BY OLIVIA CAMERON – During the sleepy summertime season in Boca Grande, there is hardly an echo of chatter, a friendly exchange outside of the bakery or a stranger to hold the post office door open for you with your package. It’s been a quiet couple of weeks in this beloved seaside town in anticipation of what’s to come in the next few months. For now, many businesses and restaurants have closed for annual maintenance to prepare for the seasonal crowd. Local residents have been glad the Loose Caboose has continued to serve fluffy pancakes and lunch wraps when most of the daily eating options have been closed.
Waitress Linzee Marks, a fresh employee on the Loose Caboose team, has enjoyed her first few weeks on the job. Her positive outlook on serving is rooted in her strong character.
Linzee was born in North Dakota but relocated and became acquainted with farm life in Montana.
“My grandparents had moved, so my family decided to follow,” she said. “Growing up in Montana was peaceful. The weather would reach extreme highs and lows, and there were waterfalls and mountains of snow in the summertime.”
Years went by before her grandparents retreated to Southwest Florida, and the family followed once more. Linzee received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Purdue University Global in 2016 before becoming a 911 dispatcher for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. For her, the position took guts and a strong mental aptitude. However, it grew difficult for her to keep her composure and put aside her emotions.
“I met my husband, Roger, on the job. I received calls for almost two years, but it started to weigh on me. Having a son and hearing calls from children was something I could hardly do,” she said. Linzee felt she had to keep a brave face around her 8-year-old, Cayden.
“We used to undergo training each week to handle a variety of calls. You’d try everything you could to keep children on the other end of the line calm. I felt I could help people, whether that was with coping, to save a life or help them at their last breath. Then, you’d have to come home to your family and act like nothing happened. But those were the things that made the job worth it, all to help someone.”
Her challenging position came to an end when she decided she needed a change of pace.
“At the time, my husband and I were on completely opposite schedules, which grew tiring,” she said. “He still works as a dispatcher. He even made employee of the year.”
Linzee decided to return to serving, a job she used to do at the age of 18. For nine years, Linzee worked as a food and beverage supervisor at the Pelican Pointe Golf and Country Club in Venice.
“I am still a part of their staff, but the pandemic shifted the operation of all restaurants,” she said.
That’s when Linzee joined the Loose Caboose staff in early September.
“I’ve only been working on the island for a few weeks, but I love it,” she said. “Serving is a hard job, and it takes a unique type of person to do it. It can test your patience and time management skills.”
She has since fallen in love with the tropical paradise that makes visitors keep coming back for more.
“I get to meet different people from all over the world. Here at the Loose Caboose, we have so much history.”
She relishes the train depot’s story, the original flooring and the charm of the building.
“There’s a bay window in the kitchen that was used once for tickets, and the restaurant still has this huge metal safe originally put here,” she said.
Mostly, Linzee is a natural with customers. Her character has given her the ability to help and listen to people throughout her career path. She glows just talking about her new position.
Being around as many people as she is, Linzee is coping with working during the pandemic.
“I believe I’ve been sick twice now, but the testing process left my family and me confused as to whether or not we had the virus,” she said. “On the job, I make sure everything is clean and sanitized. Our staff has been able to handle it well.”
She also monitors the health of her son, who now attends Venice Elementary School. His school experience involves desk shields and face masks.
“He wishes it was summer again. I believe the safety guidelines have made him excel in his academics now that he has to focus on his work,” she said.
To shrug the virus blues off, Linzee and her family escape every other weekend by taking her uncle’s boat to the sandbar.
“We snorkel right on the edge of Gasparilla Island,” she said.
If they aren’t in the water, Linzee’s family is most likely to be rooting for their favorite team, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Even my mother insisted we need to be together for the last game. My mom is my role model: She raised us on her own since I was 4,” she said. “She’s willing to be the best ‘GG’ or ‘G-granny,’ as she likes to be called. She’s kind of like my best friend.”
Linzee’s family wouldn’t be complete without their three cats.
“My son picked all the names, so you’re going to laugh. One is a domestic gray, short-haired cat named Pickles, then there’s our calico named Paisley, after Brad Paisley of course, and our black-and-white long-haired kitten named Peanut,” said Linzee.
Even though Linzee commutes to the restaurant from her residence in Venice, she is refreshed each morning by the sunrise over the causeway.
“Driving out here never gets old. I am reminded of how perfect the island is each time I cross that bridge,” she said.
Linzee will continue to serve on island for the regulars and the newcomers she’s eager to meet.
“In the near future,” she said, “I look forward to seeing everyone smile again.”