I finally got a job a couple of weeks ago cooking at Happy’s Grill. It’s depressing being a college graduate from Northfield University with a BA in English Writing and working at Happy’s cooking carefully portioned pre-frozen food behind a greasy grill surrounded by clattering dishes and hollering servers. If you asked me what I would be doing now a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have had an answer, but I could have told you what I wouldn’t be doing. Many things change in short time. When things get shittier time seems longer, and as time stretches out you’re less likely to notice change.
It’s my fourth day at work. My pain in the ass boss just walked in. Tension floods the room. A second ago everyone was smiling and conversing. Now the smiles have faded and conversations have stopped short. Nancy’s here to ruin the day.
“I’m in no mood for any bullshit from any of you today, you hear me? I’m in a very bad mood, so it is what it is.” Nancy says the same thing every day. I’m starting to wonder if she’s ever in a good mood. I’m putting my bets on no. And what’s with that worn out cliche? “It is what it is” seems to be embedded into the personas of coaches and bosses all over the world. It’s like they’re saying that no matter what happens they’re going to forget about it and move, on because there’s nothing they can do about it. Utterance of this phrase forever brands you an ignorant fuck.
Nancy is five feet tall and strung tighter than a tennis racket. Her hair’s just above shoulder length and looks like the bowl-cut that I had in fourth grade. She whizzes around the kitchen like a gnome. I can hear her furious little feet pit-patting on the rubber mats over the tile floor.
My training at Happy’s hasn’t been too good. My trainer, Pedro, speaks broken English and mumbles. I can’t really understand him, so a lot of the time I guess and hope I’m getting it right.
Nancy hasn’t taught me a thing except for the fact that she’s a midget with a stick up her ass. On my first day it was real busy and Pedro was in the back room preparing for dinner when she approached me.
“What cheese on Chicken Club?” She said it so fast and jumbled together that it sounded more like: Wha’ chee’ o’ Chi-Cluh? I tried to decipher what she said, but I couldn’t do it. I just stood there looking at her dumbfounded. So she asked again, this time a little more clear.
“What kind of cheese goes on the Chicken Club?”
I thought about it for a second, but couldn’t remember. I was a little flustered, it being my first day and all.
“Well?” she asked looking real irritated that I didn’t know the answer, like I was supposed to know everything right from the start on my first fucking day.
“I don’t know, I’m sorry. What is it?”
Nancy threw her hands up in the air. “I don’t know! That’s why I’m asking you!”
Is this bitch serious? I thought. Does she really expect me to know? And why the fuck doesn’t she know? She’s the fucking manager for Christ’s sake.
“Swiss!” Pedro hollered from the back room, but it sounded more like “sweeez!”
“I know that! I’m testing Patrick!” she said as she grabbed a slice of swiss.
I knew for damn sure she wasn’t testing me. She had no idea what she was doing, but would never admit it. It would make her look inferior to the others in the kitchen. As the manager she must hold a position of power over her employees. She tries to make her employees tremble in their shoes in her presence, and from the look of it she’s doing a good job.
“Swiss on a Chicken Club Patrick!” (Swiss-o-Chi-Cluh Patrick!) Nancy’s idea of training is barking at her new employees. “You better learn that quick if you’re going to make it here!”
I wanted to tell her that I’m in no way trying to make it at Happy’s Grill. It was the only job I could get.
Nancy quickly threw the other orders together, not taking any time to show or explain what she was doing or how she was doing it, put the food under the heat lamp, then skittered into the back to have her twentieth cigarette of the day.
Moments later, Pamela, one of the servers with long black hair and big cute round brown eyes approached me frowning and holding the two plates Nancy had just put together.
“This isn’t right,” she said.
“Oh, I didn’t make them…”
“I don’t care who made them, it’s not right and I need it fixed.” She put the plates back under the heat lamp and walked away stomping her feet, clearly not happy with me.
I looked around like a lost child for about a minute, then finally called Pedro to the grill.
“I’ll go,” I heard Nancy say from the back, “you keep prepping for tonight it’s going to be a busy one.” It’s always going to be a busy night. That way she’s able to make us do as much prep work for her as possible so she doesn’t have to do anything.
Nancy walked in and with an exasperated sigh she said “what’s wrong Patrick?”
I pointed to the dishes. “Pamela said these aren’t right.”
“Well, what’s wrong with them?”
“I don’t know, she didn’t tell me.”
“Well you should have asked her.” Nancy pushed me aside and grabbed the plates and compared it to the slip, then she looked at me and shook her head. “They’re not right because you didn’t tell me to hold the cheese!”
I wanted to ask her how I was supposed to know to tell her that when it was my first day and the only training that I got was from a mumbling foreigner named Pedro, but like I said before, I need this job. It’s the only one I can get at the moment in this shitty economy, so I didn’t say a word. I just stared at her and kept my lips sealed, afraid of what might come out if I dared to open them.
Nancy peeled the cheese off the Chicken Clubs (Chi-Cluhs!), and yelled “Pamela!”
Pamela came back and grabbed the food. “Thanks, Nancy.”
“No problem Pamela. Patrick’s new, he didn’t know he was making a mistake.”
How typical of her to blame it on me. Nothing is ever Nancy’s fault. That pissed me off. Nobody disrespects and belittles me, especially when I don’t deserve it. I decided that day that I would keep my mouth shut so I wouldn’t get fired, but I would find a way to bring Nancy down. People like that need to get knocked down off their foundation, and when it comes to that I am a wrecking-ball.