The End of an Era

So tonight I learned that the restaurant that I worked at while in seminary, Tony Roma’s, closed down.  While I’m not surprised, I still find myself a little shocked.  After all, amidst all of its dysfunction (and oh there was plenty!), it was a place that holds a lot of memories for me.  I’d love to share a few:

*First, and most importantly, it is where I met my husband.  But funny story that many of you may not know.  When I first met Kris, I didn’t like him all that much!  He got on my last nerve, and seemed to enjoy doing so!  But he eventually wore me down (or as Kris likes to say, I started to realize that being an asshole was a part of his manly charm! ha!), and a friendship slowly developed into dating and well…..

*I remember the day I interviewed.  My friend Matt’s roommate Rudy had mentioned that they were hiring where he worked.  For some odd reason when I moved to KY I was determined to work in a restaurant – I thought it would be fun! ha!  So, I go in to interview with Dena, and she asked how I heard about the job.  I said that Rudy had recommended it to me, since Matt had told me Rudy would get a $50 bonus for bringing in new people.  At that moment, Rudy happened to walk by, hearing his name.  He looked at me, totally confused…we had never even met and there I was, using his name in vain!  Rudy, and his wife Carrie, went on to become good friends of mine – both in the restaurant and at seminary.  I am so grateful for their listening ears all those years!

<—-out with Carrie, Kyle, Ricco and Rudy

*Whenever a beloved server decided to move on, their last night was marked by getting “trashed” – literally.  BBQ sauce, whipped cream, food scraps, soda – nothing was off limits.  When my friend Renee left, she was doused in liquid smoke!  That is a smell that just doesn’t go away after 10 showers!  Another time, I can’t remember who was leaving, but I do remember two of the guys dressing up in full on chicken suits, running in after we had closed, “kidnapping” the guy and taking him outside and throwing him in the lake!  We had odd ways of showing our love.

<— the night I got “trashed”

*Roma’s produced many dear friendships.  Good girlfriends: Stacy – who could always make me laugh; Renee who pulled me out of my social shell and helped me just have fun; Tabby – who always listened and gave the best advice – especially on those loooong Monday mornings!  Good guy friends: Ricco – wo loved to cook for me (or anyone really) and always reminded me that faith was paramount to all; and Kyle – who always beat me at the crossword, and helped open my mind to think in different ways.

<—Stacy and Tabby

*And I can’t go any further without mentioning the one friend who meant so much to me during my four years at Roma’s.  He started off as shy host, and turned in to one of my best friends.  Nate was my roommate for over three years.  Two dogs, two houses, and countless late night conversations on everything from faith to love to traveling solidified our friendship.  We bonded over Friends – and watch the entire series in succession.  We took road trips, teased each other over bad dates, and comforted one another’s broken hearts.  He was the first person to know that Kris and I were dating (literally heard it with a glass pressed up against the wall!) and he stood at our wedding and read a poem.  If my time at Roma’s did nothing else for me – it brought my best friend.

<—- Nate and I at Kyle’s wedding

*On a lighter note – there were of course parties.  Oh what fun we had!  We loved to celebrate pretty much anything.  Birthdays, holidays, a Kentucky win (basketball of course – the football team never won while I lived there!) My favorite party has to be the surprise going away party.  Stacy and Tabby did such a good job acting as a cover.  They took me to Renee and Kristen’s house where I was surprised by about 50 of my closest Roma’s friends – all who had come to bid me adieu before I left for Hong Kong.  It was one of the sweetest, most generous things ever – and I loved every minute of that party!

<— about half the crew at my going away party!

*Its hard to talk about Roma’s without talking about Trumps.  I think it is pretty safe to say that at least 2 staff members from Roma’s were there every night.  I know I accounted for that at least two or three times a week.  It was the place to go after work, especially on the weekends, to have a drink, shoot a game of pool, and just relax and get to know your co-workers better.  The great bartenders there became friends as well – they knew us all by name and drink!  Every time we were there, at some point I’d look over, and there would be Nate, digging through my purse, hunting for quarters for the next game of pool.

*The radio that played in the restaurant was controlled by the managers.  Justin loved Christmas music.  Now, if you know me at all, you know my biggest pet peeve is Christmas music before Thanksgiving.  Grates my nerves.  Justin was the opposite!  He would play Christmas music the week of Halloween – I think just to piss people off! haha!

*On a practical level – working as a server and a bartender helped me through seminary.  Working full time and going to school full-time, then part time, I was able to leave with a Masters degree and no student loans or school debt!  I account that to the many, many, many hours spent in that building!

*Working there also taught me skills that I continue to carry with me in my work now: patience in stressful and busy situations; multi-tasking; being graceful even to those who don’t know how to return the favor; and every shifts ends best with a drink and a bowl of potato soup!

I am incredibly grateful for my four years at Roma’s.  The people and my experiences there shaped me into who I am today.  I accredit a lot to that place.  So raise a glass to a time gone by – to Tony Roma’s.