Life in a Restaurant, Week 19: Goodbyes Are Only Sometimes Hard

 
 

"My work is about my life as an event, and I find myself to be very temporal, transient."

-Duane Michals

“What’s the difference between a garbanzo bean and a chickpea?”

“What?”

“I’d rather not have a chickpea in my mouth.”  That was my introduction to Bigwood during my first week working at the restaurant, aside from when he showed me the alleged way to mop a kitchen floor.  

It’s hard to find friends in a new work environment – it’s the number one thing annoying twenty three year olds talk about when we graduate.  Who’s going to get Taco Bell at 2AM with me now that there are no more weekend keggers?  Am I going to have to make friends with the guy in his thirties two cubicles over?

It’s worse if you decide to become an angry line cook, because if there’s one thing I still haven’t gotten used to, it’s the constant turnover rate amongst both front and back of the house.  There’s no such thing as acquiring a life long friend in a restaurant, because those relationships never get a chance to develop.  Aside from a handful of career waiters, being here is a transitional phase of your life – we’re trying to become more productive (read: richer) members of society, and want a job to tide us over until we figure out what that is.  So we work in a restaurant, where we have an excuse to drink every night of the week until we figure out both our lives and the dreams we hopefully haven’t given up on.  Working in a restaurant gives us the rare opportunity to sleep in until noon every day but also have an excuse to say that we’re theoretically not unemployed.  Very few people build a foundation or a retirement fund from waiting tables or standing behind a reach-in fridge.

Don’t get me wrong – some do see the restaurant as a lifelong profession, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But even still, the turnover is high.  Some of the cooks we hired couldn’t get past plating like a kindergartener, and some would still be with us if they didn't have crappy attitudes or emotional baggage.  

But once you’ve gotten past the sarcasm, the functioning alcoholism, and occasional bouts of drug paraphernalia, you can find some very good people who always seem to leave as soon as you feel like you can call them a decent friend.  Servers, bartenders with whom you’ve survived a Saturday night with, and snappy expeditors who help clear your board during a busy service are gone the week after, without even telling you that they put in their two weeks.  Some of them you could care less about - the loud, short, fat dishwasher who fucked you over by not showing up, or the busser who only worked two days a week.  But there are some others who disappear that make you question if you can really live in a kitchen.  People like Bigwood, who taught me how to shuck my very first oyster, how to navigate the workings of a kitchen, and how to really get egg yolks to emulsify into an aioli with nothing more than a whisk and determination.