Sunday March 30th, 2014
It seems as if it will be Art’s ordeal to always work when Tyler and Aaron were on the floor. It’s 4:30, they aren’t there yet, but Art doesn’t think today will be his lucky day. Javier is there, too, but he is the only human being Art doesn’t want to kill. For now. The same cook is in the kitchen. Art just learned his name is Francisco, but, because he’s got big balls, he doesn’t like to wear his nametag.
Rosa is there, too, washing dishes. Art catches a glimpse of her as he opens the front door and walks into the restaurant. She is far into her own world, thanks to the headphones she has stuck into her ears.
First thing Art does when he walks into The Diner is to make sure he keeps that fake smile he was honing in front of the mirror last night. You don’t smile much, do you? Javier had mentioned last night. He has to smile, even if he doesn’t like the job. One thing he learned last night is that everyone here plays a character, and Art’s fault is that he is so stupidly honest sometimes.
They walked out of the building, toward the jet bridge. Many airplanes of different sizes and colors stood motionless, waiting for the passengers to step into them. The sun of the new day was already up, and he realized that he hadn’t slept yet. He wasn’t sleepy, anyways. Everybody stood there, as if waiting for something. He did the same, copying what they did, and assuming he was doing the right thing.
A bus came. It was a big weird bus, actually, something he’d never seen before; it looked like a big accordion, with the middle part moving perilously, as if it was about to come apart. He frowned, whereas the rest of the people looked relieved, as if they’d been waiting for this moment.
Now he didn’t want to copy or assume that what they were doing was right.
His life started when he made the decision.
It all began on a Monday, November 22, 2004. His luggage consisted of a black leather backpack, a blue t-shirt with the words ‘Brucelas Belgica’ stamped on the front, a pair of black pants, paper toilet in case of an emergency, and plenty of dreams for the future. His future. On top of his shirt, he also had a black jacket, another sweater inside the backpack, and sixty dollars in his pocket, a plane ticket, and an unimaginable amount of willingness to triumph, to succeed. That’s all he had on him the first time he came to The United States Of America.
Saturday March 29, 2014
Art opens his eyes. The sun’s heat feels slightly uncomfortable on his face. He is sleeping in his car, a green, old and wrecked Chevy Geo, parked at one of the corners in the diner’s parking lot. He has been sleeping there ever since he got the job. His last job wasn’t what he expected; he didn’t make enough money, his girlfriend at the time had to pay every time they went out, and he ended up being laid off because the company wasn’t making enough money either.
Two things happened one week later: 1) he got this job at The Diner, and 2) his landlord asked him for the apartment because he wasn’t planning on renting it anymore; at least that was the lame excuse he came up with. And perhaps out of pity, the restaurant manager at the time allowed him to sleep in the parking lot for some time. Sooner or later, Art was going to make some money, save it, and eventually rent an apartment.
The month of August was the vision of a future he’d seen in the past. No, he wasn’t a seer or a clairvoyant. He was just a man who tended to observe. A lot. A series of events, which had been piling up like old mail nobody ever checks, brought him to this moment in time, where he was offered a manager promotion. Yes, he always dreamed of being the one in charge. No, he never imagined this promotion would fall in his lap.
Back in June 2013, he’d started working at the Santa Barbara Diner (aka The Diner), an independently owned restaurant located in Upper State Street, Santa Barbara, California. At first sight, there was nothing particularly different about this all-day-pancake-and-egg diner; it was a square building with a giant parking lot, windows all around, and painted in beige with brown edges. The inside of the restaurant featured three long aisles with eight brown booths on each side. It looked the same as any restaurant across America, with the same vinyl upholstery, as well as salt and pepper, sugar, ketchup and Tabasco sauce on every table. It was fully lit, opened 24/7, and it had that boring background music everyone liked to ignore.
“The month of August, 2014, was the vision of a future he’d seen in the past. No, he is not a seer or a clairvoyant. He is just a man who tends to observe. A lot.”
The quote you just read is part of a post I am planning to have ready soon. The post’s title will be ‘The Santa Barbara Diner,’ and it’s going to be a series of short posts (or episodes) about a waiter who got a promotion at the restaurant where he works, as well as the lives and stories of the people who work with him. Because the posts will be partially based on events that happen at my job, names are going to be changed. In other words, many of the stories will be fictitious, yet they will come with a droplet of reality.
Vanessa is always complaining about her life. She’s been a waitress ever since she was 20 and last week was her 54th birthday; wonder way she feels stuck. She always claims to want something else from life, but it seems as if something else, completely out of her control, is making her feel powerless. She is the classic hapless victim everyone has as a friend in their social circle.
“Where is my bicycle?” I asked, looking desperately towards the street.
”Oh God! there may be dead people out there and you are worried about your bicycle? How stupid are you?” she said.
And she was right. I was pretty stupid.
We were selling ice-cream cones at a small shop in my hometown. The girl I had worked with for a year and I were covering the 3 to 11 shift. Her name was Cecilia. It was a Sunday, 6:30 pm, and the business was slow. On Sunday, people usually gathered to buy an ice-cream cone at our shop, but that day was different. The place was deserted. Just my blue bicycle remained, locked to a bench outside the shop. As always, we were hoping to have a busy and happy day, but we had a lonely and tragic day instead.
The gate of knowledge was in front of me. I saw its door, and it wanted me to go in. The library, like a magic place, has everything within reach. as I walked in, I saw a table, placed in front of the gate; just as delicious desserts, the books on sale lay there. On my right hand side, there was a line of people, paying for some of those ‘desserts’ and going home with smiles on their faces.
While they went, I walked farther in, ready to start looking for books. However, and this contradicted my presence in the library, I felt sleepy.
“Seriously?” that voice inside my head asked. “You did not come here to take a nap!”
“Well,” I whispered, trying not to be heard, “Maybe I’m tired because I just got out of work, and I’ve been running back and forth, waiting tables.” I waited, maybe The Voice had something else to say.
It said nothing.
Taking decisions is as common as taking a nap; ok, taking a nap is in itself a decision. Knowing what to wear every morning isn’t so hard for me because I always go for the same old, black and faded long-sleeve shirt I bought at Old Navy when I was 24.
Also, my morning coffee is always tall and black, so I don’t even see myself debating between a latte or a mocha instead. And when it comes to breakfast, I am a creature of habit; over-medium eggs, bacon, fruit and toast are my most common choice.
However, for some people, making any kind of decision can be as difficult as trying to run a marathon without a space-suit on the moon. You can see this group of people anywhere, agonizing over what to choose, vacillating, and still second-guessing themselves after the decision has been made.