Wednesday, August 18, 2010


When I was 21 years old, I moved back to my home town and got a job working at what was - for my home town - a kinda fancy restaurant. It was listed in the local "Gourmet Restaurant Coupon Book" and they had Surf and Turf on the menu, so if you didn't look too close, and you didn't know they made the base for the lobster bisque by boiling the caps of the old ketchup bottles, you might think it wasn't half bad. The first night I showed up for work, I was the only employee in the front of the house. All the waiters and bussers had chosen that time to quit, so there was no training ... nothing but a really frantic owner calling people on the phone and trying to find out why they weren't at work. I wound up just winging it - reading the menu right along with the customers.

The cooks were really nice to me, though one of them was also especially flirty. I wasn't exactly sure if I was gay or not -- pretty sure, but not really out, and not dating. The flirty cook was the sous chef, Rodney, and he was probably about the age I am now, late 40s, when I worked with him. He loved to make suggestive comments about menu items - double entendre kind of stuff - and goose me or surprise me in the walk-in cooler. He wasn't threatening and he was so good-humored, I didn't mind, even if I did blush from head to toe sometimes.

The best prank he ever played on me was on a night I was opening the restaurant for dinner. We were closed for a couple of hours after lunch, but I'd come in a half hour before re-opening to set up the salad bar - a huge red curtained pagoda in the middle of the room - and make sure the tables were all in order. All the various salads were stored in the walk-in, so I wheeled a rolling table in to gather them up to set out in the crushed ice around the perimeter of the pagoda. (Rodney always filled up the ice ahead to support whatever ice sculpture he had carved for the evening's centerpiece.) This particular night, I had brought the salads out to the dining room, and pulled back the curtain to reveal an enormous phallus. Made completely from ice ( and with remarkable detail) it must have been over two feet tall. Rodney couldn't have hoped for a better reaction when I dropped the curtain and let out a shriek. He was hiding around the corner in the bus station, laughing so hard he'd rolled himself up in a ball. When he recovered, I think he turned the sculpture into a dolphin, but I was always a little apprehensive after that about what I'd find behind the curtain.

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