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…
Just ate some Swiss Chalet. It still ain't got nothing on St. Hubert. I miss you, Hubie's.
— Casey E. Palmer (@CaseP) October 27, 2008
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
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.