Pablo is a short, fidgety 29-year-old who resembles Bill from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure if the Wyld Stallyn had a slightly darker complexion. A few years ago, while working at an upscale retail store, he became obsessed with a familiar image. "I found out that in Japan, kid-friendly characters were plastered all over sex toys," he recalls. "So I made up my mind way before Christmas that whoever I got for Secret Santa was getting a Hello Kitty vibrator."
Unfortunately, the recipient of this gift was only 17 years old. Pablo got canned.
"The worst part was that I never got it back," he says. "I spent $30 for that thing and I could've, at the very least, put it on display in my home."
Happy Labor Day!
Pablo lolls at a high-top table in Yard House (320 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables), an affluent restaurant and lounge in the Village of Merrick Park. The place boasts big-screen TV sets, giant booths, cartoonish paintings on gigantic canvases, a massive beer selection (110 brews on tap), and Cheesecake Factory-size food portions.
At the — what else? — gargantuan rectangular bar sits Christina, a small, sassy 23-year-old waitress with dirty-blond hair and a predilection for T-shirts and jeans. "When you're a server, you take and see a lot of crap," she says before a creamy pint of Delirium Tremens hits her full lips. And she means that quite literally. "Once a customer of mine started changing her baby's dirty diaper right on top of the table. Then, when she was done, she wadded it up and handed it to me to get rid of."
"That's nothing," says Giselle, Christina's louder, drunker, and more exotic-looking co-worker. "Our credit card machines were down one day, and a customer of mine got so pissed from waiting that he threw a fork at me!"
"Yeah, well, at least no one ever dined-and-dashed on you," Christina says, trying to one-up her friend. "This professional-looking couple came into my restaurant with two laptop bags and a lot of files. They looked like they were having some kind of extravagant business lunch, lots of drinks, appetizers, entrées, dessert, coffee, everything, and throughout their meal, they kept on leaving to go outside and smoke cigarettes.
"After they were done eating, they got up one last time to go smoke, and on their way out, they asked for their check. I didn't think anything of it because all their files and their laptop bags were still at the table. Plus they came back every other time they left to smoke. So ten minutes pass, they're still not at their table, but I don't think much of it because I was in the weeds. Next thing I know, 20 minutes have passed, they're still not at the table, so I go outside to look for them. They're gone, I'm freaking out, so I go up to their table, open up their laptop bags, and find telephone books inside. The files were filled with magazines and blank pieces of paper. Their bill was well over $100, and I had to pay for the whole thing."
Sounds like the working stiff got stiffed.
And as a bartender slides a foamy six-dollar Hoegaarden before me, I throw down a ten-dollar bill, add two more bucks, and tell her to keep the change.
"That was nice of you," says Dale, a friendly but weasely-looking 27-year-old with a birthmark on his neck. Noting he's wearing a Florida Gators shirt, I ask if he ever had a thankless college job.
"I worked at a really small cineplex in Gainesville, actually," he says with a toothy yet charming smile. "I remember when that Dukes of Hazzard movie came out a few years back, all the rednecks in town came out of the woodwork its opening weekend. That was expected. But I got a little confused when they kept on asking for nothing but empty plastic cups and napkins at the concession stand.
"Turns out they were chewing tobacco while watching the movie and spitting it into the cups. I spent that whole weekend cleaning up nothing but empty Grizzly dip canisters and brown mucus. I still cringe whenever I see Jessica Simpson or Johnny Knoxville — bad memories."
Looking back toward Yard House's transparent keg room filled with barrels, I spot a Simpson-esque blonde at a high-top table slamming a frilly ruby red grapefruit drink with three girlfriends. So I mosey on over.
Amanda, who's 25 years old, blue-eyed, and an obvious fan of the MAC makeup counter, doesn't work. "My boyfriend works instead," she says, curling a set of French-manicured nails around the stem of a fresh Sex and the City-ish cosmo-like libation as a waitress places similar-looking cocktails in front of the BFFs. "I had a really bad experience applying for a job once and decided working wasn't for me."
With that kind of ambition and work ethic, Amanda is clearly the Harvard-alum, career-minded Miranda of this group.
"Right out of high school, I found a listing for a $20-an-hour receptionist at a massage parlor on Craigslist. During the interview, the owner asked me if I'd be OK with male clients walking around the place nude."
"I don't know. Let me ask my parents what they think about that."
The owner's response?
"He said, 'I really don't think you should tell your parents about this kind of job.' Ends up the place was filled with prostitutes. Can you believe that?!"
No, no I cannot.
Suddenly, Claudia, a nasal brunette in ankle boots, leggings, and an awkwardly placed waist belt, pipes up. "I'm so jealous that you don't have to work," she says while sloppily splashing an ounce or two of her Miami ice martini onto the table. "I work as a personal assistant and it totally sucks!"
"Once my boss asked me to shave the back of his neck... It was totally gross! Another time, I wore a Ralph Lauren polo to work — you know, the kind that has a little horse emblem on the chest."
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"He saw it, put his finger on it, and starting stroking my boob while saying, 'Preeetty pony.'"
And she still works for him?
"Yeah, I think he sensed I felt uncomfortable, so he gave me a raise."
Hmmm, I wonder if her boss's name is Pablo.