The Scintilla Project Day One — The Last Day My First Job Existed

A photo of my Dad at the farewell party for St. Hubert Bar-B-Q at his final speech.
The Scintilla Project

The Scintilla Project aims to help bloggers become better storytellers by sending them email prompts for a two-week period that spur them in the right direction.

Today’s prompts were to either Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally able to do so or to Tell a story set at your first job, and since I didn’t start drinking until 20 — which is a full year past the legal drinking age up here in Toronto —  I don’t have much to offer on the first one. I was a bit of a snot who’d hold a holier-than-thou attitude to my peers who’d be drinking and getting high in our teens.

You live, you learn.

3/4 Score and No Extra Years Ago…

Me at the farewell party for St. Hubert Bar-B-Q in 2005 with a full denim outfit.
The only thing that might’ve been worse than the restaurant closing may have been my fashion choices in 2005.

As for the first job — many know that my Dad used to own a restaurant — a rotisserie St-Hubert, in fact — on the west end of Mississauga. I did a lot of my growing up there, playing tag with my brothers between the booths before the store opened for the day; reading in the staff area while my Dad ran errands — I spent enough hours there for it to be another home.

Eventually, though, I’d be a teen and my parents wanted me to learn the value of money, so just shy of my 14th birthday, I started working at the restaurant as a take-out cashier.

I’d be at the restaurant for 4 years — which story should I tell you?

  • The time I tripped and a bowl of garden salad flew and landed on a customer’s head, leaving me sporting a mortified look as French dressing streamed down her face?
  • The time a guy scammed me for $50 with some sleight-of-hand and double-speak?
  • The scar I have on my right arm from a plate shard lodging itself in there after a sprinkler malfunction and a very slippery floor?
  • How managing a take-out area packed with tired and hungry people landed me a new job after they all left calm and happy from my jokes and stories?
  • Or how my coworkers sometimes gave me an extra-hard time because I was the boss’ son, leaving me wedged into a (thankfully empty) trash can butt-first with no easy way to get out?

Truth is, there’re so many stories I could tell you about my time there, but the one I’ll keep with me for the rest of my days is the only time I’ve ever seen my father cry.

Tears of Ambiguity

A photo of my Dad at the farewell party for St. Hubert Bar-B-Q at his final speech.
Exeunt omnes.

My Dad ran that restaurant for 20 years. Over that time, he grew relationships with loyal customers, staff and peers who owned other franchises. He was so dedicated to the restaurant that even with the city under the cover of 40 cm of snow in what we’ll call The Great Snowfall of 1999, we shovelled 4 hours and drove 1 more to attend to the 4 customers we’d serve that day.

But to Dad, it was about the principle — not the numbers. We had a service to offer, and no one was going to stop us.

Or so we thought.

In 2004, the parent company in Quebec gave us an ultimatum — pony up a million dollars or close up shop. By 2005, we found ourselves at the restaurant one last time for a farewell party.

With 20 years of history, relationships, and both good times and bad leading to this very moment, the situation’s gravity weighed upon him, his speech cut short by tears. Tears of sadness? Gratitude for the amazing staff who he’d had for all these years? Relief after the lifting of the recent years’ burdens from his shoulders?

I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but that’s one moment that’ll stay with me forever.

–case p.

Author: Casey E. Palmer

Calling the Great White North his home, Casey‘s spent the last few decades in pursuit of creating killer content. From novels as a kid, comics as a teen, to blogs and photos once he could grow a beard, he’ll use whatever’s around him to create amazing stuff. When he’s not creating, he’s parenting, exploring and trying to make life as awesome as possible for everyone around him. Because a boring life’s not a life worth living!

24 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project Day One — The Last Day My First Job Existed”

  1. Great story Casey. You are an excellent story teller! I can definitely relate to this one. Growing up my father had a restaurant too but eventually went bankrupt and had to shut down. Very tough times, but I still think back to the days I used to go down and help out there. The good memories overshadow the bad ones!

    1. Thanks for the support, Graham 🙂 I’m happy we didn’t need to go bankrupt (as far as I know, anyway), but yeah — it makes for an earth-shattering change of events when something that played a key role in your stability for SO LONG is suddenly gone. MUCH changed for a while; I’m VERY grateful that it all eventually sorted itself out, though.

      But you’re right. There’re definitely a lot of amazing memories from those times 🙂

  2. Good story Casey. Not much worse in the world than seeing your parents cry.
    My first job was busing tables at the Original Steakhouse in Brampton at 15, so I can relate to that type of environment. It wasn’t a long lasting job, but it was one that I’ll remember because it was my first. My first day there I tipped and dropped the dishwasher rack full of mugs and broke about 20 of them.
    I probably ate at that St Hubert’s at one point. My family used to go to them all the time, it was our family dinner restaurant for a long time, mostly the one in Brampton.
    My brother once (on a dare from me) drank all the dipping sauces at the table. He made it home before he had to deal with the consequences.

    1. I barely even remember my first day itself, but I do still have my very first pay stub and remember MANY of the antics I used to get into 🙂

      Ah, Hubie’s dipping sauce. Ain’t no other dipping sauce like it. I stand by it for LIFE. I hope he didn’t explode from too much awesome!!!

  3. I mean now you’ve said it, you’re going to have to tell the tale of at least TWO of those scenarios you listed above. Have to. Imperative.

    This being said, this is a great peek into the past of Casey and I am excited to read and learn more.

    1. Thanks for coming by, Onyi! We’ll make a list of Casey’s Most Famous Blunders eventually — I’m sure it’d be a hit 🙂

      I hope you stick around for the journey into my madness — I promise there’s some exciting twists and turns along the way!

  4. The tears of a father are powerful things. Sometimes we forget they’re not the monoliths of discipline and decorum that raised us; they’re only human.

  5. So grateful to Scintilla for leading me to such wonderful, new-to-me bloggers. I enjoyed this post immensely and your writing style is very inviting. I’m looking forward to reading more of your prompted stories.

    1. Blogging initiatives like these are AWESOME for getting to know others — thanks for stopping by 🙂 I’m still trying to figure out how Day 2 is going to come together… and in writing this comment, I think I JUST figured it out 😀

      You’ll like it. Promise 😉

    1. I’m glad you liked them 😀 All 100% genuine — I have a wealth of material to use for my blog, because my life has been THAT off-the-wall. Been debating on making a podcast for a while — we’ll see whether I ever get around to it 🙂

      Yeah, we all had brave faces on during that last day, but you could feel the sadness in the air. I’ve kept in touch with a good number of my coworkers there since, and for the most part, everyone’s doing well which is the most important thing!

      Thanks for coming by 😀

  6. Oh, man, Casey, this one HURT. I don’t think I’ll ever think of a St Hubert the same way ever again.

    And YES, I think you can trot out those stories any old time and we’ll eat ’em up. Food service is such a high-stress environment. Brings out the crazy in the employees and the customers alike 🙂

    So great to meet you!

    1. I had to take a bit of liberty with how the prompt worked for this — there was so much tied up in the restaurant that this is what came to mind 🙂 I’ll still visit them from time to time when I go to Quebec — people know that if they travel with me, that’s what they’re eating!

      I’ll eventually foray into more of my crazy tales from past jobs — one of the things I’m actually working on for my list of 100 goals (attached) is to merge all of my last 10 years of blog posts into one place; so there’ll be a TON to work from!

      Thanks so much for coming by 🙂 Scintilla’s amazing so far — really getting me to explore some things I might not have thought about in AGES.

    1. Heh, were 2013 Dad is probably happier than he ever was. No more 6-day weeks at 12-16 hours a day, no more being responsible for 30+ people and their livelihoods, no more dealing with customer complaints — the list goes on. He’s a bookkeeper of a successful restaurant and it really suits him well.

      So if you manage to build a time machine, definitely give 2005 Dad a hug.

      AND tell me so we can make SO many awesome trips 😀

      Thanks for the comment 😉

  7. Has every person in retail been punked at least once by the double speak slight of hand “can you make change” scam?

    Do you know the recipe for St. Hubert’s gravy? If so GIVE IT TO ME!

    1. Money’s a strong motivator, and there’s always someone trying to find a quick way to wrestle the dollars from the next person’s fingers. It’s even WORSE when you think you’re screwing a company over, since they’re so impersonal — you don’t need to feel the same degree of guilt from doing something you KNOW is wrong. Happened to a colleague of mine, too. I even once got screwed out of money at my bank job by a woman who targeted me and flirted with me enough to throw me off of my game.

      There’s a world of pitfalls out there. Just gotta know how to navigate around them.

      Do you mean the brown gravy or the St. Hubert sauce? Because with the gravy, I’m pretty sure you can still buy it in grocery stores. Don’t know about the Hubie sauce, though…

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