Pit Duty

Today was very long. I got up early and slammed two large iced coffees with coconut creamer, hoping I’d be awake before I had to show up at work. Sunday is the one day a week I’m scheduled as the dishwasher, where when I walk in the door, the amount I have to do is overwhelming. There is no “easing into it.” I clean all four bathrooms, mop everything, and then go into the kitchen, where the prep cooks have been at it since 0900, so the stack is usually above my head.

The one funny story I have about cleaning the bathrooms is that I don’t have children, and I’ve never had a niece or nephew (or babysat a child) who had a Diaper Genie.™ You cannot imagine how long I stood there, just dumbfounded and scratching my head at how to work it. There was no one else in the restaurant but me, so I have to get out my phone and YOUTUBE HOW TO EMPTY A DIAPER GENIE. And even then, I asked the prep cooks with kids if I’d done it right, and they told me they were too expensive and they didn’t have them, either. No one came up to me later and said that I broke it, so I guess it went okay. That was several weeks ago, and now I wish every trash can was a Diaper Genie. I want to empty all trash cans without having to touch anything. People are disgusting.

We weren’t terribly busy today, so there were a couple of times when the dishes were done that I got called up to the line. My lead line cook said, “that is a sexy, sexy plate.” He’s said it before, and I blush every time…. and yet, I also know he’s telling the truth. I do love making people feast with their eyes first. I know I’m not the first person to say that cooking is art, but I am a huge advocate. Of course I want everything to taste better than it looks, which means that I want every dish to be over the top delicious because the plate has already made you smile.

And now that it’s late and I’m getting ready for bed, I am starting to concentrate on what I’m going to do with my next two days off. I need to go shopping for a new outfit since I’m interviewing for a job on Tuesday at University of Maryland. I discovered this when I did all my laundry and there are still food stains on the knees of all my pants. All of them. You might ask how one manages to get food stains on one’s knees. That’s pretty simple, actually. Everything in the kitchen has to be scrubbed down at the end of the night, so I’ve had plenty of evenings end with my kneecaps in aioli (compound mayonnaise, generally containing garlic) as I’m soaping up the lowboy (I’ll be delighted if you think that’s something dirty).

Generally, because of the acrobatics involved with cooking, food, cuts, and burns magically appear in weird places all the time. The one time it was not so magical was dropping a two quart jug of ice-cold kimchi down the front of my shirt. Luckily, only the juice splashed everywhere, and the cabbage stayed in place…. but boy, did I smell delicious…. for days.

If I get the job at University of Maryland, it is unlikely that large vats of food will fall on me, but then again, I haven’t asked all the hard questions. They were very impressed at my first interview that I cook professionally, and unsurprisingly, ever since I’ve been able to say in any interview that I cook professionally, I’ve been the most popular candidate, but only if there’s an upcoming company picnic.

In the past, though, it’s been funny how fast I’ve been relegated to salads and desserts, because men grill. Period. The end. I have had my fair share of hockey pucks to know that this should not be a thing, and yet, it persists. Pro tip: if you grill at your parties and they offer to help, trust the people who do it for a living.

I expect no thanks or praise- tell them you cooked everything yourself. Just don’t make me eat any more burgers that could more accurately be described as a lump of coal. I’ll be thrilled.

Company picnics aside, I’m excited about the interview. I talked to my manager about it, and I’ve already told her I have no plans to quit at the restaurant- there’s just some scheduling we need to work out. So, it was easy to get the full day off on Tuesday because I didn’t give her a heart attack. It was actually really sweet of her- I have both Monday and Tuesday off this week, and I promise you that two days off in a row is an absolute luxury for anyone in the industry. My usual “weekend” is Saturday and Monday.

Tomorrow is about preparing my body and mind. New clothes, perhaps an eyebrow wax (so huge right now I could donate to eyebrow-less children at this point). I really, really want to get my nails done, but it’s illegal to wear nail polish in the kitchen and I don’t like regular manicures. I’d rather have nothing at all than go without acrylics…. mostly because I’d rather spend $25 and have polish that lasts for 10 days than pay $12 and have the paint chip that afternoon. I shall think about a pedicure. I could care less about the polish- the nail technician will massage feet that have never needed it more. I might even be able to walk without pain on Tuesday. I know I’ve said this before, but it really is embarrassing when I wake up and toddle down the stairs one step at a time, as if I am hurling myself toward my dad for the first time.

The thing is, though, even in my thoughts he’s right there to catch me.

I don’t know if I’ll have time to write again before I go into The Big Show.™ It’s at 1300 on Tuesday and will last approximately three hours, because I have to meet each and every person I’ll be working for and with, plus a few interns that will be working for me. Thoughts and prayers, even the black magic variety, are welcome. Knowing you’re out there cheering me on is just one more thing that makes this easy.

Easier than figuring out a Diaper Genie.

Prep

Yesterday was both easy and difficult at the same time. I am not used to starting my day in the morning anymore. I go to work between 1500-1700, so I tend to wake up between 1100 and 1300, depending on how jazzed I am from the night before and what I have to do the next day. Flipping my schedule around for one day threw me into the “I got up on the wrong side of the bed and I’m very grumpy” set of feelings. I got two Rock Stars from 7-Eleven and I am not ashamed to say that I drank both of them. I did not sleep well the night before, and with prep, I have to be alert, because to not is to hurt oneself… badly. For instance, my first job was par cooking French Fries, so that the people on the line only have to drop them in the fryer for a minute or two before they’re ready. Therefore, I was standing in front of a 350 degree fryer for almost two and a half hours. Had I been sleepy, that could have ended with blisters, or waiting for them to bubble. Even when I’m at the top of my game, accidents happen. I think I burned off one of my fingerprints on Wednesday. I got some ice on it immediately, so no blister bubbled, but for the moment, at least, I have no feeling on the pad of my left index finger and part of my thumb.

I was proud of myself, because since I was able to get ice and extraordinarily cold water on the burns immediately, it allowed me to keep working steadily. It’s a long story, but we’ve changed lead line cooks again, and it was magical. The same give-and-take that was there with the last one is still there with him. I got the compliment of my life- “I’m going to put you on all my shifts, because you can keep up with me, and I’m fast.” Also, I was absolutely kidding, but I told my kitchen manager, “of all the line cooks in all the world, you had to pick a Yankees fan?” Turns out, he’s actually a Mets fan, but from Brooklyn, so as he said, “whaddya gonna do?” I’m not even that much of a baseball fan, though I will watch it more easily than anything else, save soccer, especially if the Giants or the Dodgers are playing…. especially against the Astros. I’ve spent too many years of my life rooting for the Dodgers and the Giants to give up now.

Here, I root for the Baltimore Orioles, for a nerdy reason specific only to me. I can’t get behind the “Walgreens W.” Come to find out, the W belonged to the Senators first, which makes me feel sort of bad about it. Still. Just. Can’t.

Fonts matter. Also love that they call the Os park “Birdland.”

I do like Bryce Harper and his ever changing hair, though. Believe it or don’t, the rumor is that the Nats are thinking of trading him to the Astros.

I am sure that I will eventually get on board with the Nationals, only because it’s so much easier to take the Metro to the park than it is to get on the Marc to Baltimore. When I was thinking about moving from Houston to the Mid-Atlantic, I actually thought about Baltimore in addition to DC, because as I said then, “I’m really more of a John Waters than a John Boehner.” But again, what changed my mind was the public transportation infrastructure, because I know how to drive, but don’t. The traffic and parking around here suck. DC barely has room for the cars that the people own who live there. Bringing them in from Maryland and Virginia is just a “goat-ropin’ clusterfuck,” my favorite Texas swear.

Plus, because of supply and demand, the cost of parking for even a couple of hours is outrageous. As long as I have the time, taking the train is is easy. If I have to get somewhere fast, the cost of an Uber is infinitely less expensive than even buying a cheap cash car and trying to maintain it, plus insurance, plus parking if I go anywhere near “the city….” I have proven over time that I need a lot of it. Such a stereotypical woman driver who gives my gender a bad name. I would much rather zone out in the back seat with a good book or podcast.

For instance, I got a Facebook direct message from Dan, who told me she wanted to watch Argo with me, because it seemed like it was my favorite movie. I told her it didn’t seem like that, it was that. So even though I just watched it last Saturday, we watched it again last night. It was perfect over a glass of wine and some Wheat Thins, of which I am very proud I did not eat the whole box.

For that reason alone, it was nice to be done with work by 1600. It was also nice that I still felt caffeinated, because otherwise, I would have fallen asleep five minutes into the movie, especially after a glass of wine.

Meeting Dan has been one of the great blessings of my life, because not only did she fold me into her own life, but introduced me to a great friend circle as well. She is the connector- every friend I’ve hung out with over the past two years has invariably come from a chance meeting at one of her parties. Jaime lives the closest to me, in Columbia Heights, a quick trip down 16th street or a short train ride away. But even going out to Alexandria is faster on the train than I could drive it, because the traffic between Silver Spring and anywhere in Virginia is atrocious.

Every time, I am thanked for making the trek out there, but it is really no sweat. The yellow line connects two stops from my house (at Ft. Totten), and I can take it all the way to Braddock, which is one stop past National (the day I call it Reagan will never come unless I’m senile- which, incidentally, objects in mirror are closer than they appear).

Slowly getting ready for my interview at University of Maryland on Tuesday, mostly surrounding what I should wear. Business casual has changed so much over the years. I have no idea what I’ll see when I show up. For some universities, a collared shirt will do. For others, everyone will be in jeans and t-shirts. Generally for an interview, I wear a suit, and I will probably do the same now. Although funny story- when I interviewed at Marylhurst, one of the things they said to me after I started was, “when you walked in wearing that suit, we thought, ‘she is going to eat us alive.'”

I, in fact, did not.

I am the Type B poster child, so by the time I actually started, I was in jeans and t-shirts and/or Polos just like everyone else…. and like in all offices, a coat or a hoodie for my constant battle against the air conditioner. I am always thirsty and cold, the temperature made worse by drinking cold water. As I joke with my friends, “I drink a lot.”

At Alert Logic, everyone could hear me coming because I put ice water and an energy drink packet in my Nalgene, so it sounded every day like I was shaking a martini on the way to my desk. I’m surprised no one asked to taste it just to make sure. 🙂

We also had a free Starbucks coffee machine, so there were many days in which I overdid it, because hey, free latte. It was amazing because it didn’t taste like hospital coffee. I spend most days wired for sound.

In fact, I’m prepping for it today.

 

Turned On

When I go a few days without writing, I honestly don’t even know where to start. So much has happened… more than I remember, actually. My job is physically difficult and leaves me spent, so I don’t have as much time to re-live my life as I used to. I don’t have the brain power for it.

As I have said before, that’s the point. Life is meant to be lived forwards, and taking time each day to overthink about what happened is nailing one hand to the past. I intentionally chose this job to get out of my head and back into my body. I feel every cut, bruise, and ache. I wake up completely ataxic, lacking basic coordination because my muscles and bones need time to start working together again, particularly without pain so I can hold myself up. My feet and hands have it the worst, which is why in the mornings, my movements are “wonkier” than usual. There is no cure for this, as I have a palsy in my brain that’s been there since I was born. But I can treat it to bring myself up to almost normal with naproxen sodium and arthritis-level acetaminophen (1300mg time release). I buy huge bottles off of Amazon that are Costco/Kirkland brand, which means I can get (facetiously) 80,000 pills for a dollar. My movements have always been a little off- movements being a lot off is caused by pain…. and not a little bit. You would think that this would make me think this is not the job for me.

But by the time service starts, I am out of pain and my muscle memory takes over, a kind of out of body experience in which I feel nothing physically until we get the all-clear that the kitchen is closed. Cooking and dish washing are also great jobs for people with ADHD, where that type of multi-tasking is celebrated. Being physically tired also slows my brain down enough that I can function without medication, because there’s only 26 channels on instead of 102, all blaring at once.

Although I will say that I have come to a crossroads, even though I don’t know any more than I did last week. University of Maryland did indeed call me back, and they want to schedule an interview. But, in terms of “the road not taken,” I am wondering if I am capable of walking both paths at once, cutting my hours down at the pub and working full time. The money is not the issue here, Dude. It’s that I’m having too much fun to quit, and this company has been more than amazing to me. There is a part of me that thinks I flat belong in a kitchen, and I make enough to support myself. But I will not and cannot ignore a job that, as part of its benefits package, comes with tuition waivers. It’s the type job I’ve been trying to get since I arrived on the DC scene, because I know it’s one of the only ways I’ll be able to pay for school without owing the government or a bank an absolute shit ton of money once I graduate. My fear is that working at a pub makes going to class easier, because I have all seven days free. However, I haven’t even interviewed yet, so I’ll cross that time bridge when and if I come to it.

The feeling of pride I have in myself is palpable and lights me up from the inside. External validation is nice, but absolutely not necessary, a change in my mental state that has made all the difference in the world. For someone with a litany of mental illnesses for which I take medication to correct (which it does), feeling proud of myself goes just as far as popping pills to even the chemical imbalances in my brain. For instance, every time I get paid, I remember just how much blood, sweat and tears went into every dollar.

However, I still haven’t gotten first blood from my knife to make it mine. All of my cuts have come from sharp metal corners on pans, or a mandoline that is of the devil. Every time I have to use or wash it, I’m just like, “not today, Satan.” I’ve also kept hurting myself on the line to a minimum. The worst injuries have come from prep, because my work station is right next to a convection oven that I always hope is turned off, but rarely ever is.

Perhaps I should just turn my energy inward, and hope that I stay turned on, rather than the oven.

It’s working out pretty well so far.