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Clock-In Vanessa Blakeslee

First we’ll clock you in on the computer and then you can start following me around. Your clock-in number is always the last four digits of your Social Security number, but for tonight you’ll need my number to get to the tables on the screen. Ever use Aloha before? It’s a pretty straightforward system. Go ahead — my number is 1979. Open the screen.

Okay, so here are all the keys representing the menu. The most important things to remember, and the ones that are most confusing, are what items come with sour cream and guacamole. Some items come with it, for instance, under “Apps” — hit “Apps” then hit, “Quesadilla” — you’ll see all the kinds of quesadillas you can order, chicken, blackened chicken, black bean. You don’t need to modify for sour cream and guacamole because it comes with the quesadilla. Also with the fajitas. It’s included in the price. But always ask the customer if they would like guacamole or not. It’s expensive and we don’t like to give it to them automatically if they don’t want it.

However, with anything else you must charge for sour cream and guacamole. Or if they want extra. Chimichangas, burritos, combo plates, they don’t come with it. Make sure you tell people so they know right off the bat. Now scroll down to “A La Carte.” Everything that makes up the combo platters, like tacos and those things, the customer can get a la carte. And there’s the buttons for the sour cream and guacamole.

One more thing. Some servers around here, like Sara Thomas, have a bad habit of calling in items to the kitchen that they need and not ringing them in. The managers don’t like that and you’ll get in trouble for calling, “Can I get a sour cream?” when you’re supposed to be ringing it in. Sara is on the hit list right now because everyone knows she steals. She’s a thief, so watch the money you keep in your drawer. Some people carry it on them, but I don’t. I doubt Sara steals money, she’s just the type to hook her friends up with free stuff. But they’re on to her, James and Holly. Actually, you might be her replacement. All I know is, she’s walking a thin line with James and Holly and they’ve wanted to fire her for a long time.

The kitchen doesn’t like when you call things in either. You can be sure Ken or Benita will say, “Where’s the ticket?” Especially if Ken’s here in the afternoon. See, he’s an alcoholic so around two he can’t wait to get off and have his margarita. He’ll start snapping at you for almost nothing at all, so don’t feel it’s your fault. At four when he clocks out he goes straight to the bar and has shots and margaritas. When you’re at the service bar he’ll lean over and make comments that make no sense. Sometimes he sits up here all night and gets wasted. But when he’s here Ken does do his work.

See the skinny little guy behind the line? That’s Ed. He doesn’t do his work. He talks and acts like he’s Senior Cook, and he’ll talk your ear off, about all the work he does, but he has to take his “break” when we get off the wait list on a Friday night and it’s time to clean up. He’ll sit by the Coke machine for thirty minutes and let the dishes pile up if he’s on dish. You may have seen him around Winter Park or at the Publix shopping center. He doesn’t have a driver’s license so he rides a bike. And he lives with about twenty cats. If you go over there his house reeks of cats. None of them are spayed or neutered so they multiply like rabbits and he can’t take care of them all. My friend Darlene adopted one of the kittens last year and it had a big sore on top of its head and worms crawling out of its butt — this was a cat he gave her! Nice free cat. She spent three hundred dollars at the vet’s office to get it better. So don’t adopt any of Ed’s cats.

Okay, maybe we should go back to learning the computer. What happens when you need to take something off a check, say you make a mistake and ring something in? Then you need to get James or Holly. James is usually outside doing repairs — he’s the only one who gets anything done around here. Holly goes in the back office because of her smoking. That’s something no one talks about, Holly smoking. She hides in the back because she’s six months pregnant and she doesn’t want the regular customers to know. But everyone does know, about her smoking.

You’re really catching on. I’m so glad, because we’re all getting burnt out on the extra shifts and we needed to hire someone. You gotta watch though. Kim and I — you met her earlier — we have this joke that soon we’ll turn into Ken or Ed. We’ll sell our cars and move into a house in the neighborhood out back. We won’t even need bikes to go to work. Hell, Ken and Ed can move in with us, Ed with his twenty cats, and after work at night, and on our vacations, we’ll stand around at the service bar and make nasty comments to everyone who’s trying to work because we’re miserable. So even when we’re off we won’t leave. We won’t need to. The restaurant is all that we need. Sounds funny, I know, but you gotta watch. This place will suck you in. Now where were we? That’s right. My number is 1979.

© Vanessa Blakeslee

Meet the Author

Vanessa Blakeslee

Vanessa Blakeslee received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has been recognized by grants and fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, and the United Arts of Central Florida, and has appeared in The Southern Review, Harpur Palate, The Bellingham Review, The New York Quarterly, and Southern Poetry Review, among other journals. She is completing a novel set in Colombia. Find Vanessa online at vanessablakeslee.com.

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