Devia Robinson has seen it all. From the woman who walked out of a restroom naked to the man who tried to order a pizza from her sub shop, she’s borne witness to a full cast of drunken characters in her role as a late-night manager of Jimmy John’s in Five Points. But one in particular sticks out to her.
“She was super drunk,” Robinson says. “We called her Mayo Girl.”
As Robinson, a fourth-year biology student at USC, remembers it, this particular customer really loved mayonnaise. Her order was the same every time: a Club Lulu turkey sandwich with extra mayo and a handful of extra packets on the side. The routine was the same just about every night.
When one manager got fed up and refused her the additional mayo, things got ugly. A fiery exchange between the two wasn’t doused in the least when she angrily punched the soda fountain and yanked out all of its spouts, hurling them at the manager while soft drinks sprayed the restaurant. Employees shielded themselves from the spewing soda with their aprons as they hurried to stop the flow. Mayo Girl stormed out, leaving the Devine Street deli for the last time.
“We banned her from the store,” Robinson said.
Drunken antics from the late-night denizens of Five Points aren’t anything new, but nobody knows them better than Robinson and the crews of restaurant employees who work into the wee hours of the morning, serving up the meals that mark the end
of a night.
For these workers, the tipsy customers are not only a source of income. They’re a source of irritation and of entertainment. And depending on the night, they’re the best and worst parts of the job.
‘They’re just so rude’
On Wednesday through Saturday nights, Kadijah Clemons clocks in at the Waffle House on Harden Street around 9 p.m., and she doesn’t leave until morning, sometimes as late as 8 a.m.
She goes home to sleep and spend an hour or so with her 2-year-old daughter before her cosmetology classes at Kenneth Shuler start at 9. The day ends at 3:30 p.m., when she goes home for another few hours of sleep and caretaking before starting the cycle all over again.
Because she has such a straining schedule and such little sleep, Clemons says her customers’ attitudes influence hers a lot — sometimes, one table can make or break a night. Those who are pleasant and tip well make her night, but rude and stingy customers can get under her skin.
“Those customers that run you, and run you, and run you, for nothing — and then they have such bad attitudes — I really hate that,” Clemons says. “And it puts me in a bad mood. I think, ‘Oh my gosh, somebody go take over that table, ’cause I just can’t do it.’”
“You have those people who just come in here, and they’re just so rude, because they don’t have a life and their life is so miserable,” she says.
Qdoba manager AJ Shoemaker isn’t as concerned with customers’ attitudes as their cleanliness. On St. Patrick’s Day, the restaurant’s busiest day of the year, trash piles up in the booths, in the bathrooms — everywhere. The floor gets so dirty it turns black, obscuring its tiles.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this place that destroyed,” says Shoemaker, 23, who has worked at Qdoba for about a year and a half.
Normal weekends aren’t quite as hectic, but they can still be pretty messy. The main concern for Shoemaker, and for employees at any establishment that caters to a late-night, largely intoxicated crowd, is vomit.
Antoine Harley and Eden June are all too familiar. The two Benedict College students, a third-year English major and a second-year mass communications major, respectively, are in charge of keeping the front lobby and bathrooms of Cook-Out clean, a challenge at the Harden Street fast food staple.
“Oh my god,” June says. “The worst part about working this shift is people throwing up.”
‘It’s always something different’
While Mayo Girl never returned to Jimmy John’s, employees there started noticing an odd trend last year, Robinson says. Every so often, a delivery order would come in for a Club Lulu sandwich with extra mayo and more packets on the side.
She was undeterred.
Robinson and the rest of the staff were shocked by her persistence, but restaurant employees throughout Five Points and Columbia’s late-night scene say their jobs leave them incredulous all the time.
Just ask Jon Plato. He’s a delivery driver for Insomnia Cookies and Domino’s Pizza, so most weekends find him waiting on the porches of Columbia’s house parties.
Over the past few years, that has made for some interesting encounters. He’s never quite sure who — or what — will greet him at the door. Plato’s most memorable delivery was to a man who emerged wearing only a paper plate. Others have opted to wear less, streaking past him (or at him, as the case may be) as he drops off their food.
“Normal college things, I guess you could say,” Plato says, sitting at Qdoba around 10 p.m. on a quick break from work.
And about twice a night, he’s met with a certain kind of generosity — invitations to parties and offers of beer and, well, other substances.
Standing with Shoemaker behind the counter, Dee Haynes, 21, says she’s seen some of that sharing spirit herself.
She remembers watching a customer walk outside to a parking lot with his burrito and sharing it with a homeless man, passing it back and forth one bite at a time.
“It’s definitely interesting working here,” Shoemaker says. “It’s always something different.”
Over on Greene Street, Hannah Young says the nights and the chaos of Pita Pit’s peak hours all blur together — a medley of fights, lines of indecisive customers and hours of churning out pita wraps.
But as far as Young, 20, is concerned, the most intriguing part of the job is off the clock, when she and her coworkers step back and observe late night’s milieu from the restaurant’s front stoop.
Their hangout sits in the hub of Five Points. It was stirred into a panicked frenzy earlier this semester when a man opened fire on a police officer across the street; it’s just uphill from the fountain, where cab lines meander and groups congregate; and it’s along the main connector of campus and the bar district — on the way downtown or on the way home.
Racking her brain for what she finds most interesting about a night on the job, she throws out a few memories from working inside the restaurant, but it’s the antics outside that she settles on.
“Actually, the most entertaining thing is when we sit outside and smoke cigarettes and watch the drunk asses that walk by,” Young says.
‘What makes me come to work every day’
When a woman walks into Cook-Out wearing a tiara with a yellow feather boa and a 21st birthday checklist draped around her neck, June, the lobby manager, bounds toward her.
As they pose for a photo, a few men jump in the frame, and one starts to sway before a friend holds him up. June smiles for a Snapchat with another patron. A few minutes later, she’s walking around the restaurant with a single yellow feather plucked from the boa, tickling a few customers on the ear as she passes by.
In the meantime, she tends to the restaurant’s housekeeping. She mops, picks up bits of trash from the floor and confiscates a wet floor sign from a group who’d put it on their table. All the while, June belts out a few rhythm-and-blues tunes.
June’s singing has won her some recognition among the restaurant’s regulars. Walking around with a mop, she is stopped by one customer who makes a song request. She happily obliges.
Every so often, she says, the whole restaurant will join her, singing along to Alicia Key’s “No One,” and other tunes.
“When I’m out in the streets sometimes, I feel like a celebrity, because they’ll be like, ‘That’s the girl from Cook-Out,’” June says. “I love my customers.”
While she and Harley, her coworker, willingly acknowledge the downsides of working the Cook-Out night shift, they both say the customers keep them coming back. They say the entertainment and interactions make it all worthwhile.
“What makes me come to work every day is you guys, because the check is not even worth it,” Harley says. “I could do better, [but] it makes you want to be here to see the next customer that comes in.”
June nods in agreement and adds that she enjoys connecting with so many different people in various walks of life and states of mind.
“People are usually in their own little world, and you never know what’s going on,” June says. “You don’t know if they’re having a bad day or they just had a breakup,” so being able to make them smile, she says, gives her great satisfaction.
And just as rude people can drive Clemons, the Waffle House server, crazy after several days of classes and work, cheerful and polite ones can make up for it.
“The best part of my job would be my customers,” Clemons says. “If I’m having a bad day and I just come in and my customers are here, they make my night so much smoother.”
Robinson, the Jimmy John’s manager who’s been known to patronize the deli herself on nights in Five Points, says despite all the exasperation of a long, late-night shift, it doesn’t take much to keep her happy.
“Just don’t throw up everywhere, and we’re pretty good,” she says. "That could be our slogan — we can deal with your shit, just don’t throw up.”
When I get bored, I start asking unusual questions, like "how do you get your identity stolen?" "How do you even protect yourself from something like that?" So, I decided to do what any rational person in my situation would do: I Google'd it.
The smallest piece of information can open you up to the possibility of identity theft. A common activity amongst identity thieves is 'dumpster diving.' Thieves search through your trash, and look through mail that could contain that bit of information they need, like a bank account or credit card statement, medical information, or any kind of bill.
Another method is called 'skimming,' where the theft takes your credit card, swipes it through a special storage device, and pulls all your information off of your card to store it. Then, they transfer that information into another card with a magnetic strip (like a hotel key card) and then they purchase items with that mock credit card.
Then there’s 'phishing,' where someone pretends to be from some sort of financial company and send spam, hoping to coax your personal information out from you. Most college students know this is a gimmick and delete the message, but this kind of identity theft is still rampant in the ranks of neophyte internet users.
It’s just as easy as stealing your stuff. Someone steals your wallet and uses your credit card. Keeping your social security card in your wallet gives them even more access to your personal accounts; they could even set up another account in your name using your social security number.
They might use false pretenses in order to get your information out of someone who would know it. This happened to me. My mom received a call, claiming to be from the school, requesting information that they should have already had. Naturally, she hung up. I’ve heard other stories like this claiming that they're from the person’s credit card company and they’re updating information. If this happens to you, ask that they repeat your information to you and you’ll tell them whether anything has changed.
So just be smart.
Shred any mail that could contain information identity thieves could steal and use, memorize your social security, and delete spam emails and questions asking for your personal information.
Occasionally check your credit if you have your own credit card and make sure nothing weird is going on. If anything seems unusual, check with your bank. Catch identity thieves before they can crash your credit.
Us students already have too many financial-related worries; let’s keep another one off of our plates.
Fashion is about more than just clothes to freshmen Aaron Greene and RJ Miller. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be difficult, especially in a new environment, but it is no challenge for these two. It's no wonder the two roommates were "Best Dressed" in high school, as they find inspiration from diverse aspects, including family members, fashion magazines and the people that surround them on a daily basis. The relaxed personalities of Greene and Miller are reflected in their style, as they include unique adornments ranging from shoes to watches to button-ups, accenting styles that cannot be duplicated.
Q: describe your style in one word.
Aaron Greene: Finesse
RJ Miller: Unique
Q: what inspires you?
Aaron Greene: My family. My mom, dad and brother are all-fashionable and have always inspired me to dress my best. Every time I go out, I try to look presentable. My dad encouraged me to always to look my best every time I step out.
RJ Miller: I like to set an example and have a standard for myself.
Q: where do you shop?
Aaron Greene: I do a lot of vintage shopping.
RJ Miller: Urban Outfitters is one major place I like to shop.
Q: what is your general opinion on style at the University of South Carolina campus?
Aaron Greene: There's hardly any diversity as far as fashion is concerned. Everyone seems to be fitting to the status quo
RJ Miller: I feel like what everyone is wearing on campus is what everyone is used to.
Q: what is your favorite piece of clothing?
Aaron Greene: The Beatles used to wear English Laundry. I love artists that aren't afraid of trying something different. Musicians correlate to fashion that way. I'm inspired by people like Jimi Hendrix. They all went out on a limb for what they loved.
RJ Miller: I just bought Olympic Sevens this summer. They are my favorite thing I own. And I think it is cool that Michael Jordan wore them in the 1992 Olympics.
Q: why is it important for you to express yourself through what you wear?
Aaron Greene: I think dressing a certain way shows how you feel. I present myself. People express their feelings through different things. Fashion is that outlet for me.
RJ Miller: It definitely is a way to express yourself, and it can be inspirational for others. People see you around and it leaves an impact
Q: what's advice would you give to other students seeking to express themselves through fashion?
Aaron Greene: Be who you are. Even if no one else is brave enough to, you still can.
RJ Miller: Look through fashion magazines to find what you want to wear. You don't just have to buy it because everyone else is.
Q: is there anything you'd like to add?
Aaron Greene: I encourage people to not be afraid of who they are. Fashion is more than just clothes. It's how you carry yourself. Confidence is a huge part of it. Fashion illustrates that.
RJ Miller: One thing is that I feel like fashion/ "swag" is not a one-day thing. It is a lifestyle that you have to live.