The following is my first attempt at a serial. Later I will hopefully add many installments and introduce many characters. All of it is true and occurred at my first place of employment. I hope it's as entertaining now as it was nearly 20 years ago when most of happened...
She was older than me. Quite a bit older.
I was 15 and it was my first day joining the wonderful American workforce. I had gangled my way down the long corridor to the employee lounge where the time clock was bolted to a wall and punched in. For the first time in my life I was on the clock and something about that felt powerful. Every moment I spent that first evening in my short-sleeved light blue striped shirt and navy shorts felt like a million bucks...that's because it was a million bucks, or at least it would have been after 200,000 hours. Now it's illegal to pay a $5 wage in Oregon, or anywhere in the US for that matter, but on that day in that place when I was 15 and she was much older than me it was empowering and wonderful and I felt alive.
Her name was Francis...but let me back up a bit here...
Adam McKenzie was one of my best friends in middle school and high school. He was one of those guys that was good at everything. He ALWAYS made straight A's. He was tall and good looking. He was a solid athlete. He came from an amazing family. And he was the first of my friends to get an actual, real life, paying job. You see, his brother was a food server and was able to put in a good word with Rosalie who hired Adam in a snap. When you're paying $5/hour and you find a good employee, you take his word when he recommends another person eager to serve.
Despite being in the same grade Adam was a year older than me, so it was natural for him to find employment first. And it was after he was hired that I began to notice something different about him. It seemed that every time he wanted to do something such as “eat lunch” or “go to the movies” he could. Why? Because he had these strange little green rectangles in his wallet that he told me were called “money” and he could actually trade these slips of paper for pretty much anything he wanted if he had enough of them.
Well, the style in the early 90's didn't include any tailed coats, but I'm here to tell you that didn't stop me from instantly riding Adam McKenzie's coattails right to his boss for an interview. Now what was it I was saying about Adam? Oh right, he was good at everything and, fortunately for me, that included being a model employee. So like his brother before him, his word to Rosalie was as good as gold for the beneficiary and in this particular instance that beneficiary was me.
After filling out my very first application, having my very first interview and completing my very first W-2 I was ready to make my very first taxable income. I nervously walked my skinny legs into the kitchen that first day, worried to death because Adam wasn't working that shift. I was told to ask for Toby.
“I'm Toby. Put on a hairnet,” said a small, mid-20's, possibly recovering drug addict, certainly living in a trailer, GIRL. (Years later I would have a similar situation come up on my first day working at Oswego Lake Country Club...the day I sought out my now very good male friend Jade to issue me my uniform). The thing about Toby was that if life hadn't aged her so prematurely she probably would have been pretty.
Wait...did she say “hairnet”?
So Toby was the Assistant Dining Room Manager, or perhaps The Assistant to the Dining Room Manager or maybe she was the Dining Room Manager who was the understudy to the Kitchen Manager. In any case, Toby quickly showed me how to line up cups and fill them with the correct beverages. Then it was time to hit the floor.
You see, there were two sides to the food service business. There was the back of the house (the kitchen) where the food was prepared. And there was the front of the house (the dining room) where it was my job to put a smiling face on the establishment. After being learning some menial tasks in the back of the house, it was time to walk through that understated doorway from the heat of the industrial kitchen onto The Floor where the real action took place.
And that's when I met her. “Francis, this is Keith” said Toby rather loudly. “What?”. “This is KEITH!”. “What?” “KEITH!” Me: “Yes, I'm KEITH!” Francis: “Oh, Keith...rhymes with teeth.” I laughed. “Don't laugh, now I'm serious. Now I will never forget your name.” And, by God, from that day for the next 5 years that 90 year old woman, Francis, never did forget my name. I told you she was older than me.
And thus began my adventures working at The Fountains at Town Center Village. I was about to find out just how much fun assisted living could be.