Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bang! My time at Steak N Shake

Even in areas completely unrelated to Gig and the Ministry, my life just seemed to be weirder and more intense than other people's. I was 19 and working as a server at Steak N Shake, living in a mobile home with my cousin Jason across the street from Giggy. My coworkers and I all got along, but the job sucked. The uniform was hot and unflattering (seriously - who looks good in a bow tie? I'm talking about you, Tucker Carlson.) and the tips generally averaged $1 a person, which on top of $2.13/hour meant I cracked right even at about minimum wage. I was halfway through an afternoon shift, wiping down a booth table when a sound like the crack of a gun went off behind me. Someone screamed and I tried to duck while spinning around to look at the same time, and fell. When I got back up I could see that it hadn't been a gun shot making that sound. There was a Cadillac in the middle of the dining room, halfway through the wall. A woman who was a regular at the diner was crushed between the car and her table. Customers were sent out, 911 was called, and the old man who had left his car in Drive instead of Reverse was found a chair and a glass of water.

I was desperate to get out of there. I don't remember if Regina* popped up in my mind consciously or not, but as it became more and clear that the paramedics were not going to save the woman, my chest weighed a ton and my heart was running a marathon. I didn't know whether to run or hide or just fall apart on the floor in a tangle of limbs and tears. The managers decided the staff should do the last thing I wanted to do. We stuck around and closed the place down. We washed and mopped and wrapped up the salad bar and the ice cream station, cleaned off the griddles and the fryers, and shut down an ordinarily 24/7 restaurant for it's first non-holiday closing since it had opened 10 years before.

After four hours of intermittent work and crying jags - and after the crushed woman was removed on a stretcher in a body bag - my bosses finally told me that I could go home. I went home that night, called my best friend Eden and headed over to her place by the beach. She had just started working some horrible timeshare telemarketing job and absolutely hated it.

"Chica, let's blow this town. I need some air. I need to remember that there's a whole world outside of this city."

That night we took off, and I never worked another shift at Steak N Shake again.

* Regina was a blind and deaf pedestrian my grandma struck and killed when I was seven - and riding shotgun. I'll post that story tomorrow.