Nighthawks at the diner
Mandy Trilck has seen it all. Or at least all any person would want to see working the graveyard shift at Chico’s legendary late-night diner, Jack’s Family Restaurant. She works from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. most nights and until 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. Anyone who’s lived here for a time, and has maybe closed down a bar or two, knows that at about 3 a.m. Jack’s’ atmosphere can turn into a twisted rush of weirdness and surrealism. For Trilck, a college student and writer who moved here from Rohnert Park, Jack’s offers more than minimum wage and tips—it’s a rich slice of life, a source of material and an anthropological lesson in human behavior.
What brought you to Jack’s?
I’ve been a server for two-and-a-half years, and maybe it’s not like the greatest place or my first pick in Chico, but it’s really hard to get a job here, especially in the middle of a semester. Plus, I thought the hours would be interesting. I’ve never worked graveyard before, and I thought it would be possibly an, oh, interesting experience.
Do people tip better during the weird hours or during daytime hours?
It really depends. Daytime is more consistent. At night you can have absolutely horrible weekends, and then you can have really, really good weekends. When people are drunk they don’t really know what they are doing, and so sometimes they’ll leave without paying their bill, without tipping. But sometimes they are feeling very generous and they’ll give you a $20.
What’s the weirdest thing that has happened during one of your shifts?
One night I had a table of five people, and the guy sitting across from his friend picked up his plate and smashed it over his friend’s forehead. Food was in his hair, and he was sitting there totally dazed. The guy who did it ran out, and our security guard went running down the street after him. My table next to them got food splattered from his plate all over their table and themselves. They were extremely mad and very dissatisfied by our efforts to help them out with napkins and cleanup. It seemed they thought it was my fault.
You get from the late-night to the weird-in-the-middle-of-the-night to the early breakfast people, right?
Yeah, I work on Sundays until 5:30 in the morning, and I have some regulars who make my job worth it. They are really nice people, others who also work late. Like bartenders coming in from after work, and they work in the same business so they know what I go through during the night, and that is what makes my job worth it. But I have been harassed and I’ve been threatened during [the early hours], and I’ve felt very unsafe on those occasions.