(Side note: a couple of friends of mine who knew a woman I was dating ran into me while I was out and about. As we went our separate ways, I told them to tell her I said hi. As I drove home, I was practically punching myself in the head. I would clutch my head in my hands and scream, "Tell her I said hi?!? You love this woman and THAT'S the best you can come up with?!?" So those of you who think I'm a wonderfully poetic and expressive writer? There are times when that's a bunch of crap.)
Thursday, I'm here at the lunch counter, grabbing dinner after a very busy day. Everyone here knows me by sight. I'm sitting here, and the manager is at the table to my left.
It seems they are cutting her hours again. In the past four years, her income from the job has dropped by $10,000, and that's not adjusted for inflation. They say they are cutting her hours because, even though she's a manager and the others are assistant managers or lower, they don't want to seem unfair and are splitting the time more evenly. She's been working there for ten years. And she can't get another job because she's near retirement age. "Who's going to hire me?" she sniffles. She starts going over all the things in her life that need her paycheck. They take up most of it. She'll never get ahead. She's trapped. Everyone else here is getting their hours cut, too. Everyone feels like shit.
And there's nothing I can say or do. Even if I could make them smile, it would be great. But they are all focused on their misery. And I'm powerless.
I go up to get a refill of iced tea before I go. There are no customers there at that time, it's just me and the crew. A couple of them are preparing tartar sauce because fish is such a big seller during Lent. The people making it are just high schoolers, one guy, one girl. One of them takes the tartar sauce dispenser and, without warning, shoots a glop onto her face.
I look at them and deadpan, That reminds me of the ending of all my favorite movies.
The place went NUTS!
Everyone's laughing. Some are laughing so hard, they're on the floor. The manager has tears streaming from her eyes, but for a different reason this time. One of them can't believe how fast I think. Rest assured, I wouldn't have made that joke if I didn't know them so well, I know better than that. The mood lightened, I tip my hat and head on out.
Tonight, I hit the lunch counter. The manager is here. It seems that with the mood lightened, everyone started talking. And they decided to mention the hours situation to the owner the following day. The manager not only has her hours back, but a few more -- not much, but a few. Purely symbolic, but proper, and every little bit helps. And a couple of people got their hours back as well. Not everyone, but a couple.
And they said it was because of my joke. It snapped them out of it.
I'm not sure if I should take credit for that. After all, they probably would have thought to complain on their own.
But if it gets positive results, let them think that. I won't argue.