“Juan will be assisting you this evening.”
A young Ecuadorian smiles up at Mary and me. He is slender, with thick black hair and open, happy eyes. “Hello,” he says pleasantly.
“Hello,” we echo. Black-pantsed and white-shirted, we, too, are smiley.
And everyone is ready to work.
The manager heads toward the stairs. “Anything you need, you tell Juan and he’ll take care of it.” He leaves us to the banquet room with a backward glance.
“Juan’s one of our best workers.”
It is Friday evening. Nye’s Polonaise’s back-of-house is a maze of staircases, backrooms, and walk-in freezers, one of those places where you have no idea how you got to where you are or how you’d get back to where you started.
Having a personal Juan in such an environment is invaluable.
We fill the glasses all the way with ice, half-way with water. I am fast with a pitcher, and Juan is faster.
Within the first 30 minutes, Juan has run the steps for us innumerable times. Five-gallon buckets of ice, extra forks, Sterno, platters: Juan is amazingly cheerful.
The banquet attendees trickle in, sunburned and relaxed after a company golf outing. They smell of sunscreen and expensive educations.
The restaurant proper is full to capacity, and it is important we keep the dirty dishes and cutlery moving from the table to the dish washer. We watch Juan grab the first short stack of plates out of the tub we’ve hidden discreetly off to one side.
“I will run upstairs, check in with my other tables,” he says. “I will return soon.”
“Juan for President!” I enthuse.
“We’re gonna make tee-shirts that say that,” Mary confides.
Juan smiles modestly and disappears up the steps at a run.
“We’re useless,” Mary observes soberly.
“We’re attractive,” I offer. We smile at each other, look for ways to earn our pay while he is gone, pulling plates, re-filling ice waters, clearing finished drinks from the bar.
Juan comes down the steps, catches us hustling. He smiles and nods. “Very good,” he says. “Good workers.”
We beam at him.
Juan thinks we are good workers.
Of Borders and lines
8 hours ago