Friday, December 27, 2013

Working at Cheesecake Factory during Christmas Part 1

The holidays in particular put big pressure on people. Actually, correction, people put big pressure on themselves. Family is in town, everything has to be perfect.

“But it’s my mother, we said we’d get the best (insert thing or situation) for her, and it’s Christmas it should be this way or that thing.”

Yes, we know. Get in line with all the other families that told me and asked for the same exact perfection.

During holidays, you get customers that don’t normally go out to eat, who make every thinkable dining faux pas. They tax the server needless additional strain, unaware that in doing so, costs every other table good service, and in turn rob the server and his contemporaries money they need and deserve.

“It’ll be so busy, I bet you make great money!” you might be thinking.
In theory, yes. But in reality, it’s often three times the work for the same amount of money. Instead of having two good tables, you get six awful ones.

The idea is to make it up in volume. Get them in and out. Keep it moving, people.

Over the last week, I’ve taken notes from some of the best and worst customer interactions. And although most people come and go smoothly as routine, it’s the extreme cases that are memorable. I can accurately say that 1% of the human race is scum. It’s those people that you’ll be reading about.

Don’t think that this post is slamming everything about my line of work. It’s simply a reminder to be a good customer. That decency goes a long way when you dine out.
Through this post, you’ll get a real look at what serving in a busy restaurant is like. When you understand what a good server goes through, you’ll feel better about tipping 20%, knowing it was well earned and certainly deserved.

I’ve worked in restaurants my entire adult life. Working in small privately owned places, where it’s just me and the owner on the floor, to giant corporate chains with over 100 servers on staff per location.

I’ve been in the trenches of the holidays, making sure all the normal people enjoy their day off.
Year in, year out.

It’s an endless roaring nightmare, routinely pushing you and your grip of reality to the edge.
At top restaurant chains like Cheesecake Factory, working the ‘busy holiday season’ is like handling a hurricane in your mind.
And that’s exactly what tears through Scottsdale Cheesecake Factory every night in December, January, February and some of March.

I walk in 10 minutes early. I fought a Range Rover for a parking space moments ago, feeling upbeat.

At 4:00pm it’s supposed to be when things quiet down to a trickle. This is our chance to switch crews, restock and ready ourselves for the dinner war.
There should only be a few lagging tables, the floor at maybe 5% capacity… but it’s already full. There’s no wait at the moment, and things seem tame, but this is only temporary.

I can see it in their eyes. Oh day crew, what terrible events have stricken you today? Merely hinting at the monster to come?
Evidence of the lunch shift’s battle is everywhere.  Wiped out is the best way to describe the kitchen. The crew is visibly shaken.

I’m the first of the night shift to arrive, welcomed like some kind of holy savior.

“Thank God you’re here! Oh thank you so much! Thank you. Have a GREAT DAY!”
They fling their towels aside, clock out and joyously run away like freed slaves.

But now it’s my turn, and my dinner storm’s winds will be twice as harsh.
Half my night crew also worked the day shift, so they’re exhausted. They’ve been pushed like this for weeks, hanging onto threads and running on fumes.

To understand when and why the restaurant is busy comes down to understanding people like animals. Animals have habits that can be predicted and planned for.

I know I’ll need a certain amount of linen, lemons, ice, soda, booze, plates, cutlery, condiments and dignity to hand out. I get it all clean and ready as the phone explodes into ringing that won’t stop until we close.
The first wave of animals pile into the front door early. The rush is here already?
The night crew scrambles to brace themselves.

I’m working the bar tonight. Plenty of tables. When filled and emptied at perfectly timed intervals, it flows smoothly. Nothing breaks through my dam of control.

Well that’s not how tonight has started. My section gets slammed all at once. Every server gets nuked the same way. Triple and quadruple-sat with families of screaming kids and stressed out parents. Packed to the top with five hundred impatient people, each one thinking they’re the only person in the world.

Voices of every pitch and color swirl with background music I’ve heard thousands of times, combining into a thunderous murmur that shatters my senses.

The sheer variety of people keeps me changing like a chameleon from table to table: Be hip and flirty with the girls night out, strict and classy to the oldies behind them, patient and understanding with the mother and her crying kids that are allergic to everything, witty and wise with the martini sippers, warm and basic with the first timers, crude and relaxed with the blue collar Bud drinkers, then switching to hyper mode back in the kitchen to put everything together. I’m balancing no less than ten things in my head at all times, my arms filled with dirty plates, apron stuffed with checks to complete.

A glass and marble wall separates the gritty inner workings from the shiny glamour on the floor.

There’s a line of servers just trying to get bread for their tables. The kitchen hall swarms and throbs with moving white bodies. Like frantic schools of fish, workers slide between and around each other. Each on their own mission, mumbling things to themselves so as not to forget a detail.


Crashing, banging pots and pans fly around, the crackle and sizzle of dishes being prepped, commands mixed with cursing get hollered in English and Spanish. Sweat wiped from brows, pitchers dumped and filled, doors swinging, music blaring, plates clanging, bodies bumping into each other-  a massive effort to please the monster we’ve welcomed inside.

 All just to make a few bucks.

With a steaming meatloaf in one arm, a pizza and salad on the other, I zoom through the kitchen. Just before getting onto the floor to run the food out to its corresponding table, I see a trembling server. She’s new, maybe a month here. She’s frozen in terror at the scene before her. We’re only thirty minutes in, and she’s already breaking.

“I know, it’s okay. Just pick one task and concentrate on it,” I try to sound soothing.

Her bottom lip won’t stop shaking.

“I need you to run something. Pick something, and run it. Just get in there!” I yell at her over my shoulder.

“I-I…  I can’t do this... I can’t I-”

“Go!” I shout, then blast by her.

It shakes her awake and I see her dive into the mess as I rejoin the floor.

As I’m wrapping up an order, landing my last practiced jab to a table of chuckles, I catch a glimpse of six Greeks. There’s old Grandpa Greek, his daughter and grand daughters. Even the grand daughters are my age, so this guy is old.

“Gooood evening, how are we tonight?” my face says, dealing napkins like cards for a game.

Grandpa grunts something that sounds foreign. His granddaughters light up. They’re pretty, my age, my colors, they like me already and he hates that.

“My name’s Andrew, I’ll be helping you to-”

“Your reeng!” the middle-generation woman says, pointing to my hand, “It’s the Greek key.”

“Oh, yeah, here, check it out,” I drop the usual opening routine, and hand her my ring.

She studies it, smiling, then grandpa snatches it from her, killing the scene.

“You know vat this ees? Eets the Gleek key of eternity,” he says to me, as if I don’t understand or deserve to wear such a symbol. “Are you Gleek?”

“No sir, I’m Italian,” I say, in a flat Phoenix Arizona voice.

He scoffs, “Well I vant a glass a vine pronto. That’s Italiano for fast.

I let that slide. He’s sneering his words at me, somehow trying to devalue me. He’s trying to make me look like a servant, not a server. Just some dumb worthless kid.

“Yes sir, what kind of wine do you like? My list is here on page four. It’s ordered sweet at the top, dry on the—“

“What’s good here,” he interrupts me yet again, leaning on his closed menu, now wearing my ring as if it’s his own.

The girls watch us. Grandpa being surly, defending his ladies against the upstart young lion.

“Okay well, what will you be having to eat? Knowing that might help me narrow it dow-“

“UGH why is eet ALL so HARD!” his arms fly open “Just tell me wass good here capeesh? That’s Italian for-“

“Yes, I know what it means. Sounds good.”

I glance at my other tables, I need more iced tea.

 “I’ll just assume your tongue and brain are like mine then, and get you our house merlot. That gets the job done for most Greeks.”

“Oh ho most Greeks huh?” he exclaims. The girls’ eyes widen at us.

“That’s right. You’re going to eat red meat. You’ll ask for the ribeye because you see it’s a few dollars cheaper, then I’ll tell you to eat the Steak Diane instead as long as you get it medium ra-”

“-You said yer Italian, no? You don sound like eet,” he looks down at me, I’ll never be good enough. 

I don’t have time for this. He’s only interested in being an irritant. He hasn’t even looked at the menu, wanting me to tell him everything instead. My other tables are falling behind. A baby cries somewhere in the distance.

My jaw tightens. I’m wasting too much energy on him. I look at the girls, as if to apologize for what’s coming. They understand and nod approval.

“You just theenk yer some hot-shot and—”

“Tu sei un pazzo, va via da qui,” I interrupt him this time.

His mouth gapes. I smile and move to my other tables.

The girls laugh hard.
Grandpa’s confused, demanding to know what I just said to him. They’re laughing at him and won’t tell.

After catching up all my other tables I return to the Greeks at a leisurely pace. Grandpa behaves perfectly this time, handing my ring back immediately, and having everyone’s order ready with no changes to anything.

Later into the rush, the wait was up to an hour. And for a place as big as this, that’s a huge deal.

I’m buried completely. I move lightning fast, efficient and poised, and I still can’t stay ahead of the flood. There’s simply no one able to help me, everyone else is maxed out too.

I’m moving through the bar tables, arms full of food to run, when I see two men where two women should be.

The table they’re at is dirty. It hasn’t even been prebussed yet. No one should be at this table for at least another ten minutes. It’s a small gap in time for me to catch up on my other five tables while this one is being cleaned up and reset.

I drop off the food and return to the men. They don’t have dinner menus, which means they rudely cut in front of everyone, dodged the hostesses up front, and sat themselves instead. Crossing their arms, looking frustrated, like I’ve failed them somehow.

“Good evening gentlemen, how long was the wait?” I say, innocently.

They look at each other and scoff, like I missed an inside joke.

“We ain’t waitin fer nothin but you. The hell you been? Hangin out an shit? Yer sposed ta get us what I want rat now!”

“Right, okay, well let me clean this table and I’ll grab us some menus.”

“I wanna happy hour menyeh.”

“I’m afraid happy hour ended over an hour ago s-“

“I said! I wanna happy hour menyeh rat now.”

My hands are full of the last people’s trash. I scan both the men, they have to be joking right?
They aren’t. Neither of these men, grizzly chinned, care about other people. Neither seems to understand nor care that they just stole a table from patiently waiting people. That they’ve deliberately broken the unspoken rules of how this all works.

“Well? The hell you starin at? Go git me our menyehs!”

“Yes sir.”

I go to the back, clear the old plates, dump the old trash, check on my other (legitimate) tables, fix them up. My body is drained, I’m running out of fake friendliness. I take a deep breath, grab some regular dinner menus and return to the men.

“Here you are gentlemen, sorry about that delay there. I was a bit behind from the start it seems,” I chuckle a disarming chuckle. It doesn’t work.

They flip through the menu book.

“Whale awright, now where yer happy hour shit.”

“Oh like I said, it’s just regular hour right now, sir,” there was a slight shudder in my tone at the end.

“I thought ah told you—“

A static crackling behind my eyes, penetrating my head. Somewhere between crumpling paper and the tzzchzz between radio stations. It rings in my head, I’m about to snap. I’m gonna lose it on this guy. It’s not his fault, he’s just a guy. Just a wandering animal without any idea.

“I thought I told you ta git me some—“

Look at me.”

My facade vanished. I’m close to his face now, too close. There’s no busy restaurant around us anymore. Just darkness, and him. His stupid ugly face, that’s all there is. I’m not a waiter, I’m not working. It’s just me and him, two men, and one of them is going to be put in his place.

Look at my face. What do you think this is. Hm?”

My voice is low and harsh, only he can hear it. My eyes are wide, I can feel them burn and twitch. This is grounds for being fired, what I’m doing, but I don’t care.

“Ah, ah just said ah wanted uh…”

What? Happy hour is fuckin over. You know why it’s over? Because time doesn’t stop for you. Clocks tick, sir.”

My jugular vein throbs in my neck.
The air hangs thick for a moment, the man is completely shocked.

Then I lean back, the bustling environment returns around us. I switch the robot back on.

“But you can happily pick from one of the other four hundred delicious things we have!” my mouth smiles and laughs, but the man’s seen enough now. For a moment he saw what was underneath and he corrected himself with an apologetic

“We’d just lack uh, two Bud Lats. That’ll do, please. Sir.”

“Two Bud Lights, coming right up gentlemen!”

As the final hours wind down, it’s getting quiet. My uniform is ruined, my hair askew, drenched in sweat, the entire restaurant seems to have been picked up and thrown.

We’re just minutes away from closing. The manager is on his way to lock the front doors when a couple walks in. They skip past the front desk and plop themselves eagerly into one of my dirty tables.

I dig deep, pulling in a big breath. Almost done. We’re almost done, Andrew. You can do it.
I right myself, come around the corner and greet them.

With his arm tightly embracing his attractive girlfriend, he looks around at the destroyed, but largely vacant bar.

“You guys aren’t that busy, I was expecting it to be busy in here.”

I strangle him with my eyes.


I go through my routine on the outside, sleeping on a beach on the inside.

With their drinks and bread out, waiting for their food, I step out back.

Finally. A moment to breathe.

As 11:00pm rolls in, half a dozen torn up staff shiver in the dark.
I join them by the dumpsters. Needing just a moment’s peace, just a bit of quiet nicotine to regenerate. Normally, there would be banter back and forth, but not a word tonight.

They all just puff on their cigarette, gazes far away. They’re all somewhere else in their minds.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Proof!-- Made Easy Money at Home FREE

Here's a screenshot of the $118 payment I received this morning.

This ZNZ Cash (previous post) stuff really works, and I STILL haven't gotten any spam or weirdness.
I've made a simple site that explains how I make easy money from home without spending a dime.
Put your wallet away, it's FREE. Just sit back, relax, and change your life.

And again, as always, if you have any questions about this just ask!
I know you could use some extra cash, so I'm always willing to help you out!

-Your pal, Andrew

Monday, November 4, 2013

How to Make Money without Spending Money. In your pajamas.

Like you, I want to make more money, but I’d rather not have to work for it. I also don’t want to hassle anyone, especially the people I care about, into giving up their hard earned money.

Working for someone else is a bummer. But running my own business is enslavement in its own way. Overhead is heavy, employees are a massive pain. More bills than I can handle. It's all too hard. Wahh. But I still want to be rich, so what do I do?

I understand how businesses work. There’s risk, lots of risk, if you want a big payout. And only about 1% of ventures even succeed.
The one thing in common with all entrepreneurial attempts is the notion of you gotta spend money to make money.

Well I don’t have money to spend. My jobs cover my bills, sure, but not much more beyond that. So how do I break free of this cycle I’m stuck in? Working hard, getting just enough money to pay off the month, just to have it all start over again on the 1st

And don’t even get me started on debt. It seems impossible to beat.

Clever business people know about the common rat-race-money-struggle we all deal with. They dangle a carrot, hoping to shake down a sucker for all he’s worth then kick his broke butt to the curb.
They’ll flash big promises, shiny dreams you’ll never realistically achieve.

MLMs like ACN, Vemma, and other pyramid shaped ideas can work—but they require the one thing I don’t have to get started. Money. $500 or more for some of them. And even then, the odds are slim.

I’ve written deceptive Terms and Policies for all kinds of “RISK FREE TRIAL OFFER!” type product websites. Where you sign up for something cheap (or free, initially) just to have your credit card dinged hard a week later, because it was impossible to cancel in time.

These slimy companies appear and disappear within a month, constantly changing their name, lingering just long enough to rip off thousands of dollars.
But you can’t keep ripping people off on the internet, word will get out!

Well, these Spammer Scammers also employ someone full time to scan the internet for whistleblowers. They find people who report on their scam, and do a bit of “cleanup.”  Even going as far as to create fake blogs, fake reviews, and fake comments from fake profiles to make the product seem legitimate. I used to do that job.

I know how the scumbags work, because I worked with them every day.
Yeah, I’m what you’d call a skeptic.

So when I found this opportunity, I was super skeptical.
It seems WAY too good to be true... right?

I watched the initial video, which promised that I wouldn’t spend a penny but I’d make tons of cash, it was all legal.

Mr. Chuck Marshall, in his Affliction shirt, also promised I wouldn’t have to leave my computer chair, wouldn’t have to bother people, go to meetings, or sell crappy products to anyone. Nobody has to spend any money, and yet still, somehow I would get paid.

So I did my research. I scanned Google for bad reviews, or fake “good” ones. Surely this had to be fantasy. Somehow, somewhere I will get robbed. But still, I'm intrigued.

I enter a fake name and a throwaway email address. A new, longer video appears. It's Chuck again, and he goes into fine detail. Which is good, detail is what I need to put my qualms and doubts to rest.

It all checks out. The reasoning behind it is solid. TV and radio commercials aren’t as effective as they used to be, so legitimate companies like DirecTV and are using Trial service referrals instead. I recognized the basic premise, it has been around for years, but it’s never been streamlined this perfectly before.

In the old days, in order to make money doing trial referrals, you’d have to sign up for services, frantically cancel a few days later, and collect maybe 50 cents afterward. All day, signing up, getting spammed, canceling, yelling on the phone, just to maybe make a few dollars? It was terrible and not worth the effort.

Well now companies are getting desperate enough to where they’ll pay out $20-$80 for one referral. Whether the referred lead keeps the service or cancels it, makes no difference. You still get paid. And instead of having to sign up and cancel services over and over yourself... You only do it once. After that, you get your own link. Send that link to a friend, they too sign up for a free trial of something. You then get $20-$100 (depending on what they tried), and then they get their own referral link too!

And so it spreads on and on. You and your pal cancel the trial before it ends, and never spend a dime. You now have a small pile of free money, and he's got a clear and easy way to make a pile for himself too!

Hmm. Well all right, heck with it. As long as my credit card stays safe, I’ll play along.

I read all the fine print. Simple and clear.
I made a fresh throwaway Gmail email, a new Paypal account, typed in my basic info and followed the directions given in the 30 minute video.

I signed up for’s 7-day free trial.
And just as the ZNZ site promised, I was then given a referral link to the Affliction guy video, to earn money with on my own.

For the fun of it, I saw my credit score, winced, and cancelled the trial.
I then opened up Craigslist to spread the link. In my Craigslist ad, I had it go to my own URL, which forwarded to the referral link's 30 minute explanation video. This kept spam detection off my back.

Then I made dinner, did laundry, watched a movie.
Before going to bed, I checked my ZNZ account screen. $40 was waiting for me.

I checked my bank account. Nothing has been touched. No money was robbed from me.

It actually worked. I sent the money to my Paypal address. In a few days, it’ll transfer to my Wells Fargo bank account!
I found a 100% genuine, 100% FREE way to make money without having to put pants on.

So now I’m taking this seriously.
ZNZ Big Cash, other than its cheesy name, also works. The offers are a bit bigger this time around. I willingly spent some money at GoDaddy for a URL and web hosting, which I needed to renew anyhow. I now use that name and hosting to spread this referral link faster.

I wanted to get you guys in on this. And yes, I know it all looks like a cheap scheme, and there's a type-o on the bottom… but trust me.

Be smart with this, remember to cancel your chosen trial in time, and you too can make extra cash while being a slob in your pajamas!

Start here, follow the directions, and spread your link. You can either do just the 1st one (ZNZ Cash), and spread that link (at $20 a pop) or go all the way like I did. The latter is more involved, but I'm making more money.

I repeat, you DO NOT have to do all the steps to get paid.
Simply doing Step 1 will net you a referral link of your own to ZNZCash One, worth $20 per referral.

If you are interested, and have any serious questions, I'll help you. I'll coach you through the whole darn thing. It's worth both of our time.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Andrew Tries Scientology

EDIT 7-4-2015: Watch the documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. 
It's the best stomach ache around.

---- Original Post Below --- (Oct 2013)

Last week I found this flyer on my car. It's cleverly disguised as a personality test. A wonderful invitation for a free service to help me succeed in life. How nice.

So I got a day off, and headed over to the Church of Scientology at 3875 N 44th St.  Phoenix, AZ 85018

Armed with an automatic pencil in my ear, and a small notepad in my pocket, I find the church.
I roll through a strong archway, and enter the compound finding the last vacant uncovered parking spot. 

Getting out of the car, I’m greeted by chirping birds and a relaxed breeze.

The building is several stories tall, made of brick, and every nuance of the property is hemmed and trimmed neatly. Shading the short row of guest parking is a large tree, greenly fertile and gently welcoming.

There are multiple rows of covered, reserved spaces. The cars parked in these spots are luxury brands, as clean and new as the building.

In stark contrast, the guest’s cars are old and tired. A late ‘80s Dodge Caravan, a beat up Chevy S10, a dirty Ford Ranger and my MR2 in the far corner.
It’s apparent the people working at this “church” are far wealthier than I am.

The front doors are open, so I walk right up to the reception desk.
A man named Richard, who looks like a reformed meth addict, hands me a sheet to fill out.
I divulge my contact information as a second man approaches me.

“Hello, sir, what brings you here?”

“This was on my car. I'm always happy to learn new things,” I say to the form I’m still filling in, holding the flyer up with my other hand.

“Ah, I see. Then there’s no time to waste! My name’s Tucker.”

I hand him my information paper so they can spam me later, introduce myself confidently, and follow him.

The entrance room splits into three passageways. Tucker hangs a left so I follow him that way, commenting on how his uniform makes him look like a little superhero.

He chuckles, “Thanks, makes me feel cool too,” he says over his shoulder. He’s wearing a white dress shirt under a gold and black vest, with pressed black pants and shoes. The gold is so shiny it reflects the inset lighting above us.

Tucker brings me to a large room filled with well-designed displays, a dozen of them or so, each with a big screen TV playing demo videos on various subjects. They all have a soothing voice relating common problems that you 'suffer from' and it can all be healed through Scientology.

Around each screen are shelves of books, DVD recordings of lectures, all packaged with glossy promise. It looks like a high end retail boutique, with Dianetics as the product.

“Andrew, this is Claudia, she’ll be your guide.”

Claudia is pure sex appeal. Long dark hair, matching lashes, a young body but a wise mind. She’s humbly restrained in the female version of the superhero uniform they wear here, but there’s no hiding that shape of hers. Whatever religion she’s selling, I’ll buy it.

Very good to see you, Andrew,” she flicks a Spanish accent and a movie star smile.

“Hi Claudia, you must be their secret weapon around here.”

She laughs just enough, then “Now before I show you what we can offer, I’d like to learn more about you,  to see what you’re all about, can you come with me a moment?”

I follow her swaying hips to a side room. Like everything here, it’s perfectly clean, quiet and well appointed in stained wooden fixtures.

There’s a Hispanic young man on the right. He looks like any other misled youth, struggling over a question with headphones blaring Skrillex.

“There are two tests. One will tell me your mental health and personality. There’s also an IQ test that’s optional, if you’d like?”

“I’ll take them both, if you don’t mind.”

She seems overjoyed, “Great! How exciting! Here are your tests then, just fill in the answers on this sheet here. Do you need a pencil, Andrew?”

“Nope, got one here.”

“Okay good. Well I’ll be back in an hour or so, good luck!”

With a big smile, Claudia returns to her desk outside the room. I miss her already.

I scan over the personality test. 

With questions like “Do you take criticism seriously?” 

and “Do you put other people’s happiness before your own?”

If answered honestly, any normal person will have “flaws”. This test is designed to spot flaws. It should make me appear weak without this religion. Surely after I see the results, I'll happily oblige to accept their help. (for a fee)

I answer the 200 questions.

Now the IQ test. There are math questions, visual puzzles, oddly worded pattern questions and so on.

During my test, the other young man was escorted away by a frumpy looking lady. He stands meekly, murmurs responses- an easy target for Scientology.

Claudia returns at exactly 60 minutes.
“How was it?”


“Great!” she takes my tests.

“I’m going to have Tucker grade these while we take a tour,” she says, and hands them to Tucker who seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Now I’m following Claudia’s hips to the opposite path. They stop and I look up to meet her eyes.

“These are the people that operate here. We have thousands of branches across the globe,” she points to a rigidly organized board of names and titles on tiny plaques. They all sound very important, Director of This, and Admiral of That.

Then I follow her hips some more, until they stop again. We’re in another giant room of glowing displays.

“This is blah blah it’ll give you answers on how to be successful and perfect in every way.”

L Ron Hubbard’s calm face gazes at me from a thousand books, movies, pamphlets and more all portraying him as a godlike man of infinite wisdom.

“Doctor L Ron Hubbard’s lecture on blah blah fixes every problem you could ever have.”

There are shelves of products, each promising mystical perfection and answers to every major life quandary. With each passing moment, she became less sexy and more creepy.

“This book here will teach you how to analyze anyone within a moment, and know what their exact intentions are with you. Anyone that’s in your way. Any person that’s keeping you from your dreams, you can surpass with ease. With this book.”

Then she stared through me. I stared through her right back.

The tour had some fifteen stops. They were all subjects of self help, spiritual and physical cleansing. Ridding yourself of drugs, trading sadness and regret for happiness and success. All through Dianetics and so on. 

There were no details, no mention of costs, or hints of aliens going into volcanoes and spirits flying out raining into human bodies. Nothing South Park could make a joke out of. No mention of that funky science fiction, or weird cult like control of your life. No price tags, no real information. Just promises. Big shiny, golden promises.

She’d hand me one of the books at each stop, and made me read the vague statements on the back.
It was awkwardly silent each time she’d watch me read it.
Then I’d look up and she’d nod like she just revealed the secrets of the universe to me.

I acted impressed for her. How could I not hand over my soul at this point, she wondered.

“You can learn where we came from as a species, the history of man, the origin of the mind. With this book.”

She hands me another shiny book, I turn it over and read the cover’s empty promises to her aloud.
She looks firmly convinced by it, “This is more of doctor Hubbard’s findings. He’s a brilliant man.”

“Claudia,” I change to a hushed tone.

I want to grab her, throw her over my shoulder and run out of this place. It would explode and crumble behind us, a giant orchestra would thunder around us then we’d kiss before credits rolled.

“Yes?” she leans in closer.

“I wanna take that E-meter test thing. Do you have one of those?”

“Oh yes, we have one of the originals here!”

She takes my hand and we return to the main room.

Tucker’s waiting with my test results, he looks uncomfortable.

“Andrew wants to take his first audit,” Claudia tells him.

The three of us venture behind one of the video demo displays.

There’s a small machine on a platform, with a few metered gauges on it, with two metal cylinders connected by wires.

“Hold these,” Tucker says.

Claudia seems eager, standing beside me.

Tucker explains that through our lives we have difficulties, pains, hardships, stresses, and it’s all recorded in our “reactive mind”. This meter here can find those instances, and with sessions eventually eliminate them, cleansing and healing the mind to unlock its full spiritual potential.


But I’m a good sport. So I’m holding the metal cylinders, smelling some Claudia, and Tucker’s chubby face says “Okay I’m gonna pinch you, watch the meter.”

The meter sat at 0, then he pinched my arm, and it blipped to 2 for a moment, then returned to 0.

“See that? Okay now recall the feeling of that pinch.”

I thought of how it felt getting pinched by his dirty fingernails.

The meter bumped to 2 again.

“Recalling pain has the same effect as experiencing that pain firsthand. It can linger like a poison for years, especially from a traumatic incident.”

My hands were getting sweaty, holding the metal things.
“Okay, I want you to think of something that stresses you out.”

I concentrated.

The meter flew to the right, maxing out at 30.

“Oh wow!” Claudia gasped.

“Whoa. What… what did you think of?”

“My student loan debt.”

Claudia laughs.

“Okay… man, must be a lot of debt, haha!” Tucker reset the meter.

“Think of something good.”

I thought of licking Claudia’s face. The meter bent backwards to -20.

“What did you think of?”

“Ice cream.”

The meter went to 0. Clearly I was lying.

“Hmm,” Tucker says.

“Eeeyeah okay I was thinking of licking Claudia.”

The meter ripped to -20 again. They both laughed hysterically.

It echoed in the halls, and other employees peeked in, looking worried.

Claudia wiped at her eyes, “Okay, let’s see your test results.”

I’m sitting alone with her in an office now.
She has my results in graph form, on a printout. 

Earlier I snuck a look at the other kid’s graph, I memorized its bends. They were just like mine.
That had to be impossible. There’s no way my perfectly consistent and confident answers matched his, something seemed off.
This is where she’s supposed to tell me I’m weak, depressed, lost and she’s got the answers to it all.
She points to a part of the line, “You have really bad depression, and you’re nervous sometimes.”

Leaning back comfortably in my chair, “Is that so unusual?”

“Yes, but your IQ is the highest I’ve seen since joining here.”

“You’ve got a dumb bunch of people coming here, then. High IQ often goes hand in hand with depression, and both run in my family.”

“We can eliminate that sadness with Dianetics, Andrew.”

“I’d prefer to stay regular with Raisin Bran.”

She didn’t like that. She takes this stuff very seriously. Above her head, on the wall, was a picture of a bursting volcano.

I thought of the aliens and thetans and so on. The weird shit that makes Scientology sound ridiculous.

“What’s with the volcano?” I say, pointing to it.

“Oh that’s just the logo. It represents L Ron Hubbard’s new knowledge of man and the universe.”

“Really? No aliens?”

“What, no I haven’t heard of that before?” she’s confused.

“You must not be that high up then. You have to pay for each level of teachings, what level are you on?”

“Oh yes well you do have to donate, you know, like any other religion. It's only fair, to keep things running. And it's all tax deductible.”

“Yeah, deductible for now. And donations are optional in other religions, here it’s required. But I suppose it’s the same as paying a psychiatrist, right?” I chuckle, she doesn’t.

“I… I think you should probably talk to… hang on,”  Claudia's nervous, and leaves to get someone with more horsepower.

In comes a white-haired man. He’s in the same superhero outfit, but with some additional shinies on him, he must be a higher rank.

He’s all business, and quick. Not rude, but he’s not going to let me infect Claudia any longer.

“Here’s Tucker’s information. We have meetings on Tuesdays, please come again soon,” and he hurried me outside, shutting the doors behind me.

Back to the birds chirping, and the cool breeze.

Was it something I said?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Somebody left a perfectly good kid at Walmart.

I just got off work, sweating in my Cheesecake Factory whites. It was a good, long day. My wallet, now thick with cash, sits heavily in my back pocket.

As the clock hits 10:30pm, figure I’ll drop by Walmart to pick up a few things before heading home to bed.

I loosen my tie as the first set of automatic doors slide away.

In the distance are familiar register beeps and carts rolling around. Bleached bright light welcomes me from the hot darkness outside. The second set of doors open their arms, when I feel something watching me. So I turn to face it.

There’s a little girl standing to the right of me, alone, with crud on her chubby cheeks. She looks away quickly, like she made a huge mistake getting my attention.

She’s Hispanic, about six or seven years old. She should probably be in bed- it’s a school night.

I scan the area around us, through the glass doors behind and in front of us. No one. There’s no one else nearby. Where are her parents?

I slowly select a cart, watching her from the corner of my eye.

Families pass by her, they don’t notice or care about her. She won’t take her eyes off the entrance doors. I hope to see a matching Hispanic set of parents appear, but they never do.

“Hey, are you okay?”

She holds herself tightly, staring straight ahead. Stranger danger.

“Where are your parents?”

No movement, not a word. She’s hiding in plain sight. Maybe if she doesn’t move, I’ll lose sight of her.

I don’t get closer, instead I step towards the stuffed toy crane machine behind her.

“I can see you, you know,” I say to the machine.

Her bottom lip starts to wiggle a bit, she’s scared. Her eyes beg the doors to open and reveal someone she knows. Maybe her mom or dad, or an older sibling or someone to save her. But there is only me.

I wonder how long she’s been waiting here. There’s an outline on her cheeks of tears that fell but were then dried away in a hurry. Now that someone is watching her, she’d better look tough.

“Do you want me to get you some help? I could have an employee call for your parents. Are they inside the store somewhere?”

She bites her lip to stop its trembling, and her eyes start to glisten.

“Don’t worry, it’s all right. You don’t have to say or do anything. How about I get us some ice creams and we can wait for them together?”

Her eyes shot towards me, then back at the door. Just that bit of hesitation is all I needed.

“Good. Well you stay here for a second. I’ll be just inside there where I can see you okay? That first register right there,” I point at it, “there’s ice creams near it, I’ll be at that one.”

Still no movement, but her eyes aren't tearing up any longer. That’s a start.
I walk inside, the second doors open.
I buy us each a fudge ice cream cone, keeping an eye on her and the entrance doors.

“Here’s yours,” I say, holding it out to her, while eating my own.

She tightens her hug around herself.

“Still scared of me, are you? Well I suppose I could eat both of these…”

She snatches it from my hand and opens it. She doesn’t move away from me, finally deciding I was safe.

Thirty minutes pass.

By now I’ve asked an employee to call for her parents. But she won’t tell me their names. She won’t say a word.

The Walmart employee seems more concerned about clocking out, and gives up on us without much effort.

Then we played the crane game a little bit, and she got a Spongebob. She won’t tell me her name but says she’s starting 1st grade and she doesn’t know anyone.

I check my phone, it’s 11:30pm. I’ve been here nearly an hour with her.

The night crew arrives, sloppy and apathetic. It’s closing time soon.

I’m not sure what to do with this girl.

“Listen sweetheart, you have to help me. Do you know your parent’s phone number at least? I could get them to come here if I had that number.”

She hugs her Spongebob, sitting on the floor beside me.

The doors open, two chunky Hispanics walk in.


Ah, good. Her parents.

The woman grabs the girl’s arm and yanks her up.

“Don’t touch my daughter you sicko!” she screams.

I stood up, brushing off my pants. “Right. And where have you two been?”

“None a yer business, faggot,” Dad says.

“We were teaching her a lesson. Never fuckin wander off ever when we’re shoppin,” Mom yanks at Tessa’s arm at the last word. Tessa drops Spongebob then gathers him up quickly.

“So you abandon her at Walmart in the middle of the night. She was smart enough to wait for you here at the entrance. What if she did wander off, or got taken by som-“

“Some sick motherfucker like you? I’m callin’ the COPS on you!”

“Well make it quick, I have some shopping to do before they close,” I say, thumbing to the Hours of Operation sign.

"Mama. Mama, he was nice to m-"


Mom yanks Tessa to stifle her words. Both parents give me a scowl, then the three of them leave out the front doors.

I purchase some cleaning agents for the truck and a couple frozen dinners, then drive home.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Andrew vs Lindsey Hunter

At my last open high-top, a black guy sits himself without the help of a hostess. He's casually dressed in a white t-shirt, jeans, and loosely laced sneakers.

Busy with dirty plates under both arms, I drop a menu in front of him, and tell him I’ll be right back. He’s too busy texting to reply.

Knowing the odds, I groan. It’s been ten percent or less for most of the day, and this one isn’t looking good either. But hey, do a great job, maybe things will turn out well this time.

On many separate occasions, every manager here has taken me aside and told me I get lots of compliments from guests. That they’re proud of me, and that I do great work. It’s a shame I can’t turn compliments into money somehow.

When I return to black guy, he tells me he's waiting on 'his girl' and when she arrives, pretty and blonde, we begin.

Before I can say my name, he asks for an orange juice, and she wants water. I retrieve both and place them on the table. They chit chat to each other, ignoring me for about ten minutes.

Ten minutes is a long time when waiting tables. I’ve done everything else I can, and approach them once more.

Blondie says she hasn’t really looked at the menu yet, and doesn’t want to ‘have to read it.’

She's intimidated by the novel-sized menu, asking me to surprise her with 'something healthy with chicken.'

"Refer to chapter fourteen, verse twelve for salad options" I advise. She laughs politely.

He stares at his phone.

“How about this Skinnylicious Asian Chicken Salad,” I suggest, pointing at it with my pen.

“Okay sounds good,” she smiles a perfect smile.

“And what can I do for you, sir?”

He’s still texting, until she nudges him.

“Oh, uh. I want the French toast and uh one those okay you know them ayggs with like cheese and can you do some chicken in it but scrambled not too much but with some chicken in it. But make it spicy, you know like Mexican chicken. And cheese. Do it um, okay there’s a guy who works here that know what I mean he’s got black hair you know that guy?”

When you’re faced with something this irritating, don’t ask questions. Don’t offer options, or tell him all the kinds of cheeses we have or types of chicken we can add, just keep it simple and move on.

“How many eggs?” I ask.

“Uh, juss a couple ayggs.”

I translate his order to a quickly-jotted note.

I repeat the order back to them, to confirm.

“Okay, for you Miss, a Skinnylicious Asian Chicken Salad.”

She nods, with that smile again.

“And for you sir, two eggs scrambled with chorizo chicken and cheddar cheese mixed in. And Brulee French Toast. Does that work?”

The air hangs for a moment.

“Uh. Yeh,” he tells his phone.

“Good job,” she whispers to me, behind her hand. That was nice. Perhaps she’s a bartender somewhere, understands where I’m coming from, and will save the day with a good tip.

I leave them, and ring it all in, thinking I’ve seen this black guy before. He definitely looks familiar. And the woman he’s with is a little too pretty for him. He’s a bit over six feet tall, but doesn’t appear particularly wealthy or interesting.

Their order eventually gets run to their table. They’re both happy with things.

As they talk further, he never asks for anything else, but she asks for coffee and cream. Only one refill over the course of an hour.

The Lakers are playing overhead, and he watches the game with an odd sadness. Some gentlemen at the bar banter about how lousy the Suns are this year.

She’s attracting onlookers, but he isn’t. And yet still, I feel like I’ve seen him before. On television somewhere, possibly. The worst case would be to say he looks like the coach of the Suns, just to be mistaken, and have it sound like a  ‘all you blacks look the same’ type comment.

She finishes long before he does. I’ve cleared everything except for his custom eggs- that he’s nibbling on at a snail’s pace.

A coworker, Victoria, tells me the blonde is a bartender that comes in rather often, and she tips well. I hope she’s the one that pays the bill.

“May I take care of that plate, sir?”

He nods, and I take his empty egg plate. They both decline the dessert menu, so I place the bill on the table and suggest they take their time with it. Their total is about $35.
After a few moments, I return and take the booklet.

Now alone at one of the computers, I open the booklet. There’s a very normal looking card inside.

“Lindsey Hunter      Phoenix Suns”

No shit. The coach of the Phoenix Suns. It’s him.

I look across the room. He’s sitting in the middle of a crowded bar. Not a single person here knows who he is. That’s how lousy the Suns are. That’s how little this town cares about him and his team.

Receipt printed, and pen placed inside, I return the booklet to him.

He tenses up, as our eyes meet. Will I ask him for a photograph? Will I break his cover?

“I thought you looked familiar,” I keep my voice low.

He’s frozen. Will I berate him? Will I ask him for an annoying autograph?

“Better luck next season, you’re a hard working guy. See you later,” I smile a real one.

He breathes a sigh of relief, smiles back, and takes the bill.

“Thank you very much,” he says. More for keeping things discreet and friendly, rather than for the service.

From afar I watch him ponder over the tip. He begins to write something in, but she scolds him, watching the pen like a hawk. He recoils, and makes a generous correction.

Blondie came through!

Suns Coach Lindsey Hunter was going to tip like crap until his date made him give me $15 on a $35 bill. J