The Ruby Tuesday in Laurel closed last Monday, very suddenly. My understanding is that they called the staff together Sunday night and told them, and that was it. (That's fairly typical of chain restaurants, I understand.) While I never intended to work there again, I have to admit I was a little sad. I spent three and a half years of my life working in that restaurant. That's longer than I've ever worked ANYWHERE else. And if I have to point to the part of my life that changed me the most--and the part for which I have the most dynamic memories--that would be it.
I was always the good girl. I always did exactly what I was supposed to do. I graduated from high school and went right to college. I did college in four years with a fairly minimal amount of partying, and I went right out and got a "good job." And I was miserable.
Partly, it was a poor career choice. Partly it was just a general desire to rid myself of responsibilities. When I was laid off in January of 2004, I said a great big fuck you to all of that. I'd already been working at Ruby Tuesday for a year and a half, part-time. I looked half-heartedly for a new job for a month or two, and then I just stopped trying. I waited tables and bartended exclusively for two years, and in the beginning it made me happy.
It's hard to describe to someone who's never worked in a restaurant, but the atmosphere there is completely different from any other workplace I've ever had. Go rent Waiting. The writers of that movie clearly worked in a chain restaurant for awhile, because that movie is the most true-to-life depiction I've ever seen of those three years of my life. (The one exception: Messing with the food. I never saw that, really. But you'd probably be disgusted by the number of people who touch your food before it gets to you.) I was totally Naomi, the angry girl who would be as sweet as pie to her tables and then turn around and bitch about them at the top of her lungs. It was an atmosphere in which I could be completely irresponsible, and there were very few consequences.
It was exactly what I needed.
Going to work was like going to hang out with all of my friends for awhile. We'd slog through the shift, leave at around 11:30 at night, and go to the bar. We'd close the bar down at 2 a.m., and then often as not we'd go back to someone's house and sit around drinking and playing games until 4 or 5 in the morning.
I have tons of stories from this time in my life, but the best of them are a little too good to put out there onto the Interwebs. Some of the tamer ones include...
...the time I opened the storage room door to get the vacuum cleaner and immediately did the girlie dance of screaming as roaches scattered everywhere. I thought the cook was going to pee himself, he was laughing so hard.
...the look on D.'s face every time I went into the office around that time. She'd look at me, sigh "Another one?" and then go out to buy my table's check because they'd just seen a roach.
...the karaoke parties at C.'s apartment every week. The cops broke up just about every single one...I can't imagine why. I mean, a group of 15 drunk people singing karaoke at midnight on a weeknight in an apartment couldn't possibly be a problem...
...the time we definitively did NOT graffiti the wall behind the beer cooler during a late-night bar clean. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
I wouldn't go back to this point in my life if I could; two things I'm really not cut out for include dealing with stupid people (customers) all day and living in poverty, and I definitely did both of those things during that period of my life. But I am so, so glad that I did have these experiences, because they changed me for the better.
At least until the end. Then I was really, really bitter. But I've gotten over that now, I swear.