Welcome to the service industry, loser

A great opening sentence both in structure and in sense:

Apart from a bunch of the greatest songs ever written, balls to John Lennon.

Dude could write a song. I just listened to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Holds up like a rough lover of mothers.

At one point Lennon went deep into a grim badger sett of LSD usage in some addled attempt to kill his ego. Clearly he failed. Looking back at the ‘heady’, ‘earth-changing’, ‘bollocks’, of ‘The Sixties’; it seems like an arbitrary thing to want to kill. Why kill your own ego? Why not take down a villain? Murder a murderer? Or if it has to be something of yourself, why not slaughter a veruca? Assassinate your earlobe? Liquidate one’s pointless lurking appendix?

An ego is also a pretty amorphous thing. It’s not even a thing. It’s an idea, like communism, maths or Dream Lizards*

*I keep dreaming about scaly lizards with blood red tongues. It’s nothing weird, the background music in the dreams is always the theme from ‘Jurassic Park’. I‘ve read loads recently about the new ‘J-Park‘ movie that is: coming to a cinema near you in two years time when we finally write a script that doesn’t suck as hard as ‘The Lost World‘ did all the while pretending to Spielberg who’s name we need as exec producer or something, that ‘The Lost World’ did in fact not suck twelve thousand gallons of rear through a party straw.

P.S: ‘J-Park’. Sweet re-boot title idea. Jennifer Lopez is eaten by an angry lizard for not keeping it real enough. Laura Dern wears tan shorts and bores everyone. A hologram of Richard Attenborough is played by a CGI Oliver Reed. Jaden Smith dies and Jazzy Jeff gets lifted into the sky by a lizard bird from behind his decks as he spins some laid back grooves at a beach party on Isla Nublar (Where the actual Jurassic Park is).

My point is that John Lennon didn’t need to huff acid like a kid from the wrong side of the tracks huffs glue in a cautionary episode of ‘Grange Hill’ from the late Eighties, to kill his ego. He should have done what I did. Get a job in the service industry.

My early employment history consisted of hefting piles of fibrous itchy paper made in India from the guts of a roasting hot shipping container whilst being yelled at by a woman who didn’t wear deodorant: “For spiritual reasons”. I lasted a few days and then quit with paltry recompense and lungs filled with Mumbai dust and baobab bark threads.

I then got my first job in the service industry. A pizza chain popular with middle class families and idiots who would compare the chain’s menu with what they had chowed down on in Florence or Naples or some other dirty and rude Italian city. The chain’s menu invariably failed to hold a flickering Renaissance cathedral votive candle to the dough and tomato miracles they were used to.

At first they wouldn’t give me a waiter job. Much like I am now, I was surly and dirty looking. I was a kitchen porter. I washed dishes, bladed myself on a meat slicer, got locked in the walk in freezer and stunk of garlic butter and oregano. Also much like I am now, I was always hungry. When people didn’t finish what looked like a pretty good looking pizza, I would scan the dining room for the light eater in question. If they looked clean, with few communicable diseases, I may have taken a bite or two or stashed the leftovers on top of the steaming hot dishwasher hood to keep warm until later like some sort of foul and greedy human/squirrel hybrid. Allegedly.

After a few months chipping away at baked-on cheese and removing clods of sodden napkins from wine glasses I finally got a spot as a waiter.

I may have looked a bit grubby. I may indeed have had a bad attitude. I did however have some serious game. These people had money. Fat tips to hand over, that I wanted. I could do smarmy, funny and charming.

“Haw haw! Yes our waiter does look a little, feral, but look how he provides balloons for our darling children! See how he plays polite but enraptured by my wife’s haggard, Laura Ashley be-dressed beauty! Hear him regale us with his entirely fabricated knowledge of the pizzerias and vineyards of Northern Italy! Oh! Oh yes! Watch him provide refills of water (Tap, tap is fine!) without being asked! I shall pay on American Express! I call it ‘Amex’ because I am successful! I am considering taking him under my wing, this waiter, this lowly servant waiter. I shall train him in the ways of my world and lift him up by his scuffed shoes to a place of higher knowledge where us great winners, those of us who are monied and dripping with achievement, can afford to take our family to Pizza Express, weekly no less!”

I made a fortune from these cawing goons. These dreadful chinoed Chichester idiots who somehow missed the point of the place. Decent enough pizza at a pretty low price. PIzza Express is a notch above Pizza Hut. It’s the same place with thinner crusts, no salad buffet and less cheese-greased inbreeds. That is all it was. Somehow in Chichester, it became some weird beacon, homed in on by middle management egomaniacs who wanted to treat  the place like some hellish fiefdom. I was their Baldrick, their very own mangy lapdog bringing them disappointing pizza, incorrect salads, and superheated kids menu items to blister their children’s mouths, but charming and entertaining with it. So they coughed up the fat tips.

My friends and I took over the floor, carved up the prime table sections and made money. Any new waiters were cast aside to the low money Siberias of the tables by the door or in the window. No tips there. We took the money canyons of the garden in the summer and the big tables by the kitchen. We necked vodka and RedBulls behind the counter and sped around in a sweaty blur of ‘Waiter’s Arse’ (The painful chafing of sweaty arse and Next boxer-short beneath acrylic waiter trousers) and dough balls.

My next service industry job was at a marina bar one summer. A job in a marina bar suggested to me: Pimms, boat shoes, attractive rich women, maybe hot boat owning widows!, invites to parties onboard super-yachts, hefty Black Amex tips.

Not at this dump.

The marina in question was more like a boat wrecker’s yard. A few rusting, listing buckets, piles of oily ropes and stacks of leaking oil drums. The owner was the only dude with money. The ‘clientele’ looked like silver halide images of scurvy-ridden turn of the century seamen but dressed in sportswear. The bar soundtrack was not some smooth summer jazz compilation, gently caressed piano melodies mingling with the calming ring of boat lanyard wires. It was ‘Now 38’. Whigfield, Steps, Daniel Beddingfield, Black Lace blasting full volume, on a loop, all day. The bar did not contain a wide selection of spirits and fine wines from around the globe. There was warm frothy Carling lager or Smirnoff Ice. Everyone wanted at least one of each at all times. I was threatened, called ‘Gayboy’, ‘Captain Longhair’, ‘Oasis’ and ‘BlurBender’, every time another human error approached the bar. I lugged barrel after barrel of lager up to the pumps and soaked myself when the fucking tube wouldn’t attach properly. After a few days I began to see the appeal of the sunburnt, screeching women with bellies hanging over their bikinis and ciggie ash on their flipflops. I tried to bust some suave lines out. I thought of myself as Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail’. I knew one of these boat-stunners would be keen. I was Tom damn Cruise!

“Anything extra with your four Smirnoff Ices?……..” A saucy but smooth smile……

“‘Ere Kev! This Oasis queer behind the bar is trying to get on these tits!”

I scuttled away to refill the lager barrel.

The other drawback to this watery pit was the food situation. Once again I was starving, always. The catering was provided by a ratty dude who looked like Freddie Mercury. He had halved an oil barrel with a acetylene cutter on my first day and propped it up on two wooden stands. God knows what had been in the barrel beforehand. He just threw some charcoal in it and sparked it up with a tossed Benson and Hedges. The thing shot a pillar of green flame twenty foot into the air and then belched a thick black smoke tower for the next four hours. He paid no mind to this and threw down some sausages immediately. My food allowance was a single hotdog per day, from seven thirty am until one am. They tasted of hull barnacle removal fluid and hell but that was all there was. The marina owner only allowed me one gratis per day so I had to ply Freddie Mercury with free Smirnoff Ices to get another of the sooty pigfingers. He was a creepy weirdo who hummed nursery rhymes to himself as he peered through the chemical smog at the cremated swinedigits.

Then I got a record deal and life was awesome.

Then we split up and I spent all my money in Greggs (See previous blogfest for the sordid shame of all that).

I needed a job.

I had no qualifications or sensible employment history.

Rocking the London Astoria hard and creating sweet, pricy, album artwork held little cache in the job market.

I got a job in a chain coffee shop.

I have a stupid coffee shop order. My go-to order is not super complex but it does have a couple of caveats. A few alterations are required to the menu offering. I’m not ashamed of it. It seems a strange aspect of one’s character to be mocked for. Usually the mocker tends to be someone who is themselves ‘into’ coffee. The mocker will enjoy grinding their own beans, buying the right beans, only drinking pure unadulterated coffee. They will mock the dude who buys a coffee of some other description, from a chain no less, as somehow dumb and without taste. This helpfully ignores the fact that their own coffee usually tastes like Nescafe cut with woodchippings and cat dung. Fuck ‘em. Yeah I roll with a grande four shot skinny mocha with two pumps, not three, of mocha syrup. I ain’t ashamed. That is honing! That is a pure distillation of the taste I’m looking for. I don’t want my flavour profile defined by a Puerto Rican farmer or a dude in a plaid shirt on a fixed-gear bike in Brooklyn.

Anyway, the big benefit of my new job was that I got free coffee and I could perfect my stupid order myself. The big drawback to my new job was that I was a grown-man, ex-semi semi semi successful musician, probably with too big an ego for what I had actually achieved in life, working in Starbucks.

Everyday I walked to work listening to song demos I had written. If it hadn’t have been so dramatic I probably would have wept as I walked. When I woke up in the morning I would sit up, put my feet on the floor and emit a sigh that could have moved mountains such was the sorrow and self-pity it contained.

My work mates were an odd mess of people. My boss was an insane Australian woman. She liked me and let me do what I wanted which was generally sitting on the roof chainsmoking, drinking free coffee and eating my fourth tuna melt panini thing of the day. I was hungry again, always. There was a fitness fanatic bloke their who I thought was probably a virgin such was his inner rage. One day he tried to throttle me for some reason. I think because I had longer hair than he did. And a penis unshrunk by retardation of the pituitary gland. A girl with the voice of a cartoon character was super nice. A dude who was blindly, happily signing up for the army, was good fun to hang out with. There was a lovely Japanese woman who talked to me in halting English about all things Japanese, especially ramen and the japanese countryside.

They were all fine, minus the gym-gimp. Then they started Googling me. Then the friendly faces became slightly sad looking. That I had ended up here having rocked the London Astoria hard. I was slinging lattes instead of creating awesome, pricy, album artwork. I was heating up fruit toast and asking: “Jam? Strawberry or apricot?” instead of bowling around on tourbuses.

It got worse on the few occasions when someone who had been a fan of the band caught sight of me.

“Um…er….Are you Sam?”

“Er….yeah. I guess”

“Oh right…Cool…Yeah, so are you still doing music then? Or….”

“Er. No. Not anymore.”

“Oh right…yeah. Cool. Okay.”

“Tall, skinny latte with an extra shot?”

“Er…Yeah. That’s mine. Thanks.”

“Thanks”

“I just wanted to say..um. I really loved ‘The Lost Riots’.”

“Great. Thanks a lot. Okay. Bye.”

Then I died.

I can’t think of another word to begin with so I will go with:

Whatever.

I had bills to pay and a new baby so whatever. I sucked it up, chugged the free coffee, hid when anyone I knew came in. I was rude to people who were rude to me. Woman with curly hair who complained every single day, hell has a sweet and toasty spot waiting, with hellish bells upon it for you. Crazy bearded dude who dribbled on the counter and asked the time every few minutes. You are mental I know, but you are still fucking irritating. Schoolkids ordering fifty frappuccinos at a time, I loathe every single one of you and you all smell of pencils, manmade fibres and of arse, human arse. I genuinely don’t know how teachers can teach, school kids actually smell really bad.

Whatever. It paid the bills and reminded me how badly people treat waiters, servers, baristas.

Maybe it was me, in all of these jobs. Maybe I always looked like I felt I was better than the job. I didn’t, at all, not the first job or the last one. As Jay says in some Kevin Smith movie:

“You know we gots to get paid!”

Maybe my big fat face just annoys people. It annoys me too.

Let’s wrap up in a sickly puddle of cliche and fake truisms about ‘life’ and ‘around the next corner’, ‘learning experiences’, ‘regrets’. Let’s get sage and wise with some ‘journey’, some ‘honest’. I’ll throw some ‘do what you have to do’ in there, a little bit more ‘regret’.

Whatever. Be nice.

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