When I was a junior in college, I upgraded my employment situation from throwing pizzas at Sammy’s to serving drinks across the street at Houligan’s bar and restaurant. Houligan’s was a downtown establishment that was more upscale than your average college bar along Water Street. Tips in the bar area, however, generally consisted of leftover change, and since the cocktail waitress wage was $2/hour, tips mattered. After a while, I slid over to bartending where you still got some tips, but received a minimum wage of $3.25/hour. On a slow weeknight in a college town, that was like getting a nice raise.

After work, an employee could have one free drink, which had the intended consequence of gathering up a reasonably large crowd of paying customers—aka, off-work employees—most weekend nights. We had a genuinely fun time. This was back when alcohol still worked for me as a social lubricant and hadn’t yet become a serious problem.

Along the way, we got a new restaurant manager who was a real character. Let’s call him Les. Although he was married, he spent countless hours in the bar hanging out with us kids. He liked giving shoulder rubs to the girls; he was that kind of guy. So for Halloween, I had the genius idea to dress up as Les.

I nailed it, complete with a five o’clock shadow, dark circles under my eyes, a dark wig, a beer belly, a cigarette dangling from my lips, and a gas station attendant shirt bearing his name and a big grease stain. (Thanks, Jeff, for the hand-me-down from your old job at Holiday gas station.) My friends at the bar howled. His wife, I am sorry to say, ran out of the place in tears.

But Les almost got the last laugh. When I graduated, I was allowed letters of recommendation from two people for my school file. One person I asked was John, one of the bar managers at Houligan’s and a really good guy. In the school office, as I was going over my file with an advisor, he suddenly blanched, closed my file, and said, “I’m sorry, but you have a very bad file.”

“What do you mean?” I blanched back.

“I cannot tell you what’s in your file. Once letters are sent to us, they are confidential. But I can tell you, you have a very bad file. Do you want me to discard anything from your file? Once I do, I can’t put it back.”

The other letter was from my advisor for the pom-pom squad. I was truly confused and totally in shock.

“I can’t believe John would do that,” I muttered. In a moment of sheer kindness, my advisor quietly said, “You do not have a letter in your file signed by someone named John.”

“Really,” I said, the light starting to dawn. “Let’s go ahead and discard that letter from Houligan’s.” My advisor threw the letter in the trash, smiled broadly and said, “Jill, you have a very good looking file.”

Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

Next Chapter
Return to Walker Contents