Ramekins, Man….

I feel like I am the SpongeBob SquarePants of my restaurant…. always unfailingly cheerful in the midst of incredible busyness. This is because I get paid a lot for what I do, more than most people in my position, actually, so being happy is easy. I prep, work the line, wash the dishes, and keep smiling.Cleaning_Dishes It’s not glamorous in the slightest, but when you’re the member of a team, it’s so much fun. When I’m in the dish pit, I am the most important person in the restaurant. Just try making it through a shift if one of the cooks walks out. It’ll be fine. Now imagine that the dishwasher walks out. You’d be up shit creek without a paddle in five seconds flat. Even the chef could walk out and we’d still make it.

There’s only one thing that drives me up the wall, and I’ve been searching for YouTube videos and subreddits to try and figure it out. Ramekins…. those little silver cups that hold all the sauces.  They get stacked and dumped in the prewash, which becomes useless when there’s ketchup, cheese, and grainy mustard in them. I swear to God, ketchup will be the death of me. I can’t even look at it anymore. Right now, washing hundreds of ramekins is extremely time consuming, because even if I run them through the dishwasher, they flip around and stack, making the dishwasher cycle useless as well. Doesn’t matter if I separate them…. in one minute they’ll be stacked again. So, I separate them and clean them out before I run them through the dish machine, which gets me in the weeds faster than anything I have to do…. and if I save them until the end so that I can keep up with the rest of the dishes, I’m not leaving until it’s dark thirty.

The best method I’ve found so far is to separate them and put a cutting board on top so that they don’t flip around as much, but they still have to be clean because all of those sauces won’t come out in the wash. They’ll just be hot AF from 140 degree water and I still have to clean them out.

This was especially taxing last night, because our business died down severely and there was only one cook and me left when the bar flooded with people wanting to watch the Capitals game (which we won- go Caps). I had to step up to the line and leave the dishes because there was no way one cook could keep up. So then it’s closing time, when we should have been done with most everything had the night gone according to plan, and I didn’t get home until 0200. Despite that, I am still eager to be back at work tonight, because it’s Sunday, which means we close earlier, business will be steady yet not overwhelming, and it will be a much more relaxed atmosphere, even if I have to both wash dishes and prep my brains out.

Last night, we were so busy that I didn’t even know the Capitals had won until I got home.

I am sure that this entry is very boring for those who don’t work in a restaurant, but I feel that I need to illustrate just how hard a job it is for people who think it is unskilled and not worth a good salary. How much would you want an hour if you had to dig out other people’s dirty food and condiments for eight hours at a clip? I’m betting I couldn’t pay you enough.

Plus, there’s all the pans we use to cook that have food caked on that the dish machine won’t clean on its own, so how much would I have to pay you to get you to scrub caked, burnt cheese out of skillets until your hands are cracked and bleeding from steel wool?

How quickly could you memorize where everything goes when it needs to be put away?

spongebob-sqp1-620x500How quickly could you deep clean a kitchen so that no one is kept past their scheduled shifts by an hour or two?

How many of you would sign up for clothes that are beyond dirty and barely any time to get your laundry together before you have to be back at work? How many of you would sign up for a job that always leaves you soaked and smelling like old food? I’m wagering that of all my readers, not many. I realize that people coming to this country illegally is not necessarily the best policy, but immigrants are generally the ones willing to do those jobs in the first place. The “they’re stealing our jobs” trope is getting so tired, because the hospitality, farming, fishing, and crabbing industries are running out of people to employ, because the same people that say “they’re stealing our jobs” aren’t exactly lining up to get hired. Write it down.

Additionally, immigrants will work so cheaply that it’s what makes our groceries affordable. The cost of groceries will rise to support minimum wage and benefits, so enjoy your $14/lb tomatoes…. not that I’m opposed to them, necessarily, because all people should get a living wage and benefits. I’m just saying. Even if the cost of groceries rise, it’s still cheaper and better for you than eating in a restaurant.

The magic trick that I don’t see happening is people who want to be upwardly mobile and think they deserve high-powered jobs “lowering themselves” to become dishwashers and cooks. To wit:

Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

-John Steinbeck

I don’t see a lot of people with my attitude and optimism, because I absolutely know I’m doing important work. I am actively involved in an industry that makes other people happy, often at the expense of living my own life. For instance, I am not available to socialize during the hours when other people socialize, because I’m taking care of them. I make sure they have excellent food and clean dishes on which to eat. No one screams louder than people who don’t get both of those things….. more likely than not, people who are both opposed to immigration AND getting a job in the service industry.

It’s probably because they’d have to clean ramekins.

Your Right and Responsibility

I don’t know how I got so lucky that when session ended in Annapolis, Lindsay’s job moved her to working on federal legislation. She still comes to DC on a regular basis, though not quite as often when she was trying to get a bill passed in Maryland state congress. The bill made it through the House and on to the Senate, but was defeated. I don’t want to write about the bill itself, or the company where my sister works, but what I will say is that the legislation in question made perfect sense and there is no sane reason why it shouldn’t have passed, especially since in 49 other states, it’s already law. The only comfort in this is that perhaps the bill will come up next year, as some form of it has for the last nine years, and she’ll come back just as frequently as she did this year.

I know it’s hard for her being so far away from home all the time, but selfishly, it is exactly what I need. Watching her work activates my “go button,” the part of me that’s interested in government and how it works…. or not.

Voting in local and state elections is abysmally low, and turnout is key. I don’t understand why others don’t understand that local and state laws directly affect their lives so much more than the president ever will. My county (Montgomery) is important to me, as well as my state. There are lobbyists pushing legislation through that would raise ire if there wasn’t so much apathy toward it. Outrageous things get passed because no one notices… and on the flip side of the coin, really good legislation gets passed over because no one is calling their state representatives to tell them what they want, because they have no idea what the issues even are, much less care.

National laws are important, but not nearly as crucial as “small things,” like the school board, how/when the trash gets picked up, and the way the local police treat people. The local issue that really cramps my style (being the tender-heart bear that I am) is that in Montgomery County, homeless shelters are closed from April to November. Obviously, it’s sometimes very cold in October, but April is no picnic, either. Plus, it gets every bit as hot in Maryland as it is in Houston during the summer, and to me, being outside all the time is local legislators not caring whether people suffer horrendous sunburns with blisters.

Thanks to Maryland state-run health insurance, homeless people have access to free medical and psychological care, and medications that are only one dollar a bottle. But for homeless people who do not have jobs, one dollar can seem like a hundred. It’s a misconception that homeless people do not work. When you’re poor, the idea of first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit, especially in this area, is unobtainable. If people manage to only stay on the streets for a few months, it is less likely that they will suffer permanent mental health damage, but the longer people go without basic necessities, it is a chicken and egg situation. Did they become homeless because they were mentally ill and unable to hold down a job, or did being on the streets do them in?

I would say that it’s different in every case, but I can see how being reduced to absolute survival mode can do so much damage in so little time…. especially if said homeless person is arrested and thrown in jail. Jail is not a happy place, especially when you’re put there due to circumstances beyond your control. People get arrested for all kinds of inanity, such as loitering, because where are you supposed to go when you don’t have an address?

Add that to the inequality in both hiring and sentencing leads minorities down a pipeline of enormous proportions. The first is that a resumé with the name Michael Smith is so much more likely to get an interview than one with the name Tyrone Washington. The second is that minorities are more likely to get harsher sentences than whites, so something that should have been a misdemeanor is adjudicated as a felony, and that always looks good to hiring managers.

Nothing makes my blood boil faster, because even if the minority is guilty, that does not mean that he/she deserves to be treated more harshly than anyone else. It’s white privilege at its finest.

My pastor, Matt, said something interesting regarding this very thing. Minorities are allowed to be prejudiced against whites, but there is no such thing as “reverse racism.” That is because prejudice in minority communities is relatively harmless, a way of dealing with earned scorn toward whites for the systematic oppression of minorities that they’ve endured for centuries now. There is no comparison whatsoever, and to do so is to willfully ignore the difference. Prejudice is personal bias. Racism is institutionalized from the top down, with no end in sight. No matter how much we march and protest against it, President Trump isn’t going anywhere, and neither are his goons satisfied with the status quo.

That does not mean that protesting is useless, however. With enough people in the crowd, it’s hard to be ignored by Congress or the media. There is also the community that comes together with a common goal, the creation of safe space…. the seeking out of like-minded people that is a lifeline when there is such a feeling of hopelessness.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that Sunday morning at 11:00 is the most segregated hour in America. In a lot of ways, this has not changed, but it has changed for me. I am blessed to have a community in which whites and minorities worship together under both a #blacklivesmatter and a rainbow flag. I am blessed to have a community that shows up for marches demanding equality for all people, despite the violence that has occurred as a result. The scariest was when our #blacklivesmatter sign was vandalized and pictures of the reporters shot in Roanoke on live TV were taped to the side doors.

It led to one of the biggest turnouts on Sunday morning that I’ve ever seen in any church anywhere, because we were there to say we were not afraid. Looking for succor, yes, but there was power in showing up. Jeffrey Thames preached that day, a sermon I’ll never forget called The Certain Samaritan. It was built to comfort us in our distress and distress us out of our comfort.

We will not back down from attending church because of this threat. We will continue to do the work of peace and justice that we always have, because it defines who we are as a congregation………………….

We will continue to let people rest and recuperate as they need. We will continue to clothe the naked. We will continue to feed the hungry. We will continue to make people of all faiths and origins our friends. We will continue to fight without a fight. It doesn’t take violence to respond. It takes certainty.

It was a beautiful illustration regarding now that this has happened, what are we to do? Applause is for a performance, not a worship service, and yet he deserved a standing ovation. He pointed the way from pain to promise in a way that people will not soon forget.

Whenever you think local politics don’t matter, remember that law & order starts in your neighborhood and branches out. When the leaves are turning brown, remember that it is your right and responsibility to turn on the sprinklers.