In the winter of my junior year of high school, I applied to work at Bollinger’s, a 1950’s style vintage diner complete with Norman Rockwell paintings, a sparkly red and white color scheme, and an old jukebox. It had once been my favorite restaurant in town, but had since closed and reopened several times, getting significantly worse each time. I hadn’t been there in years, but every time I went I got a huge, disgusting pizza burger, which is a burger topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and a glorious, glorious milkshake. Bollinger’s had become a total shit-show where useless high school stoners worked for a couple weeks before they stopped showing up, but it still had the best milkshakes in town.
In the summer I got a call from a slow talking woman with a weak voice offering me a job. I show up and am immediately asked to start working. I am introduced the head and only chef, a freshman pothead named Edwin. He takes me into back to show me how to cook a burger. The first thing he does is he takes a giant knife and slices open a hamburger bun he is holding in his hand, and continues until he slices through his hand. “Fuck.” He wraps a dirty rag around his hand, which is bleeding profusely, and goes on with the tutorial.
A party of four walk in. Someone orders a BLT. We don’t know if you put any meat other than bacon on a BLT, because even though we know it stands for Bacon Lettuce Tomato it still seems weird to make a sandwich where the only meat is bacon. After deliberating for a bit we decide to send the one waitress to tell him that we don’t have BLT’s and we cook him a burger. “Shouldn’t we be wearing loves?” I ask. “Nah, not yet,” says Edwin. “I’m gonna put on gloves,” I say. The entire party walks out after five minutes because all of their cups are visibly dirty. I eat their burgers.
This becomes a pattern. Almost everybody who walks in walks out before we finish cooking their “meal,” and almost nobody comes in. The restaurant as a whole made $65 for the entire day on my first day there, and I think that was the highest of all the days I worked. I have the waitress show me how to make a milkshake. I start making myself milkshakes constantly, and I eat bacon off of the warm plate of infinite bacon that is there all day every day and refilled by some benevolent spirit, and I make myself bacon cheeseburgers, and I make more milkshakes, and I get paid for all of it. I didn’t quite see how the restaurant was able to profit under these circumstances, but I didn’t ask a lot of questions. A lot of the time I would be lookout while the other two or three employees went in the basement to do drugs, and I would stand there drinking milkshakes and playing games on my phone and no one would ever come in.
I start asking some questions when the boss lady isn’t around, and the general consensus is that she won some kind of law suit for being a cripple and spent all the money on buying this restaurant that she clearly has no idea how to run. One day my then-girlfriend and I decide to go on a spontaneous road trip and get the fuck out of our town. I was going to go to college soon and I had never really done anything drastic on impulse, and felt this was an important thing to do while I could still do it. I didn’t tell anyone at work. When I came home a week later, the restaurant was boarded up. Now it’s an innocuous, sterile, mediocre diner. I will never have a better job.