May 20, 2005

Memoirs of a Food Service Flunkie

So I spent a good portion (okay most) of yesterday reading this blog.

Oh, the memories. I had an on-again, off-again relationship with the service industry during college which culminated in a summer spent as a Waitron at the Eseeola Lodge in Linville, NC. That summer was one of those that you mentally file away as "good fodder for a future novel, if only people would believe that this stuff actually happened." Some of the highlights:

  • Living in a condemned building behind the kitchen dumpsters that we euphemistically referred to as "The Last Resort." Seriously. The second floor shower was only prevented from plummeting into the hallway below by a thin, thin, layer of DAP adhesive. Showering was quite the eye-opener.

  • Drinking. A lot.

  • The second-string chef who grew his own pot and lived in a trailer in the woods, and by trailer, I mean a thing like the one Lucy and Desi were dragging behind their car in "The Long, Long Trailer."

  • Pulling my friend out of the box of fireworks after she fell into it clutching a string of lit firecrackers, and watching the whole thing explode. Did I mention we were frequently very very drunk?

  • Trying to understand the mumblings of Major Lane, the 89 year old Lothario who had a yearly rendezvous at the lodge (they would push their twin beds together in the room, much to the bemusement of the staff) with his 85 year old lover, a former Miss Sweden, at breakfast. Seriously, when he informed me that his oatmeal bowl wasn't sitting on a doily plate it sounded like this,"Heh hoi-ee haaaayyy! Hair hooo hoi-ee haaaayyyy!" Only Missy, she of the firecracker box incident, could understand a word this man said.

  • Having a slight mishap while french-serving the creamed spinach to General Westmoreland which resulted in the General wearing the spinach on his forearm. He was very nice about it, by the way.

  • Serving straight vodka to many, many middle-aged women at 10 in the morning at one of the myriad brunches they had catered at their summer homes. The rich? Drunk. Very, very, drunk. Though I suppose I'd drink too if I were pushing sixty and watching my millionaire husband making an ass of himself trying to hit on the 21 year old catering staff (males and females--who says the rich are discriminating?) at a party.

  • And then there was the drinking. Of which we did a lot.

That barely scratches the surface. I enjoyed that summer immensely, mainly because I was a 21-year old college grad with no firm plans, living in a beautiful part of the NC mountains where room and board were free and we had a base salary of $7.50/hr. Visitors were told that they didn't have to tip, but most of them did. I cleared enough cash to pay off my post-graduation "driving trip across America" credit card debt AND pay for a two-month return trip to Scotland. Most of the folks who worked at Eseeola wintered down in South Beach, FL at a different hoity toity hotel/resort. I was tempted, but ultimately went to Scotland and then back to graduate school. Even a couple of months showed me that the life of the itinerant resort waitron took a toll on a person. I doubt my liver would have survived more than a year of that lifestyle.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at May 20, 2005 09:10 AM

BAW, have you read Tony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential? It will bring back memories, and it's annoyingly well written.

Posted by: Michael at May 20, 2005 10:15 AM

No, but I might pick up a copy--I'm feeling nostalgic for my days of drunken mocking of the wealthy and kitchen shenanigans...

Posted by: BAW at May 20, 2005 10:26 AM

Oh, I reccomend Kitchen Confidential, also... priceless, absolutely priceless. Especially his advice to check the bathroom before eating anything in a restaurant.
It might amuse you to know there was a half-hour TV sitcom in 1979-80 about the staff of a mountain resort, which was called "The Last Resort", and dealt with all sorts of off-stage shenanigans amongst the staff. It wound up in the AFRTS-TV package, where all sorts of odd programs went to die. I have a very clear recollection of an episode where the staff watched an ancient porno movie they had unearthed from somewhere, called "Circus of Filth"... and recognized the chef of the resorts' restaurant in an important starring role! The youngest and most naive of the waitresses reacted with horror; "And that man handles food!"
Practically no one remembers that program, it sank like a stone, and no one who was in it ever became particularly famous--- if I hadn't been able to pull up two hits on "google" I'd wonder if I had just imagined the whole thing.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom at May 20, 2005 12:09 PM

BAW, you're t-o-o-o-o funny. What a great post. LOL!

I'm now having visions of a movie entitled "Waitrons", fashioned after "Carwash".

Posted by: snopercod at May 20, 2005 12:09 PM

I have missed creating so many memories like that due to the fact that after two beers I curl up and go to sleep.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 21, 2005 11:58 PM

ah memories! thanks for a very hearty laugh as you helped me recall my youth. i guess that means i cant put it in my novel...then again lisa alther said it all in kinficks, so i guess its no biggie

Posted by: poet at May 22, 2005 09:39 AM

Oh my gawd! Yep been there, done that-- at Eseeola. And ya hasn't changed one little bit. The only difference is that now I can afford to eat there. And, I do indeed get as drunk as I can as early as possible. I'm really pathetic, but dulled by the libations :-)

Posted by: Marie at May 23, 2005 09:56 PM