Pride Month — Timothy

Fresno, like Stockton, has a reputation as a violent town. As you might imagine, that propensity spilled over into the Dennys restaurant I managed.

One night a customer who claimed to be from New Jersey held a knife to the throat of another customer who laughed after the two women he’d been courting all night said they had to go to the bathroom and bailed on him. (That happened all the time.) He told me men from New Jersey don’t tolerate disrespect from anybody. I finally convinced him the insult wasn’t worth the time he’d spend in jail if he slit the guy’s throat. Think about what you’re doing, dude.

Another night we had nine fights inside the restaurant. On my way out the front door, I discovered a broken ketchup bottle lying on the sidewalk by the parking lot. I suspect there was a tenth fight that started inside (it was our ketchup bottle) and spilled out the front door that I didn’t even know about!

I broke up a dispute between two customers and asked one to leave. A few minutes later, a regular came in and told me there was man standing out front with a pistol in his hand. I went out and talked to him, and he said he was going to shoot the other man as he left the restaurant. I told him I was sorry — I didn’t realize it was him, but when a customer told me there was a man out in front with gun, I called the cops and they were on the way. I suggested he leave before the cops arrived, but he said that’s OK, the man will come out before the cops get here.

I went back inside and called the cops for real. They never responded. Luckily, the man with the gun was gone when the other customer left the restaurant. After he left, I called the cops back to say thanks for nothing and I didn’t need them anymore. The dispatcher apologized and said officers were just too busy with calls more desperate than an armed man standing outside a restaurant waiting for someone to leave.

Yet another night a big crazy guy came and started flinging all the condiments off the tables one by one. When I confronted him, coffee pot in hand, we had this eyeball-to-eyeball stare down that seemed to last an eternity, although it probably was only a few seconds. Finally, the fear or hate of whatever it was in his eyes softened. He started laughing out loud and left.

Yep, when the doo-doo occurred, I generally found myself in the middle of it, armed with a pot of hot coffee that I surely would have smashed on the side of some knucklehead’s face had it come to that. When someone squared off, I always reminded them, coffee pot at the ready, that I was sober and they were drunk and that gave me a big advantage.

“Win or lose, you go to jail, so if you’re feeling froggy, leap (expletive deleted)!” I said. Nearly all of them heeded my advice, and I seldom was drawn into physical confrontations. I never had to hit anyone in the head with a boiling hot pot of coffee.

I share these stories so you can appreciate the environment of the place.

Timothy was a server, but I didn’t know him well because we generally worked different shifts. And I don’t report this story first-hand because I wasn’t there the night in question (and in fact, I had quit a couple of weeks before), but here’s what the staff told me.

Near the end of the bar rush, Timothy waited on a table of three men. When they finished eating, they told him they were in a hurry and asked him to take their bill and their money to the cashier and bring them the change. He obliged.

When Timothy came back with the change, one of the men asked him if he was gay. He said yes. The tree men rose from the table and savagely attacked him. I heard the men might have killed Timothy if a few brave staff and customers hadn’t stepped in to stop the beating, his blood splattered on the walls in the dining room. Just because he was gay.

I don’t know what happened to Timothy — I never saw him again. But after this event, Dennys hired two security guards to keep the peace. I sure wish the company had done that when I was there.