“Left a Good Job in the City…”

Of all of the people I have met working at Cracker Barrel, Darla would have to be the most original and the one most worthy of a blog post. Her tickets simply read “The Darla” where it says the server’s name, and that pretty much sums her up. She’s one of a kind, almost indescribable, but I will do my best.

Imagine a woman in her mid-forties, with somehow Farrah Fawcette-esque short brown hair and bright eyes. Now put her in a Cracker Barrel uniform, apron and all. Spin her around thirty times and throw flour all over her until she’s messier than a kindergartener finger-painting. Add to that Michael Jackson’s signature dance moves, and you have a pretty accurate mental image of what she looks like after a hard day’s work.

This visual image of Darla is amazing enough, and it stunned me to meet someone so unique when I first started working there, but it’s nothing compared to the amazing woman she is on the inside.

A typical Sunday morning, the busiest time of the week, is the only day I get to work with Darla. She usually has around ten tables a morning that request her personally, because her wild personality makes her seem like everyone’s best friend. She’s loud and crazy, and doesn’t really think before she speaks, but even when everyone else is frazzled and stressed, she’s still got an amazing attitude and is still singing. My favorite game on mornings like these is to find different songs I think will sound magnificently better in her loud singing voice. Somehow Darla puts a fantastic spin on CCR, Usher, and Lil Jon, and we had a weekend of only Michael Jackson music (and dancing) right after he died. But my all time favorite Darla cover would have to be Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary.” All I have to do is start the “left a good job in the city…,” and she gives the most entertaining version of the song you’ve ever heard. The “rollin’ on the river” part is always the best, and usually all of the people around her join in because the song is contagious.

For most people, Darla is a happy smiling person 100% of the time. But there have been moments I’ve been able to ask her about her past and how she came to be the person that she is, and it’s due to some choices she made during the lowest part of her life. Her husband Rusty, still the love of her life, passed away from a terminal illness. Within a short time of his death, both of her parents passed away, too. During this horrible time, Darla says, “the devil knocked on my door,” and that’s all she has to say. Pieces start falling together and you realize that she stays so incredibly chipper because she’s already used all of the sadness she was allotted in life. She has reached her limit, and from now on she’ll just keep on “rollin’ down the river,” covered in flour and living her best life, enriching the lives of those lucky enough to meet her.

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

You’ve Got a Friend

Before I worked at the CB, I never could have imagined I would meet the people I have met or that I would become so close to people so vastly different from myself. Call me narrow-minded, but most of my good friendships up to that point had been with people who were very similar to me- they were all close in age, had a similar upbringing, and shared many of my same interests. That’s not to say I would shun people that were different than me; it’s just the way things happened to work out.

Many of my shifts start in the bright sun-shiny early morning hours or end late at night when the restaurant is empty of customers. These are the hours of the day when you can truly get to know someone- times like right before they’ve had their morning coffee or right as they’re about to get their after-work beer. Trapped in a locked restaurant until a manager is able to walk you out, you really get to know things about a person’s love life. Get to work at six in the morning and people are more willing to talk about plastic surgery or their experiments with acid in the 70’s. Work with someone for two years and you’ll learn all of the details of their three marriages.

I’ve met a myriad of different kinds of people, and it’s funny how I’ve gotten so attached to people I might not have if I didn’t work where I do. There is a 40 year old grill cook I’ve dubbed “Lil’ Ray Ray,” even though there’s nothing little about his 250 pounds. It’s just funny. There’s Ruben and Oscar, both from Guatemala. Ruben has jokingly asked my mother if she’d like to be his mother-in-law, and Oscar speaks to me only in Spanish. I speak very little Spanish, but over the last couple of years he’s been very kind and given me things sent from his wife back home, still in Guatemala. Normally he would try to sell them and send the money back home to his family, so it means a lot. There’s nutty Darla who sings, pervy Phyllis, bad ass Judy (Judes, as I call her) who beats up her husband, spit-fire Rita, and crazy Julia. All of these people have come to mean so much to me and have helped me with their advice and their friendship. It’s hard to imagine working somewhere else without them, but I know that when I do I will take the things I’ve learned from them and still imagine their encouraging voices in my head.

Cassie stabs Ched with a Gnome

A Coworker Stabbing a Manager with a Gnome

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 6:19 pm  Leave a Comment