Posts Tagged ‘memory’


I used to be a waiter at what I thought was the worst restaurant in the world: Spur. For those of you who have never been it’s a proudly South African chain of “steak houses” that is themed on Native Americans (don’t worry it didn’t make sense to me either).

Anyway I worked there during one of my summer holidays when I was in high school and it really opened my eyes to the fact that slave labour is still very much alive and well. Even as a 16 year old, before I had finished studying Labour Law and Equitable Employment Acts I knew that there was something seriously dodgy about this place and I’m not even referring to “salad valley”.

I don’t know why I decided to work there. Maybe it was the childhood memories I had of playing in the ball pit and getting my free Chico the Clown ice cream for my birthday; maybe it was the fact that they had removed compulsory military service and I required a painful passage from adolescence into adulthood. Regardless, I decided that I was a “person with a taste for life” (their jingle – terribly catchy; although the same can be said of the Ebola Virus) and decided to work there.

Working at Spur was certainly an immersive experience. I worked alongside some other bright-eyed scholars and students, who worked as temps, as well as some permanent staff or “lifers”. The motivators for each group were quite different too. While the scholars were looking for money to be able to take girls out on dates, the students were looking for beer money and the “lifers” needed the cash for maintenance or to pay for rehab. It really was a “dream factory”.

Although as memorable as every shift was at Spur, one particular shift will live on in infamy. It was Christmas Eve and instead of getting ready for Jesus’ birthday with my family; I was working at Spur serving the kind of people who are out at steak houses on Christmas Eve (real “go getters” and great tippers I must add). So anyway one particular table’s bill comes to R799.95, so I’m thinking here should be a decent tip).

In the bill folder however came R800…total (which is a shiny 5 cent piece for me). Now, to be fair, this was in the year 1999 so 5c back then is probably worth now… about 5 F***ing cents! Anyway, I went back to the table that gave me this bountiful fortune and was surprised to see that my generous benefactor was still sitting in the booth. So, being the “custodian of customer service” that I am (according to the orientation video we were shown) I asked her what seemed to be the matter; to which she replied “Oh nothing’s the matter, I’m just waiting for my change.” I did my best to not spontaneously combust from pure rage for just long enough to give her the 5 cent piece.

That shift, which turned out to be my last, wasn’t exactly the most lucrative shift, earning me a whopping R16. Well it would’ve been R16 if it weren’t for the fact that parking in the mall for the 12 hour shift cost R24.
And yet, with all these terrible experiences, Spur is still not the worst restaurant in the world… The worst is still to come (next post).

This my best friend…um… wutsisname

I’m really bad with names, I always have been. Maybe that’s why my parents didn’t give me any middle names in case I forgot them. Look, I’m not as bad as my one friend um… Paul? Peter? Um it’s something with a “P”, I’m sure. I’ve tried many different techniques for remembering people’s names from the “using it as you greet them” technique (Hi Paul, pleased to meet you), to the linking them to a physical trait (It’s Paul with the huge nose). I’ve even tried the “tag and release” technique I saw on the Discovery channel, but none seem to work (in fact the last one usually gets me into a bit of trouble).

Has it ever happened to you that you really hit it off with someone you’ve just met, like at a club, and now it’s the time to exchange numbers and you have no clue what their name is? (My phone is filled with names like “blonde girl from varsity” and “brunette from coffee place”). So trying to be smooth I’ll ask something like “So, how do you spell your name?” and it’s always something simple like Jo or Beth.

Or when you walk into a room full of people and have to introduce someone and you forgot their name. “Hi everyone, this is…” at which point you are hoping they introduce themselves.

Sometimes the problem is not actually the remembering, but that you’ve known them for so long it would be too awkward to ask their name. I remember this one girl (whose name escapes me at the moment) who I used to go to ballroom dancing with. You may think that ballroom dancing is kind of nerdy, but when you went to an all-boys school, like I did, you did whatever you could to interact with girls, plus the ratios were awesome (ok talking about “ratios” is pretty nerdy).

Anyway, there was this girl who I would dance with most weeks and we really hit it off and were quite friendly and often spoke about other things besides the usual awkward teenage pleasantries and small talk. This continued for about 3 years and yet I never knew her name. I would always use the classic “hey you” (which is probably the most obvious clue that you don’t know someone’s name, but I thought it was pretty “ninja” back then).

It would get so awkward trying to hear other people call her, but I never managed to hear her name and I’m pretty sure after 3 years you can’t simply pop in the question: “By the way, what is your name?” I even remember I received an invitation to her 18th birthday party (back in the day when you actually received written invitations). “You are cordially invited to my birthday party” Damnit! Why can’t people address invites in the third person anymore!

So I went to her party with a gift that had no tag on it, except “from Gareth” (so “ninja”) except when I got there the mother, who knew I played guitar, asked if I could sing happy birthday to her daughter. It all went fine till the third line of the song when I panicked and smashed the guitar on the table and screamed “ROCK ‘n ROLL BABY!” (“ninja”, I know!) I was a shiny golden god that day.

But worst of all is if you end up sleeping with someone and you can’t remember their name. I usually end up searching their clothes for name tags as they’re lying on the floor (the clothes, not the girls), at which point they normally wake up and ask “Gareth, what are you doing?”

“Ssssh go back to bed Calvin Klein!”

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