats at a very reasonable pace when I’m here.
My workplace is a tiny wooden shack, haphazardly decorated with randomly strewn maritime doodads. We are an open-air restaurant. We have a roof, but no real walls to speak of. The entire establishment, excluding the kitchen and a small office, are outdoors. We have no air conditioning of any sort. Only several mounted wall fans, which help to circulate the hot, sticky, life-taking force that we in Florida like to call “air.” The sun is relentless and there is no escaping it. When stepping out of my car, it’s as if the rays of the sun are truly hitting me in the face and chest, like a smiling, anthropomorphized sun in a cartoon, but with hate in its heart.
My customers view beer not as a beverage, but as a lifestyle. They drink with a hell-bent tenacity reminiscent of an underdog athlete. When their styrofoam wells run dry, they begin to have tiny panic attacks, as their cup-bearing hands rocket into the air and wave ferociously. They drink beer while talking to their buddies about other times they were drinking beer, as they watch a band sing songs about drinking beer. I dare say it: Beerception.
As I’ve previously mentioned, my sociopolitical views are of the far-left persuasion. Contrary to the bumper stickers which fill our parking lot, I do trust the liberal media, I don’t believe that “pro-choice” is a nice term for “baby-killer” and I view the Confederate flag as heritage and hate. I’d call these people WASPs, but that term typically carries with it an aristocratic connotation. I always picture a true WASP coming from old New England money. These fine folks, on the other hand, are lower-middle class, blue collar neoconservatives (a very strange dichotomy, in and of itself, as the politicians they support would more than likely love to see them imprisoned or decimated).
They don’t read. Maybe the owner’s manual of their lawn mower, but no real literature. Not even Grisham or Clancy. Their world views come from regurgitated Facebook posts. Their politics come from bumper stickers seen on trucks similar to their’s. They say global warming is liberal propaganda, but I’m not entirely sure they know what that means.
I’ll step down from my soapbox.
In conclusion, I need my Starbucks. I don’t completely despise my job, contrary to popular belief. The money is good while I’m in school and I work with a solid group of individuals. But like all humans, I possess an innate desire to fit in. To be accepted. And as far as my customers are concerned, I feel nothing of the sort when I’m at work. At times, I feel both alienated and suffocated. Starbucks is my happy place. My quiet, liberal happy place where I know I won’t be scrutinized by obese men in “NO-BAMA” t-shirts for wearing shorts that rest above my knees, or for having product in my hair, or for looking forward to Sunday morning so I can listen to A Prairie Home Companion on NPR.
On that note, I’m going to get a refill on my black iced coffee. Take it easy, and stay tuned for more.
“Excuse me, is your fish farm raised?
“Yes, it is.”
“Oh, dear. No, I’ll have a grilled chicken sandwich.”
If you have ever found yourself in this conversation or one similar, I regret to inform you that no one has eaten a wild caught chicken in this country since Millard Fillmore was in office. I don’t follow your logic. Please leave.
The restaurant at which I’m employed sits directly at the mouth of the Anclote River, where it meets the Gulf of Mexico. We have a small dock, which grants boaters access to our establishment. This time of year, in particular, boaters are a real treat. They’re typically irreparably sunburnt, covered in mosquito bites and alarmingly dehydrated, due to excessive beer consumption in 95 degree heat. Since we are the only bar or restaurant directly on the water in the area, their desire for food or drink leaves them no choice but to grace us with their mean, tired and sweaty presence.
Several nights ago, I was working on the left; fairly easy section, with bar and food window adjacency. Around sunset, I looked out across the horizon at a Grady White fishing boat heading our way. The boat docked and out hopped a thirty-something year-old couple and their two adolescent sons. They sat at table 2, meaning they were all mine.
I approached the table, but before I could start into my generic server intro, I noticed that mom and dad were each holding a bottle of Coors Light, neither of which were bestowed upon them by me.
“Hey, guys, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can’t bring your own drinks in here,” I politely told the couple.
“No, we came from a boat,” the husband contended.
I still don’t really understand the point he was trying to make.
“Look, I’m really sorry, but it’s not my rule. I wish I could let it slide, but my boss would kill me if she found out,” I replied, still attempting to be the messenger, who shouldn’t be killed.
“Nah, this is bullshit. We came from a boat. It’s what we do. What, you don’t want my money? I came here to spend money, man,” he fired back in a raised voice.
“Well, you’re not spending money if you’re bringing your own drinks in here,” I responded, beginning to lose my server’s smile.
“What’s your name?”
“No, Cullen. C-U-L-L-E-N.”
“Yeah? Well you can go fuck yourself, Colin,” the gentleman barked at me, as he stood up and poured his Coors all over the floor, splashing the ankles of patrons on his way back to his boat.
As his family trailed behind him, one of his sons, who was about eleven years old, stopped and apologized to me for his father’s behavior. I told the kid not to sweat it and to have a good evening.
The hurled obscenity didn’t offend me as much as the concept of having to tell a grown man that he isn’t following the rules. Perhaps he and I are on vastly different planes, but common sense would tell me that I shouldn’t bring my own beverage to a restaurant, let alone argue about my patronage in the process. We’re an outdoor venue, but we’re not a free-for-all. Similarly, I’ve had to tell grown adults that they aren’t allowed to bring their own chairs and tables to the restaurant when we’re full to capacity. It makes me wonder what these people do for a living, and how they treat other people they encounter in their daily lives.
When asked about his thoughts on Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi said he thought “it would be a very good idea.”
Just like you learned in kindergarten, follow the fucking rules. You never know who’s writing about you.
Stay tuned for more.