I worked at Ye Old College Diner in State College, Pennsylvania for over 8 years. I was a waitress. Occasionally, I was a cashier, too. I loved working at The Diner. I met some amazing people. I learned how to play poker, smoke cigars, fight with unruly customers, and threaten intoxicated frat boys. I learned how to multi-task. And I learned about patience. Holy shit, did I learn a lot about patience.
The Diner was a bit insane at times. Couple late night dining with drunk college students and you are bound to come out with some interesting stories. I caught folks fornicating in the bathroom, in a booth, and in the basement. I watched a guy pass out in a plate of mac and cheese. I watched a girl pass out beneath a table. I watched hundreds of people puke. Oh, holy shit did I see my fair share of vomit.
There was so much vomiting that took place during a late shift at The Diner, we had the clean up protocol down to a science. Should someone vomit during the late shift, said clean-up required three things:
- 1). A sign at the podium that reads: “SHOULD YOU VOMIT, YOU WILL CLEAN IT UP OR YOU WILL PAY US 50 BUCKS TO CLEAN IT UP.”
- 2). Ivan The Dishwasher
- 3). One Aluminum Baseball Bat
The hard part was making sure that the perpetrator didn’t make a clean break for the door prior our getting a hold of Ivan the Dishwasher.
There were times a vomiting customer would become rude and refuse to clean it up. Either that, or he or she would refuse to pay the 50 Buck Vomit Clean-Up Fee and usually his or her friends would be forced to take care of it. And although Ivan The Dishwasher was perhaps the sweetest Vietnam vet around, he was unbelievably mean looking. (Imagine Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector when he’s in that big cage right before he chews that guy’s face off.)
Ivan The Dishwasher ALWAYS wore a tight white undershirt, blue jeans (rolled up like a 50’s greaser) and black combat boots. He was about 55 at the time. And his weapon of choice (while on the clock) was an aluminum baseball bat.
He’d stand there in the middle of the restaurant holding the bat in one hand and smacking his other palm with the end of it.
Nine times out of ten, Vomiter or Vomiter’s Friend chose one of the two options. And usually (considering mom and dad were paying their bills for the duration of their college career), they opted for paying the money. Ivan The Dishwasher made a lot over the years cleaning up vomit. And while this may seem unfair, if I could have looked as scary as Ivan The Dishwasher holding an aluminum baseball bat, I’d have cleaned that stuff up in a second.
This was a regular occurrence. College students just don’t know when to say when, I suppose. I watched people throw up every color of the rainbow. I watched them throw up and keep eating. I watched them throw up in between cigarette puffs. I watched girlfriends hold back girlfriend’s hair. I watched people try and cover it up with a napkin beneath their feet. There was never a dull moment working late-night at the Diner.
So you might say that this past Friday after consuming a very rare piece of tuna for dinner at the Allen Street Grill, sharing a bottle of wine with TobyJoe and then heading to Zeno’s and having two more glasses of red wine, then later topping THAT off with three large pints of lemon water, two over-medium eggs and half a pancake at the Diner, you might say that when projectile vomiting began spewing from my face like a suddenly unkinked garden hose while STILL SITTING AT THE TABLE, that I was absolutely MORTIFIED. I might have even hated myself. And when I couldn’t hold it all back and it just kept coming and I made a MAD DASH for the bathroom-
my hands wrapped up in my sweater sleeves as they covered my mouth pretending to have ANY POWER over this situation whatsoever-that I wanted to die. Right there. Just like that. I wanted to cease to exist. And you’d be right if you thought that I haven’t ever felt more totally moronic in all of the years I have been an adult. And never EVER in my entire life (well, not since I was 6 years old and puked during parachute day during gym class at Fairview Elementary) have I thrown up from anything other than too much booze. And this time, it wasn’t the booze. (I have consumed five glasses of red wine over the course of 6 hours before.) This time I was just sick. I was so sick, I just kept on vomiting. I vomited the entire way to the bathroom and miraculously managed to keep a lot of it confined to my sleeves and the inside of my face. By the time I got INTO the bathroom, the second batch was not stopping. I puked on my shoes, on the wall, on the toilet seat. I puked all over the place. I just kept on throwing up.
And just like that, after years of silently (and not so silently) judging vomiting Diner patrons for their crass animalistic behavior, I watched my smugness and any future in vomit-taunting go down the drain. Literally. And onto the walls and onto my shoes, through my sweater sleeves and onto the floor. I watched my body try and turn itself inside out.
I spent the next humiliating 10 minutes desperately trying to clean up the Diner’s bathroom. While Ivan The Dishwasher is long gone, the idea of being threatened with an aluminum baseball bat by some stranger was too much for my vomiting self to imagine. So I got down and began to clean. And It’s a good thing there is only one stall and the door locks. And it’s a good thing there are no windows because surely I would have escaped never to be seen again.
Like never. Ever.
And it’s a good thing I didn’t just tell the Internets about this.