Starting as Prikið’s nighttime busboy was nineteen year old Tómas Óli Magnússon’s first foray into the world of night shifts. A menntaskóli student by day, the word that comes to mind upon meeting the teenager is Zen. Soft-spoken, thoughtful and introspective—he’s probably the last person you’d expect to see darting around drunk partiers.
Saliva, puke and tobacco
“During my first shift, someone puked in the men’s urinal and I had to shovel it all up with my bare hands.” He says with a small smile, seemingly unperturbed to the horrors of that sentence. “The job is very physical. You’re standing up for twelve hours at a time, running around, picking up glasses that might have a mix of saliva, puke, and tobacco at the bottom. I feel in touch with my body at these moments, and humble, which I like.”
Weekends full of drunk shenanigans quickly changed Tómas. “I’ve mostly stopped drinking.” He says, shrugging. “At four in the morning, there’s this sad spark of desperation in people’s eyes. I don’t see myself in that.” It’s a harsh remark, but one he says without judgement. “And you know, Prikið is the centre of hip-hop and young art but now, I don’t put any value into it if someone is an artist, rapper, or wears expensive brands. People are just people. I guess I am very wholesome now.”
He is wholesome. A description that becomes clear when he talks about things he does put value into like meditation, yoga, and healthy eating. Speaking with a comfortable, quiet conviction, Tómas almost seems like a guru. It’s an apt comparison—it’d be easy to leave a conversation wanting to emulate him, and may be difficult not to.
Learning from the glass
“To be honest, I was really excited that the Grapevine wanted to talk to me because I have a lot to say about this job.” He takes a deep breath. “My message is that doing something humbling and physically challenging is educational. I think all people during their younger years should get some dirt under their nails, and be the person with the least possible power.” He pauses, though it’s clear he’s already put a great deal of thought into his words. “After that, you’ll never be obnoxious or take service for granted and you’ll know you can do something that is taxing and challenging.” He smiles. “I don’t think there is any uncomfortable situation I couldn’t feel good in now. That’s what I’ve learned from busing.”