It had been a long day and a half in a crowded room listening to stories about work while not getting any work done (they call that “training”.) I couldn’t wait to head over to Hooters.
It had been built in our imaginations like a combination of Camelot and Plato’s Retreat. It was the first Hooters in the state — newly opened in downtown Phoenix.
The boss was going to buy a few rounds and feed all four of us. A rarity. An apology to subjecting us to this “training” from hell.
We stepped in the door and it seemed the dream was real. The waitresses were young, fit and wearing next to nothing.
The glasses of beer were tall and frosty. It smelled of beer and wings. Heaven, fucking heaven for a fat dude with a few-hours “pass” from the wife for the first “happy hour” in a few years — we had a toddler at home and getting out wasn’t easy.
The waitress was bright and fun. She picked up on sarcasam at the speed of light and she looked good doing it. When she approached or turned to walk away, all of our eyes fell onto whatever curve may be exposed.
We were laughing and relaxing, but then it happened.
“Ohhh hello Mr. [insert bosses’ last name here],” said one of the other waitresses. Even “happier and heathier” than our own.
His face fell like there had been a death in the family, and across his mouth came a fake “adult” smile. The one you use to tell your 6-year-old that Santa is still real.
It was one of his daughter’s friends. The two girls had been in dance classes together through junior high and part of high school. Wasn’t his daughter still in high school? Nope she had graduated two years before…
Let that creep set in as you picture us with our little leering smiles stare at the bare skin of someone who was younger than the bosses’ daughter.
We all had the strong urge to shield our eyes. I was waiting for Keith Morrison to walk in and offer us all a cookie (in To Catch a Predator, the pedophiles always go for the cookie).
It got quiet. We hardly mentioned the daughter’s friend. We didn’t talk about the daughter at all. It was the day the laughter died.
It was the last day of my irresponsible youth. Now I was just like every other dirty old man sitting on a bar stool and leering at things he could never, ever have again. (Not that I ever did — even when I was truly young and dumb).
Others in the bar did not seem to be afflicted by this condition. They were flying their dirty old man flags like the Bars and Stars from the back of a Dodge Charger. If this had been the 1950’s, they would have been smoking cigars, pinching asses and taking names.
At my table we were afflicted with a collective conscience. It was not put there by any one of us. We had all been working together as a group for more than 5 years. We remembered the bosses’ daughter as the little girl who popped into work once in a while. We worked together when my son was born, when Mike’s wife started having children, and when others were graduating the 8th grade.
We weren’t a fucking family (that’s a lie bosses’ tell their workers to make them feel guilty for leaving) but we were family adjacent. We knew each spouse, each kid and some parents of our co-workers.
And now we knew the friend of the bosses’ daughter and could see a lot more of her than her father or the law should have allowed.
It took years to get over that creepy old man feeling. But as “grandpa” starts sounding like a legit nickname, you reach the “don’t give a fuck” time of your life and suddenly you are explaining what a diphthong is to a girl named Denea.
And you can finally without a hint of guilt or shame find a way to rationalize taking in the view and remind yourself to say: Hooray for Hooters.