After high school I went to a local community college. I needed to work to pay for gas, car expenses, and life in general. I had been working since I was 15 so this wasn’t a big change for me.
I had classes scheduled in the morning so I could work nights and weekends. When I wasn’t in class, I was whipping chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant called “Chi-Chi’s.” Anyone who has worked as a food server knows that most of the money to be made is on the weekends. If you were extra desperate, you worked the whole weekend including Saturday and Sunday back to back “doubles.”
That was me.
The uniform we had was a shirt in bright jewel tones with a rainbow parrot on the back. That fashion disaster of a shirt was provided to us free of cost. We provided our own black pants and shoes. Fair enough because after the shirt, I wanted to make sure the bottom half was on my terms. Trying to find the cheapest, plainest pants paid off when I shopped at Venture (yes, I’m that old). For $20, I didn’t get the most stylish pants, but for chips and salsa flinging, were just fine.
Working at Chi Chi’s proved to be more physical than I thought. There was tray lifting, margarita bending, fried ice cream reaching, and competitive kitchen floor slipping.
And those were just the post shift activities.
One weekend night, I started my shift. Four top at table 65. You see, this table was a booth and also on level up from the walking floor. To serve the far people you would have to step UP and then bend over the table. The step and bend. Almost like my own little stair climber among the floating fajitas. Except not like exercising at all considering how much I enjoyed the employee discount on food and drinks.
The night was taking shape and I started getting other tables in my section. This was going to be a good night, I thought. A good night was defined by how close I could get to making $100 in tips. When you’re a food server, that one good night might be it for the week and you had to take advantage of every table.
As their food came up, I grabbed the tray and carried it out to the table. I took the first platter and did the “step and bend. “
Keep in mind, I was a poor college student surrounded by margaritas, chips, and fried foods. You do the math. Those pants I bought were now being tested in more ways than their $20 seams allowed.
And just like that there was room for 2 more chimichangas.
In my ass area.
Next my brain goes like this: no, no, no. Maybe I didn’t really just rip my ass seam open at work. No. I couldn’t have right? Damn those chimichangas. I can’t leave NOW! I have a whole section of people and TIPS to make and what color underwear am I wearing right now anyways?!
I clenched my cheeks harder than I have ever before in my life and shuffled to the bathroom to see the damage.
I pulled my pants down and saw the 5 x 3 inches worth of floor through them.
This was no little tear. This was the grand canyon of “here’s my ass” tears in pants.
I knew that leaving my shift was not an option. I had to think quickly.
I put my apron on backwards, left the bathroom, and walked up to a manager.
“I need to get into the office.”
The manager led me to the office and opened the door.
Once in, I grabbed the stapler off the desk.
I headed back into the bathroom.
This time I pulled down my pants and started stapling that grand canyon gap into an Eiffel tower of metal beauty.
I left the bathroom and returned to my tables. I worked cautiously for the rest of the night, only getting poked by one popped staple. Later when I counted my tips, I made $93, left, and went straight to purchase an emergency sewing kit that I kept in my apron from that point on.
To this day, I can hand sew a $50 seam in no time flat.