Nashville, TN, February 10, 2012

Today was my first day of work. Or not today, rather, but the day when I first wrote this, I can’t remember when. I felt like a young school-boy on his first day of school, nervous and giddy. When I arrived at the shop the front door was locked. Through the window I could see that there wasn’t anyone up front so I assumed they were in the kitchen. Not an unreasonable assumption, if you ask me. Around back I found a door that said “employees only.” The door had no handle, but it was slightly ajar so I was able to open it. This decision, to open the door I mean, was a lapse in judgment, I’ll freely admit that. But life is often a series of lapses of judgment, in a sense. “Hello,” I called. No answer. The phone started ringing and a keypad next to the door was flashing. There was also a sign on the other side of the door that said “emergency exit only alarm will sound.” I inferred based on these three things that I had set off the alarm.

When it comes down to it, I’m not always clever. I didn’t panic, but I wasn’t feeling very good about myself, either. I quickly saw that no one else was there so I prepared excuses to whoever was on their way.

A few minutes passed and some people arrived. A tattooed man with a scraggly beard and long hair asked me who I was and what I was doing. There are many more tattoos in the south, I’ve observed. The question ‘what are you doing?’ is always difficult to answer, when you truly think about it. He could have been in a biker gang, with the gruff aspect, the southern drawl, and of course all the tattoos. I later found out he is in a cyclist gang. He wasn’t pleased to see me. I thought about how things must have looked from his perspective. They didn’t look good. I tried to say, as deferentially and timidly as possible, while also standing up for myself, naturally, that I was here to train and I’d entered through the back, which I’d immediately realized was a mistake, but what was I supposed to do? I thought of also saying: I should have known that entering from behind can be messy. I kept that to myself.

He responded curtly, gruffly. It occurred to me that I could be in for a day of constant admonishing and reprimanding. Restaurants can be like that, it’s a horror. But I suppressed my indignation; these things will smooth out in the end, Dan. In fact, they smoothed out rather quickly, and as soon as the alarm issue was resolved the mood lightened and the scraggly guy started joking around with the other person on the shift.

That other person was a young girl named Annie, who had the great fortune of being assigned to train me. I had seen her before at the shop when I went in to apply and had remarked to myself that she was good-looking, though a little surly seeming. I was wrong in this impression (perhaps it was truly me who was surly, and I was merely projecting). She was patient, helpful, and warm. She had the habit of touching me on the shoulder when she talked to me, a gesture I was not opposed to.

The rest of the day was eventful, but I’m not going to write about it. I met another manager, who just laughed off the alarm incident and made me feel right at home. I left feeling good about my new job. But I will let fall the following remark, in an effort to bait the reader: there was actually—no, I can’t go on.