LINCOLN, NE -- The ticket printer in Condimensa’s kitchen has been steadily pouring tickets out onto the floor for the past half hour. The flattop and both fryers are dead, the grill resembles a large block of carbon, and the salad station looks like the Jolly Green Giant showed up with a suicide vest on and sent himself out to pasture. All this is going on despite the fact that the kitchen uttered their safe word hours ago. “If I had time to kill myself, I would,” Tyler Johnson, sprinting from station to station while accomplishing nothing, told Sauce On the Side. “We’ve been shouting ‘Winnebego’ since our shift started. They know that that means they need to stop taking orders and let us catch up, but those motherfuckers don’t care. Maybe, if they were running the goddamn food, I’d understand, but we haven’t seen any of those front of house motherfuckers in a grip, goddammit.” Stacey, Whitney, and Jess--the servers in question--are seated at a booth in the empty dining area, scrolling through their phones, blissfully unaware that the kitchen’s ticket printer is broken and printing out all of yesterday’s orders at once. “It was funny, like, the first three times they yelled ‘Winnebago’,” Stacey said, balls deep in a game of 2048. “Should we go back there and tell them that the joke has run its course?” “Nah,” Jess responded. “‘Cause it’s the kitchen. You know they’re just gonna double down at that point. Just ignore them.”
It was a busy Sunday. An adorable little wine bar called Rose It Ain’t So was frantically preparing for the daily happy hour rush. They had already had three employees experience transportation issues getting to work, and manager Helene Froth was completely beside herself. “Was the bus really late?” she was demanding of a server when our crew walked in. “Or did you just miss it and have to wait for the next one? Why are you attacking me like this?!” She paused to wipe away a tear before turning away from the server in question and apologizing to our crew, who had also arrived late because the Uber app was down for a while. “I’m so sorry about all the issues we’re having. As you know, Mercury is in retrograde.” One of our crew members dug into his backpack to pull out his bottle of Gatorade and study the ingredient list. “Focus, Brad,” we had to tell him. “It’s retrograde. Your Gatorade is fine.” “We’re just waiting for our head bartender Theresa,” Froth explained to us. “She really holds us together during the rush. She’s a Leo, and we all kind of gravitate around her light and her strong personality. We couldn’t do it without her. April and Alice are our Gemini twins; they work pretty well together but you never know what their mood is going to be. Crystal is a Pisces, so she tends to drink a little too much of the wine, but we let it slide because she’s really amazing at upselling.” We didn’t ask what Helene’s sign was because she was obviously a Cancer. Customers began arriving in small droves and the staff became increasingly worried as Theresa did not show up or make any attempt to communicate the reason for her absence. “Mercury’s retrograde is especially strong this season,” Helene told us, wringing her hands as her eyes darted frantically around the group of patrons waiting by the bar. “It’s moving into fire sign Leo in conjunction with fire planet Mars, but also has a strong connection with Uranus and Chiron, planet of wounding and healing. Mercury is the planet of communication, obviously, so all these factors make it really hard on all of us. I really can’t blame her for no-call-no-showing.” Tears streamed down her face as she began pouring drinks. “I’m sorry I’m so emotional right now. It’s just that Mercury takes us out of our rational minds and channels all the negative energy into our daily tasks. It’s just hard to force anyone to take responsibility for anything during this trying time.”
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Mike Stockton hadn’t thought about Crazy Joe’s Palace Of Paella since he walked off the line four years ago. Just last week, despite all the odds, he received an old W-2 from them. “It took me a second to realize what I was holding in my hands,” Mike told Sauce On the Side. “Frankly, I just can’t believe anyone there has their shit together enough to be able to send me something like this. I could have sworn I was the only one there holding everything together.” Stockton’s last two weeks at Crazy Joe’s Palace Of Paella were full of fantasies revolving around what was going to happen without him there to do all the things that everyone took for granted, like making sure the make table was holding temp, rotating backups, and literally putting out the fire that started underneath the flattop every single morning. “Now I just wanna go in there and see who the fuck is still on staff,” Mike said. “If Steve’s still there I’ll lose all faith in humanity. That guy jerked off in the bathroom before every single shift. My kitchen manager at Crazy Joe’s didn’t believe that garlic had any culinary use whatsoever. How the fuck do you cook with someone like that?”
BALTIMORE, MD -- A cold chill came over Melissa Bronson as she hung up the phone and sent the caller’s order back to the kitchen. For the first time in her life, she felt true despair as a disembodied voice called out from behind her: “Ahahahaha, another soul for the Dark Lord’s harvest.” It was in that very moment Melissa knew she was to spend eternity in the fires of hell, forever tormented. “I’ve done a lot of terrible shit in my life, okay,” Miss Bronson, pale white and staring off into the distance, said blankly. “I’ve spent six months with a shaved head, pretending to have cancer, to get out of shifts whenever I wanted to, but I guess that call in order was the worst thing I’ve ever done. I never thought hell was real. I never thought anything I did mattered, but now I know that it’s very real and that’s where I’m going.”
BIRMINGHAM, AL -- Bryan, a newcomer to Suzy Q’s Palace of Booze, informed Sauce OTS that the whisky he had ordered was alright, but not exactly what he was expecting. “It just didn’t have that aggressive chemical aftertaste I seek out,” Bryan said, “the whiskey I received lacked the complexity I search for in a well drink.” Without that subtle mix of ineffable, rank flavor, Bryan, found himself devoid of any joy in drinking it. “The minute that delicious, oaky, rich flavor hits my tongue I knew this hooch wasn’t for me. When I go out, I drink the worst swill I can find, straight and neat, just like my father showed me how to when I was six. I follow a tradition that demands a lack of integrity in my whiskey. I want to fight my booze, mano a mano. To the very bottom of the glass. Is that too much to ask?” A sommelier once described the whiskey Bryan typically enjoys as “Satan’s hot load, cast in sulfur and deepest sorrow, with notes of Drano and a nose that can only originate from a beverage created in a large, soul crushing, industrial still.” Upon seeing the review of his brand of choice, Bryan retaliated saying: “That’s what I got when I was just a poor, little lad. That sad, sour flavor takes me back to the good old days, when my father and mother were constantly fighting. It was a simpler time, when I would be put to bed and my parents would look down at me with their sad and vacant eyes. That’s what I look for when I have a drink at the end of the day.” Bryan has since finished the whiskey that was too good for him and decided to seek out his perverted nostalgia at a different location.