It’s a stormy Friday night and I’m enjoying a mid shift espresso with Jimmy, Cafe Machiavelli’s youngest busboy. As I sip my coffee I watch as heavy raindrops explode against the restaurant’s front window like liquid kamikazes. The foul weather’s putting a dent in our business. Oh well, at least it isn’t snowing.
“What do you think about the new assistant manager?” Jimmy asks me.
“Too soon to tell,” I reply.
“I hope Ignacio lasts,” Jimmy says. “Willem’s going nuts from all the overtime.”
I look over at Ignacio. A thin, dapper looking man with a receding hairline, he’s describing the specials to a table with the practiced obsequiousness of a seasoned waiter. His expensive wine opener, freshly starched apron, and polished black shoes seem to reinforce that image. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, he might be our overworked GM’s deliverance from endless double shifts – maybe.
“Jimmy,” I sigh, “Here’s a good life lesson for you – wait for the freakiness.”
“People are always on their best behavior when you first meet them,” I explain. “Eventually though, if you wait long enough, their real personality comes out. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad.”
“I guess,” Jimmy says.
“Trust me on this,” I say. “Especially with assistant restaurant managers. They tend to be a particular breed of fuckup.”
“You’ve seen some bad ones?”
“You ever hear of a place called Amici’s in (LOCATION REDACTED).”
“Let me tell ya, you’ve never seen a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
“That bad, huh?” Jimmy says, not getting the Star Wars reference. Kids.
“And they couldn’t hang on to an assistant manager for shit.”
“The usual reasons,” I reply. “The owner and his toady manager were Nazis. The money sucked. There was no health insurance and hours were ridiculous. Any restaurant pro worth his salt quit within the first week. We got the crackhead leftovers.”
“That sounds bad.” Jimmy says.
“We had one assistant manager;” I say, smiling at the memory, “A really cute girl who looked like she knew what she was doing. Well, within two weeks she was sobbing at the end of every shift.”
“She’d be shouting ‘All you bastards are out to get me! You don’t want me here!’”
“Eventually she was right. We got so sick of her shit we got her fired.”
“How’d you get her fired?”
“We sent her over the edge.”
“This is a rough business kid,” I say, taking a sip from my espresso. “Never forget that.”
“So you think Ignacio’s gonna turn out to be a nut?” Jimmy asks.
“I don’t know,” I reply. “But we once had an assistant manager at Amici’s who looked just like Ignacio; neat, clean, polite and looking like he has all the right moves.”
“The first day the owner left him in charge he came in high as a kite and passed around naked pictures of his drunk girlfriend.”
“I’ll never forget the big red pimple on her big white ass.”
“That’s fucked up,” Jimmy says.
“Any jerk that takes pictures of intoxicated women and passes them around a restaurant is a sick puppy,” I say. “Eventually this guy’s professional front collapsed under the weight of his psychiatric issues. He even had a drug induced flip out while a local restaurant critic was eating in the restaurant.”
“That was the end of him I bet,” Jimmy says.
“You’d think,” I reply. “But the owner kept him around until the general manager came back from vacation. Then he fired the nutcase for stealing.”
“Always wait for the freakiness Jimmy,” I say. “Time will tell if Ignacio’s the real deal or not.”
“Well, I’ve watched you for three months,” Jimmy says. “You seem all right.”
I smile at Jimmy. “You haven’t waited long enough.”