Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Microstory 1868: Walking Out

It’s funny, all these stories coming out recently about employees walking out of their places of employment, not on strike, but genuinely quitting their jobs. In my day, I only know of that happening once. Most of the time, we’re talking about people who were brave enough to fight for their rights, but once they won, they expected to have their jobs waiting for them. That was the bluff, and sometimes it worked, while other times, not so much. Here, these kids are realizing that these jobs aren’t worth the heartache. They don’t pay enough, and there is plenty of competition. I actually witnessed one of them long ago. But since it was before camera phones and social media, most people didn’t hear about it unless they subscribed to the local paper, and found this particular story interesting enough to read. Let me set the scene. It was 14:00, which was when a certain unnamed popular restaurant opened. It was packed immediately, because it was the weekend, and the dinner rush was pretty much all day, especially since they didn’t do breakfast or lunch. So every table was filled, but no one had been served yet. It was the only time of day this was the case, but it happened at this place twice a week, every week. I say all this, because you have to understand that it didn’t really matter if you thought you ought to be served first. The waiters got to you when they got to you, and if you chose to arrive right when the doors opened, you had better been prepared to make a day of it. So I was sitting there with my friend at a table for four when the manager came up and asked if we would be willing to share with a couple. Sure, of course, we had no problem with that. But he was acting weird, and even when we agreed, his demeanor didn’t change. Something else was wrong, and this interaction had little to do with it.

So we continued to wait. Twenty minutes passed, we were getting to know our new friends, when one of them noted that no one had been helped at all. She hadn’t seen a single waiter come out, even to take a drink order. We had only seen the manager. Again, this was how it worked. At 14:00, you walked in, and found a table on your own. They didn’t start tracking who sat where until later. Another five minutes, and others were seemingly noticing the same thing. No one was upset, because only a few tables would have been first anyway, but it was still weird, and we were all getting worried. Five more minutes, that manager returned. He asked my friend if he could borrow his chair for a minute. Being the agreeable guy that he was, he hopped up, and stood by the table to wait, which he soon realized was a mistake. Because the manager didn’t take the chair away. He pulled it out a little more, and stood on top of it to give his speech, which kind of made it look like my friend was his lieutenant, or something. It would have been weirder if he had tried to step away. Anyway, the manager revealed himself to actually be the owner. “I’m sorry, folks, but we won’t be serving you today. Every single one of my employees has walked out on me.” He kept going, but didn’t get much further before a waitress ran out, and started arguing with him. They weren’t walking out on him, they were protesting unfair wages, and poor working conditions. I was close enough to hear her whisper that they were planning to sneak out the back, but now, because of his words, they would march out through the dining area. Silence reigned as they began, but I felt for them, so I began to clap, and soon...the whole room was doing the same.

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