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The Works

By Britton Perelman

 

Uptown After Midnight: Working the Late Shift

Originally published on TheMiamiStudent.net

By Britton Perelman and Alison Perelman

Saturday, 12:15 a.m. 

Most would still consider it Friday night. Uptown is alive, buzzing with energy.

At Bagel & Deli, a handful of employees make bagels for the 10 or so students on the other side of the counter. The closet that usually holds the bags of chips is boarded up. The high tables and chairs are pushed away to make room for the crowd that will take over in a few hours.

One of the workers whistles the Usher song that starts playing. Another joins in.

“Does anyone else want to order a bagel?” an employee shouts.

Silence. Only the hiss of a bagel steamer answers her.

A group of girls walks in, forcing the employees to yell louder. One takes a picture of the “Bagel & Deli presents ‘You Know You’re a Freshman When…’” tip jar.

“Are you guys in line?” one boy asks us. He must be a freshman. Doesn’t he know that Bagel & Deli never has lines?

I watch him step up to the counter. He asks the closest employee which bagels are good. Definitely a freshman.

A guy in a Hawaiian shirt and backward baseball cap orders two ‘Salty Hors.’ He turns to his friend and makes the obligatory, overdone joke.

A few minutes later, I watch as a girl drops half her bagel on the floor on the way out. She stares at it for several long seconds, as if contemplating whether the five-second rule applies before following her friend outside.

Saturday, 12:45 a.m.

Down High Street, a pair of girls orders at Insomnia Cookies. One bugs her friend about her cookie choice.

“Who gets oatmeal raisin? That’s gross.”

The woman behind the cash register laughs a little to herself.

Within five minutes, the store is completely empty. Just the sound of Britney Spears through the speaker, the opening creak of the warming oven and the crinkle of wax paper in the cookie boxes. A delivery guy returns, refills his bag and heads out again.

A group of students meander in for cookies.

A few minutes later, the woman behind the counter runs outside to chase them down. I thought they’d forgotten their change, but when she comes back, out of breath, I hear her explaining to a coworker that they’d stolen the tip money.

“Crazy tonight,” she remarks to me.

Sunday, 1:30 a.m. 

An Oxford police officer stands watch over the tables of students eating 3-Ways and oyster crackers.

Steam fills the kitchen area as employees make plates full of Skyline’s famous chili spaghetti.Two waitresses refill drinks, while a few other employees take a break at the counter.

We talk with Ross Vanbibber, who has worked at Skyline for three years. He tells us he doesn’t mind working so late on the weekends.

“I love all this nonsense,” he says.

We watch as the guys preparing food sing loudly to the song playing through the speakers. A few minutes later, they dance to one of the employees’ wedding songs.

“It’s all family, dude,” Ross says. “We’re all family here.”

Sunday, 2:45 a.m.

The bars have closed and everyone is searching for somewhere else to pass another hour or so. A steady stream of people moves in and out of Bagel & Deli.

The trashcan out front overflows, full of Styrofoam cups, empty Doritos bags and balls of silver tin foil. A muffled voice next door at Skipper’s announces numbers and orders, to an audience that clearly isn’t worried about getting their Mac & Cheese bites.

At about 10 till 3, someone flicks the switch to turn off the red and green ‘Bagel & Deli Shop’ sign.

“What’s your name?” one employee asks a customer.

“Jack,” he replies.

“Nice to meet you, Jack. I can’t shake your hand, but…” They bump elbows.

Gary Franks, one of the co-owners, walks over and locks the door.

It clears out as, one by one, everyone takes their bagels and makes their way back outside.

When we talk to Gary after all the customers have gone home, he tells us that, for a weekend, it’s been pretty slow.

I ask if he minds working so late at night.

“I enjoy it,” he says. He laughs. “My wife thinks I’m crazy.”

The student employees goof off in a corner, checking their phones and making jokes. They’re an odd family, bonded by experiences with drunk people and rude customers.

Kyle Poole tells us that he’s seen a coworker harpoon someone with a broomstick, girls pee in the corner by the refrigerators and his boss jump over the counter to grab a guy trying to steal beer.

It doesn’t matter. He still signs up for the late shifts every week. Not only is the money great, but he enjoys the craziness.

“It’s what Bagel’s really all about, honestly.”

Sunday, 3:10 a.m.

A few people linger on the patio outside Bagel & Deli. The rest of High Street seems deserted.

Music plays from the speakers at 45, to a nonexistent crowd.

The only people left Uptown are inside somewhere, cleaning up for the night, clocking out and heading home.

Britton Perelman