“Here’s your story: you can say the service here sucks!”
Yeah, Jordan Bentz is sort of like that.
Waiting tables at PRI, Jordan never stops moving. Pacing from the kitchen window to tables inside at out, busing and serving food, he walks about half a speed faster than most. Using whatever instrument is in his hand, he idly drums out the beat of the DJ spinning reggae tonight at the restaurant.
Slightly unshaven without looking disheveled, he has one pen tucked behind his left ear, and another in the back pocket of his jeans, reaching for each of them with quick movements to take orders.
Physical momentum seems to define his existence: Jordan never appears to stand still. Bouncing from one foot to the other, tapping pen to notepad and nodding exuberantly while taking orders, his kinetic energy never seems to slow, much less tire. The man’s a hummingbird. Ubiquitous thumbs-ups and an easy smile seem to accompany any statement he agrees with.
Jordan’s quick, staccato mannerisms seem counterintuitive to the pizzeria’s notoriously slow service. So why, according to him, is it so bad?
“They’re trying to economize, to make money during the recession. They’re trying to cover the overhead by keeping only a few people around,” he said. He waves his hands emphatically, ducking his head with each emphasized word. He’s all hand gestures, shifting back and forth on each foot when he gets incensed by a conversation. He’s familiar with the patrons around the dining room, his enthusiasm never checked, even though he admits he doesn’t always relate to the clientèle. Having worked in more upscale restaurants, like Eugene’s Cafe Zenon and the now-defunct Strega Ristorante in Corvallis, he finds the Whiteaker crowd to be…different. “It’s just… I’m not a hippie, man! I mean, what are we supposed to talk about, jam bands?”
He’s good natured about his jabs at the patrons, as he seems to be good natured about most things. He walked out of work recently to see his car busted up in the parking lot. He found a note from a passerby who saw the incident–an apparently drunk driver ran into Jordan’s parked car, backed up, and drove away. Understandably incensed about the damage, he still finds it somewhat charming that a pedestrian took the time to explain the situation. “It’s kinda like that down here,” he says of the Whiteaker neighborhood. He scratches the back of his head with one of his pens. “It really is a sort of community feeling.”
Though he doesn’t live in the neighborhood, he’s pretty enthusiastic about the people he’s met in the businesses around the block. A worker from El Pinche Taco, a taqueria across the street, comes in and bounces business ideas off Jordan and his co-workers. An employee from Sam Bond’s Garage has been collaborating with a friend of Jordan’s on a musical project. “It’s kind of a hang-out sort of mentality. It’s not like we’re competing for capital or anything.”
Jordan grew up in Philomath, a small logging town west of Corvallis. After graduating from Philomath High School in 2006, he went to Oregon State University for a few terms before feeling restless and heading to Eugene and the University of Oregon. He’s bounced around a few restaurant jobs, including serving $20 plates at Cafe Zenon, and distributing pastries at Off the Waffle‘s original Van Buren Street location. Facing some unexpected responsibilities at the latter institution, he left. “I don’t really wanna talk about it,” he said, spreading his hands in exasperation and then laughing.
He seems at home in the community at PRI. “Come in here when we’re closed, and that’s when the shit goes down,” he said. “Talk to any of these crazy kids, you’re gonna hear some stories.”
“I feel like out of all the people here, this is gonna be the lamest profile,” he complains, laughing. He drops little pieces of information about his co-workers–and this is how Jordan talks, in bits and pieces–how who did what and how who got here. It seems to be an odd little community at the restaurant. “It’s sorta like [our manager] is just talking on special cases.” He pauses, and laughs. “Maybe I’m one of those cases, I don’t know.”