Adventures in Cooking: Part 3

It didn’t take long for me to feel like the kitchen was mine. Work a few shifts by yourself, cover for other people without any help, or being trained on the job and it only makes sense to start thinking “this is my kitchen. There are many like it but his one is mine.” Let’s not forget that some people had worked there for years. Junior was heading towards twenty years but every Wednesday the staff had to look at the clock and see if he failed his piss test at the parole office, again.
“Piss test are bullshit. I take two shots of vinegar the night before and I pass. I smoke a blunt the night before and forget the vinegar, I pass. I don’t smoke the night before and take two shots of vinegar, I fail. I don’t smoke for a week, I fail. I smoke the night before, take my vinegar, I fail. Those test are bullshit. You can pass for no reason, you can fail for no reason. Why can’t they just leave a black man alone?”
Junior had a point. He had been pulled over, a bag of weed was found on him, and they took his car while he went to jail. That was three years before and because he kept “dropping hot” the parole was extended and he would spend a night in jail. Even as a twenty something snot nosed kid, I could see this procedure was a waste of money and time. Junior was a good guy. I never saw him get angry, even during the busy shift. His head was cool and everyone liked him. It wasn’t uncommon for Junior and others like Jeremy or Nate Dawg to go on a Toke break and come back calm while they were a shit storm before. As a non-smoker I would become pissed off that these guys would disappear for twenty minutes leaving me to do everything because I didn’t have a habit. When they returned, I was happy to find that Nate Dawg was calm, like he had just been laid, Jeremey finally shut up for more than a few seconds, and Junior was the same old Junior.
Nate Dawg would have a visitor stop by every couple of weeks and we would find ourselves at the local strip club that night. Jordan was a short tiny brunette with imported double D breasts that Nate and a few other patrons had likely paid for, not to mention her rent at a shitty apartment in Drake’s Pond and her Pontiac Grand Prix. The few conversations we had about this girl Nate became very defensive and told me to “fuck off.”
Every dancer looks different out of the black light. The first time I saw Jordan stop in and ask me if Nate was working, I thought it must be a cousin or somebody he knew from high school. Even the tall blonde that was with her I didn’t recognize, fully covered in clothes and not wearing high heals shoes.
“Is Nate here?” Jordan asked and I went through the swinging doors to tell him she was here. He popped his head out and I could hear her telling him her lines of bullshit. “I miss you. Where have you been. It’s been too long. Can you see me tonight?” Keep in mind, they were not sleeping together, this was strictly for lap dances. She had Nate Dawg wrapped around, well more than her finger, and he knew it. On those days we left work and climbed into Nate Dawg’s Ford Fiesta cruising down Portage road until we came to the parking lot and climbed out. I was always told to be in the backseat because that’s where bitches sit.
Nate Dawg would walk in, be greeted by Jordan at the door, escorted to a table and hand over his paycheck like he owed her money. The rest of the night we would sit there drinking Pepsi products and when a song came on that Jordan liked she would turn to Nate and say “wanna hump?” Meanwhile, I was stuck at the table with Rob, another former employee of Olga’s and we would talk about all kinds of things. “I’m going to marry one of these girls one day.” He said as a matter of fact. Later I would find out he did, and then divorced. And maybe married again. It’s difficult to keep track of Rob. Last time I saw him his head was shaved and he was working as a tattoo artist.
Nate Dawg lived with his mom and two brothers in a trailer park by the airport. While the family scraped by Nate was throwing money at Jordan in the $300-400 range for one night. Lap dances were $20 and he never had his money’s worth. I asked him what the hell was up with this little skank coming around and taking his money. “She’s never going to sleep with you.” I pointed out being the asshole that I was.
“You think I don’t know that motherfucker. It’s about the dream. It will never happen, I know it will never happen. But I like to pretend that there is something there and she gives me that.”
I was never one to play Dungeons and Dragons or try out for the school play. Reality was bad enough and to pretend something was there when it wasn’t was an act I watched people do in my own life that kept them stuck in shitty situations. Nate Dawg was his own worst enemy and Jordan was a leech that needed to be burned. I don’t know when the connection was finally broken but Nate Dawg eventually moved on, and last I heard moved to a new town and married. At least he is already accustomed to handing over his paycheck and never seeing it again.
Opie had been training a new guy in the kitchen for a few days. I thought the whole thing was weird because I was never formally trained. It turned out the new guy was one of Opie’s friends and had never worked in a kitchen before. This was the third or fourth time that Opie had been rehired and they acted like he had seniority over everyone including me who had never seen the guy before. He comes back after quitting and suddenly I have to look up to him?
The story of Opie’s demise took place on a busy weekend afternoon and the lunch line was busy. The new guy had already been trained for a week and while I was working the grill the new guy was still hanging out with Opie making sandwiches instead of, oh I don’t know running the fryer, cutting gyro meat, or cooking bread on the grill. Any of the things that I was juggling would have helped. Instead this was another hang out at work day and I was already pissed.
“Ut oh, we have a ticket for table thirteen, you know what that means.” I heard come out of Opie’s mouth. I turned around from the grill to see Opie dropping a loogie into a sandwich while his useless friend stood there laughing his ass off. There were things I tolerate in my kitchen. The five second rule, fine drop it in the deep fryer for a few seconds. You want to use a piece of old bread, okay get the order out. Its been a shit shift and you need a toke break, have your ass back on the line in fifteen minutes. But spitting in the food, no fucking way. Not while the motherfucker is in the kitchen.
There was no thought that went into it, I grabbed Opie by the back of the shirt and threw him out of the swinging doors, onto the floor behind the cash register where the manager was working. Customers looked at Opie, then at me, then back at Opie. “You stay the fuck out of my kitchen!”
Opie look like a deer in headlights and Meagan looked at the customer, then at me, then at Opie, then at me again. She slid some change from the cash drawer and I disappeared back into the kitchen.
When Meagan finally appeared, I was sliding a sandwich into the trash and as a person who hated waste, she started throwing a fit. “What is going on back here? What are you doing with that? What the heck was all that about?” Meanwhile, Opie’s trainee was still standing in the kitchen taking up space and breathing my air.
“Opie was spitting in the food.” I said. Meagan looked at the new guy and back at me.
“Is that true?” she asked the new guy who had a stupid look on his face like he just shit himself and couldn’t tell anyone.
“Opie was training him to do it,” I said going back to an unfinished order while everyone else sorted out their bullshit.
“You’re fired. Get out.”
“What I didn’t do it. It was Opie.”
“Ya and you watched. Get your stuff and get out.”
Meagan stood there for a moment as I put some plates under the heater.
“Can you finish the shift by yourself?” she asked.
“I’ve been by myself all morning,” I pointed out.
“This never happened,” She stated with a small question mark at the end of the comment.
I nodded my head and she disappeared into the restaurant where she told Opie he was fired and the little shit tried to claim he didn’t do anything. Later, when the rest of the staff heard what had happened there were mixed feelings about it.
“Good.”
“Why did if have to go down like that?”
“Fuck that guy.”
“I don’t know he wasn’t that bad.”
“Oh, ya I saw him do that shit all the time.”
The last comment had me pissed off considering it came from Nate Dawg.
“What the hell do you mean you saw him do that all the time?” I said pissed that it had been going on for so long.
“What the fuck do I care if a bunch of uppity Portage people eat some dudes spit? Bunch of assholes anyway.”
This was a conversation I couldn’t have with him. Nate Dawg had found a new low in my book one that was unredeemable. There were a few things that I had learned over the years that a person did not mess with. Never mess with a man’s dog. Never mess with a man’s car. And in the end never ever fuck with a man’s food. You don’t touch a grill if he is cooking, you don’t tweak a recipe if you’re helping out, and you never ever sabotage something that another man created. There are levels of hell for things like this and the bottom pit is reserved for those who treat wait staff like garage, take advantage of poor young men, and spit in other people’s food. I picture some hot pokers and nipple clamps involved with the demons down there. Maybe I should stop there, the description might encourage some to engage in this kind of poor behavior.
To be continued….

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