oncoming trainI’ve always been good at “making do” with what I have. Further, I’ve regarded the ability to do so as a sign of maturity. While it is that, it can also be something else — something that feels a lot like being stalled — on a railroad track — while a freight trains bears down upon you. As a mature, grown-up person, I know that it is at this point that there are three things one can do when such a predicament presents itself — make a final and valiant attempt at getting the car started, leave the hunk of metal on the tracks and jump out, or remain where you are and let the train roll over you.

Metaphorically speaking, I have, more often than not, let the train roll over me.

Remaining in the car is, on some level, a non-decision. It requires no real action. It’s the whole “making do” thing taken to the nth degree.

“Making do” is fine in some areas — substitute tarragon if you don’t have rosemary — there’s really no need to make yourself crazy where a roast chicken is concerned — unless you’re feeding a food critic, chances are, no one will notice anyway. Although you may want to be wary of other, more unorthodox substitutions.

Once, in a moment of haste, I made “tulip chicken”. Instead of grabbing the elephant garlic along with the onion from the crisper drawer, I grabbed a tulip bulb — put there by someone who had decided to suddenly take up gardening, to “force” tulips into blooming in the wintertime. In other words, I had no knowledge that there were tulip bulbs in the fridge. And, let me just tell you, they look A LOT like elephant garlic. It wasn’t until I noticed the lack of garlicky pungency that I thought to investigate. What I discovered, inside of the chicken, were little “shoots” of something — something that definitely wasn’t garlic. That’s when I checked the bag of “elephant garlic” and saw the error of my ways.

After determining that no one would die from “tulip chicken” (I took my chances with “mild hallucinations”), I served it. We ate it. It made for an interesting meal and, even better, a great “crazy Mom” story. No hallucinations, mild or otherwise, were reported by the consumers of said chicken. As a bonus, the kitchen smelled wonderful for days!

Now and again life tosses you one of those happy accidents. The “tulip chicken” being more akin to the conductor noticing your car on the tracks and stopping just in the nick of time. Once in a while these things happen, but they’re rare and can’t be relied upon.

Stopping a moving freight train is not easy. Neither is deciding, in a moment of panic, whether to start the car or to jump out. Luckily, I’m not in a moment of panic. I am, however, at a crossroads. Career-wise.

Partly I’m just tired. And bored. And already, though the temperatures have barely broken 70 degrees Fahrenheit, overheated.

Serving/Bartending/Running food is physically exhausting. At least when it’s done properly. I never sit down. I never finish a thought. I’m constantly sweating. (I swore, in much the same way that Scarlett O’Hara swore that she’d “Never go hungry again!”, that last summer was the last one I was going to spend sweating my beans off in a hot restaurant. So much for that promise.)

In addition to being beaten down by the physical environment and the physical requirements of my job, I am mentally worn out by the wretched, the high-maintenance, the miserable, the ignorant, the lazy, the condescending, the mopey, and, sometimes, the downright rude people that I have to deal with every day. Mostly these adjectives describe the customers. Sadly, though, in some cases they also describe my co-workers.

I’ve given up hope that one day I’ll come to work and we’ll have enough soup spoons, ramekins, steak knives, and/or lobster tails. While I often enjoyed Leonard Nimoy’s “In Search of….” program back in the day, I’m not a big fan of scavenging for every last thing that I need every single morning because I work with people who are never held accountable for what they fail to do properly — and, even if they were, most of them wouldn’t give a hoot anyway.

I’m sick of being bored out of my mind, of fetching assorted fruit for your FREE water, of having to pretend that I’m listening when you tell me that you’re allergic to just about everything (probably because I’m wondering where the hell your bubble is).

I’m dog tired of the guy who needs me to cut his meat off the bone for him — because it “grosses him out” — “Hey! Here’s a novel idea — order a boneless cut, moron!” I can no longer spend endless hours sucking up to people who can’t pronounce “sirloin” — it’s phonetic — it’s not “Sir Lion”. Really. I just can’t. The fact that these same fucktards pay my salary? Ridiculous. The idea that I am, ultimately, economically penalized for the lack of “fizz” in their soda? (Guess what? I don’t order the CO2!) It’s beginning to get on my last nerve.

It disgusts me that I am actually paid $2.13/hour by a multi-billion dollar company AND hounded relentlessly about not going into overtime. (Really? Because I’m not worth $3.20 an hour? Seriously?) Something really needs to give here. Once upon a time I thought about taking up this mantle. Now? I just don’t think I can muster up the energy to try my hand at anything as pesky as unionization. I don’t have the stomach for that business. I hope someone does, though. I’d support their efforts.

What I need to do is to get out of the way of the train. The question is, do I make a wholehearted effort to move up in this same industry? Do I try to “restart the car”? Or do I jump out? Try my hand at something new?

I’m leaning toward the latter — but it’s scary. Because it may also be stupid. Stupid because I have thirty years of experience in this industry. Stupid because I would likely make a good manager. At the very least I know what constitutes bad management. (Let’s just start with not enough soup spoons and go from there!) I am wrestling with the notion that if I stay in the restaurant business it will be because it’s familiar — that remaining will feel more like a “non-decision”. I could use some divine intervention or, barring the appearance of The Almighty, an alert conductor.

Something new sounds exciting. New always SOUNDS exciting. It doesn’t always turn out to be exciting, though, does it?

What would be nice would be if I could engineer a large-scale version of that “tulip chicken”. I just don’t know how to make that happen — so accustomed am I to “making do”. I need to figure it out, though — and soon. Because if I don’t, I’m going to be squashed by that train. I really am. I can almost see its headlights now.

17 thoughts on ““MAKING DO!”

  1. I don’t care what career choice you choose as long as it doesn’t interfere with your writing. I’m pretty sure a lot of good blog posts wouldn’t come out of being an accountant!


    • javaj240 says:

      Don’t worry — whatever I do, I’m fairly certain it won’t involve numbers! (Power Ball winner would have been nice, though!)


  2. Vanessa says:

    I love this post so much. There are so, so many things I want to talk to you about. Can we still meet up when I’m in NY? x


  3. You are such a gifted writer, Jac (can I call you that??) and I just know – I KNOW – there is something better for you out there, something you deserve. I hope you find it, and soon. Because I don’t want these Jersey characters that I know too well to get my friend run over by a train. You should own the train, or the restaurant or become a food critic or an accomplished author. I’m behind you, girlfriend. All the say!


    • javaj240 says:

      Everyone calls me “Jac”! So, yes, feel free! You are the second person who suggested I become a food critic — it might be worth looking into. Although, union agitator does hold some appeal — I could finally put my feistiness to good use. (My daughter calls me “feisty” ALL the time!)

      I have been toying with the idea of joining some kind of writer’s workshop — something positive might come from this type of activity — at the very least I will feel like I am being proactive!

      I have no idea where our clientele comes from! They are a whole other breed of people. Seriously. These are NOT folks.one normally bumps into at the Shop-Rite. I hope they’re not Jersey people, LOL!


  4. Restaurant management sounds like a way up for you,but it also comes with long hours and its own set of headaches. Based upon your superb writing maybe you could be a restaurant critic, or perhaps take a risk, get off the tracks and send this story to Chef Ramsay for his feedback. Who knows unless you try. And, for sure, you are driven and have accumulated motivation and initiative among your travels. Best of luck.


    • javaj240 says:

      Chef Ramsey? I shudder to think what HE might say to me. I don’t imagine there will ever come a time when I would seek his opinion, LOL! Food critic? Hmmmm… That’s not something that ever occurred to me. Thanks for the suggestion. I may have to mull that one over !


  5. I’ve been forced to jump careers twice, no, three times, I did just fine, thank you.


    • javaj240 says:

      Wow! You are my inspiration!


      • Research scientist to pharma publishing and advertising to phrma regulatory affairs to self employed health and safety trainer. This last was some of the best fun I ever had with my clothes on, but business tanked during the recession. First thing that companies cut when the going gets tough is their training budgets.
        Still, I had a go.


  6. You are such an amazing writer. You deserve way more than what you’re getting. Your post expressed a lot of the same frustration I am feeling at my job. I’m also looking to make “the next step” — just don’t know what that is yet — so I really relate to this post.


    • javaj240 says:

      I figured it would resonate with at least one person. All hail the unhappily employed! LOL! Hopefully we’ll both figure it out 🙂


  7. Karen says:

    You need to get off the track any way you can/


  8. We only regret what we don’t attempt in life… never the silly mistakes. But I love your metaphor and really took it to heart… I think I’ve been on the tracks too long myself… so here’s the new mantra for the both of us, “Start the damn car and get the hell off the tracks!” xxoo


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