The Last Shakes Shift

"This is it," I spontaneously declared as a 12" crust rotated to a halt on my left hand. A few moments earlier, I had just watched the clock pass 5:00 PM. My last shift at Shakes was over and I was free to go whenever I wanted.

I rested the crust on the cornmeal-covered pizza peel one final time. There was a small hole in the crust; I felt it cut open as it was spinning. My left-hand fingers promptly and instinctually mended the crust as my right reached for the pizza docker. It wasn't perfect, but it was special.

I walked to the computer to clock out, saying a few goodbyes along the way. I grabbed my phone, keys, and wallet and headed out the door. The whole thing was rather unceremonious: like the ending of a musical composition by Philip Glass, where the notes repeat and repeat in very consistent motions for long periods of time, and then everything suddenly stops, and it's over. That's the way I wanted it to happen. Any more and I probably would've gotten a little too emotional.

I remember the feeling of joy I got when answering the phone call from Cara asking me if I'd come in for an interview nearly six years ago. I was on the steps at my sister's house when the phone rang. As soon as I saw the number, I knew good things were in store.

A few days before that, I had been walking downtown with my friend, Lihui. We were catching up on each other's lives. I mentioned that I needed to find some job to sustain myself while I figured out what I wanted to do next. And in that serendipitous moment, we happened to be passing by Shakespeares. When I noticed the "Help Wanted" sign on the door, I turned to her and casually stated, "I guess I'll try working here."

I worked that first year in 2014 as a driver/dishwasher but realized early on that I wanted to roll pizzas. The exact moment came when I saw Andrew P. rolling and spinning the dough. Something about the way he did it made the work look so artistic and inspiring to me. I pretty much decided then that I would do anything and everything I could to learn that role and be the best that I could be.

After rolling pizzas nearly every shift for 2015-2016, I retired from Shakes full-time to pursue work as a software developer. Since then, for the most part, I kept working one shift per week up until tonight.

To me, working at Shakes was a story of meeting some of my best friends, having a good time working really hard for a quirky yet rewarding restaurant, and figuring out what I wanted to do next in my life. And while it feels like that story ended back in 2016 when I quit full-time, this "epilogue" has invariably come to an end as well.

Thanks so much to Jay (d. 2016) and Kurt for crafting this fine establishment. Thanks to Toby, Luke, Cara, and all the shift managers for implementing that vision day in and day out. And thanks to all of my other co-workers for creating a one-of-a-kind work culture. We worked hard and had lots of fun. And although it wasn't always perfect, it was definitely always special.