I have an app for my phone that keeps track of my schedule called “When I Work.” I also have a Google Calendar feed from the pub that syncs with my personal calendar so I can see work and social commitments all in one place. You know why this is so helpful? I rarely know what day it is. Since my weekends are no longer on Saturday and Sunday, life is simply a blur from one shift to another. I have reminders set to go off two and three hours before my shift, and when they go off, I get dressed. In effect, it doesn’t matter what day it is. When my computer and phone say “go,” I do.
I’ve tried to keep my schedule as normal as possible by coming home and going to bed at a reasonable hour, but I do not set an alarm. I need 10-12 hours of sleep to restore lactic acid, and if I’m in bed by midnight or 1:00, I have plenty of time. This morning, I woke up at 10:00 AM and stumbled downstairs to make the coffee. My roommate was jumping up and down because she’d just gotten a full-time job, and I really wanted to join in, but my energy level was at ZERO. I remember fondly the days I used to be a morning person. It’s just not possible anymore. By the time I wake up, my Aleve™ and Tylenol Arthritis XR™ have both worn off. By the time I start the coffee, I’ve taken more, but they haven’t kicked in yet. So, when I say that I am stumbling down the stairs, I mean it. The bones in my feet seem not to be strong enough to hold me up. I toddle down one step at a time, as if I have regressed to age three. So, after waking up to the feeling I’ve been hit by a truck, someone yelling “LESLIE, LESLIE, LESLIE!!!!!” is nails on a chalkboard. But at least it isn’t something for which I have to come up with an answer, just listen and say “congratulations.” It’s difficult to be so happy for someone and not be able to reciprocate in the excitement they might want.
I feel I have to catalog every moment of this adventure, because the last time I was a cook, it was hard… damn hard… but I look back on it and think of it as one of the happiest times of my life. With this repository, I hope I’m allowing time to slow down so that I can take it all in. Believe me when I say that despite the pain, it’s worth it.
The dishwasher surprised me last night when she spoke to me in Spanish and I understood every word. She told me that my eyes were beautiful. Since she has brown eyes as well, I said, “our eyes are both beautiful- they are the same.” She said that no, they aren’t, because mine have such clarity. The funniest moment was when she was rattling off what I needed to do in Spanish and I said, “lo siento, mi espanol es muy, muy mal. Habla despacio, por favor” (I’m sorry, my Spanish is very, very bad. Speak slower, please). She said, “that’s ok. So is my English.” I laughed until I cried.
The thing is, though, I am exhausted and sore right up until I get to work, and then muscle memory takes over and energy courses through my body. All of the sudden, I am on fire with passion and drive, when minutes ago I was walking around like I’d just been hit by a truck. When we’re the busiest, on Fridays and Saturdays, I sometimes feel as if I’ve volunteered to be in a car accident by the time I get home.
I’ve also figured out why I am usually in the dish pit rather than the line. It has nothing to do with ability. It’s that there are only three people in the kitchen besides me that understand English, and when none of those people are scheduled with me, it makes more sense to get me out of their way. Not everything can be done with facial expressions. But that’s only part of it. The second is that to my surprise, I’m faster in the dish pit than I’ve ever been, which makes the cooks grateful because we can all get out of there earlier. It has never been my life’s dream to be a dishwasher, but the fact that I can flat do it makes me incredibly happy. Internal satisfaction is so incredibly high, especially since I have received “honorary Mexican” status. It’s like a video game level being unlocked because I’ve gained so many experience points. 🙂
I also think that the other cooks think I don’t like their food, because I won’t eat at work. We are generally fed “family meal” at the beginning of a shift, but what I have learned early and often is that I’m slower when I feel too full, and just need to hydrate. Every day, I say, “no tengo hambre, tengo sed” (I’m not hungry, I’m thirsty). I wait until after I’m done to eat, and try to eat lunch early enough that I don’t feel too fat and happy once I get there. The other cooks do not understand this, and are constantly offering me rich, rich food. Nothing in a restaurant is healthy unless you go to a vegan joint. Just trust me on this one. Lots of oil, butter, heavy cream, etc. I mean, that’s what makes it delicious, and also what makes me feel like there’s a rock in my stomach.
What I will take, though, is when someone makes limonada in the blender. A little sugar and shaved ice goes a long way. It makes me feel almost human again, often why I have a Coke™ or Sprite™ at the end of my shift rather than a “homemade” beer.
Speaking of homemade beer, the woman that started the brewery, Julie Verratti, is running for Lt. Gov. of MD. The LGBT PAC had a meeting at the pub, and I was cut early enough to make it. Remember in The West Wing when Josh and Sam realize Bartlett is “the guy?” Well, Julie is that person for me. At the end of the meeting, I went up to her and said, “it is such an honor to work for you.” She shook my hand and didn’t fail to notice the tears in my eyes. I’m hoping that at some point, I can either work or volunteer on her campaign…. but that would involve asking her if I could, and I’m not that brave yet.
Mostly because I have no idea what day it is when I work.