My Favorite Strangers: Jeff & His Coworkers

It was just another ordinary night as a server—at least it started out that way.

After a slow first couple hours, most of my fellow servers were cut and it was down to me and the other closing waitress. The restaurant was dead and we were about to call it a night. But in walked my entertainment—a table of 11 men who turned my evening upside down.

As I began taking their orders, I knew they would be a fun bunch immediately because they all ordered adult beverages. I’ll admit, you don’t have to drink to be fun, but if I’ve learned anything in my seven years as a server, it’s that if you enjoy a beer, you likely enjoy life, and thus, are enjoyable as a person.

Jeff and I connected right away. Jeff was… well, a clone of me. Or maybe I was a clone of him? It wasn’t until I took his order that I realized really how comical he was. Jeff was the type of guy who really wanted to know his options. He asked questions about the menu because he didn’t want to be surprised by anything. And so, his coworkers made fun of him.

“Jeff, the one thing I’ve noticed about you in the many times we’ve eaten out is that you always take an hour to order,” Clarence, his coworker, said jokingly. But Jeff was a spitfire. He fired back almost immediately. “You know what, guys? I take a long time to order because… when you’re my age, you don’t know how many meals you have left.” We all burst into laughter. Granted Jeff was nowhere near old—late-40s at most? (You’re welcome, Jeff.)

Long Time to Order

I chimed in, “…And you want to make sure they’re damn good!” I totally understood. I love food. How could I not? I’ve worked in the restaurant industry since I was 14. There’s nothing more depressing than spending money on a meal you didn’t want or finding out after you ordered that you missed out on the best thing on the menu. Jeff and I had at least one thing figured out in life.

It wasn’t long before Jeff realized how smart I really was. Turns out, he liked smart people. I added that to my list of our similarities. It must have been something I said, because before I knew it, Jeff was jabbering. “You know what? I love smart people. You’re smart,” he said, referring to me. “That’s why…” he paused for a second. “I love you,” he said.

I laughed. “I’m so impressed,” I responded. “This friendship has moved really fast.”

“And that’s saying a lot,” Jeff said. “I haven’t said ‘I love you’ to anyone in my life.” He caught himself, “Okay, I’ve said it but never really meant it.” I needed clarification. “But you meant it when you say it to me… right, Jeff?” “Right,” he said. Very well then.

After the men finished their meals, they decided to stick around. I think at this point it was safe to say we were having fun. “Can I get you guys another round?,” I asked, knowing the good times had only begun. “I’m in,” Jeff responded. Crickets chirped…his coworkers were a little more hesitant.

Jeff reassured me it wasn’t quite time to go. “I know my coworkers aren’t going to make me drink alone,” he said. “You see, that’s the thing about smart people. They can’t be too smart. Right now, they’re probably thinking, I shouldn’t. Now that’s smart… but we’re trying to have fun here.”

I agreed with Jeff, explaining that there’s a fine line when it comes to smart people. “People need to be smart in order to be tolerable, but if they’re too smart, they’re not fun. We like smart fun people.”

“If we were smart, Jeff, we wouldn’t be in Fargo,” one coworker chimed in. Point well made. And so I ordered another round.

The night continued with myriad jokes and stories. We all quickly found that Jeff had a way of building up a story so we were engaged and then, right about the time he should have hit the climax, he finished with a terrible one-liner. “And I’m just glad you didn’t give me a pink straw,” he said, referring to the breast cancer awareness straws his coworkers had in their drinks.

“That was a terrible joke, Jeff,” Clarence said, egging him on. “Guys, it’s not about the joke,” Jeff said. “It’s all about the setup.” Sureeee, Jeff, sure.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Jeff was no longer a fitting name for him. He was a jokester. The name Jeff insinuated that he was a straight-laced businessman. He was far from that. Jeff was fun. He looked more like a ‘Jack.’ Jack was fitting. He looked like a Jack, he drank Jack (Daniels), and his coworkers hinted subtly that his humor could get him pegged as a jackass at times. It was perfect.

Joke Setup

That’s what led to a game of what’s-my-name? Fortunately, the name-guessing game was one that I’ve come to like over the years. When I first meet people, I often associate them with a name before they’ve introduced themselves. (This is what probably makes me so terrible at remembering names.) Jeff asked me to go around the table and choose a name for each person. “What do you think all their names are?” he asked.

I began. “Well… you, you look like a Sam. Jack, we already know you. Then there’s Dan and Charlie…” I paused. “That guy… I don’t know about that guy,” I said.

Jeff chimed in, “He’s deceiving. He looks nice but really he’s not that innocent. Today, at lunch, he kicked a register at HuHot.” The table laughed. Clearly Jeff wasn’t telling the whole story. But knowing this also made the naming process trickier.  

“Walker,” I said, coming to a conclusion. It was the perfect combination of nice with just a hint of  badass undertone. I continued around the table, assigning names to the strangers I had just met an hour earlier. “Charlie, Trevor, Noah, Steven, Randy, and Tim.” (Boys, now is when you applaud me again… I remembered most of your fake names.)

Eventually, per my request, the gentlemen went around the table introducing themselves, revealing their real names. Most of them were fitting. There was a Jeremy, a couple Dans, Keith, and, of course, Clarence. But what surprised me most was Walker’s real name.

“Ken,” he told me. Say whhhhaaaa?

Ken wasn’t fitting. Granted I had only known this guy for less than three hours, but Ken just didn’t cut it. I let him know. “Walker is better. Walker feels nice enough to introduce to grandma but badass enough to date,”…(or kick a register), I said. Sorry, Ken. You may never get called you real name again.

Like any good drink, the night had to come to an end. I spent a solid 20 minutes trying to come up with a way to let these guys know they were kicking me out. This wasn’t the kind of table that you could just tell to leave. We were closer than that now… but it was time for me to go home.

“I’ve got good and bad news,” I said as I approached the table. They boo-ed in unision. “Good news is, I get to eat dinner now,” I said. (It was nearly 11:30 PM.) “Bad news is, I have to leave you. You guys don’t have to leave, but I’m leaving. My bartender can take over.” As I expected, Jeff wasn’t happy.

“I bet you’ve been blogging about this all night,” he said. You got it Jeff, I’ve been serving and typing up a story at the same time. “Nope, I’ve just been tweeting it,” I said with sarcasm. “I don’t do that,” he responded. “But do you have Facebook?,” I asked. “Yeah, I just like to get tagged,” he said.

He left the door wide open for me. “Wow, Jeff, that’s a subtle way of putting it…”

The table burst into laughter. “So… can I leave on that note?,” I whispered to the others as I walked away smiling. I had done it. I had survived another night of serving thanks to 11 terrific people.

Just before I turned the corner, I heard someone at the table continue the joke, “See Jeff, it’s all about the setup.” I guess he was right, but this time I wasn’t about to stick around to get the punchline. Sorry Jeff.

Loving Jeff and his friends? Read about Becky, Traci, Carrie, Angelique, the Schiavo family and friends, and the Arizona boysmy other favorite strangers.

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