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This has nothing to do with the war on drugs or born-again pledges of abstinence. This is about real power, that moment when you taste that sheer exhilaration of saying “No! Enough!” It’s delivered with conviction or determination. You’ve been pushed and you dig in your heels and discover some unmovable core that lets you say “No” with authority. And Damn, it feels good. The affairs of the Lambton Golf & Country Club were ruled by the proper, austere and very Teutonic hand of General Manager Mr. William Ritter. The dining room was handled in a similar fashion by his very blonde, very authoritarian wife, Velma. My first job was busing tables under her watchful eye. I had grown up nearby the club and, while I could never aspire to be a member, I could easily aspire to clear dirty dishes for minimum wage. The Lambton G&CC was host to an assortment of odd and obnoxious characters that only tremendous wealth can inspire. There was the occasional lady & gentleman, but for the most part, the membership was a circus. It was an enlightening education. The dishwasher claimed to have a certificate declaring him fully rehabilitated and now legally sane. I wasn’t going to argue with that one, although I had good reason. The chef was a psychopath who had no such certificate. I wasn’t about to argue with him either. That dining room was where I progressed from timid busboy to jacketed waiter, able to balance enormous trays and deliver the most elegant entrees. I served to bank presidents and sports celebrities. It was a time that opened my eyes to the world of labour on one hand and the world of wealth and privilege on the other. Things changed with the addition of a new maitre’d. Continuing the Teutonic theme, Mr. Gartner carried himself with Imperial swagger, perhaps more Prussian than Austrian. He was suspicious of where loyalties lay and mine still leaned towards Mrs. Ritter and the old order. One weekend, after a full shift of catering to a very large outdoor party, I got proper permission (not from the imperious Mr. Gartner) to dash home, freshen up, change my shirt and return for a second shift. He caught me on my return with an upbraiding and a dire warning never to try that sort of thing again. It wasn’t so much what he said. It was how he said it. I went home again, changed into jeans and t-shirt, told my parents what I planned to do, then returned to the Lambton Golf and Country Club for the last time. I tendered my resignation directly to the general manager, Mr. William Ritter.
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