I was at work the other day, my last day of the week, looking forward to two consecutive days off, just as soon as I finished this one shift. And then I heard one of my managers going around to all of my coworkers asking them if they could work tomorrow.
Shit. It’s not that I feel too much pressure to work when I don’t want to. I don’t have to say yes. But it’s like sometimes I’ll say no, and then the manager will go around and ask everybody else, and everybody else will also say no, and then the manager will come back to me, he or she will be like, “Can you please work tomorrow?” and they’ll have that begging look in their eye, and in that one moment of desperation all barriers are broken down, the invisible and, I would say, artificial authority that separates me as a human being from them as another human being.
And even though I don’t want to, I’ll sometimes start to feel bad. I’ll look the manager in the eye and curse my empathy as I agree, albeit begrudgingly, very obviously begrudgingly, like a way over-exaggerated, “Ughh … fine. I guess. Fine.”
But not this day. I had just finished a long week. I had been looking forward to these days off. “Hey Rob, could you work tomorrow?” “Sorry boss, I can’t help you out.” And he walked away, started making the rounds to the rest of the staff.
A lot of the time when the managers get really desperate to cover a hole in the schedule they’ll start cutting these deals. If I have my own scheduling problem sometimes I can use their desperation to my advantage, like depending on how badly he needed tomorrow covered, I could be like, “Well, let me off two days from now and you’ve got a deal.”
But again, I really, really didn’t want to go to work, so I didn’t even try it. I overheard him asking a coworker, “Come on, work tomorrow. I’ll buy you a free lunch.” Free lunch. That used to be tempting for me. Normally all restaurant employees get fifty percent off anything on the menu, and I feel bad going to work and then giving them some of their money back. So the offer for a free meal is cool in theory, but I’ve never really feel comfortable taking advantage of this particular perk.
First of all, I have to sit in the restaurant, like at a table, like some other waiter or waitress is going to have to serve me my food. This is always slightly weird, for me anyway, to be on the receiving end of what are my normal day-to-day tasks. I know it’s probably all in my head, but I can feel everybody in the restaurant watching me, judging my order, looking at me strangely if I’m sitting by myself.
And what am I going to order anyway? If the manager gives me a free lunch and I order something expensive, something really good, isn’t that going to be seen as me taking too much advantage of what should have been a simple gesture of gratitude? I’d feel kind of bad being like, “Fuck it. Give me the fifty-dollar New York strip. Ha!”
So yeah, the free lunch trick doesn’t really work on me anymore. Honestly, I’d rather spend my lunch break going to Chipotle anyway. Jesus Christ I’m so addicted to Chipotle. Sometimes if it’s really slow I’ll sneak out even when it’s not my lunch break and have a quick burrito.
But all of that’s entirely beside the point. My boss must have received a bunch of flat rejections from everybody else, because I saw him coming my way. Come on Rob, I told myself, stay resolute, don’t make eye contact.
“Rob,” he started. I already had my mouth halfway open, I was about to say something like, “Listen, there’s no way I’m working tomorrow. I’m really sorry, but absolutely no way.” I was about to say that. But he continued, “work tomorrow and I’ll give you a bottle of wine.”
And before I even had time to make sense of the offer, I blurted out, “All right. Deal.”
What the hell? I felt like Kramer in that episode of Seinfeld where he forgoes his lawsuit against the coffee shop because they offer him free coffee for life. Deal? I don’t know what got into me. I was just blindsided by the uniqueness of the offer. I’d never heard of anybody getting a free bottle of wine.
So yeah, I had to work the next day. It wasn’t that bad. I haven’t tried the wine yet. I think I’m scared to open it up and taste it. The whole thing seems so illicit, like what’s wrong with me that I can be instantly convinced to turn on my own convictions for a bottle of wine? It better be a good wine. I know that it’s going to be a mind game, like that first sip, regardless of what my tongue experiences, my brain’s going to override, saying, “Yes. This is good. Yup. This is great. This was totally worth it.” Although, I also know that, after it’s done, that same brain is going to second-guess itself, “I guess. Was it good? I don’t know. It was OK. It was, you know, it was winey,” and I’ll be left confused, unfulfilled. So yeah, I’m just staring at it, maybe I’ll never drink it. Maybe next time I’ll hold out until they offer me a bottle of bourbon.