The barstool wobbled under my weight, a little heavier than usual due to some added work stress. No server in their right mind wants to be actively serving tables up until the bar closes at 2 AM, but that was my lot on this particular night. Wanting desperately to just get home, hit my bed, and reset, all I could do was stare at my last two guests as they casually sipped – that’s right, sipped – Miller Lites from the bottle, my time meaningless compared to their enjoyment of that rancid ass-beer.
Sitting there on my perch, watching my bartender try to shoo regulars and staff members overstaying their welcome, I remembered the relief when the guests finally decided to call it a night. I could leave the service floor and finish closing my part of the restaurant, meaning a solid half hour of grinding coffee for the morning brunch shift before I could run screaming into the night.
Feeling my pulse in my feet resting on one of my stool’s bars, I remembered the fatigue that set in as I slouched in a hot basement, being lulled to sleep by the repetitive whine of the grinder, the heaviness in my eyes as I folded napkin after napkin, each crease in the fabric a crease in my dimension leading me into blissful delirium.
Observing my inebriated coworkers looking shocked as they were being booted from a closed establishment well past the legal serving time, I remembered when two of them showed up a little after one, pretty intoxicated from an earlier concert. I was awash in a sea of sidework and couldn’t spare the mental capacity required to converse with them. So one decided to bring the conversation to me, in the dining room while I folded napkin after napkin. She decided to drunkenly let me know that she didn’t think I did enough sidework. While I was doing sidework.
I rolled a discarded Miller Lite cap between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand and remembered a simpler time, when I was either 8 or 9 in daycamp in Northeast Philly. A friend and I noticed that there were innumerable beer bottle caps partially submerged in dirt and gravel throughout our camp ground and we decided to go into business. What that business was, I’m still not sure. But it involved digging up the caps and organizing them by brand. We quickly noticed that the most populous caps we found were the brands we’d heard of before, through advertising or our dad’s own selection. Brands like Bud Light and Yuengling became our gold standard, and their rarer cousins – like Red Dog and Michelob Ultra – became our most coveted caps, earning themselves places in separate sandwich bags. If it wasn’t for our meddling camp director and his fixation with our “unhealthy fixation with alcohol-related products,” we would’ve (presumably) been rich by the end of summer.
Even as I sat, slouching and defeated, nursing a well-earned pint of something dark and bitter, the complainy coworker continued to rain down on me with a steady stream of condescending remarks about my lack of this and her superior that.
I watched it all.
I felt it all.
And I continued to roll that damn bottle cap around in my fingers. I was 8 years old, and all my future financial troubles were gone in an instant. I had it all figured out. The young businessmen were focused and goal-oriented and ready to take on the world. I was 24 years old, and I had no idea why I was where I was. Staring at that cap, getting berated by an angry friend, feeling the ill effects of another all-day grind in this god-forsaken industry, I couldn’t help but wonder where all that drive, all that promise, and all that future had gone off to.
Trust me when I say I cannot finish this BIP soon enough.