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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More restaurant stories for Joe

Big kitchen. Big walk-in freezer. Old big walk-in freezer. Newer ones have handles you can punch if the door closes behind you. Old freezer. No handle. It took twenty minutes for the cook to figure out where I was. Trust me on this: No matter where you live and no matter how hard your winters are, they are nothing compared to being trapped in a walk-in freezer for twenty minutes.

The air conditioning had one zone and in summer we always kept it set it on STUN because the back of the house was so hot. One Saturday night a customer complained that she was freezing and wanted me to turn down the air conditioning. I said,
"If we turn down the a/c the cooks gon' pass out."
Customer didn't say a word.

One day during lunch one of the cooks did pass out. Right after he had an epileptic seizure and whacked his head on the corner of the oven on his way to the floor. Us waitresses picked our way carefully through the blood and walked across a broke-open cardboard box before we hit the carpet. The rest of the cooks worked around him until he came to and the manager took him in back.
Rule Number One: Ain' nobody call no amba-lance to no restaurant!

There was a back kitchen with three gigantic stainless steel sinks, the dreaded freezer, the walk-in cooler, and right in front of the door to the waitstation, the dishwasher. The dishwasher was a machine, not a person . . . us waitresses would run it in between scooping ice out of the icemaker and carrying it to the sink in the waitstation, picking up our orders, taking care of our tables, changing the soda canisters... The manager's desk was at the back end of a long tunnel-like room with its door just opposite the dishwasher. I was hustlin' from the back of the back kitchen with a bowl of salad for the salad bar. I got almost to the dishwasher when a chef's knife whizzed through the air past my face and stuck quivering in the wall between the dishwasher and the door to the waitstation. The assistant manager was in the office th'owin' 'at knife . . . he playin' wit' me.
He say he know he ain' gon' hit me . . . he know right where I wuz.
I lay him out in lavender. I tol' him jus' where the bear went in the woods. I tol' him just whut I do widdat knife do he play me like dat from here on forwar'. He ain' never play like dat wi' me again, I tell you dat.

New waitress in training.
Firs' thing she tol' me wuz her name. Secont thing she tol' me she havin' a baby.
I thought she meant right that minute.
Firs' few shif's, th' way it work she follow somebody 'round an' learn how to do evvything. She don' get no tips. Trainer get her tips. She get minimum wage until she get tips, then her pay go down. I wuz trainin' her. I tell her "Good idea go do this now, time to do that now...."
You can tell when they get it and when they don'.
I say, "Here . . . take this tray an' go clear that table."
She crinkle up her forehead and twitch up her mouth an she put on a mad face and say, "Tha's a lotta work. I'm havin' a baby."
I say, "That's the job."
She ditten move. I went and cleared the table. And took the tip.

Next night my friend trainin' this new girl how to close. Breakin' down the salad bar. Back on that two-foot square dishwasher tray go all the crocks fulla cottage cheese, slice cucumbers, salad dressing. Things always weigh a ton, but you balance it right ain' nothin'. Waitresses got good biceps and backs. Thirteen crocks, two dishwasher trays full, to go back to the cooler.
My friend loaded up both trays and said, "Okay. Now we take 'em back to the cooler."
New girl she say, "I can' carry dat. I'm havin' a baby."
My friend, she say, "You aren't havin' a baby. You're pregnant."
New girl didn't come back next shift.

One day as lunch was winding down I was refilling the salad bar. The kitchen was big and it was a long trek with a big square dishwasher tray of full two-quart crocks. I still had tables so I was beatin' feet. One of the cooks decided it was about just about the right time to mop the floor in the waitstation.
Quarry tile. Greasy quarry tile. Water on top.
I made it nearly to the diningroom carpet when my feet went up and my face went down. I don't know where the crocks went, but one of my fellow waitresses told me later she'd had to clean Russian dressing off everything . . . the cash register, the phone, the shelving...

Not five seconds after I hit the floor, while I was still facedown on the floor next to the cash register, a man was at the counter with his business card in his hand for the manager. He sold some floor treatment that would keep accidents like that from happening.
I mean . . . I'm layin' there and this guy's sellin' his wares.

Next morning I woke up feeling like a truck had run over me. I asked Husband to call in sick for me and went back to bed.
Two hours later the store manager phone. "June! Where you at? You op'nin' this mornin!" Husband forgot to call.
I said, "Wait a minnit." I looked in the mirror again. I had a baseball on my cheekbone and a black eye. I went back to the phone. "You gon' hafta fin' somebody else."

I did go to work the following day and all my customers thought I'd suffered domestic violence. I got good tips that day.


Wanda..... said...

Domestic violence=Big tips ...so funny...did you blacken your eye with makeup after that?

June said...

Yeah, but it didn't work without the baseball on my cheekbone... :-P