Thought No. 5: Sunday / by Jennifer Wisniewski

“The smell is coming from inside the wall.”

Our pest control company does an inspection once a month. During one of those routine visits, the pest control man-in-charge went outside to inspect the exterior of the building. (He was trying to see if there was any sign of a problem.) When he came back inside, he said: “there is a hole outside that you need to fill in, or else pests might get into your restaurant. “Ok”, we said. We called our handyman the very next day and he came out and filled the holes. Easy enough – and another problem solved. Perfect – on with the next!

Well … not so fast.

As summer rolled on, so did the heat. It was that summer where it was 100 degrees for a month straight – and we were only open for six months, with an air conditioning unit that we knew wouldn’t succeed in cooling our restaurant, once it got over 80 degrees. But, you say this a lot when you’re building a restaurant: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” (We crossed it that summer.)

We started to smell something bad (in a certain part of the restaurant) and would move things around to see where it was coming from. Alas, we could not. So, we called our pest control man-in-charge again and he said, “it appears that, when you filled the holes up, there was something living inside the walls … and it has since perished.”

Come on! Nothing could prepare us for this. What do you do? Pull down the walls? Close your doors and wait until the smell goes away? All of the options were bad – and none of them seemed to work. We had our handymen come in again and drill holes to see if they could find it. We blocked off certain parts of the restaurant, so customers wouldn’t gag as they ate. (Our restaurant became that scene in “Seven”, when the cops busted into the Sloths apartments – complete with a myriad of air fresheners hanging from the ceiling.) To make things worse, I had a vegan server who was constantly upset about the poor critter.

Yes, of course the point of Tall Orders is to find a meaning in every story. (Apologies!) Beyond just being a perfectly humorous tale of what it’s really like to own a restaurant, I did realize something:

Sometimes you can’t fix a problem.

Only time can do that for you.

You just have to deal with the foul smell and smile.