Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I was going to work on some projects today. I had even brought my laptop and thumb drive. I made sure I had all my plug-in chargers with me. I was committed, focused, determined.
But thoughts have their way of elbowing in, butting in line and shoving everything else aside.
Today, just now, my thought was: I need to write this. I need to get it out there and out of the way. I need to share it for the people who might need to read it. My apologies to those who wish to be done with this issue already. But we all know that the truth is, it has never really gone away. It shouldn’t go away until it Goes Away, if you know what I mean. So, maybe it’s OK that today, I tell my fourth and final “Me Too” story.
This is indeed my final chapter, so if you’ve grown fatigued from this topic, you can rest assured that this will be all.
This story isn’t nearly as significant as the recent post about the artist. Or maybe it is. You be the judge. ❤
Typical/obvious Content Advisories apply.
I was 25 this time, working as a cocktail waitress in a sports bar. I forget the name of the slimeball involved, but I can–and will–readily name the bar: it was Hat Tricks in Lewisville, Texas, a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth, on the “Dallas side”.
A quick primer, for those who aren’t familiar: the bar industry has a colorful and seedy underbelly. Untamed and raging addictions, domestic violence, adultery, misery, illegal activity (of multiple types – drugs, prostitution, gambling), and so on. And on. And on. Many of the bartenders and servers working the floors of these bars are indeed on the up-and-up, keeping their noses (and other body parts) clean, working their way through school or moonlighting for extra cash in addition to a day job. But, many, many are not. Self-destructive behaviors run pretty rampant.
Sometimes, those in the pit will attempt to pull others in.
“Come have a drink (get drunk) with us.”
On the subject of an illegal gambling ring: “do you want in?”
Some of that may simply be the product of an effort to include me, or prevent me from feeling excluded. And my “no”s were always polite, personable, and non-judgmental.
That’s the thing – although I don’t condone these activities or partake in them myself, I do my best not to judge others for doing so. It’s their life, their choice, and we’re all people, right? Everybody bleeds red and whatnot.
Until the conversation swings to sexual innuendos and they won’t take “no thanks, I’m married” for an answer.
The most dangerous time for a restaurant/bar server is, predictably, the time period that starts when the establishment closes and ends when the server is safely on the road back home. Between that time (which may last an hour or more, in many places), they are at their most vulnerable.
That’s when he got me.
It was a late-spring night at the bar. The place had closed down and all the bar patrons had left. The population inside had narrowed down to the employees only. As a server working the floor, I had a lot of work to do. I had to wipe down and reposition all the tables and chairs, wash out all the ashtrays (ugh), recycle all empty beer bottles, bring all pitchers and glasses to the bar for washing, and complete my “count-out” – the reconciliation of my customers’ tab payments, to make sure all sales had been accounted for with payment. And finally, I had to count my tips and “tip out” my bartender.
The bartender on duty that night had been the owner’s son. He treated me fine enough, although he often hit on other women, even customers, despite the fact that he was married. That’s probably one of the few holes in my Judgment-Free Zone; his behavior was blatant when his wife wasn’t around, and she didn’t know. (I was very very new, so I didn’t know her nearly as well as everyone else did, and I wasn’t sure if it was my place to say anything.)
Seems like apples often don’t fall too far from trees. The owner’s son had probably learned his behavior from his father, the owner. His Father, The Owner had come to oversee the closing down process one night, as he occasionally did.
We finished up, and I gathered my belongings and headed toward the door.
He met me just outside the front doors.
“Hey…” His breath was terrible. Old man, liquored up. “Wanna come back to my place?”
“No, thank you.” With the kind of smile you make when trying to be polite.
“Aw, come on. Have you ever had an older man?”
If only he’d known about my previous experience with an “older man”.
“Well… I’m married.” Hoping that would end the conversation.
(It didn’t. And with these pervs, it doesn’t.)
Taunting: “I can show you a good time.”
“No, I’m sorry, my husband is waiting for me right now. I have to pick him up.” Which was actually true. Except the “I’m sorry” part. I wasn’t, but the name of the game is to save face with your boss, especially when you’re skating the poverty line and this is one of the better-paying jobs to come along in a long time.
“Maybe next time then.”
I hoped I’d never run into him again, but, well, we all know that I would.
And I did.
It took a few weeks, but on another, similar night, he cornered me again, this time earlier on in the close-down process. This time, I was still on the clock, wiping tables clean. He knew he had me.
He must’ve been ruffled, too, about my having turned him down and blown off his advances last time, and he was in an irritable mood this time. Not just irritable in general, but his crosshairs were pointed right at me.
Target acquired. She’s cleaning tables. She can’t go anywhere. I can start in on her and she’s got nowhere to go.
He was fake-jolly at first. “You know, I never see you in shorts.”
I tried to even my response, filter it through a neutral, casual tone. “Yeah, I never wear them.”
His tone became more confrontational. “Why don’t you ever wear shorts?”
“I simply don’t feel comfortable in them. Things spill, burn, etc.” And I’m freaking vulnerable.
And there are so many reasons I don’t wear shorts. They leave your skin exposed, for the unwanted touching and caressing. They leave no protection from spills or burns or sharp edges or broken glass or gravel or concrete. They only give visuals of skin for idiots to ogle and judge. So why on earth would I put myself in that position? Why would I elect to remove that layer of protection? It might not be much, but it’s better than nothing.
Here comes the Sergeant Major persona; he’s getting louder now. “I want you to wear shorts.”
This was news to me. My jeans had never bothered him before. In fact, it’s what everybody wore, and nobody else had ever been singled out. And I knew immediately that that’s exactly what was happening: I was being singled out. Probably on the account of my turning him down the last time I’d seen him.
I’m getting mad. “Why?? There are other people here who don’t. It’s not against dress code to wear jeans!”
Lather, rinse, repeat.
And eventually, it escalated into a shouting match that I cannot flee because I’m still working, although I’ve begun to doubt how much longer I would be working there. I wondered if I’d have a job the next day.
“I WANT TO SEE YOU IN SHORTS NEXT TIME!! WHEN I SEE YOU, YOU’D BETTER BE WEARING THEM!!”
I hate having to repeat myself. “But it’s NOT AGAINST DRESS CODE! Show me the rule that actually says one HAS to wear shorts. There isn’t one. I can WEAR FUCKING JEANS if I choose to!!”
I was shaking by then. I felt my eyes tear up, but I willed them not to spill and fall. With every ounce of effort, I steeled myself against his drunken, rejected-ego rage, and willed myself not to cry or break down. I willed my voice to stay steady and not crack or go shrill.
Lots of “willing”.
I finished my work quickly and then ran to my truck. Only when I was safely inside and driving away, pulling out onto the near-desolate highway did I actually allow my eyes to fill with those tears.
I’m sorry to say that I continued working there for a few months after that. I did get fired (by a different, female manager) because I “just wasn’t working out”. It might sound like that had a lot to do with my run-in with the old prick, but I’m not sure that it did. There were a lot of differences between myself and the rest of the staff there, Asperger’s/autism notwithstanding (although I’m pretty certain that my neurotype did play a significant role in those differences). I wasn’t as “social” as the rest, I didn’t drink as much as the rest (I barely drank at all, by then), I didn’t hang out as late as the rest, I was more of a married homebody who remained faithful, dutifully picked up her partner from his workplace, and then went home to eat healthy meals and pet kitties. I wasn’t jacked up on pills or slurring my speech or cheating on my partner or any of the other things that most of the others did.
I’m sure there were people who didn’t indulge in all of the lifestyle choices, but were able to remain employed and unscathed at that bar. Maybe they were “cool” enough that they weren’t ostracized or singled out in any way, and their abstinence from various behaviors was excused or overlooked.
Apparently, I wasn’t one of them.
That’s OK. By firing me, they actually did me a favor that day. It took me about 20 minutes to realize it. And that includes processing the “you’re fired” news through my then-unknown-Aspergian/autistic brain.
That was 14 years ago. I’ve never looked back, except enough to write this post accurately.
PS: I never wore shorts. And I was proud of myself for standing up and saying NO for once. Despite the shaking, I actually felt strong. ❤
(Image Credit: Cyril Rolando)