A story about drunk restaurant owners, dirty birds, and cigarette stashes

Last week, Whitebait tagged me for the “meme of four” that’s been going around. It’s a dilemma. As someone who was always picked last for the kickball team, I appreciate getting tagged; however, I’m not big on memes. Therefore, I present a consolidated meme, narrowed down to one question: name four jobs you’ve had in your life.

  1. Bus person at the General Sutter Inn in Lititz, PA
  2. Monorail operator, train driver, and general all-around ride jockey at Lancaster’s Dutch Wonderland
  3. Inspector #71 and clothes scanner at the QVC returns warehouse in Lancaster, PA
  4. Evening proofreader at a printing company in Lancaster, PA

I applied for the General Sutter job at the request of my high school friend Loopey J, who thought it would be totally cool if we, like, worked together. Without informing my parents, I walked down to Lititz’s oldest fine dining establishment, filled out an application, and was immediately offered a job by Drunky and Uptight V, the couple who then owned the restaurant/inn.

Drunky V had some serious alcohol issues. He started each dinner shift reasonably sober but usually had a stumble to his step by the time we were resetting the last table. Unfortunately, his impaired gait wasn’t the only clue that he’d spent too much time up at the bar; by nine or ten o’clock he would begin standing extremely and uncomfortably close to any female staff unfortunate enough to cross his path, and the smell of booze was unmistakable, even to someone as naive as I was. But the worst part about Drunky J at the end of the night was his habit of walking the birds.

Uptight V loved birds. She decorated the Inn’s coffee shop with empty birdcages and bird wallpaper that featured huge, terrifying–possibly carnivorous–indigo birds with eyes that followed innocent buspeople all around the room as we folded napkins and prepared for the dinner crowd. Three steps above the coffee shop was the Inn’s main lobby, which also featured birdcages. Except that the lobby’s birdcages contained real birds. Loud, squawking, dirty little monsters who lived disturbingly close to the main dining room. The only hope they had for a change of scenery was at the end of each evening, when Drunky V grabbed one from among their ranks, perched the chosen creature on his shoulder, and paced from the lobby to the bus station to the bar to the kitchen and then back again, over and over. By the third or fourth loop of this ritual, the back of Drunky V’s jacket was invariably covered with bird excrement.

Despite the escapades of Drunky V, it was a good year at the General Sutter Inn. As Loopey J predicted, it was totally cool to work together. We snuck downstairs and bought Benson and Hedges from the cigarette machine, hiding them in a doggie bag that read “Becky and J’s–DO NOT TOUCH.” Naturally, the head busperson found our stash, even though we’d hidden it on top of the coffee machine, and laughed her ass off at two silly high school juniors who smoked Benson and Hedges on the sly. On slow nights we went out back to hang with the cooks, who sat on the hood of an El Camino and alternated between treating us as comrades in the war against Drunky V and threatening to dunk us head-first into the fat barrel. Luckily, Unstoppable B, the shrewd and streetwise senior server and fifteen-year General Sutter veteran, was usually there to defend us against cooks, head buspeople, and inebriated proprietors.

Thanks, Whitebait, for inspiring this walk down memory lane. Those who did not like this walk down memory lane should feel free to e-mail complaints to Whitebait.

I should also mention that Drunky and Uptight V sold the General Sutter Inn many years ago. The birds are gone.

7 responses to “A story about drunk restaurant owners, dirty birds, and cigarette stashes”

  1. Dave

    You were a monorail operator? That sounds like a job of the future… today.

  2. Type E

    I dig the Dutch Wonderland theme song. Seriously.

    “Ready for some fun, beyond the castle walls? Love to go to Dutch Wonderland, where you can do it all.”

  3. Clair

    So, any interesting stories about driving the Monorail or train at DW?

  4. Becky

    Oh yes, Dave, the monorail job was quite futuristic. And Clair, as you well know there are some stories about driving trains and monorails. Just remember that no one was injured during my tenure at Dutch Wonderland. I may continue this theme (because it amuses me if no one else) and write about the DW days.

    Type E, sorry you were subjected to the song. I hate websites that automatically play music.

  5. kathy

    It’s always fun to look back at old jobs, I don’t think any of mine were as odd or interesting as yours, but I can see doing some posts about them. There was that bar where I had to wear a grass skirt….

  6. whitebait

    Thanks for totally reworking the meme Becky (and so kindly suggesting that dissatisfied readers visit my site should they feel the need to vent their rage about the problem of glamourising teenage smoking!). The monorail operator job sounds interesting (visions of the Simpsons and Homer) … but how easy was it to drive while wearing that big purple dinosaur suit at the same time?

  7. PA Girl

    I stumbled across your blog today! So funny! I am also from Lancaster and had to laugh at the Dutch Wonderland reference. I think it is mandatory for teenagers to do at least one summer at Dutch Wonderland.