Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

“How are you doing, kiddo?” she asks me as she surrounds me in the best hug I’ve had in ages. There’s nothing quite like getting a hug from a friend who is like a mom and confidant and several things all wrapped into one, wearing turquoise, mind you, and also a writer.  Mel is one of those amazing women in my life that I can’t imagine not being there. And she gets me in ways a lot of people don’t. Maybe it’s because we are both Taurii. Just days apart.

“It’s been a good week,” I reply.  “Last week I finally had enough, so this week’s been good.”

“That’s it?!” I know, the shock reverberating off of her is understanding and empathetic frustration.

I have to take my good days. “I’m learning to manage men,” is my reply.  It’s true. I’m not ever going to be skilled at it. I don’t want to manage men. I’d much prefer they manage themselves, thank you very much, but when all of them act no older than 16, you make do. You manage.  Them, life, skills, time, people.

It was an incredibly good, albeit, busy week. I was strapped for time on a lot of days, pushing myself to frustration levels, time constraints, short on ingredients days. But I am learning to manage people without actually telling them what to do. Scoot people in the direction that A. I need them to be in, and B. where it’s good for the restaurant. Do I know everything? Not even close, but I know what works. I can’t be in back all the time and sometimes I just have to walk away. That is hard. The walking away and letting it go. Some days, I don’t.

“Do you ever not argue!” I snap at a coworker. I’m in a panic because I am short dough, I have about 10 large tickets piling up, more on top, only so much dough to go around, my sugar is diving and I am getting so much pushback from someone that I am about ready to scream.

“Breathe!” orders everyone orders around me.  I’m telling myself to breathe as well.  ‘Patience is a virtue’, is the refrain I have in my head via Evelyn from The Mummy. The ‘Not right now it isn’t!’ is always second in my head, via Rick from the same film.

Breathing didn’t help. I dropped a handful of tomatoes after snapping, rushed through a busy line with Jersey Boy asking if I was okay. I couldn’t answer. I was trying not to cry from frustration, and my sugar diving. I’m fine, I’m fine. Yeah, every woman knows ‘FINE’ is not fine. Look it up. There’s a nice version and a not so nice version.

But I got over it. Moved on, killed it on the line, and found myself baking another cheesecake at 10pm then selling the entire cheesecake to one customer the next day. And bake another one as I clean the kitchen on my ‘Friday’ night. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Work is hard for me. Last post was about how I kind of float through the place. Yeah, it’s not all floating so much as staying focused all the time so that by the time I get home, I’m wiped. I don’t stay focused. Ever. I am the world’s most distracted person. So keeping it all together at work is a challenge. I was reminded of this last night when my mother reiterated again, probably for the umpteenth time, why I am so tired on my weekend.

“She’s writing a novel about a kitchen,” Mel tells her guy. I am, I spend little bits of time thinking and writing life. Even down to managing men, people, and myself.

This week was better than the last. It came off the high of a super busy last weekend with my good floating, being a Sandy, etc. moment. Next week could be bad, but every step forward is good. I am in a place I never thought I would be. I still might not be able to drive, and am scared to death of making the wrong turn, but well, keep moving forward.

On the side note side, the hills changed from browns and greens to a gorgeous tapestry of oranges, reds and yellows. Wilson and his girl Friday are staying out late into the cold twilight hiking around in fall. I got out in the air today and tonight and it was good inspiration. Just breathing mountain air from a warm October day when the pines opened up and sent out all their spicy resinous smells. Ah fall.

Kate

Rizzo, Sandy, And Managing

“I am so Rizzo to your Sandy!” – Mixologist Man

I float through the dining hall in my white chef’s jacket, the stares of guests, a finger point, gesturing, as I carry plates behind a number one server. it’s not often you see a chef carrying food to a table. “Brownie points for running food,” says Jersey Boy.

Photo by Lefteris kallergis on Unsplash

Owners watch, take notice. I just give a smile and nod my head as I pass.  Another round, and I’m out the door with appetizer and plates, then back with entree, that I made. Sure, it might be a pizza, but my pizzas have been claimed as art. Aparently I am art to watch as well. I guess my five foot three, or four depending on which doctor’s office I’m in, frame, and a large, burning pizza oven make for living artwork. “I’m not in a hurry,” says a guest, holding up his beer, “in fact, take your time on my order.” Later. “I wasn’t in a hurry, I was just enjoying watching you.” I nod my head again in acknowledgement to the compliment.

I’m on display. “I need you to keep your head up and keep smiling.” Teddy Bear of an owner says to me. I am out front and center, one of the first things you see when you enter the restaurant. I am the first thing related to food you see. As I can toss pillow-y soft dough into a round without even looking at it, catching it on a spin. I may not be able to toss it above my head, I’d rather not get flour everywhere, but I can practically do it in my sleep. I can flip wooden boards down, and in five minutes, have five rounds of dough ready to be filled, and slung into a 700 degree oven. All five at once. Six or more if I have it just right.

Photo by Daniel Bradley on Unsplash

I spin, I dance, I slide, I arabesque. I duck, and bend and move in ways I never thought I could, reaching for this, stretching for that. I spin on a heel after a pizza goes into the oven.  In out, in out, this dance that is fast or slow depending on the strip of ticket orders that grace my board.

Grace under pressure. That is my mental motto. I am on the fast track to being a manager without even trying. That’s not bravado talking. I direct traffic, I answer questions, I grab a server and hustle them to their next table. I roll silverware, mix up sauces on the fly when we are out, hand off things to Jersey Boy and William Turner. I know where things are hiding in the walk-in. I solve problems, and shift people to where a job needs doing. I’m not even trying to do these things. They just come to me. I taste things, adjust salt, answer flavoring questions.

“It needs salt,” I say, much to the annoyance of everyone, but all around agreeing with the statement. I know flavors and pick out things most can’t. “I smell gas,” I say. Never believed, but usually I’m right.  I like to know things. I like to know how to solve things and fix things. If I could be in the distillery with the owners, learning how our gin, vodka, and bourbon are made, I would be. I just don’t have time. I’m too busy with a mental prep list that never ends, even on the weekends. I am told to shut it down mentally, give myself a break on the two days I’m off, but I can’t. This is still Coffeeman talking in my brain. I’m still thinking about things for the week to come. The many items I know that need to be done.

My body has adjusted to the life. “You’re changing your image,” comes the reply from someone I’ve known for several years in this town, but haven’t seen since almost the start of this job. I am. I’m becoming the me I never knew I was. I am bold in my earrings, and sassy with a bit of spice coming out of my mouth; Rosie the Riviter and I are old souls… as I channel her on a daily basis, even just with the, “keep your head up, keep working, stay strong” mentality that has come from Coffeeman.  My body has a strength to it I never knew it could have. Our baby dishwasher, McConaughey, who is smaller than I am, watches as I carry 50 lbs. of flour through the kitchen and I don’t ask for help. “I got this.” I say.  “You got this, gurrrrrrl,” Hostess Extraordinaire always tells me.

I am definitely the Sandy in our little group. And Mixologist Man is definitely Rizzo. I am the uber sweet girl, the girl that still needs Rizzo to motion for her to toss her cigarette and crush it out under the toe of her high heeled shoe. “I’m not a complete idiot,” I say to Mixologist Man, as he comments on “I knew I needed to figure out a way to get you to sit down next to him. So the only solution was for me to get up and dance,” when we are discussing a flirtation with a cute guy.

Okay, so maybe I don’t have it all down, and I may not be an idiot, but a little help never hurt Sandy. She might not have gotten Danny without the help of the Pink Ladies. So, Mixologist, keep being my lead Pink Lady. You totally could pull off the jacket.

Kate

Went And Got Lost in a Tall Hedge Maze – Fiction

Photo by keith thomas on Unsplash

It wouldn’t have been so bad, being lost in a corn maze, not exactly his idea of fun, but no big deal. But then his cell phone died. No GPS to get out of this mess. And he remembered that he hadn’t applied the SPF 110 to his body before leaving the house, and at midday, he felt fried to a crisp at the center of the maze. He knew he was at the center; the sign saying “You have reached the center of the maze,” made it pretty obvious.

He hadn’t seen anyone for hours. His friends has gone off ahead of him when he’d had a moment of panic and pulled out his inhaler and waved them on with his starched handkerchief as he’d wheezed. They’d rolled their eyes at him, Sadie muttering “drama queen” under her breath as they’d pass by him and heading down a tunnel.  At least he was at the center. But his water bottle was empty, and he was going to have to conserve his backup, and his backup a backup water bottle as well, if he wanted to make it out alive.

The sun shifted a degree while he fashioned a spear from a corn stalk, several strips of leaves, and a pointed cob he’d sharpened with his swiss army knife. It took a while, but he was certain he could make it out if he had to fight his way after it got dark and the vampires came out. Too bad he’d left his rosary at home. Would have come in handy. Being that it was sterling silver and all. He could have used some holy water, just in case.

Sweat was fogging up his glasses as he tied his shirt around his head in an attempt to block the sun that beat down on this scorching September day. Nearly October and it was 87 degrees. Or at least that was what it felt like. The pale skin on his back would be blistered by nightfall, he was sure of it. 

Several wrong turns and a couple dead ends left him crying out for God to rescue him from this madness. He was slumped down against his spear, sucking down the last of his backup water bottle, knees in the dusty dirt, when he felt a tap on his shoulder.  He nearly jumped out of his skin and turned, startling the young girl standing behind him. She was about 8 and had a lollipop in her mouth. 

“You okay, Mister?” she asked with a slight lisp from the sucker in her mouth.

His mouth was too dry to answer. The girl frowned up a him and in an all girl fashion, flipped her braided blond pigtail over her shoulder.

“Did you get lost?” she asked.

He nodded.

“Well, I got lost too, the first time. But it’s easy. To more turns and we’re at the end. Want some help?”

He nodded again.  Before he could take a step, she had looped her sticky fingers through his and started tugging him along.

“I’m Janie. What’s your name?”

“George,” he rasped.

“Oh, hi, George. My mom and daddy are just behind, we’ll be out in no time. I love the maze. It’s different every year. Last year it was a giant witch, this year it’s Frankenstein!”  She tugged him along and in just a flash they were exiting out into the even brighter sunshine. Out into the waiting laughter of his friends who stood around at the end of the maze drinking beers and and giving him a round of insecure applause and mocking bows. “There are your friends, Mister,” the girl said, releasing his hands. 

He nodded his thanks then watched in shock as she ran over to Molly who handed her a ten dollar bill.

“What was that?” he croaked.

“Eh, we paid the girl to hunt you down. She said she knew this maze inside and out,” Brian said, handing him a beer.

“So, vampires are gonna get you, huh?” Colton teased, jabbing him in his bare shoulder. He quickly yanked the shirt off his head and pulled it back on.

“You heard me?” 

“Day one, I’m nearly out of water,” Molly impersonated. “It’s the fifth day and I’ve taken to fashioning a spear from cornstalks.”

“If only I had my silver rosary when the vampires come out,” Brian mocked.

“I wasn’t that bad,” he muttered into his beer.

“George, you are the biggest drama king ever. This wasn’t Castaway. You were forty minutes behind. And your cellphone you forgot to charge, you idiot,” Molly lightly punched him in the arm. “Come on, let’s go get some lunch.”

They pulled him along in the direction of the sandwich stand on the edge of the property where the maze was. George knew it was going to be a long time before they ever let this one down.

I was having a conversation with a friend about being in a corn maze and cell service dying. Then add in our very pale white skin that burns at mild 100 watt bulbs and being vampires…. bada boom bada bing, this hit my head. An overly dramatic guy pulling a Tom Hanks  ‘Castaway’ vibe. Yes, it’s meant to be completely silly.

I’ve also been waiting to use the lyrics from the Paper Kites song Featherstone
“She went out to the hay in the morning grace
She went out and got lost in a tall hedge maze”

Hope you all enjoy.

Kate