Tuna on Robert down

Tuna on Robert down; Burgers a pair in the well, one takes cheese. Who knew that you had to learn a new language in order to work at the HoJo’s on 52nd St. and 8th Ave. The thing was that, if you did not already know the restaurant ordering lingo, no one would cook your order. You had to wait at the grill, looking pathetic, until one of the hard-boiled waitresses or kitchen workers would take the time to tell you how to order a tuna on toasted rye, or 2 burgers, well-done, one of them a cheese burger. They would reluctantly help, all the while rolling their eyes as if you should be born knowing short order slang.

That wasn’t the shittiest part of the job, though. I worked a 7:30 to 3:30 shift one summer there before graduating from college. I would wait on 70 to 80 tables a day, every patron in a mad rush. HoJo’s is right in the middle of the theater district, so customers all waited until the last possible minute to come in for a quick bite before curtain time. Now, if you are taking the time and money to go to NYC to see a Broadway show, wouldn’t you try to make a nice meal part of the experience? I would think most people should be willing to shell out a little more for a lunch nicely prepared in a restaurant that offers atmosphere. HoJo’s was pretty much the opposite of that dining experience, and people tended to take out their disappointment on the waitstaff. They expected champagne treatment on a cheap beer budget! I was between a rock and a hard place- the nasty kitchen help and grumpy customers! The other waitresses pretty much treated me like Cinderella, too, passing all of the French Canadian customers my way. Apparently, tipping is not customary north of our border…

Of course, there was that one manager who had some kind of weirdo crush on me. He kept complimenting me on how I looked in my mustard and brown checked HoJo’s uniform. He would follow me in and out of the kitchen staring longingly as I refilled ketchup bottles. The summer finally ended and I prepared to go back to finish my final semester of college. I actually made a friend go in and quit for me- returning my uniform, hand washed one last time. I won’t ever forget that shitty job. Every day I left with pockets full of quarters, covered in french fry grease, tired to the bone! There were even a few times I delivered a meal with tears running down my cheeks. Now I overtip waitstaff, even crappy ones. I know what they may be facing. I am forever connected to them- like soldiers in a foxhole. I understand!


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