It was 28 years ago that I met The Body Slammer. We worked together at a pancake house; she was on the day shift and I worked nights. Every once in a while our shifts would overlap and those were some of the best times I had at that restaurant. I loved to hear her laugh - she's got kind of a husky voice and she can really cut up. She knew I loved Tammy Wynette, and she would strike a pose at the end of the service station and sing just the one line, "Staaaand by your maaaan!" and then crack up. She used to tell me stories about the older day waitresses that would have me in stitches, too, like when one of them was walking out of the service area and didn't see the buscart that was blocking the entrance. The cart was about waist high, and stopped the waitress, but it didn't stop the tray of cheeseburgers she was carrying and it went sailing out into the dining room - packed for lunch hour - like a flying saucer. Another time, one waitress we both liked was waiting on the founder of the restaurant with the board of directors. He'd ordered the fried chicken special for lunch and told her, "Carol, this chicken is cold." She said, "Just like a picnic!" and the board spent 20 minutes trying to decide if she was a great waitress because she had a quick and cheerful comeback, or if she was a smart-alec and needed to be written up.
The Body Slammer is a year older than I, but we did go out drinking a little before I was actually supposed to. When I turned 21, she went with me to The London House, a popular nightclub at the time that had three different sections: A disco, a big band dance floor (with an actual live big band), and a lounge. We got drunk as skunks, and stumbled our way back up Colorado Boulevard to our apartments when the bar closed, laughing all the way. Back then, we used to drink pretty often but not always together because of our different shifts. When I could, I'd join her at La Plaza for two-for-one happy hour, and if she worked a graveyard shift, she might come out with the rest of the wait staff to open the bar at Coco's. They could start serving liquor at 7:00 a.m. (maybe it was 8:00) and one Sunday (still Saturday night for us) I had way too many Manhattans there. There's just nothing quite like being drunk when the church crowd starts coming in. I had to work that night - Lord, I was hungover - and the cooks all knew it. When I'd go back in the service area to pick up an order, they'd ring their bell, bang on pans and wrap their arms around each other's shoulders singing, "Staaaand by your Manhattan!"
I just got in touch with The Body Slammer again through Facebook. It's been a long time since we've seen each other, and I'm glad we're going to be able to catch up. She moved back to North Dakota, married, raised kids and divorced, and I moved to Texas (and didn't do much of anything except get old). We haven't talked on the phone yet - different schedules and all - but we're fixing to. Her friendship meant so much to me when I was just getting on my feet in that big city, and yet I never did find out how she got that nickname.