Tag: jobs

Back in the Kitchen

Yesterday marked the first day of the summer session for the summer learning program my wife runs.  Rather than teaching in the program, I’ve opted for volunteering in the kitchen.  I’ve written about it before, so you wouldn’t think I ‘d have much new to say.  I don’t, but that won’t stop me from detailing the day.  

Yesterday was our first time back in full lunch mode since the summer of 2019.  The following summer, the program ran in a fully remote mode, and last summer, half of the kids ate in their classrooms with boxed lunches, so that they could maintain safe social distancs.  The kids who used the dining hall used paper plates and plastic utensils.  Nevermind the social, environmental or financial costs of this plan, this meant that I had to go another summer without the industrial dishwasher, the springy rinsing faucet, and the challenge of the ten-plate grab.  

Yesterday was opening day for 2022, and it lived up to my anticipation.  I bounded into the kitchen, fist-bumped with Carlos, the kitchen supervisor, William, the chef, and Terry, my lunch distributing partner from last summer.  I washed my hands according to regulations, dried them thoroughly so the latex gloves wouldn’t catch, and I was ready to go.  Carlos gave everyone the rundown on the day’s menu and presented the quick version of the hygiene talk, and pretty soon the kindergarten-to-fourth grade customers arrived.  I had two new volunteers on my side.   I was able to pass along the wisdom I’d gained from previous summers:  When using the toothed tongs for serving the plain pasta, it works best to invert the tongs so the toothed side is facing up.  That way the noodles don’t get caught in the teeth. Nothing worse than clogged tongs.  They were very grateful.  We estimated a 17 percent time save for our customers.

I was stuck serving the peas and the garlic bread.  Peas are problematic for several reasons.  For one, they are not popular with kids.  I had to offer each one, of course, only to be rejected by 85 percent of the customers.  Another unfortunate aspect of serving the peas is the articulation challenge.  Wearing a mask as I was, I found it challenging to make “peas” sound different from “please” or even “fleas.”   Several kids thought I was correcting their manners. “Oh, sorry, garlic bread PLEASE.”  Others said, “Please, what?”  They had no idea what I was requesting from them.  Correcting their misunderstandings may have negated the savings from the tong inversion.  Such are the challenges of the serving line.

Fortunately, serving merely serves as the prelude to dishwashing.  As the eating time wound down, my heart began to pound.  I bid farewell to my new serving partners and strode to the adjacent room.  It had been two years, but it felt like much longer.  I swapped my serving gloves for a new pair and slowly, reverently approached my old friend, the industrial dishwasher.  I patted its stainless steel face and gazed into its pale blue power light.  “Hello, old friend.  It’s been too long.”  Terry had already powered her up, so she hummed her response.  For such a sleek and impressive machine, the dishwasher remains humble and stoic., always accepting the dirty plates and utensils without complaint, blasting, sudsing, rinsing, and drying without complaint.  As the first crate of cleaned plates emerged, shining and scalding hot on the conveyor belt, I paused to admire her work, waiting the requisite 15 seconds for the plate temperature to drop from molten lava to merely hot.  Then it was finally time for the first attempt at the ten-plate grab.  Five fingers from each hand descended between the plates on the front and back row, then clamped together, grasped, and hoisted.  Unfortunately, I was clearly out of practice.  Fortunately, I had resisted the urge to announce my first attempt of the summer, so no one else witnessed my embarrassment  as two plates slipped from the grasp of my right hand.  The plates fell unharmed back into the conveyor crate.  Still, it took two trips to the counter, not one, to empty the crate.  I vowed to do better on my next attempt.  I never succeeded.   Another consequence of the pandemic. The layoff had clearly taken its toll.

Today, on day 2, I shall renew my quest.  I will also try to avoid pulling out the utensil soaking tray that I mistakenly thought had a water-tight floor.  It did not.  Terry was very understanding  about the tsunami that I created in his kitchen.  “It’s okay.  You’re just a little rusty,” he said, reassuring me.  It was good to be back in the kitchen, among friends.

Tough Decisions

I probably shouldn’t try to write this, because I probably won’t finish it.  But, foolishly, here I go anyway.

Sarah has had enough. Enough with her current job, enough with having Lyme, enough with living in her childhood bedroom, and, like all of us, enough with the pandemic.  In her mind, she is stuck in neutral, and she would like to pop her life into drive.  I don’t blame her.  She’s been very responsible during this pandemic, avoiding travel, parties, and even smaller social interactions.  She has worried that she would either bring the virus to the patients she works with at the eye doctor or she’d bring the virus from work to her friends.  

She had applied to a lot of schools to become a physician assistant, but hasn’t gotten any acceptances.  It has been a discouraging experience.  Likewise, living with Lyme for this past year has been both painful and frustrating.  She has headaches, muscle aches, and numbness, and those symptoms come and go, switch locations, and vary in severity.  She’s never missed work, but she has had days where it has been really hard push through.  She’s had a variety of different treatments prescribed, and none have worked thus far.  Now she sees a doctor in NYC, who has seemed very knowledgeable, but to this point, she hasn’t seen much of a change. It is, as one might imagine, affecting her spirit and her mental health.

So, when she applied for a new job on Thursday, and got immediate calls the next morning, when she was able to schedule two interviews for that evening, and when she then got two job offers within an hour, she was feeling pretty pumped for the first time in a long time.  

But there was a hitch.

The job offers were for jobs in Oregon.  That’s a mere 3000 miles from where we live.  On top of that, the job she really liked starts on April 5, and, oh by the way, they need an answer on Monday.  

This wouldn’t allow Sarah much chance to give fair notice to the doctor she works for.  It also would mean she needs to get her car across the country.  It also would mean that she probably needs to find a new doctor.  She’s not sure how common Lyme is on the West Coast.  We know it’s not just a Connecticut thing, but are there specialists there?  She’s only been seeing this current doctor for three months.  She’s worried that if she turns down the jobs, there won’t be other offers. The job market is not exactly terrific right now. She worries that turning it down will mean she’s just sentenced herself to a longer time in her current situation.  

Selfishly, I don’t really want her going all the way across the country.  Neither does my wife. We’re concerned about her health, both physical and emotional. I’m not so sure she’ll like being so far from her friends, most of whom are local or in New York or Washington. 

I’m reminded of the foolish decisions I’ve made, some of which I’ve regretted, and others that turned out much better than I had expected.  As a 15-year-old in my last summer at camp, I turned down a week-long canoe trip  in Canada’s La Verendrye Preserve because I had a bad hunch about the person I was going to be stuck in a canoe with.  I skipped the trip. Those who went still talk about it. That was a regrettable move. 

When I was six-months out of college, I made a decision to move back to my college town without a job lined up. I gave up a boring job in Washington so that I could be nearer to my girlfriend, who wouldn’t graduate for another 6 months. It was a risky move, though my destination was more like 300 miles away and to a place I knew well, not Oregon. It was also not during a pandemic, and I was in good health. Even so, it may not have seemed like a wise move to my parents, but then again, I’m still married to that girl.  I don’t regret that seemingly rash decision. 

More recently, as I wrote this week, my family made an emotional decision (as opposed to a rational one) to get a puppy last March.  It was neither sensible nor practical, but it turned out to save our year.  

It’s hard to counsel a child without injecting your own biases.  The truth is, I don’t know what she should do. My heart says that I don’t want to lose my daughter to the West Coast. I don’t want her to be isolated. I don’t want her to be by herself when she’s sick. On the other hand, some of my experiences say that taking  a risk is what young people need to do.  

I started this post saying, “I probably shouldn’t try to write this, because I probably won’t finish it. ”

“But, foolishly, here I go anyway.”

Post Script: This evening Sarah informed me that she didn’t plan to take the job. She may be a bit more sensible than her father.