I left work on Friday night with a busting sore head, a pain in my back, feet that needed rubbed and soothed preferably by experts in that sort of thing, and feeling very very old. This is not a new experience. I wouldn't mind but I had only done about 8 hours. I had been busy but still no excuse. My fragility and pains were exaggerated by the youthful and spritely chatter and plan making of my fellow waiters. Some where going to spend the next few consuming bucketfuls of alcoholic beverages and dancing, others where making plans for ridiculously-early-o'clock in the morning.
I wanted food, 12 hours unbroken sleep and the gentle soothing loving of my sweet Little Miss Manuel. I wanted that. Instead I got a re-heated bowl of pasta, 5 hours of sweaty unhappy dancing with horses sleep and two text messages from my sweet Little Miss Manuel. I live such a glamorous life.
All this whinging and feeling old was brought on and magnified by the arrival of the new waiter. She is young. She is but a child. She is so young I had to warn the lecherous chefs that what they "wouldn't do" was in fact illegal and any furthering of such thoughts would land them in very hot and uncomfortable water.
The kid is only 16. She is so young that I had been waiting tables for four years before she was even born. She is so young that I could be the same age as her parents. I mean I could have served her and brought her ice cream and colouring pencils and told her she was a good girl for eating all her vegetables. Christ. And if you think it's bad for me imagine what's it like for her working with someone as old as me!
I was resistant, at first, when I was told that the masters had decided to hire someone so young. But then when I cast my aging mind back I realised I was only sixteen when I started in the biz. So huzzah for her. It must have been daunting for her, I mean first day of her working life and all that. I probably didn't help when I was asking her what she knew about wine and what her favourite was. It only dawned on me after that she is too young to have a favourite wine seeing as she is 16 and not legally allowed to drink.
I remember my first day at work. Well actually I remember the day before when my Dad burst into my room and asked me,
"Have you got a white shirt?"
"Have you got black shoes and trousers?" He was used to seeing me dressed only in army combats and black t-shirts so you can forgive his lack of understanding regarding my wardrobe, such as it was.
"Good, you'll need these too." And he handed me a corkscrew and a bow tie.
"You start tomorrow. You're not lying round this house all summer."
Which was a real fucking bummer because that's exactly what I had intended on doing. The next day, a Thursday, I was suitably suited and booted and ready for gameful employment. Granny took a photograph as I tried to make the bow tie sit right.
I walked the short distance to the place I would work for the next three years until it got blew up. Ah such happy days. I was to report to a woman called Teasy. This woman was no tease let me tell you. She was as hard as nails and smoked continuously.
"Who are you?" She asked with a voice like Chrissie Hynde on a bad day as she looked me up and down as if I was shit on her bedroom slippers.
"Manuel" says I, my voice all shy and breaking. I shook as I stood there as this tiny but fearsome woman picked away at the tiny bit on confidence that I had.
"You're a scrawny child aren't you?"
Jesus! I wanna go home and play The Cure and imagine what it would be like to have a girlfriend. I don't wanna work!!!!!
Meekly I replied, "Yes" Well what the fuck was I gonna say?!
"Right into the restaurant with you." I followed her into the restaurant where the rest of the waiting staff where sitting, smoking and laughing big dirty laughs. I was terrified out of my innocent childlike mind. These were big women with what seemed like huge bosoms. They wore their skirts short and their nails long and red, as red as my face. Little did I know my face was to stay that way for about 6 months.
Their jokes were always dirty and their skirts were always short. They seemed to take to me okay though. One of them exclaimed that they "would make a man" of me. I always took that as a threat. They were a jovial bunch of fairly hard workers and very hard drinkers. They knew their craft and could do it with their eyes closed. In fact many of them did but that was due to the many hangovers they had to suffer. I didn't drink back then but within a year was knocking the cider back and over just like the rest of them.
I was handed a bucketful of cutlery and told to polish it. "Polish it? With what and how?" I looked around but no one seemed to notice the slip of a lad with the bright red face, one nasty spot on his chin, and the look of bewilderment on his chops. Eventually I figured it out, but to this day I still detest polishing cutlery.
I spent the next 6 months feeling about as useful as a cigarette packet with no lighter. But eventually my flame was lit and I eased into the job with confidence. And the rest is history.
I remember getting my first pay packet too. It was £46.00, get in! I also remember a few of the old hands telling me it was customary for the new kid to buy a round with their first pay packet. I duly complied. My dad laughed for ten minutes when I told him.
So what about your first day at work? How'd that go then?