DALLAS, TX—Six weeks after Jim Wanzeck's departure from Pedro's Mexican restaurant, remaining employees have begun to romanticize their former colleague, kitchen sources revealed Monday.
Wanzeck, who waited tables during the evening shift on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, is now recalled as an irreplaceable staff member who helped his colleagues endure the daily drudgery of working at the local Tex-Mex restaurant.
Bartender Manuel Padilla, who has worked at Pedro's for the past two years, characterized the former coworker as "one of a kind."
"I'll never forget how, every time he messed up a drink order, he'd try to blame me," Padilla added. "God, then there was the time he threw his nametag in the deep fryer. It got all bubbly, but he wore it for the rest of his shift. It was like he punked himself! Legendary."
"A lot of nights, it was Jim, me, [shift manager] Tim [Felix], and [waitress] Shelley [Carver] closing together," Padilla said. "Jim would inch the volume of the dining-room radio up until Tim noticed and made him turn it down. Man, that guy!"
Coworkers said Wanzeck often entertained them with elaborate stories about his difficult landlord, cheerless girlfriend, and trouble-prone car.
"He had a lot of shit going on," said Susan Phillips, hostess at Pedro's. "But he just rolled with it. Sure, he was always gone from work for some crisis or another, but he didn't let it get him down. He always got other people to pick up his shift instead of just not showing up. He was cool that way."
A photo hanging in the kitchen, taken at last year's staff Christmas party, often prompts staff members to rhapsodize about Wanzeck. In it, the former employee is standing in the background, smoking.
Glancing at the photo, waitress Lila Rickman said, "That's totally Wanzeck right there. I'll bet he bummed that cigarette off me. Man, I miss that guy."
Padilla recalled one of Wanzeck's catch phrases.
"When he'd get pissed at somebody, he'd say, 'What a douche!'" Padilla said. "Sometimes, it was 'What a fucking douche!' That saying was classic Wanzeck."
Padilla added: "He did this Bush impression where he'd make fun of how stupid he was. He hated Bush. Whenever Bush came on the radio, he'd call him a douche."
Shamiqua Taylor, a former waitress at Pedro's, best remembers Wanzeck for the pranks he would occasionally play. "One time, somebody got shortchanged an enchilada. They complained, and Jim told them there was a worldwide enchilada shortage. And the best part was, he totally made that up."
"I can't believe they fired Wanny," Padilla said. "You know, we didn't call him 'Wanny' when he was here, but that's the kind of nickname he deserves. Yeah, good old Wanny. This place ought to name a margarita 'The Wannerita.'"
Even coworkers who never knew Wanzeck—who was fired after a manager found a list of customer credit-card numbers in his locker—soon discover the length of the former employee's shadow. On the first day of his training, Wanzeck's replacement, Jorge Reyes, was led on a tour of the restaurant by Padilla and Rick Santiago. Outside the walk-in freezer, Shepard pointed to the corner of the ceiling.
"Yeah, see that hairnet up in the heating vent?" Santiago asked. "The guy who just left threw that up there. And that middle finger added to the waving cactus-man on the promotional banner? You can hardly see it—they erased most of it—but he did that, too."
"No, I think Suroosh drew that," Padilla interjected.
"Oh, right—Suroosh," Santiago said. "I wonder where that guy is now. He was great."