When we started seriously planning this adventure we knew that money was going to be the biggest issue. Our jobs in Arizona, although wonderful, weren’t exactly making us rich so we moved up to Olympia at the end of November to start working our butts off. This is how we’ve spent our winter:
Job description: Server/bartender at two restaurants. The first is a restaurant I have been working on and off at since I was sixteen: Tugboat Annies. A family owned, casual, seafood and burger type joint, Tugs is a place where I feel at home. The second restaurant is a new Mexican restaurant called Trago. Anyone who has had the pleasure of working in a restaurant can attest to the fact that some days are better than others. On those bad days I keep my customer service skills in check using a fun little method I call “Dicks Last Resort.” Never heard of “Dicks Last Resort.” Well its a small bar and restaurant chain that encourages it’s wait staff to be rude. When I encounter a situation at the restaurant I don’t like I imagine what it would be like to work there. For example, when someone orders a milkshake at Tugs. Let me set the scene: its a busy night at Tugboat, I just had four tables sat at once and I need to get drinks for all of them. At my fourth table someone orders a milkshake. Immediately my heart sinks. Making a milkshake takes forever. First you basically get eaten alive retrieving the ice cream from the ice chest because the lid doesn’t stay propped up on its own, then you have to chip away at the rock hard ice cream for what seems like hours to harvest enough ice cream slivers to fill the blender, then you have to blend it, continually stopping to mix the milkshake by hand with a spoon, and by the time you have finally garnished it with whip cream and chocolate sauce you, and everything else in the kitchen, is covered with a sticky, creamy film. Then to top it off, the masterpiece I have just created looks so amazing its guaranteed that upon seeing it everyone else at the table will want one as well, sending me back to the kitchen for yet another round of ice cream chipping, blending, sticky torture. At Tugboats all it takes to throw off your whole night is a milkshake. When I get that milkshake order I politely grin and bear it. But to keep myself sane I imagine what I would say if I worked at Dicks and it would go a little something like this: patron, “can I get a chocolate milkshake?” Second patron,”oh, that sound good, I’ll get one too, vanilla!” Me, “You know what, no, you can’t get a milkshake, we don’t have a milkshake machine back there, its just me, making it by hand, and its going to take me forever. I already have twelve drink orders to get for my other tables and I’ll be damned if you are going to order a milkshake and send what could be a very fast paced night filled with good service spiraling into an oblivion! And lets face it, the milkshakes are huge and you are going to take about five sips, get your food, and be to full to finish it. Then I am going to have to clear it off the table at the end of the night cursing your name. If you really must have a milkshake you can always head up the street to Eddys where all they do is milkshakes. So how about you all save us a lot of heartache and just order some sort of a soft drink or iced tea.”
Whew. Felt good to get that out. Like I said working in a restaurant has it’s ups and downs, but I get tips, free food, and some crazy stories to bring home to Kyle. Even in moments like the one above I just keep telling myself, one more month, one more month. The promise of fresh air, birdsong in the morning, and adventure keeps me going
MINE!… mine!.. .MINE!…mine!.. .MINE! …MINE!… mine!…MINE! …mine! …MINE!…MINE!!!!
In Disney’s Finding Nemo, seagulls are characterized by shouting “mine” and flocking towards whatever small morsel has caught their eye. They could not have been more spot on in depicting these majestic birds of the sea…and parking lots, and dumps, and beaches, and marinas, and…you get the picture. Second only to Americans, the seagull has got to be the most selfish, covetous, and gluttonous creature on the planet. In my effort to contribute to the AT piggy bank, I found myself working alongside these silly creatures and ergo have a story regarding my new flying friends.
Over the winter I have had gainful employment working on a small sea farm in the Puget Sound where we grow, harvest, and ship mussels (not of the bicep kind) to the greater Seattle area. Along with salt water, evergreens, and rain, seagulls are a northwest staple and the sea farm has a flock to call its own. The following is a tale of gluttony and vengeance. Andrew Kevin Walker, eat your heart out.
One of my first jobs at the sea farm was working on a machine that fed mussels to a myriad of brushes, conveyor belts, and hoses for cleaning before shipping. My duties were to pile mussels into the machine and pick out other bay critters that found their way into our baskets. Starfish are the number one culprit for sneaking into the farm and noming on our delicious mussels. Starfish also happen to be a favorite snack of the seagull. Now it gets lonely out on the hopper and the seagulls and I quickly became friends. I shared my thoughts with them, laughed with them, cried with them, and fed them starfish as payment for their companionship. This particular day a seagull-I called him Sam-was feeling brave and would pop his head around the corner of the deck every few minutes to see if I had a treat to offer. After the first three starfish I assumed Sam, weighing in at a hefty two pounds, would be full and go about his daily seagull activities. Apparently Sam’s only responsibilities for this day was to eat and eat he did. I enabled his gluttonous inklings and over an eight hour period fed Sam close to twenty pounds of starfish. Nearing the end of the day I stopped hearing the pattering of Sam’s webbed feet and I knew something must be wrong. I peered around the corner and found Sam, bloated and lying on his side in obvious agony. All he could do was stare at me, those beady black eyes blaming me for his current predicament. I told myself he would be fine and retired for the day with a heavy conscience.
I returned for duty the next morning and the only evidence of the previous day’s sin was a giant blob of shit. I imagined Sam, feeling relieved, met up with his buddies and shared the day’s happenings and, over a few salty cocktails, hashed out a plan for revenge. We were on the bay working that day and at one point I was spraying the mud off of freshly harvested mussels with a high pressure hose. I was in full rain gear. My rain jacket was equipped with a hood and this hood was apparently Sam’s target. All of a sudden there was what felt like 200 seagulls converging on me. I was surrounded by screeching dive bombs, fluttering wings, and pecking beaks. Hitchcock couldn’t have written it better. I always imagined myself responding with heroism and intrepidity in the face of danger. If a heroic response involves screaming, flailing hands, and running around with no concern for dignity, then I nailed it. I feel sorry for Lindsey if we encounter a bear on the AT. While my fearless manager, Dee, grabbed the hose and mercilessly sprayed me and the seagulls, I managed to rip my jacket off and the melee stopped. It turns out a starfish caught in my hood had caused all the commotion. Sam’s vengeance was complete. I was humiliated, soaking wet, and my pride was crushed.
I learned a valuable lesson. If you are going to feed a seagull colossal amounts of starfish, make sure you feed it enough so it will never fly again. I will miss my flying friends when we leave for the AT, but Sam will always hold a special place in my heart. I will never underestimate mother nature again. We are always at her mercy.