Month: August 2015

Dichotomy

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.

Conversely…

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.

Farm Raised

“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. 

Follow The Rules

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?”

“Cullen.”

“Colin?”

“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.

I’ll Be Taking Care of You This Evening

My name is Cullen, and I’ll be taking care of you this evening. I am a 23 year-old bleeding-heart liberal college student, pursuing a degree in journalism. I am also a server and occasional bartender at an outdoor waterfront tiki bar/grill on the Gulf Coast of Florida. A fine local business, but a bastion for Parrotheads and those who don’t trust the liberal media, as made abundantly clear by the bumper stickers on their lifted Ford F-250s.

I’ve wanted to start a blog for a while, as I feel my tirades and anecdotes on serving have exhausted my friends, family and coworkers. To me, these narratives are of utmost importance. The way someone behaves in a restaurant is usually a fairly accurate representation of their character and moral fiber. In this blog, I will recount tales of the trade and profile certain types of patrons in hopes that someone out there can relate, or maybe see the error in their ways regarding their restaurant etiquette.

Stay tuned. And if there’s anything else I can get you, just let me know. I’ll be back to check on you in a bit.