I have to admit that I was, without question, the worst waiter in the history of Mexican restaurants.
Sometimes when you start a job, you know immediately that this will be a job you will excel at. Other times, you simply are waiting for the crash and burn to come. For me, waiting tables would not last long.
I think I made it 2 weeks. Had I not had some connection to the ownership, I probably would have been fired before the end of the first week. I didn’t know the menu. I didn’t know the difference between a chimichanga and a tostado. Heck, I barely knew the different between a burrito and a tortilla chip. But I was thrown on the floor my first day after about an hour of training.
At some point, I started doing the math. I looked at the hours I was spending at the restaurant and the amount of money – or lack thereof – I was bringing home. I started looking at how much grad school and housing was going to cost. I started looking at the debt I had accumulated during the internship. I started looking at my college degree hanging on the wall.
I was going to need to make a change.
Even with the college degree, I knew trying to get some sort of professional job was probably out of the question. I would be starting grad school in about 8 weeks or so. I really just needed something temporary. But, where would I find a temporary job that paid well? And how could I cut back on my already slim living costs (I was essentially just paying for food and my cell phone at this point).
I picked up my phone and called my dad.
“Dad, is that galley hand job still available?”
“No, but we have a deckhand position open if you want it.”
“Be at the office in New Iberia tomorrow morning at 8am. Ask for Larry.”
The next morning at 8am, I was in New Iberia sitting in Larry’s office, filling out the paperwork. For the next few days I reported to the New Iberia office every morning for training and orientation along with the other new hires. When we weren’t in class, they loaded us into a van and brought us all around town getting physicals, MRIs, and other various sorts of poking and prodding.
Eventually I found myself at a shipyard in Amelia. The boat I was to report to as a deckhand was in dry dock. I showed up in my new company polo shirt and some nice pants, wanting to make a good impression. The First Officer, who I reported to, and the other deckhands sort of snickered when they saw me, showed me to my quarters and told me to put on some work clothes. I really had no idea what being a deckhand entailed, but I was quick to find out. In short – a lot of painting and a lot of cleaning.
After about a week I was transferred out of that ship and into an open galley hand position on a working ship. I wasn’t complaining at all! The galley hand position was just as much grunt work, but not being in the ship yard was much more pleasant experience. I had never been out in the Gulf before, and I often found myself walking the deck after hours just enjoying the view and the stars. The position itself was really easy work – washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I even got to prepare a meal once when the cook was off duty one night.
I spent approximately 6 weeks offshore. It was a surprisingly interesting experience. While it isn’t something that I’d want to do full time today, I definitely see the draw, especially for a young, single fellow like myself. While on the ship, I had $0 living expenses. My paycheck was directly deposited into my bank account, but I had no opportunity to spend that money on anything. I was making somewhere around $80-$100 dollars a day, more than I had ever really made up to that point. After a few weeks of this, I would be able to pay off most of the debt from my internship and some of my college fees.
At this point, you may be asking how this tale advances the story of my and Molly’s journey together. Well, it really doesn’t. It was sort of this great 6-week pause. Oh, we talked on the phone quite a bit in the weeks preceding up to my going offshore. And, for my week of orientation in New Iberia, I even got to go visit her a couple times in Lafayette which was only 40 minutes or so up the road. Thanks, of course, to my friend Ken Taylor, who had moved into Zeke’s old room at the Chi Alpha house and allowed me to bunk with him for the week.
The 6-weeks offshore, though, was mostly a pause. It was a good pause, however. A time to be apart for a bit and really think through what this next stage in our relationship would be.