The First Hire

Once I opened the café in 2004, I quickly realized that I could not survive just selling coffee.  Making coffee is an art form and I was not a connoisseur nor had I the desire to be one.  I invested what little money I had into a business I knew very little of.   Holy mother of god!  I was in trouble.  First thing I did was place an ad on Craigslist looking for a manager.  I ended up hiring a guy with dreadlocks, tall, dark, handsome gay with plenty of hospitality experiences under his belt.  He worked long hours and didn't seem to mind hanging around the café.  He was trustworthy but one thing I started noticing was his body odor.  The longer he worked, the more he started to permeate a sour smell like someone who hadn’t taken a shower for a long time. It had gotten to the point where I had to make him leave to wash himself.   He came back cleaned up with no time at all and told me that he went to the nearby church where he volunteered as a cook from time to time to shower because his place was too far.   Oh that’s convenient, I thought, but then I remembered he didn't live too far from the cafe according to the address on his resume.  But I just let it slide.  I was not willing to confront the nagging suspicion that something was not quite adding up about him yet.

I started watching him closely though and noticed him coming out from the basement every time I happened to come early in the morning.  The basement was so dark and grungy that I hated to go down there, and in fact, I never went down.  Eventually my nagging suspicion of him living in the basement got too loud to suppress, I had to inspect the basement and bingo, I found all the signs of someone squatting. There were empty bottles littered everywhere.  He’d taken all the left over bottles of liquor from our opening party and emptied them.  It turned out that he had been a homeless alcoholic for quite sometimes despite of having an air of being well groomed.  Good work, Me!  Thank God, we didn't have any alcohol inventories then because the liquor license had not been issued to the premise yet. 

He eventually cleaned his act and moved back home to Baltimore, Maryland.  Years later he popped in during his visit to the city.  It was nice seeing him looking healthy and we parted on cordial terms.  He had just lost his way while he was living in the city.



Amy Watanabe