Discover more from Terms of Service with Chris Martin
Patience and Place
Who and where we were matters.
The first job I had was as a maintenance worker at a local city park.
It was the summer of 2007. I was a 16-year-old soon-to-be junior in high school. It was my first summer without football conditioning since middle school.
I reported to the park between six and seven each morning. The Air Force vets who served as my taskmasters would occasionally greet me with grunts as they watched re-runs of JAG on a tiny TV, drinking their morning coffee in the cinderblock hut that served as our break room. I don’t think they liked me. I definitely didn’t like them. But it was a job.
Most of my time as a city park maintenance worker was spent cleaning up after the homeless who lived in the park, operating landscape machinery I legally shouldn’t have been using, and listening to Mike & Mike, Colin Cowherd, and Scott Van Pelt all day on a pair of headphones that had an AM radio transmitter in them.
At the end of that summer, I wanted a job I could work in the evenings during the upcoming school year. A friend had recently begun working at a local pizza place that had opened in the fall of 2006 and he said they could use some waiter help. He wasn’t sure if they’d hire me because I had no restaurant experience and because I was a guy—they had only hired female servers to that point.
In August 2007 I was hired as the first male waiter at B. Antonio’s Pizza in my hometown of Fort Wayne, IN. I wore that achievement with pride because the girls loved razzing me about being the only guy server. At a pizza joint as small as that, though, I was tossing and topping pizzas as much as I was taking them out to tables.
After working at B. Antonio’s my junior year of high school, I took my senior year off of working to both: a) enjoy it, and b) write dozens of scholarship essays for every scholarship I could find on the internet.
But after my senior year was over, I returned to B. Antonio’s in the summer of 2009 at their fancy new location on the other side of town. I spent most of my college summers (and one spring semester after graduating from college a semester early) at the Lima Road location. Most of the time I requested to be the only lunchtime server so that I could spend the evenings hanging out with my friends, but I worked plenty of doubles and nights, too.
I loved opening the store every day and prepping all of the ingredients for the night shift in between serving the tables that would fill throughout the lunch hours. The best part about working the day shift was that regulars were pretty common and it was fun to build relationships with the businessmen or HVAC techs that would swing by once a week and order the same things.
When I was a college student, I was terminally discontent with being in college and desperate to be an “adult” and be in the “real world.” I remember having countless conversations those summers with IT professionals, nurses, and other customers about what their work was like.
They whined and dined. I listened and refilled drinks.
I remember wondering what it would be like to work a job that paid a salary, to commute to an office building, to go out to lunch with my co-workers, and to be able to complain about all of those amazing things that I was so eager to have for myself.
At the same time, I was blogging regularly and hoping to one day be a writer of some kind. I was pursuing a degree in biblical literature and regularly read sites like The Gospel Coalition and Desiring God. I wondered if I would be able to write for them one day. I spent many summer days reading theology books and doing my best devotional writing and cultural commentary impressions of Trevin Wax or Jared Wilson on my personal blog.
I did my best writing late at night in those years, usually between ten and midnight. But I often brainstormed blog posts during the first part of my shift while chopping green peppers or folding silverware. Then I would get my laptop or phone out during my lunch break, sit at a table in a cubby around the corner from the drink machine, and see if I could crank out an 800-word blog post while eating some breadsticks before going back to waiting tables and cutting vegetables. It was sort of a game, a writing challenge.
As I write this, I am back in Fort Wayne.
I am on my lunch break from a career better than anything I had in mind when I longed to be anywhere but where I was.
I sit at that same table, tucked in the cubby around the corner from the drink machine, where I wrote those blog posts over a decade ago, dreaming of what I might get to do one day.
After I’m finished writing this, I think I’ll work on a book review I was asked to write for The Gospel Coalition.
And then maybe I’ll slip into the kitchen to chop some green peppers or fold some silverware.
Place is important. Patience is important. And it’s a beautiful gift of God when you get to experience the fruit of patience in a place you struggled to have it.
I quit playing football after my sophomore year because I hadn’t hit my growth spurt, didn’t get any playing time, and wanted to have more free time and some money.
This was the summer that Michael Vick was caught in his dogfighting scandal, and it’s all anyone was talking about on sports radio.