Keep Your Wits About You.

It’s 10:00 AM and I’m walking towards the modernish building that houses Café Machiavelli. As I get closer, a sinking feeling starts tickling my stomach. I recognize the sensation. I felt it whenever I didn’t want to go to school as a kid. For a moment I consider turning around and going home, but somehow I don’t think my mother will write me a note anymore.

Holding a paper cup of coffee in one hand and my dry cleaned uniform in my teeth, I open the lobby door and walk inside. The building’s atrium is filled with professional people getting on and off elevators, talking on cell phones, and trying to look upwardly mobile. A pair of cute professional girls walks past me, their high heels clicking urgently across the tile floor. One of them is pulling a wheeled piece of luggage with the logo of a pharmaceutical company discreetly sewn onto the front panel. This, plus the fact both women have great bodies, leads me to conclude that they’re drug reps about to troll the doctors’ suites upstairs. Maybe I’m being sexist and over generalizing, but I’ve never seen met an ugly drug rep.  One of the girls looks at me. I automatically smile but the wire hanger in my teeth negates the effect.  The girls do not automatically disrobe, Then again, they’ve never automatically disrobed, at least not for me.

I walk to the back of the lobby. The restaurant is dark and the doors are locked. The kitchen staff are milling around outside, furiously rubbing the laminate off their scratch off lottery tickets as they wait. I look at my watch. I’m on time. The kitchen guys are on time. Someone’s dropped the ball.

“Who’s supposed to open up?” I ask no one in particular.

“Willem,” Marco, the grill man answers.

“Where is he?”

“Probably borracho,” he says, causing the other workers to giggle knowingly.

“Was it busy last night?’ I ask.

“No,” Marco says, “It was shit.”


I hang my shirt on the front door handle, sit down on a concrete planter, and start drinking my coffee. Next to me Jose, one of the cooks, is intently studying his scratch off tickets.

“Win anything?” I ask.

Nada,” he answers. “But I hit it for $50 last week.”

“Gotta be in it to win it,” I say.

“Goddamn waste of money if you ask me,” Jose says, shrugging.

“But you love playing.”


I sip my coffee and listen as the guys bitch about their scratch offs. Only Sebastiano, the dishwasher, won anything – ten dollars.

“So you hear what happened to Alberto?” Jose asks. Alberto is Café Machiavelli’s food runner.

“No. What?”

“He got jumped Sunday night.”

“No shit. He okay?”

“They broke his nose, banged up his ribs, and stole all his money.”


“Three guys,” Jose continues. “They got him the moment he stepped off the bus.”

“They were waiting for him,” I say.


“He go to the hospital?”

“Nah,” José says, waving his hand. “He called in sick yesterday, but he’ll be here tonight.”

I take another sip of my coffee. Not for the first time, I think about how vulnerable restaurant workers are at the end of the night. Tired and often flush with cash, waiters and bus people can be a walking ATM machine for the thoughtful mugger. I knew a busgirl, seven months pregnant, who was robbed at knifepoint by three men.  It was payday and Imelda was carrying a lot of cash, which made me think that her assailants observed her for some time before they made their move. They didn’t hurt her, thank God, but they got all her money. Three guys against a five foot tall pregnant woman? The thought of it makes my skin crawl. .

But, evaluating the situation in the cold light of day, if I was a mugger, I’d attack someone like Imelda too. I wouldn’t be taking on burly longshoremen or a guy walking out of a karate studio, the risk versus rewards ratio wouldn’t be in my favor. No, I’d go after something easy that couldn’t resist. That’s probably what happened to Alberto. What’s worse is that he probably set himself up for it.

Alberto is a hard worker and everyone likes him, but he always drinks five or six beers while doing his sidework at the end of the night. When it’s time to go home he’s usually in the bag. Someone, probably a regular rider on his bus, watched Alberto’s alcoholic routine for weeks, put him on his muggers to-do list, made a date, and invited some friends. Luckily for Alberto, his assailants seemed like they knew what they were doing. If some hopped up amateur attacked him, things could’ve been much worse. Alberto didn’t deserve to be mugged, mind you, but he might as well have given his attackers an engraved invitation. I’m not advocating paranoia, but you need to be aware of your surroundings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people on the bus and subways; drunk, wasted, tired, iPodded and oblivious, just asking for trouble. The world is beautiful, but it’s also dangerous. You need to keep your wits about you.

A hung over looking Willem finally shows up and opens the doors. Fifteen hours later, after a slow and unprofitable shift, it’s time to go home. I’m one of the last people to leave. As I walk though the dark and empty atrium, I wonder what the pretty drug reps are doing now. Probably in bed and not alone. Tired and hungry, I walk out the front door and head for home.

I haven’t traveled ten paces when I notice two young men standing in front of the shuttered liquor store on the street corner. Both men are talking loudly, drinking from cans hidden in brown paper bags, and smoking cigarettes. Normally I’d write these guys off as late night drunks, but neither man is looking at the other while they talk. They seem to be observing their environment with a seriousness that seems incongruous with their jovial conversation. The word “perimeter check” seeps into my brain. For the second time today, a sinking feeling tickles my stomach. Maybe Alberto’s muggers are about to make an encore appearance.

I drop to one knee and pretend to tie my shoe. It’s then that I notice someone walking up behind me. The loud talking must’ve camouflaged his footfalls. I finish my shoelace pantomime, get up, and abruptly start walking in the opposite direction, towards the man coming up behind me.

“Hey man,” the guy says, his face breaking out in what looks like a surprised smile. “Can you gimme two bucks for the bus?”

“Sorry man,” I reply, walking around him, “I’m outta cash.”

“C’mon,” the man says, his brain probably evaluating risks and rewards. “You gotta have something.”

“Sorry,” I say, putting more distance between us. “I can’t help you.”

“No one wants to help a brother out,” the man says bitterly.

I keep walking. When I reach the corner I cross the street. I notice the man who asked me for money speaking with the two men in front of the liquor store. Maybe he’s going to hit them up for cash, too. One of the men hands the beggar his beer. The beggar drinks it and they all laugh.  It’s then I know. The world is beautiful, but it’s also dangerous.

I take the long way home.

126 thoughts on “Keep Your Wits About You.”

  1. mango says:


  2. bohica says:

    It’s why I make sure that I’m either never alone or only using busy parking lots with security guards. Nothing is ever safe. You couldn’t get me on a bus in this city for any reason. I’m not nuts.

  3. Canadian Server says:

    *sigh* First to post! Walking at the end of a long shift is scary…I for one get walked out to my car since there’s been trouble.

  4. Rachel says:

    Great story waiter!

  5. Pookha says:

    Forewarned is forearmed. Nightworkers grow eyes in the back of their heads–or should. I know I have a pair.

    As for ugly drug reps, I’ve seen one, an older man. But the profession seems to attract the goodlooking girls (I call them drug pushers; Husband always used to hit them up for their giveaway knickknacks, usually pens. He has quite a collection.)

  6. Alan Stamn says:

    Keep that pepper spray handy, Waiter. Would work better than smackin’ ’em upside with a bound copy of the ‘Waiter Rant’ book.

    Stay safe.

  7. Eric says:

    Will Willem get fired? I hope so. i hate him.

  8. Goose says:

    I work at a little college bar. And just last night, someone got shot about four blocks from where I work because they wouldn’t give up their money.

    Since most of us closers get off really late, we walk everyone out to their car at night specifically for that reason…you know, strength in numbers.

    Anyway, it was good to read your stuff again.

  9. Sami-Ann says:

    I attend college in down town Cleveland, and I go through this crap all the time with “homeless” people constantly nagging you for cash for the bus or something to eat. First of all, Cleveland has more shelters and soup kitchens than I can even name off-hand many of which are open ALL THE TIME. Second, Cleveland is not ridiculously huge and you can get to almost anything by walking. It’s not always particularly convenient but most of the time it can be done. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have some respect and sympathy for the homeless, they’re people too, but you should be careful because so many people lie and just want booze money and they actually teach you at Cleveland State to just keep walking.

  10. Sami-Ann says:

    I also just got a job at a small Italian Bistro in Cleveland’s Little Italy district and unfortunately the closest parking is at least 2 blocks away. That area isn’t particularly bad but I still ALWAYS have someone walk me to my car.

  11. Michelle S. says:

    I’m glad you didn’t ignore that sixth sense. A lot of people tend to do that and they land themselves in a sticky situation. Humans are the only creatures on earth that ignore that feeling. You don’t want to be prejudiced or think bad of people but it’s there for a reason. It’s a good lesson for everyone. Trust your instincts!

  12. Jason says:

    I work at a restaurant in downtown Seattle, and for the most part its pretty safe (at least I feel safer compared to other big cities I’ve been in). But anywhere after dark can have its weirdos. I always keep walking, I never say more than “sorry, no cash”. If that doesn’t work, take out your cell phone and call somebody. this got a couple of guys to stop harassing me one night.

    Good luck Waiter, be safe!

  13. Steven says:

    Thank you for a shining example of simple common sense. I work as a runner/bar back for a night club in the Bahamas and I walk to work. You never walk home, and even when going there at night there are certain paths you simply don’t consider usable under any circumstances. Those aside, when you pass near an area understood to be threatening, or something around you and your usual routine seems amiss, well then. Glad to see you have some good grounding along with your brains Waiter.

  14. Instinct says:

    The term we had for it was “Keep your head on a swivel”. Another saying that was prevalent was “Be polite, professional and kind but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” I have never had a situation go bad by following those two rules.

    I also would tell our students (I was an assistant self defense instructor) to leave their weapon hand free at all times and if you feel something hinkey make sure you have your mace, taser, knife, whatever right where you can reach it without fumbling and to practice getting it out so it becomes automatic

  15. joe Montourri says:

    I live in FL where anyone can get a concealed carry permit very easily. As soon as they ask you for cash, shoot them. Then they dont need the cash and you have solved their problem. Nobody ever asks me for cash anymore.

  16. Starr01 says:

    Scary yet great entry. Might I add never be drunk alone as a tip. I try not to.

  17. Jimmy says:

    Hey great story. Pretty creepy at the end.

    Just thought I’d mention there are a couple typos in this part, if you care: “The girls does not automatically disrobe, Then again, they’ve never automatically disrobed, at least not for me.”\

    Keep on writing…I’ll buy your book once I get some money flowing again!

  18. Moi says:

    FIFTEEN HOURS? That is one HELL of a long shift!

    Very smart of you to turn around and walk TOWARD the guy.

  19. Iva says:

    That is SOOOOOO different from anything where I live (and waited tables for 4 years). After a night of slinging “Ultimate Fest’s” and Ceasar salads with “Franch” dressing and “none of them crunchy junks” a “Dead Lobster” server could be seen sauntering out the back door of the kitchen, intent on lighting up (their cigarette?) as quickly as possible, with no thought to their surroundings. The same servers would be seen later on at any number of places, still in FULL uniform (including apron, with LARGE (yeah right) rolls of cash in them, buying gas, cigaretts or whatever servers buy….! In all the time that our local “Dead Lobster” has been open, not one server/bus person/cash carrier has ever even had a scare! (knock on wood)…I guess that is one of the perks of living on the Eastern Shore???

  20. AridZoner says:

    Another entertaining & educational post! I have one other small typo to point out. It looks like you left out the word “he” in the following sentence: “What’s worse is that probably set himself up for it.” Thanks for keeping these coming even though you’re busy with both work & publishing!

  21. Gordonjcp says:

    Man, I’m glad I live where I do. Reading this article, and some of the replies (particularly Instinct’s, about having mace or a taser handy) makes me wonder how bad things have to be before people start feeling the need to be armed at all times. It must be a hellish way to live.

  22. House6 says:

    Glad you made it home safe. Late nights are not for the faint of heart.

  23. Magpie says:

    aieee. Glad you made it home safe.

    My husband says I’m paranoid about stuff like that, and I probably am, but I’ve been held up at knife point in the middle of the afternoon and had my purse snatched not 10 yards from my front door (18 years apart), so I think I have a right to be.

  24. MUSE says:

    but when the Son of Man[d] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations[e] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

    37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

    40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’

    41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[g] 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

    44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

    45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

    46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

  25. saucygrrl says:

    Thanks for the anti-mugging tip Waiter and so glad to hear you made it home safe.

    Working in the pharmaceutical presentation field I can tell you exactly what those two girls are doing this weekend, especially if they had luggage. They’re holed up in a conference room 20 degrees too cold making sure Pfizer’s latest Detrol presentation has all the right references. If they are lucky enough to sleep, they are most certainly sleeping alone.

  26. james says:

    Muse ,I appreciate that you know your bible,but what is your personal opinion?

    Waiter great post!

  27. MM says:

    Why aren’t you carrying man? Taser? Mace? Give me a break. I have a Sig .40 on me at all times. Lord man, it’s only common sense.

  28. Roz says:

    Terrifying, Waiter. And yet… gratifyingly cinematic.


  29. kelliebrat says:

    Great post Waiter and thank heavens for your ‘instincts’

  30. Brad says:

    Women never automatically disrobed for me when i smile at them either …

  31. MelC says:

    i live in a midsized city in texas, and i used to carry a butterfly knife, open, at my side, when i went to my car after night classes at college…you can NEVER be too safe. SOOO glad your eyes in the back of your head were on full tilt boogie that night…eeeek!

  32. Ashley says:

    If you’ve ever hoped to really change someone, make them a little bit safer and steadier in life, then congratulations sir, because you just taught me a valuable lesson. I’m not a city girl, and while I should probably take one of those self-defense classes, your entry here definitely wizened me up a bit.

  33. IngaG says:

    As a good looking girl whose looks provide for a significant part of my earnings, I can tell that most nights I sleep alone.

    And a fairly significant number of other women in similar positions do too. Some of us are introverts, some face too many deadlines, some are extremely selective about who they take home and how often, while others may indeed be more sexually adventurous.

    Please, don’t assume.

  34. Kristen says:

    I was mugged once in college. Trust me, it won’t happen again. Between my hot pink Taser (with laser sight) and my over-developed awareness of my surroundings, it’s not going to happen again. I exude a “make my day” vibe – and I’ll deliver.

    I’m glad you are safe.

  35. Heather says:

    I had a friend once who read Maxim to get insight into guys. She told me how it explained that if you’re ever attacked, use a key and stab it into his jugular, then turn the key. Sounds gruesome to me and I’m not sure if I’d ever be brave enough to use it but whenever I’m walking by myself at night I have my keys in hand, specifically the biggest and strongest key on the ring.

  36. coffeesnob says:

    Great Post, Waiter!
    Makes me wary…

    Muse, um….anything to add to the actual thread of conversation?

  37. jen says:

    maybe you should start packin’

  38. The Restaurant Blogger says:

    I have been fortunate so far that nothing to the extent of what you have described has happend to me. I look back and I am surprised that nothing did happen. The last restaurant I managed, another manager was just about to lock the safe when a stranger came from behind and knocked him across the head. The impact was so hard, he was unconscious and continously bleeding. The money in the safe was stolen. It was a frightening story that made me pay more attention while closing up. The only disappointing event that has happened to me was my workbag containing some cash and a palmpilot was stolen. I had just opened up the restaurant and not realizing anyone was watching, I had placed my bag at one of the tables as I went to use the washroom. I came out and my bag was swiped. Unfortunately, it was too late when mall security had arrived. The thief was caught on camera running through one of the mall fire exits. It was my own fault. So my advice to any anyone, is to be aware of your surroundings. You never know what can happen.

  39. jasonp says:

    Waiter, this is the second post of yours that triggered my fight-or-flight response while I read it (the first was a few years ago, about the customer who misplaced his gift card and confronted you after getting kicked out). Well done.

  40. karen says:

    glad you were alright waiter, please stay safe!

  41. Fonzi says:

    Waiter – dont be a Pottsy!


  42. Daniel W says:

    I’d almost forgotten that uneasy feeling that one gets walking home from waiting tables, late at night, with pockets full of cash. Those days I always had my wine key in my fist, corkscrewprotruding between knuckles and fingers. I doubt that it would have done any good would that I was mugged, but it made me feel a little more able to take on a tough guy.

  43. Daniel W says:

    One more note – You’d not believe how many servers I’ve met who’d not think twice about walking home, after midnight, in black pants and a white shirt. Only a sign saying “I am carrying $200+ dollars on my person” would be more obvious to a mugger. Please take warning and change out of waiter-wear when on the way home after a shift.

  44. Jack W. says:

    IngaG, I find it jaded to assume that “not sleeping alone” means “sleeping around.” Is it really a minority of pretty, professional young women who are married or in a long-term, live-in relationship? My experience suggests otherwise.

  45. april says:

    I just started working at a new chain resturant and they told us to park on the 4th or 5th floors of the parking structure.Well like a fool I listened to management and did, and when I got off my shift after midnight and went to my car in the totally abandoned parking garage(scary)I discovered that my passenger window had been smashed and my bookbag full of all my textbooks and notes had been stolen along with my gym bag which had only stinky gym clothes and an old Ipod shuffle and my XM portable radio was taken and so was a newish pair of coach sunglasses.They took everything that had value to me but nothing they could get any kind of real money for. I guess maybe if they were lucky they got enough cash to buy a crack rock. I hate theives!

  46. Food Service Ninja says:

    female drug reps are hired for their bodies/looks silly as male docs are generally sexist players -ask any nurse

    i once worked in a downtown entertainment development which is used as the model for when other cities want to redevelop their downtowns. The billionaire who own the development had his own sec firm patrol it so we could walk with total safety

    I did once go to Austin for a convention in college once. The hotel had double booked the rooms with another convention so I I went off without a room to hit 6th Street which is a long row of bars catering to UT Austin. At 2 am and highly plastered I discover my shitty convention hotel wont drive me the 11 blocks to another hotel for the night UNTIL my booked room is available. SO off I go to the other hotel wasted on foot. I discover the main Austin soup kitchen/shelter is between me and my other hotel. I must have staggered 20 blocks dodging homeless guys who I didnt want to get mugged by as I had all my cash for the weekend on me. Thus to this day I NEVER stay at a Radison hotel.

  47. Lynn says:

    MM (and anyone who cares) –

    There’s no concealed carry of handguns in NYC. (I think Waiter is still in the city?) I believe the only people who can carry at all in the 5 boroughs are law enforcement – and criminals. Concealed or otherwise.

    I live in Tennessee, though, so I’m not up on my NY handgun laws.

  48. T says:

    My sister got tailed in her car for awhile by some pervert, and he was trying to stop her car, but luckily she’s a clever driver and smart enough to lead the guy right into the police station parking lot. Stuff like that makes me look out everywhere I go, but sometimes I fear it makes me overly cautious. I don’t like assuming everyone is out to get me, but sometimes not thinking that way seems foolish.

  49. Christine says:

    Great post, Waiter. Gave me chills up my spine. Also reminded me that I should take more care for my personal safety – I go to school in a pretty college town of about 100,000, so I’m often lulled into a false sense of security when coming home late at night from classes, or even worse, from the bars. I really need to make sure that I stop making myself into a target.

  50. erazo says:

    Waiter, good call! Please stay safe, late night anywhere is not safe.

    Daniel W, you are very right — nothing worse than walking home late at night in uniform — might as well have a pocket full of money with money sticking out of it, you definitely are asking for it. i had a friend who worked for a place that paid by a weekly check. he got beat up pretty badly because his attackers wouldn’t believe him that he didn’t have any cash on him.

    Lynn, you are right. people who can carry a gun are law enforcement agents, security guards with a license to carry. either way, before you get one you have to go through a complicated process, besides i don’t think waiter will want one anyway (as he pointed out a few posts ago).

    for all of you late night workers (especially women), if you are under attack, go for the knees — try to hit him diagonally in the knee cap and do as much damage as possible — that way you can slow him down and be able to run away. if not, keys and wine key are great tools which can be used as a weapon. [source: self defense classes]

  51. Hubert says:

    Oh God, I am terrified of New York. I don’t think I ever want to live somewhere where I don’t feel safe walking alone at any time of day or night.

    I live in a biggish city of 330,000, and I work the midnight shift at my restaurant, with a forty minute walk each way. Still, I’ve never felt concerned about my safety, even though ten minutes of my walk takes me through an unlit park and another roughly ten minutes is spent walking through ill-lit alleys behind two strip malls. Wording it like that, maybe I’m a bit of an idiot. Heh.

    Good post, Waiter, and continue to be cautious.

  52. Grammar Nazi says:

    I call bullshit on the story. The story of the food runner getting jumped did happen, but the story of waiter almost getting jumped too is dramatic bullshit.

    Stick to semi-true restaurant stories, waiter.

  53. admin says:

    Actually Hubert, NYC is much safer than you’d think. I’ve walked through parts of Harlem at 3:00 AM without a problem. Whatever the reasons, crime is way down in NYC. In 1990 there were 2262 murders in the Big Apple. In 2007 there were 496. So that’s not bad considering the population.

    But three people were murdered not far from my brother’s house in the leafy suburbs. So, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, no place is safe. Be safe in your town of 333,000 Hubert.

    If those guys cornered me and demanded my wallet? They’d get it. I’ll live and make money another day. It isn’t worth it fighting over. I’d resort to violence only if they wanted more than money.

    Grammar Nazi – stick to looking for my typos! Achtung! Schnell!

  54. Diego says:

    Missed the broadcast. Nice mood on the new post. Keep up the good work.

  55. Steve MacDonald says:

    Another excellent post, Waiter. Well written, well thought out, and well designed to make us all consider our own personal safety as we watched you tend to yours.

    I did, however, wince inwardly a bit when you described the drug reps and subtlety tarred them with what you must surely realize is an unfortunate stereotype. I thought to myself, hmm, I bet Waiter gets hammered in the comments for that one.

    But my god, man, you really put your foot in it when you revisited the subject much later in the post. You do realize, don’t you, that you essentially called these women prostitutes, don’t you? Was that really necessary?

    Yes, pharmaceutical companies use physical appearance as a criteria for their representatives in the field, along with the ability to interact with the customer base (medical doctors) in a manner that results in increased sales/profits for the company. But you know what? The same thing goes for waiters, too. Your physical appearance has to fall within a specific range to keep customers comfortable. Try growing dreadlocks and a Santa Claus beard and see if you can get hired on at the type of establishment you are used to. And if you weren’t able to handle your customers in a way that resulted in sales of highly profitable items such as desserts, cocktails, and bottled water, we would be reading a blog named something like,

    So the marketing wizards at the big pharma companies have figured out that MD’s, like, oh, just about everyone else in the world, are more receptive to attractive sales people. But obviously, or so I would have thought, that’s just a foot in the door.

    Medical doctors are among the most highly educated groups in our society. Moreover, just to get into Med School, they have to be among the very top of their academic undergraduate class as well. As such, as I understand it, the drug companies require their reps to be university graduates as well. They have to be able to speak with the doctors on the physician’s own level. And while perhaps not rocket science, modern pharmaceutical products are some what akin to brain surgery. An attractive, but air headed rep, I suspect, is not to be found in that line of work.

    Your oblique suggestion that these highly professional drug reps disrobe at the mere smile of a doctor, and that they routinely bed their customers as well, was beneath you, sir. You are propagating a stereotypical urban legend, I’m sorry to say. There was, remember, a time in this country when female airline flight attendants were similarly looked down upon and inaccurately mocked as well. I can’t see you, Waiter, using a “coffee, tea, or me?” gag in reference to a stewardess in this day and age. That’s why it surprises me that you’d take a shot at the drug reps in a similar fashion.

    You might find it wise to make some conciliatory remarks to Drug Reps, Waiter, lest the mugging you avoided on the street overtake you here in your own comment section.

  56. amma says:

    Oh geez, I have so missed reading you! Know you’re busy. Thanks for the juicy post–as always I was right there with you until the final period and then snapped back to the reality of sitting at my desk.
    Wow, so clever! The whole tying your shoe ruse followed by going in the opposite direction…I think you may well have averted disaster. Wish you lived in my city, though I’m not a drug rep, I certainly look like one. And I tip well;)

  57. admin says:

    Drug reps are often recruited from college cheerleader squads. Hmmm…….

  58. Jay says:

    Hello again. No, I don’t post very often, but I just had to speak out on this issue.

    Stories like this are why I am in my chosen profession. I’ve never worked the Wait-Staff end of a Restaurant, but for a time I did work a Kitchen.

    Not all restaurants have what I am about to tell you about, but more of them do than you would think. And none of them will admit it.

    Now, I am a Low-End Law-enforcement Officer. ( If you want to be a idiot, you can read that as a Security Guard, but it truly takes a lot of work to become a Private Detective. Totally clean police record, concealed weapons permit, and such.)

    Working a restaurant is a odd thing. You are in Mufti, but you are armed to the teeth. Your Sports Jacket is specially tailored so that no tell-tale bulges are evident. Quite often you have one or more of your friends with you to keep your cover up. You have an assigned table, usually near the register, and the only person who knows what is up is the Head Waiter, or maybe the head Chef.

    You have two jobs.
    First, if a robbery happens, and you can stop it with minimal violence, you act. This requires judgmental skills that you wouldn’t even want to have. That Crack-head that just put a gun to the Cashiers head… could he afford ammo? That Drunk who comes back with a baseball bat screaming at a waiter…is he serious? Twice I’ve had to let a Cashier get robbed because the odds were good that the gun really was loaded, but there have been many times that I have stopped bad things from happening simply by stepping up to a Wimp, clamping my hand on his neck ( Do Not try this if you do not know the correct pressure points!!!) and telling him/her it was over.
    Second, get your people safely off of the property. By the rules of this job, you will be nearly the last person to leave the Establishment. Then, you get your friends ( or sometimes fellow workers) off of the property quickly. And start acting, or hiding. For acting, you are that Drunk S.O.B. on the lot that can’t find the right key to open his car door( luckily you’ve only beer drinking Near Beer, or Ginger-Ale). Hiding is easier, you just wear dark clothes ( easy to do in a suit) and slip into an alley, or behind a dumpster, or in a dark corner.( I can’t tell you how many time I have been spotted, and needed to break out my badge and explain myself to various Police Officers to avoid going to Jail.) The Key point here is, you stay on duty until the last person in the Restaurant is gone. Once they are in their car, or on the Bus, or otherwise off of the parking lot ( which is the limit of your authority) then you can go home.

    By Law, we can’t get on the Bus and follow you home. And if you are walking, once you pass over that territorial limit ( usually defined as a specific Sidewalk on the perimeter) you are on your own.

    Yes, sometimes our people get hit after they leave our area. We are very sorry every time it happens, but we can’t do anything about it. We take on this job because we are Law-abiding Citizens, and we try to enforce those laws, but we are heavily restricted in what we can and can’t do.

  59. admin says:

    Restaurant ninja!

  60. TC says:

    The other reason why Latinos get attacked like that and Mugged/robbed is because a good number are in the USA illegaly and they try to avoid law enforcement even to report a crime. Knowing this people will find them as easy targets. They also often in being here illegaly don’t have access to the documents needed to open checking/saving accounts, and therefore are forced to carry large amounts of cash on them. There were several articles on it down here in Maryland, as we had an upswing in the number of latinos getting Mugged and robbed. The police actually have done a good job at letting peolle know that if they are here and something bad happens that they won’t get arrested themselves first.

  61. alnc says:

    I read an article recently in the Boulder (CO) newspaper about a bartender getting into a fight with a security guard outside his restaurant. Both guys has tasers and used them on each other, kind of a new take on the Old West gunfight.

    That in itself was of course “News of the Weird” worthy but I read comments by readers who were wondering why on earth a bartender would need to be carrying a weapon. Your column answered that. Restaurant employees can be perfect targets when they are leaving work, alone at 2:00 in the morning, with area scumbags nearby who know that they are carrying cash.

    Forget the macho advice posted here. Weapons and martial arts classes don’t prepare one for the random chaos of a street fight. I’m sure that someone will later post about how they kicked tail on some mugger but those stories are more about getting lucky than having a sure thing going on. Use your wits, pay attention to your surroundings, and be alert when you walk out that door but even the best prepared and street-savvy can get jumped and if that happens, hand it over. Carrying a roll of cash and leaving a restaurant alone at 2 in the a.m. is a good reason to call a cab. Consider it part of the cost of living (emphasis on the living.)

    I worked in an emergency room and met quite a few tough guys who had their lives changed permanently by trying to go Bronson on an attacker. Carrying a weapon is no guarantee on the street (and that street can be in a small town as well as the big city.) It can also give a false sense of security that can make you less careful. Just hand it over–it will hurt but it’ll hurt less than the alternative.

  62. admin says:

    Amen to that brother/sister! My advice? Have some “mugger money” in your pocket and keep the bulk of your cash in your sock!

  63. Kat says:

    Because I live in a safer city (Boulder, CO) I sometimes get cavalier about my safety. I never park more than a few blocks from work but I do have a tendency to cut through alleys, and this entry made me realize that’s probably not such a good idea. I’m always still in uniform and I’m a small-framed woman. Yeah…gonna start thinking twice about that!

  64. Food Service Ninja says:

    I had to post again since the liberal readers were driving me nuts – I think you need a waiters perspective to understand Waiter’s drug rep commentary.

    A common practice for drug reps who book a party for 20 but only 5 docs show up is to rather than pay cash for 15 non-attending heads is to do two things:

    1. order extra food for them and any roomies be they fellow fems or their boyfriends whom they shack up with in sin.

    2. Buy hundreds of dollars in of gift certificates.

    Thus you will see the drug reps out in your restaurant dining usually in a group of four. NEVER a single rep and rarely just in girls night out mode.

    THEREFORE with that info in mind you can see why the Waiter makes the common they do not sleep alone and he aludes to how they never strip off naked for him and he sleeps alone.

    They are nice eye candy for the waiter but even when I worked with guys who did moonlight as Chippendale’s dancer – the drug reps always considered the waiters as beneath them in terms of dating or random hooking up.

    Also rem PEOPLE waiters and bartenders as part of their job whore themselves out by making them seem available or interested in some otherwise scary ass fluggly people. If I had a buck for everytime I told an obviously 40+ 250 lb woman sehe didnt look a day over 25 or 29 to me I could retire a wealthy man.
    For example, I personally LOVE to bust the balls of woman who are cocktailing at one of my tables and they have the rude habit of shredding their coaster or cocktail napkin into tiny pieces. I simply mention I read Pyschology Today that a study found that behavior as a sign of sexual frustration. I get a fat tip from their friends and many times a phone number I wouldnt call if my life depended on it.

  65. amanaplanacanalpanama says:

    It’s times like that when I’m glad to be 6’2″ and 360 lbs of corn fed farm boy.

  66. CT Waitress. says:

    I had friend mugged in the same way. People do see restaurant workers as walking ATM’s and they often go for the Latino’s because of the illegal thing. I wish restaurant owners would realize the danger they put their staff in with the “park as far away from the building as possible” rule. I worked in a restaurant where a woman ( a local not staff member) was attacked up the street, they walked me to my car once, after that I was on my own. Its scary. When you get in your car drive away straight away dont sit there and do stuff it makes you an easy target for car theft.

  67. Greg says:

    So how many muggers are on the internet and just found out about your sock thing?

  68. CT Waitress. says:

    I thought the same thing, its bit of a muggers tip (‘scuse the pun) blog right now.

  69. gailsie says:

    Always listen to that inner voice.

  70. jess says:

    I wait tables and bartend in south texas on a little island and during spring break there were a few times i had people escort me to my car and even on night when I had a coworker follow me across the bridge because of the volume of thugs, what we here refer to as valley trash (rio grande valley). I am glad you are safe, and keep in mind that changing the route home often is a good thing.
    Oh, and please tell us that your jackass manager at least got a tounge lashing or something for his behavior….he’s such an ass and doesn’t deserve such a job.

  71. mykl says:

    glad you stayed safe, waiter! im still waiting for the day that you beat the shit out of someone though!

  72. therapydoc says:

    I like the distance part.

  73. Oldestgenxer says:

    We can all relate. After my robbery–22 years ago–I am still cautious. Hell, skittish. Here’s a link to the tale of my experience.
    Oh–A man a plan et cetera–? I’m 6’3, at that time about 250. With some martial arts experience fer God’s sake. But there was three of them.!B49A37FCBE832C5D!802.entry?_c=BlogPart

  74. Eccentric says:

    Be safe Waiter! I don’t want to read a post made from a hospital bed!

    That being said, I always carry pepper spray out and in plain sight when I’m walking alone, and I from time to time turn around and look behind me to ensure no one is following too steadily.

    Thankfully hubby usually is there to walk me home.

  75. flatlander says:

    Thanks for the heads up, Waiter. One can never have too much in the way of street smarts.

  76. Eli says:

    ok, i take back what i said on your last post…cool entry, and really about other people this time…and so true.

  77. amanaplanacanalpanama says:

    @ Oldestgenxer:

    I read your story, and I agree that I would have ended up the same way in that situation. Not much you can do when you’re bum rushed by three guys. Then again, I don’t make a habit out of walking up to dark houses on the bad side of town…

  78. Dennis says:

    I have a friend that does pharma sales and she tried to get me a job doing this and said that if you have some kind of sales or science background that is usually enough to get you in the door.. She also said of course if you look like a cheerleader it’s automatic.

    She is from Boston, will be in Cleveland and has invited me to come and visit while she is in town for a conference. She said that there would be plenty of Pharma-Barbies to hook up with… I thought the phrase “Pharma-Barbie” is sheer genius.

  79. girlwiththemask says:

    That is so sad. I am glad I get to drive home after I’ve been paid cash…

  80. Nicole says:

    You are a wonderful story teller! You kept the seriousness of the topic, added just enough humor, and didn’t lose any details! From the logo on the drug rep’s bag, to their arguing covering the 3rd guys footsteps, excellent work! These are what make your blog so fun to read!

  81. Peggy says:

    I read in some newspaper article once that drug companies recruit college cheerleaders to be their sales reps. So, enjoy.

  82. Robin G. says:

    It’s so, so important to simply be aware. Though, admittedly, men tend to have more of an advantage than women — a girl who tried the same thing would likely have been jumped anyway.

  83. A-dog says:

    I’ve been mugged several times, always by a group. It was when I first moved to NYC and lived in some dicey neighborhoods in the Bronx. You definitely develop a sixth sense as well as plan your trip home. When I was waiting tables, I always stopped at the local ATM to deposit the cash, which was in a well lit area in Lincoln Center. Here are some tips – keep cash in several places (pockets, change pockets, jacket pockets, socks, shoes, hats, and those belts with pockets are good), know your route home, sit in the middle subway car with the middle conductor, and if you see a group of teenagers at three in the morning, whether they’re black white or brown, discreetly cross the street and be ready to run. And if you get caught, know where your money is and give it up. It sucks but hopefully they will be content and leave you alone after that. Hopefully none of them are out “just to get a rep.”

  84. Renee says:

    Peggy said:

    I think this may be the article Peggy was thinking about. It appeared in the New York Times a couple of years ago and caused quite a stir.

  85. myquestforsexcess says:

    you’re not sexist.. it’s a fact that pharmacy reps are all hotties… met this one at my gym, had a crush on her, finally talked to her, then i see a baby bump a few weeks later…

  86. anon says:

    Another thing you can do if you don’t feel safe is to walk in the middle of the street. If you start being followed, you can make a commotion or stop a car so that you will get some help.

    They tell women if they are being raped to yell ‘fire’, not ‘rape’. Unfortunately bystanders who could give a helping hand tend to avoid situations where they might get hurt, but are going to want to help, if they think it will be in their best interest to do so. The goal here is the same- to make your problem (getting jumped) other people’s problem (you are blocking the road by walking in it).

  87. Mike says:

    Oh man, I’m glad you’re not a mugger!

  88. Ldbug says:

    I’ve definitely had that feeling before too. I’ve lived in some not-so-safe places and have seen situations that I think I did a fair job to avoid. Sometimes you gotta take the long way home.

  89. arkanabar t'verrick ilarsadin says:

    MM@ #27: A GUN? In New York City? Except for ex-cops like the owner, that is completely illegal.

    Now, if the Waiter were in a shall-issue jurisdiction, I’d second your suggestion, since the Waiter is the sort to pay attention to his surroundings (the first rule of self-defense). There’s very little to take the fight out of somebody like putting their life in danger. And it’s the ONLY way to safely challenge multiple attackers. see this link.

    T @ #48: You bring to mind an excellent and simple way to spot a tail: circle the block and see if they follow you all the way around. If they do, they’re tailing you. The proper response is exactly as your sister did: pull into a police station.

    erazo @ #50: a good pen also makes a tolerable fist load.

  90. Thomas says:

    When I managed a restaurant just north of downtown Atlanta I wouldn’t let my servers walk to their cars unescorted. Even in a pretty decent neighborhood, you can’t be too careful when you’re carrying a big lump of cash at three in the morning.

  91. Caro says:

    Good god, maybe it’s because I’m Canadian or a girl but all these posts about concealed weapons aka people that are “packing it” makes me unnerved. I don’t personally feel it’s something to be proud of unless the post was just stating it matter of factly, than to each his own. But really, a weapon isn’t the perfect solution although I understand crime is everywhere. This coming from a girl who lives in Vancouver and who has been in the infamous Downtown Eastside aka “poorest postal code in Canada” late at night. You really just need your wits, a weapon isn’t the solution. And you also need to not be around shady areas late at night but if you must, keep your wits, like Waiter has said.

  92. Ava says:


    You little flirt! Drug reps. I’m glad to learn they’ve never automatically disrobed for you.

  93. georg says:

    That restaurant is on the way out. Start looking for elsewhere work. I worry about you.

  94. shades says:

    While never drunk on the subway, I do tend to wear my iPod. Might not be such a great idea. I think there is such a thing as constructive paranoia. Obviously it worked for you here. Well-written!

  95. Meat says:

    I’m surprised by how many service industry people don’t vary their routines. If you do the same thing every night after work you provide an easier target (even if you leave in a group!). If I had a nickel (maybe a dollar) for every time I saw somebody walking out with their uniform shirt untucked smoking a cigarette & counting cash, c’mon peoiple WTF?! Don’t make yourself a target. Also, as far as parking policies go, fuck ’em. Park where it’s safe. I’m a former Marine, so when a manager gives me a hard time about “You HAVE to park …” I quietly remind them that I’ve already done what I “have” to do. I’m working for them because I decided to and I can change that decision when I want to as well. Be safe people, you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself.

  96. anonymous for a good reason says:

    I know this is going to disgust some people, thus posting anon. Take a clean sandwich sized baggie to work with you, heavy duty. Get the biggest bills you can at the end of your shift. Place your bills in the baggie. Tuck the baggie with the bills gently between the cheeks of your bottom. It is a bit uncomfortable but it will get you through an ordinary mugging with the cash intact. Most muggers ain’t goin’ there to look.

  97. N says:

    My father used to work as a chef in a Chinese restaurant, leaving at 4 in the afternoon and coming back after midnight. I never realize the dangers that he would be in after dark, especially in NYC.

  98. Sarah says:

    I have been known to have a blindspot for occurrences like these (forever the optimist, I like to think that people are to be trusted until proven otherwise). One day, my ex-bf pointed something out to me that occurred one block away from where we were walking. I didn’t see anything, not even when he pointed in the direction of it. He had to clarify that it was a “beat-down” before I noticed what was happening. It scares me that this could happen to me because I don’t notice it. Lucky for me, it hasn’t happened yet. Lucky for you, you see these things and react instinctively.

  99. Anonymous says:

    This post gave me shivers. Reminds me why I always (or should always) have someone walk me to my car at the end of my shift.

  100. Grumpus says:

    Good for you, Waiter! You followed your gut and better yet, were just plain tuned in, something I see as being a bit of an uncultivated skill these days.
    Our society is geared towards maintaining our personal bubbles — on any given walk down the sidewalk, just count the people absorbed in their iPods, their Blackberrys, their thoughts, or who have a telephone conversation being beamed into the side of their face. The customary headspace (social awareness, outward engagement) of being out in public has devolved, now that we can impose our private diversions into the public sphere. It’s just a illusion of course. We’re like sitting ducks to anyone paying attention. It’s a real peeve of mine, this obliviousness. If you keep your eyes open it’s startling what you do see. As someone mentioned a few posts up, stuff occurs all around us that goes unnoticed.

    While in this case I am thinking of the potential for trouble, the same bubble mindset also closes us off to a lot of the beauty you mention too. A lot of people are missing a lot of crazy stuff!

  101. Phil C. says:

    Haven’t read in a couple of days and as usual, you tell a great story. Love your writing and I’m always happy to see new tales here.


    You made one of my most hated grammatical mistakes: “ATM machine”. What does ATM stand for? Automatic Teller Machine. So writing or saying “Automatic Teller Machine machine” just makes you look foolish, and I know you’re anything but. I beg of you: help stamp out this plague, and don’t do it anymore. 🙂


  102. Veteran says:

    Meh, Instinct,#14, was a soldier.

  103. Miss Write says:

    The world really is dangerous. My friend’s bag got slashed (and her wallet subsequently stolen) by a fellow passenger — a woman carrying a 2-3 yr old child. Stay safe Waiter!

  104. CATHARTICA says:

    I live in Honolulu but just because this place is considered paradise, I still like to be prepared. Whenever I work late I always make sure I have my trusty pair of night vision goggles in my backpack along with my SMAW. I’ve deterred many a potential mugging by simply taking out a rag and wiping it down in an aggressive manner. I also have a utility belt similar to the type that Batman wears that has all sorts of lethal gadgets on it, including a stainless steel boomerang and a flare gun.

  105. JohnnyCB says:

    Guardian Angels tap into intuition.

    Trust your senses.

  106. isrw says:

    Is there not an obvious systemic problem with the large amounts of cash involved, here? Shouldn’t restaurants be able to prevent their employees becoming such tempting targets by simply deferring payment by some relatively minor accounting inconvenience? You shouldn’t be going home with large amounts of cash at *any* time of day. If I ran a business and my employees were seriously considering tucking baggies between their butt cheeks, or in their socks, I would recognize a huge stinking (in both cases literally) problem to be fixed.

    Solving the problem by preventing it from coming up is surely better than an arms race decent people are certain to lose.

    I understand the sense of self, the self-reflection, that comes with alertness and having avoided the problem. That’s our story. Certain commenters’ false pride in being armed — because that’ll supposedly deter people who don’t know you’ve got the weapon until everyone’s backed into a corner? Foolish. So, so short-sighted.

  107. isrw says:

    I would also add: no matter how well-armed or prepared or alert we think we are, if there’s suitable incentive the bad ‘uns will find a way. The basic problem with an armed response is obvious: criminals choose the circumstances and the timing of engagement.

    We will not always have our taser ready, or be walking in groups of four, or whatever — and, looking for the right moments, muggers will ultimately give it a go anyway, at one of our weak moments.

    Far better to remove large sums of cash from the situation, removing the incentive, so that criminals do not feel inclined to take the risk.

  108. Left Bower says:

    Me, I live in a low crime neighbourhood (semi-rural, tourist trap type place), violent crime anyway (MJ druggies are common enough, but they’re mostly good types and don’t bother people). I’ve walked home from nearby many times at all hours, from work (dishing if you care) after close.

    It goes to show how different the world can be. Up here, you have to be cautious that you don’t step on a snake more then mugging.

  109. sarahthatneversleeps says:

    I just moved to the Big Apple from the midwest…looking for bartending and serving jobs and it has several crossed my mind that it would be dangerous leaving anywhere in any neighborhood after a late night shift. I plan on investing in pepper spray or mace despite not wanting to, cause even though the city is generally safe you never know what kind of creeper might follow you down the street. Thanks for the blog–it’s always funny how your blogs seem to match my current thoughts or situation! Love you Waiter!

  110. Stephanie says:

    Geez. Poor Alberto and Imelda, that really sucks.

    Lucky you though! Im always paranoid when I start at 4am or finish after dark. These days, you just gotta be 🙁

  111. Em says:

    Oh dear. I only consent to walking where restaurants and bars will still be open, where tourists are still finishing up their tours of the city, and where it’s well-lit. I walk briskly, purposefully, and make sure to look like I’ll bring down a shitstorm and the cops on you if you mug me.

    That being said, it’s a pain in the ass to try to not look tired when you are exhausted.

  112. AR says:

    You have a good imagination.

  113. sudsdrinker says:

    thank god i live in a “shall issue” state. and with our castle doctrine law. my daughter and myself carry at all times. if you come in the home, it’s either one of our pistols our one of our shotguns….. you are not getting out with anything. you will beg for 911

  114. SSK says:

    I can’t tell you the number of times my husband and I have seen wait staff walking home after dark with their aprons still on. Please, do not advertise that you just left work and probably have a lot of cash on you. Be safe with yourself.

  115. name says:

    hmmm…mb its true ,

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  117. Susan says:

    Thank God my husband would pick me up. My other bartender carried a tazer. Looked like a lame vibrator-flashlight combo but it would mess you up. Of course, the jerks of the world deserve every volt. Hope your new profession is safer!

  118. Brisbane Internet Consultant says:

    I think the trick is to appear crazier than the people who might do you harm. Wear a tin-foil hat, pink coat and talk to yourself on the way home.

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  120. klg19 says:

    Stay alert and don’t drink, that’s my motto.

    Back in the early ’90s I bartended at a place in SoHo and lived a healthy walk away in the far West Village. I always walked home at, say, 2 or 3 in the morning, with a damn full wallet. One night, as I crossed Carmine Street, I sensed that someone had been dogging my footsteps. I took a zigzaggy way home, and he’d always be right behing me.

    The last block home was on Morton, between Hudson and Washington, and it was deserted–warehouses only. As I walked along Morton towards Hudson, I knew this guy was still behind me, and I knew I was in trouble if I walked that last block.

    There was a 24-hour convenience store on Hudson, staffed by a couple of Middle Eastern immigrants. I slipped in, and counted upon their chivalry. “I think some guy is following me,” I said. They were scandalized. One of them peeked out the door; “Yes, he’s standing there on the corner! He’s probably waiting for you to come out!” The two clerks conferred; “I’ll walk you home,” one said.

    And he did. We walked out together. The guy was still standing there, leaning against the wall. He didn’t move as we walked past him. The clerk walked me to my door, and I hugged him in thanks.

    Stay alert. Don’t drink. And rely on the kindness of strangers.

  121. KALIKRNGUYX says:


  122. Kris says:

    I left a movie theater one night to head home. A guy seemed to be following me, even as I zigzagged between the cars.

    I pulled out my cell phone, dialed a friend’s number, and turned around. The dude stopped, a bit shocked. I asked him what time it was, then told my friend on the other line I could see her car and was waiting at the bottom of the row. It was some random person’s car, she was sitting at home. But it was headed my way, that’s all I needed. She was confused, but the guy ended up turning and walking another way, towards the highway.

    Sometimes a ‘no shit’ attitude and looking into a person’s eyes will deter them. I’ve heard they ditch if they think you’re going to make more trouble then you’re worth.

  123. J says:

    Two comments spring to mind:

    1) I was mugged at gunpoint while in college. Of course, being in college, I had zero cash on me. It happened in a public area on the college’s main street, next to a biker bar (the Harley-riders looked on in amusement but made no move to intercede) at 10 pm. I truly worried for my life because you can usually give a mugger some money and they go away. But I had no money at all to give. So I babbled at the mugger about how I had no money but was afraid that he wasn’t going to believe me and what would it take for him to believe me. After about two minutes of this and him looking impatient, he said, “F- it. Keep yo’ money,” and walked away. The bikers cheered. I flipped them off.

    2) My SO used to wait tables at a place where he could turn his cash earnings in to a check. The MOD would just write him a check for his cash-wad amount, and would drop the cash as part of the night drop. This was to prevent him from becoming a target. Worked out well.

  124. admin says:


  125. Dustin says: forgot icles.

  126. Mandy Winkler says:

    I truly believe a boss is responsible for his staff when working late shifts. Please, people, don’t wait for it to happen to you..somehow get company to ride/walk home!

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