I’ll begin by telling you now something I’ve said before, though not in so many words: for your own sake and for mine, please don’t come in here and tell me how lucky we are or how great it is that we’ve made it through the pandemic and we’re finally back to normal. I’m not a fighter, so I won’t punch you in the throat, but I can assure you, I’ll want to. Don’t tell me that Omicron is nothing and that it won’t affect us, or to chin up, or that we’ll come out of this stronger.
I’ll admit that only a couple of days ago, I sent out an email saying that for nearly two years now we’ve made it through the ugly uncertainties that have heaved up in front of us from pretty much nowhere, and that that gave me cause to believe we’ll be fine at the eventual end of all this, but I’ll also mention that whenever the worst has been over in the past twenty-two months, a New Worst has emerged to kick us in the tender spots.
Before I even arrived at work today, I had texts popping up on my phone: a dishwasher’s wife has Covid, so he won’t be in; a line cook’s son has it, so she won’t be in, nor will the prep cook who babysits him. The catering cook who’s been out for three days, always thinking she’ll be back the following day, won’t be in either, since her kids are all passing some sort of virus that, for what it’s worth, isn’t Covid, back and forth between them. The waiter who got it but hasn’t had symptoms for a week now still keeps testing positive each day, so he won’t be in. The sous chef whose kids’ school has been shut down due to Covid now has to be at home with them, and the server who’s leaving the industry altogether had her last night yesterday. There’s another prep cook waiting for a Covid test, and another bartender whose tenure will expire in ten days. It’s entirely a reasonable assumption that before this current wave is over, we’ll have to close our doors for lunch at the very least.
So, yeah. I still believe we’ll get through this, but unless you’re writing me a check for $24,000 to cover the sick pay that I’m currently burning through, and a few thousand more in overtime for those who cover their shifts, do not use the word “nothingburger” with me. It is, most assuredly, something. I tell you all this not for pity’s sake, but to remind you all that, yet again, people in the service industry are taking another drubbing, and we’re all more than a little tired of it. If you want to lash out at a grocery store employee who’s covering for three other people because of the trucker who called in sick didn’t bring their dairy order, you may want to consider that, as inconvenient as it may be for you to go find your quart of milk someplace else, or possibly forego it, maybe it’s even more inconvenient for them to do three people’s jobs and then put up with your attitude. If it takes twenty minutes for your medium-well pork chop to arrive, maybe it’s because there are two people in the kitchen rather than the customary four, and four in the dining room rather than the customary five. Or maybe it’s just because you ordered it medium-well.
My list of potential stress points is only a partial list, and the partial list of one measly restaurant, so I offer you this reminder today. And it’s a reminder for myself as much as for you. I may be in the service industry, but in those few fleeting hours that I’m not here, I’m a customer, too, prone to snide remarks and impatience just like anyone else. And I need to remember that just because I’m having the roughest two years I’ve ever had, that doesn’t preclude pretty much everyone else in the world from having had the roughest two years they’ve ever had as well.
Here, then, is my plan: I’m going to shut my piehole. As much as I walk away rolling my eyes when I hear the complaint that someone has had to cancel their trip to Europe, someone else will walk away rolling theirs when I complain about my own first-world problems. I have no business bellyaching about it, though, to someone who’s lost a relative, or who can’t pay their rent, or afford a prescription. So I’ll tuck my complaints away to share only with those who agree with me that we’ll be a shoulder for each other to cry on, and I’ll leave the remaining shoulders dry. Easy to say, I know, especially only two paragraphs after having vented about what staffing issues look like pretty much everywhere now, but with any luck, all of you have a Delete button that remains intact.
My other intention: I’m doubling down on just trying to do kindnesses where I can. For now, that means bringing food to the inhabitants of several apartment buildings run by Compass Affordable Housing, and I have a great number of you to thank for enabling us to do this.
My third intention: I’ll take my pleasures where I can get them. Tomorrow that means attending our wine tasting, be it in person or virtually, and you’re welcome to join us.
Beyond that, I’ll just look out for my buddies here at Feast as best I can, be they coworkers or be they guests, those I’ve known for years, and those who are new to me. And when they rattle my cage, I’ll pause for a moment, take a breath, and shut my trap.