Some of the stories I heard bordered on traumatic, but in making the decision to quit and move on, my friends had wound up opening up other possibilities. I’ve never been one to make a move without a safety net lined up, but these people seemed unafraid to jump into the abyss and figure it out.
I got a message from a friend down South that I found particularly uplifting: “My boss at the time physically pulled me away from a customer handing me cash for a drink I’d just made and took me into the office to ream me out about opening a new pack of register tape when there was one already open next to it (first, it wasn’t me who actually did it, second, sheesh). I thought the little vein in his lobster red forehead would explode, so to save him an aneurism, I calmly quit. I made a promise to myself to never work for another asshat like that again and started my own business. When I’m nearby now I pop in and thank him for helping me find the strength to do this—it burns him up.”
“I was working at this horrible, horrible job,” Renee rolled a Bloody Mary. “You know when you have a shitty job but the money makes it worth it? Yeah, this wasn’t that. The manager was super happy in his racism. I was the first American hired. He preferred to hire girls with no papers and he treated the kitchen like crap. The train made me late, I walked in and he laid into me. I told him the train stalled. He followed me around telling me everything I was doing wrong,” she paused and smiled, “so, I turned around and said, ‘You’re an awful man and a racist’ and asked for my tips from the previous night. He told me he’d mail them,” she laughed. “I told him to get my money, [then I] went into the kitchen and told everyone in there that they deserved to be treated better and should all quit. We understand that we are easily replaceable [in this industry] but sometimes we let people push us around out of fear. There are jobs out there where you’re respected. I quit and now I have a job at a bar I love and one at a brewery that makes me super happy.”
The more I delved into my friends’ quitting stories, the harder it was becoming to make it through any frustrating service without wanting to throw in the bar rag and have a story of my own. After making it through a particularly trying evening, I met up with some friends at a local dive bar for a few Lone Stars and some much needed decompression. The topic of conversation naturally turned to quitting.
“Apparently I’m a thing of legend at my old burger joint,” Brad swigged from his bottle of beer. “We went in for lunch and everyone was in awe. Honestly I had no clue why.”
“They comped our whole check and the manager came over and shook his hand!” his girlfriend collapsed into peals of laughter.
“They couldn’t believe they finally got to meet the guy who walked out on his shift because he heard ‘Hotel California’ played one too many times!”
“On my last night at my old job, I had a real pain in the ass customer,” Simon leaned over the bar, his eyes twinkling. “She kept saying her Martini wasn’t what she specifically told me to make. So I reached over, picked it up and took a swig. She lost it. I asked her what I could get for her and she said, ‘A Dirty Martini.’ I said, ‘No, no, I made you that and you didn’t like it. That’s mine now. How about some wine?’ Then I finished her Martini and walked out.” He swiped his bar rag over the bartop and went off to pour someone else a drink.
Maybe I don’t have an epic story because I’ve been lucky enough not to work for or with people who would push me to that point. Somehow I’ve managed to zen through the moment and figure it out. But I couldn’t get the image of the bartender on the horse out of my mind, swigging Champagne, wearing a crown. A fabulous farewell. It made me think of my former bar husband, Nick, who quit to open his own amazing bar. I worked his last shift with him until midnight and then made myself go home so I could function through a brunch shift the following day. At 9:30 a.m., I unlocked the door. Music filled the room, blaring through the speakers. Great, I thought, he forgot to turn the iPod off. “I don’t want anybody else, when I think about you I touch myself,” the song told me. It played all the way through, and then it played through again. It wasn’t until the third repeat that I realized it was completely intentional. Through the “ahhhs” and “oooos” I searched for the iPod, realizing as the song started up for a fourth and then a fifth time that it had been strategically hidden and I had to open in less than 10 minutes.
My phone beeped: Miss me yet?
I don’t want anybody else, I wrote back, now where is the damn iPod?
I quit, you’ll figure it out. Smooch.