I’m not a good person. Usually. Generally. I mean, I’ve done nice things for people, and I genuinely care about people, but I’ve also made choices that for one or another will most assuredly end up with me going to hell. If hell exists, which it does not, but if I’m wrong, I’m most assuredly going to spend some time there.
At lunch, one of my friends urged me to tell this story because he thinks it’s one of my best. Clearly, he meant worst. Not because I killed anyone or anything like that, but it may demonstrate some of my less ideal tendencies.
Let me walk you through it.
It was college. I was poor. I worked at a restaurant (the Olive Garden, if you must know) because that’s what you do when you’re in school. The flexible schedule and mindless, menial tasks make it ideal to that time of people’s lives (this is merely all it takes to be a mediocre waiter, and I was nothing if not mediocre). I did not like working there, both for the work, and what it was doing to me. I was really starting to hate people. I still maintain that no one’s livelihood should be at the whims of the general public. We don’t pay for movies only if we like them. If we did, maybe we’d have less Transformers movies. I had people walk out on full checks, as well as leaving terrible tips. I got yelled at on a regular basis from both my superiors and my tables. Some weeks I would make great tips. Others, I would barely make anything. All of which meant, as a poor college student, that paying rent and eating were becoming more challenging than necessary.
It’s always hard to look for a job when you have one. Add in a full load of classes, student council, executive committee of the fraternity, the newspaper and I was as busy as possible. I wanted to get another job but couldn’t actually find the time to look for one, so I did what anyone would do (right?) and told my bosses that I broke my leg (because you can’t wait tables with a broken leg, but you can look for other jobs without them knowing about it). It was a volleyball accident, I said. I was diving and someone fell onto my knee and it snapped or something. This was a good story because one, this had happened to me already so it was believable and 2, it was less ridiculous than the usual accidents I get into so the pretty girls I work with might think of me more athletically than they may have otherwise.
Within a couple weeks, I had found a telemarketing job. It was much more suited to my needs – flexible hours, and no direct compensation from the general public. Perfect. I was so happy that I didn’t even bother to call back the Olive Garden to let them know I no longer worked there. I just assumed they would figure it out (I was, what’s the technical term? -a dick- back then).
One day, I got a call from the Olive Garden saying there was a mandatory meeting for everyone. I mentioned that I was still in a brace but they urged me that attendance was mandatory. I thought about not going. Like I said, I had already reconciled with myself that I was no longer employed there. But I was also, always, a curious creature. And I was just dying to know what was so urgent that they would call me off my medical leave (allegedly).
I had a brace from when I did break my leg, and crutches from a sprained ankle incident the year before (I’m always just a year out from being a crutches anyway). I had to go full method, otherwise they would surely see through my act. I hobbled into the restaurant late on a Monday night. I chatted up some friends I had worked with that I hadn’t seen in weeks, before the district manager and manager called the meeting to order.
They were closing this branch.
There were gasps. Some people just didn’t see this coming. I kind of shrugged. This had really no impact on my life. But I acted surprised because I was majoring in communications and I knew that was what they wanted to see.
Then it happened.
For those employees present, which they included me as for some reason, there were two options. They could relocate some of us to the other branch in town. Or, we could accept a severance package which was about thirteen hundred dollars.
Thirteen. Hundred. Dollars.
This was college in the 90s. That was enough money to live off of for months. Or weeks at least if you included beer allowance. I raised my hand.
“I’ll take the severance package.”
They smiled and asked me if I was sure, I could think about it.
“My legs still jacked up and who knows when I’ll get out of this brace,” I started, but in my head it was a non-stop loop of getthatmoneygetthatmoney getthatmoneygetthatmoney getthatmoneygetthatmoney getthatmoneygetthatmoney. I may have been salivating.
The meeting dispersed and for those of us that were taking the severance, we had a couple docs to sign and we could get our checks. I gimped over to the line and because of the crutches, everyone let me go first (I know). I felt like I was going to get caught or they were going to change their minds or something. I wouldn’t believe this was real until the check was in my hand. And within moments I held it in my hands. I tried hard not to burst into an evil cackle.
I shoved the check in my pocket when the manager called me over.
“How’s the leg?” she asked.
“Good. Getting better, I guess. Just hanging in there. Most days I’m just bored at home.”
“Didn’t I see you at the mall the other day?”
That was a weird question. I’m sure she had seen me at the mall, and while the tone of her voice wasn’t accusatory, what other reason was there for that question? I was caught. But I had the check, she couldn’t take it back could she? I was caught. Red-handed, or red-legged as it were. What else could I do?
“Are you sure, I have barely been out of the house.”
“I could’ve sworn it was you.”
“You sure it wasn’t my brother? You know I have a twin, right?”
Yup. For the record, I do not have a twin brother.
“Are you kidding?” she asked.
“You knew that.”
“Oh yeah, his name’s Jason. We’re identical, but he’s like half an inch taller. Always wears a blue hoodie. Was he in a blue hoodie?”
I remembered going to mall and I always wore a blue hoodie.
“I think so.”
“Oh yeah, that’s Jay.”
(See what I did there? First, I named him Jason because a lot of parents with twins give the kids the same first initial. I also added “Jay” to give it more a familiar tone. And the hoodie, well, that was a detail that could help sell the whole story. Thirteen hundred dollars was like six months rent. At that point, I would’ve sold my dog.)
“We were always switching classes in high school because I was better at English, and he was better at Math. We only got caught once but that was because he had the same teacher for homeroom and she saw what he was wearing that morning.”
I’m glad I developed the ability to think on my feet early. I’ve since honed this talent to work for presentations and first dates, but the stakes were so much higher back then. I had friends that were twins so it was easy to steal a story of theirs.
She smiled and we moved on to other things, before she said she would miss me and vice/versa. People think that she didn’t believe me, but I walked (hobbled) out with the check and that’s really all that matters. A few weeks later I ran into her at a sand volleyball. She said “hey” and I replied with –
“Do I know you?”
“Oh my god, are you the other one?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I used to work with your brother.”
“Oh yeah? Cool.”
Yes. I did that. It was partially because I didn’t want to talk to her anymore, but I also like to think that part of it was to validate my lie for her. You know, so she wouldn’t feel like a fool.
I miss Jason. I wonder what happened to him. He’s probably got a wife and kids. I like to think he was luckier in love than I. I imagine I was the workaholic twin. I was the pretty one for sure.