When I worked at a pizza restaurant from junior year of high school through junior year of college, I worked with this guy Brian. Brian was an older guy—like mid-40s—working in a kitchen with no one over 25 (hell, most of us were under 18). I feel like working with a guy like Brian should be required for every teenager; you learn a lot about life from the weird older guys you work with in service economy jobs as a teen.
Brian taught us about buying weed: never buy shake, because it’s probably oregano (because Brian used to sell bags of oregano as weed as a teen). Brian taught us that if you’re ever locked up, fake like you have back pains, because they will give you an extra mattress, and penal system mattresses are thin, so if you have 2, you have a chance at sleeping well (he did time for using a checkbook that wasn’t his for a year. He thought he’d run out of money, but he never did, so he kept using it). Brian was the one who invented the warning system for if a hot woman was buying pizza—He’d say, loudly, “Can I get a slice count?” and all of the kitchen staff would come looking out the pass thru windows—and it was Brian who came up with the horrible nicknames for the people we didn’t like working with (I won’t reprint them here because I was horrible and said them too).
As a consequence of working with Brian, all of us have stories about him. Graham remembers working at the pool, and hearing Brian’s voice (a mix between comically high nasal and gravelly and ravaged) from the pool saying, “Hey Graham!” and looking over and seeing Brian bouncing in the pool eating an ice cream cone while wearing a Zeppelin T-shirt.
My story is from when the power transformer blew up near the restaurant from overheating, and we spent an afternoon sitting on the curb outside the restaurant as our owner paid us to hang out because he refused to believe the power wouldn’t come back on immediately. Me and Brian sat away from the group, him smoking a cigarette. Brian exhaled and let loose.
“You know, you guys laugh at me and shit, and think I’m joking all the time, but the thing I’m most serious about is that Bon Jovi are the best band of all time. That band meant so much to me in the ‘80s. They were great. Bon Jovi, baby.”
Brian laughs too. “Bon Jovi, baby,” he said in his voice—the only voice I can hear to this day when someone says “Bon Jovi”—as he exhaled again. We end up going back to work an hour later, and Brian sings along to “Livin on a Prayer” when it comes on the classic rock station.
I haven’t seen Brian since I left Oshkosh in 2008. I imagine he’s out back at the pizza place, smoking a cig and telling a new 18-year-old about the redemptive powers of Jon Bon Jovi. This one goes out to Brian. Bon Jovi, baby.