When we left off, Valerie was scrubbing floors. The corporate office sacked the regional manager. I am at school in Jersey while my girlfriend is working at The Restaurant. She calls me with regular updates. I'm nervous, as I wrote an email that laid out all the problems that Valerie is causing. She hasn't been fired, and I'm wondering if I've been laid out to dry.
-Valerie Gets Canned, Part II-
I'm in my dorm writing a paper for one of my Anthropology classes. It's a five-pager. In high school, a five-page paper is intimidating. Now it's a breeze. I've been writing for an hour and I already have seven pages. I just have to pare down the flowery language and I'm good to go. There's a party tonight that I don't want to miss.
The phone rings. It's my girl. She's calling from The Restaurant.
"She's still here." She's whispering. She must be on her cell phone in the back.
"Is she still washing the walls?" I love the mental picture of Valerie on her knees with a bucket of soap and a sponge, Cinderella-style.
"No... the new regional made her clean out the entire dry storage. She's still in there. This place reeks like bleach!"
"How's the new regional treating everyone?"
"She's strict, but she loves me... I think she might be a lesbo. She made me unbutton a few buttons on my shirt. My boobs are almost hanging out." I like this new regional manager already.
"Oh, yeah? How are the tips today?"
"Actually, really good." No surprise there. How you look can effect your tip, regardless of your skills as a server. (More on this in another post)
"Nice. People are pigs. Hey, I have to finish this paper, then I'm going to go out. Ice block party tonight. You working tomorrow?"
"OK. Can you call me if anything else happens?"
"Sure... by the way, what's an ice block party?"
"We got a 300 lb. block of ice. We set it up on a stand and use an iron to melt grooves in it. Whoever wants a shot stands at the bottom with their mouth on the end of the groove. We pour in the booze from the top, and by the time it gets to the bottom, it's ice cold."
"Sounds like fun! Wish I could be there..." I can hear her pouting. Truth of the matter is, I wish she could be here too. When you're at school, you forget what it feels like to get a hug from a loved one.
"I know, baby. I wish you could be here, too. Give me a call tomorrow, ok?"
"Will do. I better get back..." Click.
OK, back to the paper. I hate Foucalt....
The phone is ringing. So is my head. Jaeger is the devil, especially when it's being poured down an icy chute. I grope for the phone in the dark.
"Hello?" My eyes are still closed. A little monkey is playing conga drums in my skull. Every time I move, he playes louder. I try to stay still.
"You sound like shit." Is that a hint of glee I hear?
"Thanks. What time is it?"
"Eleven your time." I've been asleep for five hours. Super.
"What's going on?"
"I just got here. She's still here, but now they have her cleaning the ceiling tiles. The reason I called is that there are two people from corporate here." Forgetting my headache, I shoot out of bed onto my feet.
"You think they're going to fire her today?" I pace nervously while my mind races. Is this it? Will they finally get rid of her? Who will the be the new GM? Man, my hardwood floor sure is dirty. Where are my shower slippers? Shit, she's talking again.
"I'm sorry, what?"
"I said 'I don't think so.' They wouldn't make her keep cleaning if they were going to fire her, right?"
"Honestly, I don't know. I'm going to be in my room all day. Call me if something changes."
I hang up the phone. I wonder out of my bedroom into the common room. The light streaming through our lone window hurts my eyes.
My roommate is gently shooing out some girl he picked up last night. She leaves reluctantly. Time for her to embark on the Walk of Shame.
He looks like hell. I figure I probably look just as bad. We look at each other. Without saying a word, we turn and head back to our beds.
I'm finally able to get out of bed around 2. My roommate and I head out for lunch at Hoagie Haven, home of the greatest cheese steaks on Earth. We need grease if we're going to rebound for another party tonight. I love college.
When we get back about an hour later, the red light on the phone is blinking. There is a message. My roommate checks first.
"Must be you. My voicemail is empty." He tosses me the handset, plops on the couch, and flicks on the TV. He finds an NCAA basketball game and zones in.
I check my voicemail. Four messages. The first is from my parents. Just checking in. The next three are from my girlfriend.
"Call me back!"
"Where are you? You better not be sleeping! Call me back!"
"I can't believe I can't get a hold of you! You said you'd be in your room all day. Call me back!"
Weird. She's not the type to call and leave a bunch of messages. Hmmm... I pick up the handset and call The Restaurant.
"Thank you for calling The Restaurant, this is Rena speaking, how can I help you?"
"Rena, it's me. Is the woman around?"
"I was wondering when you were going to call. You ain't gonna believe this shit! Here she is."
"Hello? They did it! They canned her ass! HA!" She's screaming into the receiver. My mind goes numb. I recover quickly and start dancing a little jig, laughing hysterically. My roommate watches me with mild interest.
"Tell me everything!"
She launches into the story.
Valerie has been cleaning the place from bottom to top. She was washing the ceiling tiles, but when she got to the final tile, the corporate G-Men stopped her. They lead her over to one of the tables. Nobody can hear anything until Valerie stands up and starts screaming, "This bullshit! You can't fire me! I managing partner!"
Valerie invested some money into the franchise a while back. She gets a percentage of the store's profits.
Apparently, The G-Men anticipated this. They open a briefcase, write her a check, hand it to her, and point her towards the door. She's screaming as she's leaving.
"You can't do this! This bullshit! I sue your asses!"
As she's leaving, still raving, a man walks in. He's about 6'4'', and he looks a bit nervous. The G-Men speak to him for a moment. They then ask the staff to gather in the back.
Once everyone is there, the G-men introduce the tall man as the new general manager, Randy. Then one of the G-men explained what happened.
"The corporate office felt it may be time for a change for this store. When we arrived a few days ago, we realized that The Restaurant was in a lot worse of shape than we anticipated. In fact, it was rotten to the core. We made Valerie clean up her own mess, as you may have noticed. However, we left one ceiling tile untouched." He points to the uncleaned ceiling tile. It's yellow, on the verge of brown. The contrast with the gleaming white ceiling tiles is astonishing. "Every time you look at that tile, I want you all to think about what each of you can do to prevent the same sort of thing from happening."
The G-men pack up their stuff an leave.
In the coming weeks, Valerie's absence was easily noticable. From the associates (servers, bartenders, cooks, busboys, hosts) a mild euphoria permeated The Restaurant. From the managers, astonishment and disgust. Valerie had been doctoring her cost numbers for months. Food cost jumped four points, beverage cost jumped 2. For those of you counting at home, that adds up to about $4,500 in missing food and liquor.
And from me? Well, I'm just amazed at the power of one well-written email.