Friday, January 22, 2010

Carlos O'Kelly's - For the Mexican-Irishman in us all


Back when I went to college in Iowa City, I used to work at a restaurant called "Carlos O'Kelly's". Yes, Carlos Oooooo'Kelly's. It was a Mexican/Irish restaurant. Because apparently in Iowa we weren't content with bastardizing just one culture. Why stop there? Why not go for the shotgun appeal and name it Carlos Von Wallaballoo MacYang Jenkins Oooooooo'Kelly's?

Now I took Spanish in high school and college for six years, so I was borderline fluent. And by fluent I mean that I could talk perfectly to other Spanish class students. Whenever an actual Mexican person came in to apply for a job, I couldn't understand a word they said. I remember distinctly that several of them, when asked for their high school education on their application, simply wrote "Mexico" and put little stars all around it. If I were those Mexicans, I would have thought that'd be enough too. But they never got hired. Seriously, if someday I went to Japan and got turned down for a job at Steak 'N Shake, I'd be pissed.

In my three years of working there, I only ever saw one Mexican person come in to eat. She spoke English as a first language, but clearly had a stick up her ass about the authenticity of Carlos Oooooo'Kelly's. Here's the thing, I KNOW that Chile con queso is pronounced "Chili CONE queso." I do! But when you work at a restaurant where the GM calls Spanish "Speakin' Mexican" you really don't give a shit. So when I asked her if she'd like some "Chili CUN queso" for an appetizer, she freaked out and went off on a tirade about how it's CONE queso and how can I work at a Mexican restaurant if I don't know how to speak Spanish?

Hey lady, take a look at the Leprechaun on the wall over there. Guess what, you're not going to trip over any Mayan ruins on the way out. Lower your standards like the rest of us. For Christ's sake, they're playing Papa Roach on the radio right now. Every single thing that's on the wall that isn't a shamrock looks like a leftover from The Three Amigos. Sorry to mispronounce your conveyor-belt Velveeta Cheese.

Anyway, the real point of this blog was that I wanted to share something that, 10 years later, still makes me laugh out loud when I think about it.

Occasionally, and only when it was really good, the kitchen manager "Brown" would show me hilarious application typos. I distinctly remember one. The lady was a meth-head. I'd never met the woman before, but...you know...Iowa, missing teeth, Misty 100's, a general sense of glee despite every indication that one should be crying at every waking second. It's not hard to spot. So on her application, she generally got easy things like her name and address correct (I assume). But she made some minor to enormous flubs that make me warm inside. Here's an example of what we were working with:

Where did you hear about this job?: The newspapper.

That one isn't too big of a deal. But say it out loud. Newspapper. Hilarious. I imagine that the newspapper is handed out by a lawn gnome in a magical forest with daily updates on how to protect your dabloons from hobgoblin attacks. Willy Wonka reads the newspapper.

Here's the big one:

Work experience: Grocery store. I wrapped and stocked the bread.

But wait, that doesn't sound wrong at all, does it? Yeah...because that's what she meant. That's not what she WROTE though. Here's what she wrote:

Work experience: Grocery store. I raped and stalked the bread.

Ho-ly shit! For ten years I've had an image of a scabby woman sitting in the dark, smoking her 10-foot long cigarette methodically waiting for the right piece of bread to wander out of Hy-Vee. It's a "Wonder" she was never caught. HEY-O!!!

I'd like to end all this not with the senseless rape of carbohydrates, but with a moral. So I will quickly tell you about Merle. Merle was a dishwasher at Carlos O'Kelly's. He was in his 50's and spent 25 years of his life castrating pigs on a farm in western Iowa. One day he decided he had done all he could do on the castration circuit, so he jumped on a bus headed east at random. And then, just as randomly, he got out in Iowa City and started scrubbing pots and pans. In my three years there, I never heard Merle say more than three things. And one of those was "Damn cheese!" I think the other might have had something to do with fly-strips. One day, a song by Cake was playing over the speakers. It was called "Sheep Go to Heaven, Goats Go to Hell". I was in the restroom taking a leak when Merle walked in, heard the song, stopped, turned, looked me dead in the eyes and said "You know, that's true." Then he took a whizz. I quickly protected my balls in a soccer-like stance and ran for the door.

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