Greek Restaurant Underworld – Part Three
The third and last chapter of the Greek Restaurant tale.
Time rolled along. After the experience with police officer Skuz recapped in Part 2, there was a shift in my status at the restaurant. I got invited to work evenings with M. Evening shifts were coveted and the other waitresses were jealous, especially those that had worked at the Garden for a while. I thought that M had been the one to suggest it and had been surprised. She always seemed a little haughty and condescending. I thought maybe she’d done it to spite the other waitresses.
I took the evening shift and quit my other job at the burger and shake joint. My move to SF was happening in a month. Visions of dollar signs danced in my head because I’d heard that anyone who worked nights, either with M or in her place, made tons of money under the table. There was no payroll for nights. There were often evenings that the restaurant was closed to the general public for “private events.” I don’t know how it looked in the books, but I was always paid with wads of cash in envelopes and so was M or anyone that worked an evening.
My first night was extremely memorable. I had been scheduled to work in the VIP area while M worked the more relaxed main dining room. It was unnerving because forty or so of Big J’s and Big G’s business cronies were there, along with several off duty police officers. There were also a few people of questionable character. Ms. L was there too, sloshed and weepy, hanging all over Big J. Big J kept pushing her roughly away from him while he leaned in close with various others to discuss whatever they were discussing.
I was the only waitress serving them the drinks and food courses. I thought M had arranged this clusterfuck so I would screw up. When I questioned her in the kitchen she informed me, icily, that Big G had specifically requested I take over the VIP service. I remember she was more haughty than usual.
Little G was manager at night. He saw me and asked “what the hell are you doing here?” I said “working” and that his dad had specifically requested it. Little G did not look pleased. This made me nervous. I sensed the potential for ugly drama was building so I tried to tune it out and focus on working.
I got help from Little G serving the crowded, boisterous VIP area. He was surly and watched me like a hawk. Police officer Skuz was there, drunk, and kept trying to slip me money for bringing him drinks or food. It was stressful. Eventually, it was 11:30 pm. My shift ended at midnight (having started around 7pm). I felt exhausted and my nerves were rattled.
Highlights of that evening:
- Being propositioned by police officer Skuz, repeatedly, and then having to push the $20 dollar bills away. Each time he apologized, he tried to slip me money. Some of the others thought this was hysterical, including L who just laughed at me, yelling, “Oh just take the goddamn money already. You’re hurting his feelings!”
- L and Big J got into a screaming fight during dinner which everyone else pretty much ignored. The other patrons in the VIP area just raised their voices louder to converse over the drunken lovers’ quarrel. At one point, L started wailing and Big J dragged her into the nearby office. We could still hear them. Big J was screaming unintelligibly and pounding on a desk. L was sobbing hoarsely and when she spoke, she was unintelligible. I had been worried and wanted to go see if she was okay but Big G intercepted me and said, “This happens all the time. Not for you to worry about. Go sit in the main dining area and rest.”
At this point I just wanted to get my shift pay, scoop up the tips, and get out of there. I sat in one of the booths in the general dining area and noticed that it was empty. It had been closed to other diners for who knows how long. It also became obvious that both Little G and M had left.
I got pissed because Little G was supposed to cash me out. I went to Big G and said I needed to be paid. He said, “just wait until I let the rest of these people out. We’re closed now.” He handed me a wad of cash, the tips from the guests. (When I counted it later at home, I distinctly remember that it was just under $500. For fucking serious! Add that to what I got in the envelope for my shift pay and the total was almost a grand for a five hour shift. I feel slightly dirty thinking back on it now, but it did get me moved out of town.)
The VIP area of the restaurant was finally empty. I was still waiting for G to cash me out. Big J had gone home to his wife. L was sitting with me in the booth sniffling and drinking, but now calm. She apologized for the screaming match and said something like, “people in love are passionate in anger too” which made me cringe. She was so in love with Big J.
Big G came over sipping a drink with a drink for me. He told L to go home. She gave me a weird smile and left. I was feeling very uneasy all of a sudden because Big G scooted into the booth next to me, too close for comfort. He went into a long monologue about M, how she was really demanding, and wanted money all the time. He bitched about her possessiveness and vicious jealousy. He was a little tipsy but did not seem drunk so why the hell was he pouring out his mistress troubles to me? I listened and nodded politely.
He went on for a few minutes about M, telling me how long they’d been together, and that his wife was okay with him having a mistress and other TMI stuff. I longed for my shift pay and a drink at home away from the Garden. After a bit he put his arm around me and asked if I’d like to be set up in a nice apartment. He said he’d been watching me and felt I’d make a good mistress, “better than M because she is so greedy.”
Needless to say, I was horrified but also ready to burst into hysterical laughter. It was so fucking surreal, comical, and yet sordid. But laughter would have been very bad. Big G was a proud man. I did not want to get on his bad side.
I think I feigned a coughing jag and mumbled some lie about having a boyfriend in SF and that I was trying to earn money to move there. Big G did not even blink or flinch. He just nodded and said in a matter-of-fact voice, “oh, so you are leaving the restaurant soon? Make sure you tell Little G and L so they can get another waitress lined up.” He then stood up and said, “I’ll cash you out.”
Before I left for the night he said, “Think about my offer. Maybe you won’t need that boyfriend in San Francisco if you decide you like my offer.”
M was not around much during the night shift after that. I worked the week nights at the restaurant alone. There were no private parties, just regular diners. It was busy but manageable. I made a boatload of cash to fund my move. However, I was weirded out by M not being around. I thought she’d gotten fired or quit.
Little G interrogated me. He said he’d heard that I’d stayed at the restaurant after closing time to have a meeting with his dad. I told Little G the “I’m saving money to move to SF to be with my boyfriend” stuff, leaving out the mistress stuff. Little G stared at me in silence for a moment and then said, “It’s probably wise you are moving to San Francisco.” I got the feeling he knew exactly what I was not divulging about the discussion with his dad.
On my last night at the restaurant, M showed up at one of my tables. She ordered dinner and watched me all night. She was very polite and distant but there was also a slightly menacing quality about her. After the last patrons left, she motioned for me to sit down. This is what I remember of the conversation we had:
M: “So I hear that Big G offered to set you up in your own apartment. Do you know what that means?”
Me: “Yes, M. I turned him down.”
M: “I know you did. I just wanted to make sure you understood what that offer meant. Big G is worth a lot of money. I wanted to make sure that you really did refuse his offer.”
Me: “I know that you and Big G are together.” (I then tell the “boyfriend, moving to SF” story.)
M (in a condescending voice): “Well, Big G and I have reconciled. So his offer is no longer available to you. You’ve made a smart decision to move. Good luck.”
With that she gathered up her stuff and said a polite good-bye. I cleaned up her table and noticed she’d left a $100 bill for a tip.
L came in that night to bid me a sentimental good-bye. Big J came in also and gave me an extra $300 as a “good luck for the move” gift from the restaurant. (It had been a brief but financially flush 3 months working there!)
Epilogue: A year or so after moving to San Francisco, I returned to Utah to visit. I dropped acid with friends and related the tales of my experiences at the restaurant. Under the influence of LSD, I called the Garden to get in touch with L to see how things were going. Whoever answered the phone told me that L had passed away of a heart attack a few months earlier. This did not bode well for my acid trip. I got incredibly depressed and maudlin, and managed to convince myself that L had possibly been murdered. I decided that for the future it was best to refrain from contacting anyone connected to the Garden again.
And so ended the Greek Restaurant Underworld chapter of my life!