Last night, I joined a girlfriend for dinner before an event we had tickets for. The event, an MMA fight, was in an area of town that doesn’t have much going on. The best we could find was an Outback Steakhouse.
Outback Steakhouse was the first job I ever had. I was 16, had just gotten my license and a car, and a few of my friends worked there. After filling out an application, taking a quick math test, and passing an interview, I landed my first moneymaker.
I was so excited.
I didn’t realize it then, but it was a pretty lucrative gig. I was a hostess, so my job was simply seating guests and rolling silverware. I got a small hourly wage and a percentage of the tips for the night.
At 16, I was blind to several of the problems my older coworkers had. I was just there for gas money, while some of them had families, and mouths to feed.
That same year, I went to our high school’s winter formal with one of my best guy friends who also worked at Outback with me. We joined a group of our friends and coworkers for the dance and decided to head to Outback when it was over.
To our surprise, our coworkers let us in after the restaurant closed that night. They let us in the kitchen, in our formal wear, and fix ourselves slices of raspberry cheesecake.
It was simple, and it was so much fun.
I had forgotten about that night until I sat at the Outback bar last night. Just as I was approaching my second margarita, a group of four high schoolers sat near us, dressed for prom.
They were taking funny pictures, laughing when they teetered in their uncomfortable heels, and were constantly adjusting their shimmering gowns.
It took me back, ten years, to that night with my friends.
“I would love to go back,” my friend told me. She was looking in their direction, too.
“Me too,” I said. “I cared so much back then. I cared about good grades and being popular. Why?”