bowling shoes and goodbyes

It's midnight thirty and I am still sitting in my chair in my (but almost not) office at Qdoba. It's the very end of my last shift, way later than it should be, but there's so much information I feel I need to pass on to the new GM, I had to write a manifesto about the staff and the store before I could leave. The muzak is playing a five-year-old Dave Matthews song which I have heard a million times yet I can't seem to shut it off. I've got to take my final walk through, make sure the equipment is off, gather up my bartender's license, photos, leave my key in the safe, and say goodbye. And I'm crying.

This crazy job has almost made me insane a few times, but I've never felt more responsible and satisfied in my life as I have in the past year. It's that feeling that literally the show cannot go on without you some days. You come in, direct a rag-tag group of barely high-school graduates, hormonal teenage girls and a moody Mexican cook and walk away feeling like the day was busy and tiring, but customers were happy, and your employees left work in a better mood than when they came in.

 I got flowers, cards and a t-shirt from Christina, one of my favorite and best line severs, that has an iron-on patch with swords behind the company logo. It reads "Captain Klutz of Team Qdoba." There's an inside joke here about everyone needing a superhero alter-ego that began when my old assistant manager commented that people call him "white lightening" (hilarious in context). I asked Christina what mine might be and she said that I was sort of klutzy, so maybe something with that. True true, I do not have the grace of a dancer.

That someone would make me a t-shirt is just amazing to me. I've always been a good employee, but it's not until that last year that I've actually been solely in charge of something and been able to at least attempt to engender a feeling of community among my staff. All restaurants have drama and conflict, but I think there has also been community here, and I'm proud of that.

Last night I went bowling for a the first time in years with Fermin, his brother Antonio and Antonio's friend/girlfriend, who is a college student from Wisconsin who also works at the restaurant they all work at. For some reason I loved putting on the bowling shoes. They were red, white and blue and goofy-looking, but they made me smile. Where else do you go where you get a level playing field by means of ridiculous footwear? Last night we went out with friends and had fun, laughing and goofing around. We always have fun me and him together, but our cultural backgrounds often make social situations awkward. He's somewhat uncomfortable with the norms of American small talk, and I'm somewhat clueless sometimes when a bunch of Mexicans start talking in Spanish about anything. But restaurants are the exact place where a pair like us fit in. The servers learning Spanish swear words and the cooks and dishwashers trying to figure out how to say "Can I get a raise?" Fermin and I are like the king and queen of that world. He an experienced Mexican-in-America, me a functionally bilingual inhabitant of both worlds. We met in a restaurant almost four years ago. So much a part of who I am right now today and the way my life looks is entwined with things that have happened in restaurants.

Whatever restaurant I have been in for the past few years has been like a micro-community for me to be part of. As a manager I have always been a leader and shaper in these groups, if I chose to be. I have interacted with so many different people, fed endless curiosities about Mexican culture and the American working class. 

The last few days everyone asked me if I will miss it. I honestly don't know. The hours, responsibility and stress? Probably not. The community, most definitely. Life changes, everyone is happy for me, but I know this is the end of an era for me. Like Brittany my shift supervisor wrote to me, we all move on to other things, hoping they will be bigger and better.

12:57 am on Sunday morning. Time to say goodbye.  

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11 Responses to bowling shoes and goodbyes

  1. mary says:

    well said, laura.

    i am excited for this next phase of your life, and hopeful that you’ll get to bring some of your qdoba family into it with you as well. good luck tomorrow šŸ™‚

  2. Adam says:

    Congratulations on escaping the Qdoba Vortex of Doom! I assume this had something to do with the reference-check call I got a few weeks ago. (Don’t worry, I told them you couldn’t even be trusted to run the neighborhood lemonade stand ;-)Sometime we’ll have to get coffee and you’ll have to tell me all about it.

    In related news, sorry I haven’t kept in better touch; it seems vaguely wrong to me that I found out about your career change via weblog instead of, say, cellphone. I am very happy for you and relieved that you got out; you were definitely looking a little shell-shocked last I saw you.

    I’ll get to the point here and wish you the best of luck in your new job!

  3. lois bruss says:

    Laura –

    Speaking of BOWLING I saw a movie this past weekend called “The Big Lebowski” with Jeff Bridges & John Goodman. You may have already seen it as it came out in ’98 but if you haven’t there are some hilarious parts especially regarding BOWLING.

    Hope things went well today at the new job. It’s a big change for you but I think you were ready for it……

  4. Laura says:

    Oh, Adam, I am sorry (if you read this) I assumed you would have been told by say, Brittany, but my bad. We should have coffee. I will do the right thing and call you sometime soon. =) Thanks for the note!

  5. mary says:

    yes, laura! do tell all about the new job!! how did it go?

  6. Laura says:

    All is going well. It’s pretty boring this week. The other new girl and I are basically reading up on vaccines that we and our competitors sell. It’s hard for me to sit all day. I get extremely hungry considering how little actual calories I am burning. I’ll write more soon.

  7. The Azn Zensation says:

    ‘HOY CAPTAIN!!! Haha. Man, you do not know how happy and excited I was when I read your comment! I think I was being a little too harsh when I said my favorite swear and “Pal” right after. It’s just a little weird having to answer to some stranger that’s kind of crazy, in the asylum kind of way. I think she’ll be alright once I get used to her.

    I think Pal saw your little notes about the employees because today, she made Rick do a billion things. Ha, it felt nice to hear him complain.

    I’m oh-so-glad that you loved my present! Presents are the best when you look at it and good memories start flooding into your mind.

    Oh, and don’t mind my nerdy video game talk… I just can’t help it. = /

  8. laurafern says:

    Christina, I am so glad to hear things are better. But, “in the asylum kind of way?” I hope she doens’t read this. I got a little scared after reading your blog from the other day. By the way, do you have another blog? When you called for help you said something about not giving me the addresses for your blog(s)? Also, where is the picture of Adam? He reads me now apparently, that’s his comment above complaining that I didn’t call him about my new job. I’m glad you can take satisfaction in Rick complaining again. You’ve got to enjoy the little things….

  9. Christina says:

    Well, she likes to talk to herself alot and it drives Rodrigo crazy. She’s just a little weird sometimes… I have a LiveJournal, but that one basically has the same stuff as my Xanga (I sometimes copy and paste entries because I’m lazy… haha). You will notice that there can be tiny differences in the entries because there are people who read my LJ that shouldn’t know things, so I put it in my Xanga and vice versa. The URL is mei_xien_nu.livejournal.com.

    Haha, I’m still working on that picture of Adam, but I’m going to work on it tonight and you’ll be the first to see when I’m finished!

  10. Laura says:

    Hey crazy woman XTina,

    One more thing if you read this, could you get Erica’s, Brittany’s and perhaps Rachel’s e-mail address for me at your convenience? I tried to google Erica but I don’t think she has the Net presence you have. =) I just want to have them to randomly keep
    in touch. I would appreciate it..

    Laura

  11. Christina says:

    Yes m’am! I believe Brittany had to cancel her internet… but I’m sure she’ll get it back soon.

    Everyone misses you ALOT. But don’t feel bad, just wanted to let you know that we all love you.

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