I had a job at the Town Talk Cafe on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades when I was fourteen . How I got the job or why I don’t remember . It paid $ 1.30 an hour . I was the dishwasher .
The place had three or four tables and several seats at the counter . Most people came in for coffee , I guess , and maybe a donut . Hamburgers and soup were also on the menu . A rough German woman owned it .
My first day on the job one of the waitresses prepared me a burger when I finished work .She told me it was an employee benefit . I sat at one of the tables munching as the German woman stood nearby and yelled at the waitress for giving me the burger . It turned into quite an argument as the waitress stood her ground and the owner stood hers . I was a little uncomfortable eating , wondering if I should surrender the partially eaten burger . The German woman would ultimately win the argument , of course , since she owned the restaurant . I had decided to finish my meal before the end of the argument so I chewed madly , like there was no tomorrow . That was my last burger at the Town Talk Cafe .
The owner was not a pleasant person . She chewed me out for getting dirt on my apron . She chewed me out for putting too much bleach in the rinse water . She chewed me out for bending the wire handle of the bottle brush that I used to clean the glasses with . She chewed me out for not cleaning the griddle correctly . She chewed me out for using too much dish soap . Once she sent me to Mayfair Market for lettuce and then when I got back she complained about the lettuce I got .
There was no electric dish washer at the Town Talk Cafe . I was the only dishwasher . There were two sinks where I worked . One was in the back near the griddles in the kitchen . The other one was up front behind the counter . In the front sink I washed small stuff like coffee cups and saucers . As I worked at that sink my back was near the counter .
A Safeway store was under construction while I worked for the German woman . Some of the construction men came in throughout the day for coffee and donuts . Because of them , business was booming . One guy was full of idiotic jokes . When I was washing cups up front he would place himself at the counter right behind me so that he could loudly spew stupid Irish jokes to tease me . I was a captive audience , in a way , working on the dirty dishes , and he knew it . I told him once to lay off the Irish jokes but that show of annoyance , no doubt , inspired more annoying jokes . Day after day he goaded me with more and more obnoxious jokes .
One day I was struck with an inspiration of my own . On the spur of the moment , when this construction guy was mid-joke , I turned and took his coffee and donut from the counter and slipped them quickly into the soapy water .
” Hey ! Hey ! ” he shouted when he saw me do it . I ignored him . I’m good at playing dumb . I had my back to him as he complained . I was calmly washing coffee cups . With the commotion the German lady came out of the kitchen . Jokester explained that I had taken his coffee and donut and dumped them into the sink .
” I don’t know what he’s talking about ,” I told her . I was relaxed . A dumbfounded expression covered my face . She didn’t know what to do . She didn’t know whether to yell at me or not . She got the disturbed man another cup of coffee and another donut .
When I was washing plates at the back sink once she walked a well-dressed man into the kitchen . He was looking at the griddles . He was looking at the refrigerator . He was looking the place over .
” And this is my son Denny ,” the woman told him . I knew instantly that she was trying to sell the place to this guy and that I was expected to play my part in the transaction .
” Hello , Denny ,” he said .
When he said that I was already in the process of removing my apron . ” My name is not Denny ,” I told him as I put the apron on a shelf . ” I’m not her son . And I don’t work here anymore .”
The German woman was startled . The man was taken aback . I hoped like hell that I had ruined that sale for her . She was so rotten to me day after day and now I was supposed to pretend to be her son to sucker this guy into thinking that the Town Talk Cafe was a friendly little family business . She couldn’t have it both ways .
I held my head high and walked out . A person should put up with only so much .