As long as I’m telling Surf Club stories, I might as well tell my favorite.

There was a grand total of three gringos working at the Surf Club–some waitress whose name I don’t remember, Big Al Brooks, and me.  Everybody else was Mexican-American, which made sense, seeing that about 99% of our clientele was either Mex-Am or flat-out Mex.

The white girl waitress, one day, came panicking into the back, asking “How do you say ‘ketchup’ in Spanish?”  Only Big Al and I were back there, and neither of us were remotely fluent in Spanish, so it was a pretty bad move on her part–especially when you consider that Big Al is a smart-ass (uno culo inteligente).

“Hell, I don’t know,” he said, and then he fell back on every gringo’s Spanish dilemma solution:  he tacked an O on the end of the word.  “Ketchupo?”

Danny Ortega–the dishwashing recipient of the Swiss army piranha–later got wind of this transaction and laughed so hard that he fell into his sink.  “¿Que chupo?” he explained, means “What do you want me to suck on?”  That poor gringa waitress was going from table to table, asking all the Mexican clientele–no doubt baffled–what they wanted her to suck on.

Okay, that’s not the story that brought us here, but it’s a pretty good prelude.  The real story concerns a Frenchman in the Dumpster.

We hired a busboy named Miguel, fresh from Nuevo Leon.  Eighteen and didn’t speak a single word of English, but he was very desirous of being Americanized–in fact, he wanted us all to call him “Mike” rather than “Miguel.”  He also wanted us to teach him English, but I have to confess that we were pretty irresponsible on that front.  We told him that the English version of “Bienvenidos, y buen provecho“–“Welcome, and enjoy yourself”–was “How’s it hanging?” which he assiduously memorized, phonetically, and repeated, smiling, at every table.  I guess it was kind of the reverse of the “ketchupo” incident.

Anyway, Mike was a good kid and a very hard worker.  He was always pulling doubles and covering shifts, and he never once complained about anything.  He seemed genuinely happy to be working there, and I had the impression that the more he worked, the happier he was about being able to send money back to his family in Nuevo Leon.  Like I said, he was a good kid.

Part of the busboy’s job was taking out the trash.  Sounds unpleasant, but actually, if you work in a restaurant, taking out the trash is kind of a perk.  You get away from all the noise, the stench of smoke and booze, managers looking over your shoulder.  You get to breathe fresh air and look at the stars.  Let your mind wander.

On one night, Big Al, Pat Devlin and I were out in the parking lot, having an argument about what should go on the Oktoberfest menu.  Peripherally, we noticed Mike hauling out the trash.  No telling what was going through his mind–maybe he was thinking about how proud his family in Nuevo Leon was, or how he was one step away from being a Chippendale’s dancer in Hollywood, or a National League pitcher.  I don’t know.  Like I said, your mind wanders when you’re taking out the trash.

So Mike heaves a great big bag of trash into the Dumpster, and–of all things–a Frenchman, in the Dumpster, jumps to his feet, shakes the recently dumped egg shells, coffee grounds, and orange peels off of his beret, and yells at Mike:  “Wat zee ‘ell are yew doo-ang?!”

Mike back-pedaled, screamed like a schoolgirl with a spider down her pants, and bolted.  He ran full-tilt past Pat, Big Al, and me, and waved and said “See ya!” in mid-panic.

We never did find out who taught him to say “See ya!”

He ran down North Mesa Street so hard and fast that his official Surf Club hat flew right off of his head.  We found it in the middle of the street the next day.

As far as I know, he’s still making a bee-line back to Nuevo Leon, and the Surf Club is sitting on his last paycheck.

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