I had not wanted the job because working at a large hotel located on the beltway around Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota had not seemed like a safe place to work. But my roommate had begged me to take the other half of her shifts as a weekend hostess in the nice restaurant situated just off of the hotel lobby. She said we would get nice meals free and the restaurant decor was very nice (which was true.) I had a weekday job, but I thought I could manage a few extra shifts on the weekends, so I agreed. The work was not difficult, and I enjoyed greeting and seating people wherever it pleased them. This was one of my first jobs in life, and everything was new to me, interacting with the customers, the hotel staff, taking phone reservations, handling cash, personal checks, and traveler’s check, all sorted to face one direction and tucked under the little clips in the cash register drawer. I like the order and structure that I was learning in the hospitality trade. I had been pleased to see singer Buffy Sainte-Marie* when she came through the twin cities so long ago, but I did not speak to her beyond seating her in the dining room because I did not want to intrude. There was a lot of poise and energy in that quiet woman. I had her album, Little Wheel Spin And Spin, 1966, and childishly hoped that she might sing after she ate, or hum a little. In retrospect I can see that I was a very naïve young woman.
I had never seen that particular cook before, he must have been someone filling in over the holidays, but he came out of the kitchen in mid-afternoon when no one was in the restaurant, sat down in a chair, took off his cook’s hat, and pulled me onto his lap. I could not get away from him. He held me on his lap, laughing, and putting little bits of soft, sticky candy into my mouth with his fingers. The busboy had run to the front entrance to lookout, and the dishwasher hung in the kitchen doorway ogling what was happening to me. It was very exciting for all of them. I was such a young, innocent woman that I did not know that men could behave in this crude and confusing way. I did not know what to do except to continue to struggle away from him, but I might as well have fought again iron. When the cook finally released me, I quit my job then and there, and silently walked out the hotel. I never called in an explanation, I never went back. My roommate told me that the hotel manager was furious with me, but I could not deal with the hotel manager on top of the cook, and I refused to go back. At the time I did not understand what had happened. Why would the cook frighten me when he must have known that would affect my work with the customers who would be coming into the restaurant for the evening meal? Back then I had no idea that anyone could take sexual pleasure in fear and humiliation. When my roommate told me that the manager would give me a significant pay raise if I would go back to work, I was even more baffled, and again refused. If the cook had done that, what would he do next? It was just another branch of my life stumped.
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* “Buffy Sainte-Marie, OC (born Beverly Sainte-Marie, February 20, 1941) is a Native Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist. Throughout her career in all of these areas, her work has focused on issues of indigenous peoples of the Americas.”
Caption: Broken Branches—Broken Life Chances
Stumped But I Grew Out Of It
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018