In the midst of doing The Paying Job, someone near me either starting eating something or using something that brought memories swimming up from wherever memories hide when you don't need them. It smells like an orange, only not. Maybe like fake orange. Cleaning supplies, or hand lotion, or orange candies that leave your hands sticky.
And I suddenly remembered when I was working at O'Charleys. It would end badly, when the fact that I was screwing around with the kitchen manager would get us both fired. But it was a good job. My first bar and grill - the money was good, and they didn't notice that I wasn't legally old enough to work there. (In my defense - I put my actual birthdate on the application. And in theirs - it's not like I didn't know I wasn't old enough, and I applied anyway.)
The smell reminded me of cleaning off tables. Don't ask me why this smell triggered memories of that particular restaurant, because all cleaning products used in restaurants more or less smell the same, but there it is. There's a special silence in a closed restaurant, that's not really silence at all. There's clinking and swishing and weird mechanical sounds coming from the dishwasher. There's scraping and cursing and clanging from the kitchen. There are vacuums and mobs and swishing cloth and rustling silverware. And the bar has its own tinks and rattles and clanking glass. But there are no voices. Sometimes the servers sang to themselves, or the cooks swore or kidded with each other, and sometimes you could hear the liquid deluge of syllables in Spanish as the dishwasher and bussers talked. But those aren't voices, not really. Not the way that a restaurant is loud during the day. No conversations all heard at once, no "miss!" floating up out of the din to catch your ear. In fact, your ears are totally at rest. You're not listening for your name, or for that ubiquitous "miss" or "sir" or "hon", or for someone to say "I'll ask her for napkins when I see her again," or the dreaded "where is she?" You don't actually have to listen at all. All the sounds going on around you are quiet sounds that you can, for once, completely ignore.
And I would wander around the restaurant, counting sugars and inspecting the level of salt and pepper; sometimes cleaning gum off the bottoms of chairs. And it was peaceful. Sometimes the cooks would bring a six-pack in and we'd all have a beer while cleaning. (Yes, I know. But there you have it.) Sometimes we'd all gather at the bar and Jim would give us his latest concoction to try.
(I once asked my father if I could date Jim - ten years my senior. He said no, and I replied with something snarky considering his age and that of his wife. Yes, I remember what I said. No, I'm not going to repeat it. It was terribly clever to the 18-year old me, though.)
And then I'd go home, or, toward the end, I'd run off with Jordan, playing games that I wasn't nearly old enough to understand the rules of. And we'd fall into bed and get up in the morning and go back to work, taking separate cars and leaving ten minutes apart. He was a manager and I was not. That was enough to get us both fired, and it did, when someone found out.
And sometimes I would take a coworker home with me, though I cannot for the life of me recall her name now. And she'd stay at my place. And that 18-year old me? Vehemently denied that anything was going on between us. Which it wasn't. I remember taunting Jordan once when he twitted me about there being something between that other server and I.
And I would go on to lose that job, get a tattoo, find out that there really should have been something going on between that girl and myself, and retain fond memories of the smell of Jordan's car. And orange scented cleaning supplies.