Fluvio and I are eating lunch at change of shift. It’s payday. The lunch waitress happily counts the day’s take as the dinner staff trickles in.
“Hey Arlene, how was lunch?” Louis asks in greeting.
“$200!” Arlene chirps merrily. She had a great shift.
“Not bad…” Louis murmurs appreciatively.
“Maybe I should grab some lunch shifts,” I interject.
“Don’t even think about it.” Arlene growls.
I laugh softly. Lunch is Arlene’s kingdom.
New Guy walks in the door. Wearing his black and whites, apron rolled tightly in his hands, he looks pensive.
“Can I get my money?” he blurts. No “hello” or “how is everyone?”
“Can’t you see I’m eating?” Fluvio says.
Unfazed New Guy continues, “I need to deposit my check today.”
Mistake. One of the cardinal rules of the bistro is never bother Fluvio while he’s eating. It’s like taking food from a Doberman.
“Wait,” Fluvio mumbles through a mouthful of pasta.
New Guy exhales loudly, “I really need the money.”
Arlene and I exchange glances. We know from experience that a new waiter desperate for cash is trouble.
“Goddammit,” Fluvio says getting up from the table. He goes downstairs to the office to retrieve the checks. When he returns he thrusts them angrily at me.
‘Hand ‘em out.”
I pass out the checks. I get to New Guy, sadistically, last.
New Guy opens his check. He looks disappointed.
“Is this it?” he huffs.
“You only worked a couple of training shifts. Next week you’ll be on the floor and making money,” I reply. He’s lucky. Not every restaurant pays a training wage.
New Guy keeps staring at the check hoping it will suddenly be worth more.
I sigh inwardly. Being a waiter in training sucks. Paired with a veteran, you do all the work and keep none of the tips. Basically you’re my slave for a week.
“Am I taking tables tonight?” New Guy asks.
“Fluvio, how’s New Guy on the floor?” I say.
Fluvio just shrugs.
“We’ll give you a few tables tonight and see how you do,” I reply.
“Will I work Saturday night?” he presses.
I don’t like this guy. “Saturday shifts are assigned by seniority,” I say evenly.
New Guy stares dumbly at me. “Can I go to the bank and deposit my check?”
After he walks out the door Fluvio says, “He’s not coming back.”
Fluvio pantomimes a junkie mainlining smack. “He’s off to get a fix.”
“Wouldn’t be the first drug addict we’ve come across.”
An hour passes. Sure enough – New Guy doesn’t come back.
“Where do you think he went?” Louis asks.
“He’s probably passed out in an alley with a needle in his arm.” I say.
“That’s mean,” Louis laughs.
“Check the alley. I’ll bet he’s there.”
Louis and I think about that for a moment.
“Well, we thought he wasn’t gonna work out,” Louis says.
Trainees are a pain in the ass. Hungry for money, often to fuel one addiction or another, they want the best shifts irrespective of seniority. Working their way up the totem pole is an alien concept.
“Fuck him.” I reply.
New Guy was an asshole. Good riddance. Yet, another green recruit who stepped on a land mine.
I’m glad I never learned his name.