The Wall of Berlin fell and I moved to Arlington, Texas. While these two events appear in no way related, it just proves that timing is everything, and that I truly have no sense of good timing.
Fresh out of college, a communication degree in my pocket, I surmised that my academic knowledge of the English language, the very fine distinction between shall and will, and the proper use of who or whom, would no doubt open the golden doors of the corporate world. I was not expecting the Mayor to deliver the keys on a red velvet pillow but, still, I was not prepared for a trial by fire and I ended up roasted like a Cuban piglet on Christmas eve.
So I ask: how does America prepare its naïve French-speaker emigrants for life in Texas? Well, first of all, America lets you buy a car with no A/C (proper tourist etiquette would dictate the posting of warning signs all over DFW airport informing you of the dangers of life without A/C in Texas) then America sends you to Olive Garden to learn that new exotic language, English with a twang and never-heard-off-before weird expressions, by singing birthday songs to garlic breadstick hungry patrons.
My (translated) diary entry for Thursday, March 21, 1991 reads:
“Had interview with Mister Pineault (sic), the director of Olive Garden, an Italian restaurant in Arlington. Wore the shiny black plastic suit with the silver heeled patent leather boots. Mister Pineault (sic) said he had never seen anyone dressed like that before but I think he liked it. I could not understand much of anything he said but I think he will give the job.”
They hired me. Big mistake. One would never associate Olive Garden with a bastion of progessive fashion but there you have it. I am the living proof. BUT I know in my heart I turned out to be to worst waitress to have ever graced the soil of Texas. It even took me months to realize there was more than one Olive Garden Restaurant. You should never pick a waitress based on her funky outfit, especially one who does not respond well to the English language.
Today, the shiny plastic suit is a distant memory (which pretty much belongs in the same shameful bag as mullets and leg warmers.) The suit was recently found in a corner of my garage, a sticky pile of gooey mess which looked as if “someone” had given it the dryer treatment. With fifteen years gone by, I can look back and smile at the whole Olive Garden experience, forgetting about the six months I reeked of tomato sauce, the nightmares about being the only waitress working the floor on a Friday night, all the times I brought out the wrong dishes to customers who nasally challenged my comprehension of the English language, and the multiple occasions where I happened to drop red sauce entrees on unsuspecting patron’s laps. Actually, come to think of it, it remains frightening.
Still I smile at the good times: wonderful Monsieur Pineault who ended up leaving the restaurant with a pregnant waitress half his age, the legendary Richard who may or may not have dipped his nether parts in an obnoxious client’s cocktail, my first bachelorette party at Le Bare (quite enlightening on many levels), and Mysti, a funny red-head and a very dear friend whose pregnancy, years later, magically opened the doors of private investigation for me (but that’s another story.) Anyway, the minute I mastered the usage of y’all, all y’all, and fixin’ to, I left Olive Garden.
The other day, I drove by the restaurant on I-30 for the first time in 10 years. The building was razed. I unexpectedly felt overwhelmed by a wave of melancholy. Still, I am not planning on ever eating another garlic breadstick in my life.