I’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.