Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Service Industry Hell (Part 5): Sex in Cemeteries and a Dancing Monkey

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Service Industry Hell (Part 5): Sex in Cemeteries and a Dancing Monkey

A lot of the inspiration for my new book, Congratulations On Everything, came from the things I saw while working in bars, restaurants, and hotels, and from the experiences of friends who did the same. Recently, I asked people* on Facebook and Twitter to send me their wildest stories of working in the service industry trenches - in part to show that, however cringey things get in the book, the reality is worse. But also because I find these inherently fun to read.

*to whom I promised anonymity, in order to protect the relatively innocent


This tale comes from "DE":

“I used to work at a club where our manager was a goth dude named Kirk who told us he could eat a pint glass and spoke of the glories of having sex with strippers in cemeteries. At the end of the night, he would walk us through the club to make sure we didn't miss any aspect of clean-up. We would occasionally find a little baggy filled with some kind of powder, and that's when we all turned to Tom. Tom was the resident stoner busser who would arrive at work on roller blades and ask us what we would do if we had all the weed in the world. Tom loved his drugs and wasn't too picky about them. Kirk hated Tom. Wanted to fire him. But he also loved to demean him. And Tom definitely didn't mind being demeaned. So whenever Kirk found a little baggy of drugs he would show it to Tom and scream: ‘DANCE MONKEY DANCE!!!’ Tom was so enthusiastic about the drugs that he would break into a screeching, jumping monkey impersonation even before Kirk started yelling.

I miss them both.

I can only assume that Tom is dead. I think Kirk works at the Comfort Zone... which is a certain kind of death.”

As made clear by all of the stories in this series, in bars the normal rules of workplace conduct get suspended, ignored, and forgotten. Booze has a lot to do with it. It also has a lot to do with the fact that borderline insane people can ascend to positions of power simply by outlasting their colleagues. High employee turnover is a fact of life; most servers and cooks have a lifespan shorter than your average goldfish. I’ve met many lifers, and some of them are thoroughly sane, decent people. They are the exceptions. More usual are the sadistic, half-mad petty tyrants who have spent too much of their lives surrounded by the smell of sour beer and the sound of Kim Mitchell.

RIP, Tom. Unless you’re still with us, in which case: dude, get help.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Nathan Whitlock

Nathan Whitlock’s award-winning fiction and non-fiction has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, Toronto Life, Report on Business, Flare, Fashion, Geist, Maisonneuve, and Best Canadian Essays, and he has appeared on radio and television discussing books and culture. He is a contributing editor for Quill & Quire. He lives in Toronto with his wife and children.

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