It's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows for most people, but not for Tommy Tablehop, who rarely starts a shift before then and usually doesn't clock out until it's already tomorrow.
Much like today: Tommy worked the closing shift at the restaurant last night and didn't get home until 2:00AM—yeah, that's an AM with an A. He tried to sleep but was so wound up after the hectic evening that he ended up watching a couple of movies before he finally fell asleep around 6:00AM. He can't even remember what the movies were about, but he knows he didn't enjoy them.
It's now 12:00PM and the alarm clock's blaring for him to get out of bed. He hits the snooze button. Twenty minutes later, the alarm goes off again—and once more, he hits the snooze.
The alarm goes off for the third time at 12:40PM. Tommy finally drags himself out of bed, gets showered, and dresses for work—in the exact same outfit he took off last night. Economical on the laundry? Sure, but Tommy does it because it's just easier this way.
He sprays himself with scented fabric softener to hide any lingering odors.
He heads to the kitchen where he eats a light breakfast (or is it lunch?) and downs an obscenely large cup of coffee. Tommy stares off into the distance for a minute, then finally looks at the clock and realizes he's running late. Even though his "official" shift doesn't start for another few hours, he's due in at 2:00PM, meaning he's at least half an hour behind schedule.
As he's about to leave, Tommy notices his shoes. Last night a plate of pasta got spilled on them and there's tomato sauce stuck in the seams, making them look pretty bad. His boss would be ticked if he even thought of showing up with them looking so disgusting. He washes them off as best he can, then gets out his shoeshine kit and works on getting a good shine out of the old loafers.
Once the shoes are (adequately) shined, Tommy grabs a travel mug of coffee for the ride and heads out to the restaurant at 1:45PM.
Tommy makes it in at 1:59PM—just barely on time. The staff's gathered for a pre-shift meeting where they'll go over the specials for the day and address other issues the boss might want to discuss. Sections are assigned and side work tasks are doled out; since he's not getting any tables for a couple hours, Tommy gets some of the side work.
Some people might take offense to being asked to have the linen area well stocked and make sure that the silverware's properly sorted. Tommy loves it—mindless, easy work helps get the day going and is a good way to gather his energy before the chaos starts. He's not sure he could pull off sleep-stocking, but one of these day's he'll give it a try.
4:00PM hits and the restaurant's dinner menu is now open. People start trickling in and Tommy gets a couple of tables in his section filled up right off the bat. The guests are decent—they aren't overly fussy and their orders come out of the kitchen on time. So far, so good, but Tommy knows this is just the calm before the storm.
By 6:00PM, his section's a scene of organized chaos while the dinner rush is in full swing. He's got several tables to attend to, including some regulars that make the night easier on him.
Most of the guests are civilized, but one really fussy woman wants everything done to her specific demands ("My soup spoon's in the wrong spot"—"I asked for medium-medium-well, not medium-well"—"You call this steamed broccoli?").
Tommy's a great waiter, so his smile never leaves his face. Inside he's screaming, but he'll never let an obnoxious customer see that. He doesn't want to give them the satisfaction.
Around 7:30PM, that group finally gets out and leaves a decent tip (surprisingly), so the pain and self-restraint turned out to be worth it in the end. Tommy continues serving the other tables; he has a couple issues with the kitchen staff regarding mix-ups on the orders, but they're quickly resolved and the guests are none the wiser, since he was able to catch the mistake before serving the dishes. Score another win for communication.
Business has slowed to a crawl by 9:00PM, and with more people leaving than arriving, Tommy's able to start closing down his section. He has a couple of tables that still have guests—the dreaded lingerers who really take their time with dessert, drinks, and coffee—but everything else can be picked up and wiped down.
Tommy sanitizes the tables and chairs and sweeps the floors; he even wipes down the table tents (which are those standing placards that are left on tables, not a totally cool but incredibly useless indoor camping situation). He has closing side work to do as well—this time it's cleaning up the beverage station. He much prefers his pre-shift side work, before everything has gotten wet, sticky, and filthy.
At 10:30PM, his final table of guests clears out and Tommy untucks his mostly tucked-in shirt—once the doors are closed, uniformity goes right out the window.
He can now work on running his closing report, organizing the cash acquired from tips, and figuring out how much he has to tip out the bar, scullery, and kitchen staff. Everybody helps so everybody gets some—it's part of the fairness of the restaurant community.
He's gotten all of his tasks completed by 11:40PM and has presented his report to the closing manager, who looks it over and signs off just before midnight. Tommy can now officially cash out for the evening. He clocks out and heads exactly where you'd expect someone who just worked a ten-hour shift at a restaurant would go: out to eat.
After a shift like that, he's absolutely starving.