May 13-Back at it

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I did two things today I thought I’d never have to do again – shave my goatee and go back to work in a restaurant. My wife and I are in the process of buying our first house, and there are a bunch of little fees and expenses coming up that you don’t expect, plus there are some bills I’d like to eventually pay OFF!

I’ve worked in food service most of my life, and most of that time was spent as a waiter at a particular chain restaurant in my home town (which shall remain nameless thank you). So when I decided to get a second job, I figured I should look mainly in food service and I would try to branch out to different types of restaurants. I figured my experience and dependability would be assets to any and all potential employers. I mean, who wouldn’t hire me? I’m clearly awesome, right?

That’s not what happened. What actually happened is that I applied at almost every restaurant and bar in this town and absolutely NO ONE called me back, and that’s probably because by the time I get off work at my first job it’s about the middle of dinner rush. Restaurants don’t need to add a trainee on top of a hundred customers all needing their water glasses filled at once. I hesitated for a while, but eventually applied at the chain restaurant I’d worked at during my formative years in high school and college. The manager quickly interviewed me (during a busy lunch service I might add; he didn’t have to do that), and gave me the job.

I was glad to get it, and we need the extra money tips will bring, but I couldn’t help but feel a little depressed about it. It felt, and sometimes still feels, like taking a step backwards. I thought I shook the dust off my feet from that place, and now I have to come crawling back. This was a job I had when I was in high school, and here I am again at 30 years old putting on the same uniform and going through the same motions. I remember being a teenager and training new employees who were 20 or 30 years older than me, and some of them had pretty bad attitudes when I tried explaining how things should or shouldn’t be done. No one who has paid their dues wants to be corrected by someone who hasn’t. I’m really trying to guard myself against that kind of attitude. I’m not resentful about having this job again; I just need a little help feeling as grateful as I should for it.

I also wonder what my co-workers will think of me. My new-hire orientation consisted of the trainer, me, and two 16-year-old girls. This was clearly their first job, and I’m clearly an old man trying hard to make awkward conversation and not seem creepy. Is that how my co-workers will see me, as the cranky old man trying to be cool among the teenagers? Or the sad clown trying to scrape together a few extra pennies? What if I’m slower at this than I was in high school and these young whipper-snappers have to keep bailing me out? I don’t want to seem decrepit or needy, even though that’s how I feel sometimes.

With a restaurant job comes all the health regulations and company policies you have to follow, and that’s why my goatee is no more. Different restaurants allow different levels of facial hair, from the ZZ Top beard all the way to smooth as a baby’s backside. This company’s policy would allow me to keep a neatly trimmed moustache, but I know myself enough to know I’d look like a pedophile with a moustache, so I opted to not do that. I don’t think I’ve shaved it completely for 2 or 3 years; there are people who have never seen me without a goatee. That was actually the hardest part about accepting the job at the restaurant, because I know what I look like without a goatee and it is not flattering.

My family was not gifted with the genes for a strong jaw line, or any jaw line for that matter. As a clan, we are faces sitting on top of necks and have no delineation in-between. I’m also a larger gentleman, so I come equipped with more chins than necessary. My facial hair acts as an illusion to give me the appearance of having a human-style face. I have sideburns to show where my jaw line should start, then a goatee to give the impression I have a defined chin separate from my neck. I still have my sideburns, so that’s something, but without my goatee to tie everything together I look like a frog stuck in full-croak.

As I put on the familiar uniform and looked at myself in the mirror before I left for my first day, I thought back to my very first day at my very first job at that same restaurant. My mom took a picture of me like it was my first day at school, and it was in some ways. I look at that picture now and see such a little kid, not the total grown-up I thought I was at 16. I spent SO MUCH time there it’s kinda weird for me to think about. I spent at least 5 days a week in that building every week for a third of my life. I worked there so long I was able to totally change people’s perception of me several times – from pure as the driven snow to the guy who told dirty jokes and back to innocent and angelic again – and by the time I decided to change from one to the other almost all the staff had changed so no one knew the difference.

I’ll talk more about working at this restaurant as time goes on, but I want to say one more thing before I finish this particular rant: My face is cold. Seriously, without my goatee air is hitting my face in ways it hasn’t been able to for years and it’s weird. Also, I can now blow air up from my mouth and hit my hair and forehead. I haven’t been able to do that for years either ‘cause my moustache would always block the airflow. The first time I did it I was actually a little surprised, which I know it the dumbest thing ever. I am the one who blew the air out of my own mouth, yet when it hit my bangs I was shocked and wasn’t sure where that sensation came from. Let the mocking commence.

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