My name is Kathleen Hooker, and this is in response to a very brave blog post. Thank you, Marie, for forcing us to face our pasts.
When I left the Route 9 Diner I gave the owner, Chris Karabestos, a full account of the harassment that I witnessed and experienced in the kitchen. Yesterday he gave a statement to the Daily Hampshire Gazette in which he said “Honestly, no one brought this to my attention.” Bullshit.
In the summer of 2010, I was looking for a second job. When I received a phone call from the diner to schedule an interview, I was excited. Most waitressing jobs required experience, and I had none. One of my soon-to-be coworkers advised me to “wear something low-cut” to my interview. Jimmy, the manager who would then hire me, was a notorious breast man.
During the interview Jimmy impressed upon me how disposable the waitresses were. “I always have a stack of applications on file.” This was often repeated to us waitresses during my time there. Any time we made a mistake, got sick, needed a day off, we were reminded that we were lucky to be there.
The cooks were held to an entirely different standard of behavior. I remember one day in particular where two of the cooks showed up completely wasted. They were sent home, but it was with a laugh and a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude.
To contrast, when a waitress made a mistake (dropped an order, took the wrong plate) or even when a customer did (forgot to ask for no tomatoes) the waitress had the resulting lost money taken from her tips. This practice was and is completely illegal. But we knew we ‘were lucky to be here’, and didn’t raise a fuss. On the subject of illegal practices, we also were not allowed to take our legally mandated meal times. In Massachusetts, employees must take a half hour (unpaid) meal whenever more than six hours are worked. The diner never allowed that. We received one fifteen minute break, regardless of how long our shift was.
During my first shift at the diner, I was warned by at least two other waitresses never to go in the walk-in cooler while there was a cook in the area. Such was the ingrained nature of the sexual harassment that it was said not with fear, but with a laugh. And then the smile went away, and there was an added “No, seriously. There aren’t cameras in there.”
I was lucky. I was never assaulted during my tenure at the Route 9 Diner. Still, I faced daily harassment from the kitchen staff. I have never been more grateful that I took Latin and French in lieu of Spanish in school. In fact, I actively wished that I knew less. As it was, I knew enough to be able to tell that when they referred to me as “puta”, it meant that they were calling me a whore. Of course, my lack of Spanish did not stop everything. I was still asked to sit on faces, give blowjobs, and go on “dates” with other cooks (whether I would need to be paid depended on how attractive the asker saw the cook in question).
In the end, I quit after pulling an all-nighter. I had been up for about 26 hours, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I waited until Chris came in, and then I cried as I told him why I was leaving. To his credit, he did offer to change the hours I was working, and said he would talk to the kitchen staff. And now he says that he didn’t know there was a problem. That “no one brought it to my attention”.
Want to read more? Here are the other Tales From The Diner