I need to be at work in an hour. At any time of day or night, I always feel like I need to work in an hour. I’ll wake up in a cold sweat, yelling, “I gotta be at work in an hour!” It’ll be three in the morning, but I’ll yell it so loud that birds fly out of trees.
I almost feel like I shouldn’t have asked for a raise because now I’m under examination and assessment by management, which makes me anxious, which makes me unfocused, which causes me to underperform and sweat more. This is how I will be perceived. As an underperforming, sweaty person.
If I’m not sweating in front of the pizza oven, I’m sweating in the prep area in the back of the kitchen where the air conditioning is on the fritz, and if I’m not there you’ll find me out back smoking and sweating under the sun.
Two cooks, Marcus and Justin, are in the walk-in cooler arguing about the tomatoes.
“You have to throw those away.”
“Well, if you cut around the mold…”
I don’t mind shooting the shit with Luca, the kitchen manager. He thinks highly of himself. He prides himself on fitting into the hypermasculinity of kitchen culture as if he thinks he’s a young Anthony Bourdain. He’s also proud of himself for flirting with so many servers, which is a joke to a lot of us, so when we hear that a new server slept with him, we say that she fell for it (the joke). I get the impression that he thinks that I’m impressed with him.
While Luca and I were talking, Lindsay came up to us and started telling me about something that must’ve happened to Luca years ago, and then Luca yelled “NO,” which I think even silenced the noise of the dish machine. I walked away. Too tense and mysterious. I don’t need that in my life.
I saw the hostess, Hannah, repeating, “I think there’s something wrong with me,” while peering out of a window. I decided not to pursue that mystery either.
The music drives me crazy. It’s mostly dance pop trash. The same songs play all night. I’ll hear them repeat at least three times during a shift and I’ve realized that I’ve been hearing these songs for the last year and a half. It reminds me of the U.S. interrogation methods of playing music to detainees to cause discomfort during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I genuinely feel like I’m being psychologically tortured. It doesn’t matter if it’s pop music or black metal, as long as it’s too loud and plays too often. A person could be tortured with the Pure Moods compilation albums.
However, I do like when children sing with all their hearts along to whatever song is playing and their parents bury their faces in their palms and say things like, “Please baby, no more singing.”
Slowest of days. Only a few tables during lunch. I doubt that anyone will come in for dinner. Maybe I’ll just air guitar for the next six and a half hours and then, hopefully, I’ll die.
Marcus and Justin are arguing about whether or not the mushrooms should be washed.
“You have to wash the dirt off them.”
“They’re supposed to have dirt on them.”
It’s one of those days when I’m jumping through micromanagement hoops, trying to complete several tasks, but many more steps keep manifesting and I’m going from one part of the restaurant to another and it’s raining and soot is coming out of the chimney and getting in the food and the computers are down and I’m thinking about leaving a cardboard cutout of myself in the kitchen so I can disappear unnoticed.
The managing server’s name is Jeff Pitts. He looks like a Jeff Pitts. Jeff told me that he’s afraid that the new girl is too dumb to work here. She’s just quiet and unassuming. I said, “You can’t tell what a person thinks based on how they appear.” He nodded his head, and then we stared at each other for five long seconds.
This guy Kevin always shows up in a white v-neck t-shirt. Looks like Michael Keaton. Middle-aged. Talks low. A steady mumble. Barely looks anyone in the eyes. Always gets free food. Friendly with managers, kitchen staff. Gets a lot of respect. They put their hands on his shoulders, talk to him close and quiet. Probably sells coke.
I don’t mind making pizzas for coworkers if they ask nicely and don’t ask often. That’s why I don’t give food to Thomas. Giving food to Thomas is a waste. I might as well throw the pizza in the trash as soon I pull it out of the oven. Thomas has the personality of a bottomless trash can. I’m mean to Thomas because it just feels right in my heart to do so.
I was eating a pizza on my break and Thomas walked up to me and said, “I want a slice.” He didn’t even ask politely. I said, “if we’re just going to bluntly state what we want then I want you to not have what you want,” which was fine because I didn’t have to give him a slice of pizza, but then I had to follow him around all night slapping things out of his hands: food, drinks, phone, cigarettes, money. Didn’t get much work done today, but I think I made my point.
Don’t go around stating your desires to people. You can’t just walk up to a person and say, “Give me what you have. I want it right now.” Nobody gives a shit.
Am I getting a raise or not? My feet are in shambles. I’m on my feet for hours on end. I feel bad for my ankles as if they’re a couple of sad bastards. It takes a lot of time to be able to look at parts of your body and say, “That doesn’t work so well anymore.”
If you work in kitchens for long enough, you may not get much respect from people, but what you will have is a damaged body. Considering the discipline of working laborious jobs in general, body damage is what you end up working for in the long term. It takes integrity, ambition, and willpower to cultivate such a high degree of lower back pain. You have to believe in yourself.
Marcus and Justin are standing over a pan of week-old spicy sausage.
“This is bad.”
“It’s supposed to smell like that.”
Good to know that the day dishwasher understands the importance of positive reinforcement and self-improvement. At least there’s that guy. It’s good to have people to hold your temper down when you’re working, people who can detect the volatile emotions of others and keep them at an even keel.
I just saw the owner high-five the dishwasher. Where the fuck is my high-five?
Every time the ticket printer prints a ticket, the sound that it makes is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and Grandma Spiess, who fed me and made sure I was comfortable when I was in elementary and middle school, died not knowing my name or face because of Alzheimer’s, which I think says a lot about the sound of the ticket printer.
Here’s some insight as a cook: if business is too slow, your brain will be fried from standing around doing nothing, and if it’s too busy, your brain will be fried from doing the same mind-numbing, monotonous work. And it’s never just busy enough. It’s always too much or too little, so either way: fried brains.