Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dog Day Morning, Afternoon, And Evening

I'm not sure how one knows if she is suffering from pneumonia, but if having pneumonia makes you feel like someone is sitting on your chest, well, I have it.

I canceled plans last night to spend the evening with my DVD player and a few mediocre slices of takeout pizza. It wouldn't have mattered; I can't really taste anything anyway.

The reality is that people who work in restaurants almost never get sick. I can count on my hands the number of times I have been truly ill in the past six years, and one of those times was either food poisoning or something closely approximating food poisoning. Like nurses and schoolteachers, restaurant employees come into close contact with germs on a daily basis. And no amount of hand washing or cautionary tactics can prevent those germs from slipping through.

In truth, it's the perfect argument against all of those antibacterial hand sanitizers; if I had less exposure to germs I surely would have been sick more often. If I had killed the bacteria rather than learning to live with it, my immune system would be far less than ironclad.

A few years ago, I worked at a restaurant where the common practice was something we liked to call "eating garbage." This particular restaurant was known for its shared side dishes and steaks and many of the foods came to the table for sharing in small cast iron Staubs. Certain items--the french fries, mushroom caps, asparagus, skirt steak, tater tots, onion rings, and porterhouse, most notably--were returned to the kitchen followed by an army of hungry waiters. At the dish station, servers palmed whatever they could get their hands on and shoved said garbage into their mouths before any manager or sous chef could see them chewing.

When I started my job at said restaurant, I was completely disgusted by the idea of eating other peoples' leftovers. But it didn't take long for the zombie waiters to coerce me. Those onion rings did look beautiful, and they were even more beautiful in the middle of a rush when I had gone hours without eating.

Along with the other servers, I ate garbage for two years. Servers I still speak to from this restaurant confess that they never ate garbage at any other restaurant before this one and they would never do it again. But there, in that moment, at that particular place, it seemed completely normal. Why wouldn't we finish a pre-sliced skirt steak that no one else had touched? Why would we send all of those perfect french fries to uncertain death at the bottom of a pitiful trash bin?

In retrospect, it seems gross. Seriously. We ate garbage. That's how hungry we were. We had been doing it for so long and with such regularity that we didn't even believe that it was wrong to eat garbage. Then again, none of us was ever sick. We had limitless tolerances for germs. We were infallible.

I worked at that restaurant for two years and it was never the garbage that made me sick. I never got sick, not once in two years. Now that I am sick, I can't help but wonder what I should do to get immunity back. Bring on the germs; they're the only ones who can help me now.

Either that, or it's back to the medicine cabinet. TheraFlu might be the next best thing to trash-picking.


HolisticGuru said...

You could try some health food...

ramster said...

or maybe some garbage.

ramster said...

Seriously though, this is interesting. i have a memory from the Nevele, the kosher catskills resort. The food in the dining room there was always awful. I mean, how can you have a decent meal in the abscence of pork, right?

Anyway, i used to attend an annual conference there, and to rescue us from the boiled chicken and carrots we would be treated to a steak barbecue on Monday night. And one year we did witness a man clearing plates, and when he thought no one was watching, scarfing down large strips of uneaten steak. We dubbed him "Grizzle Man".

As awful as that was to see at the time, we had to watch. Couldn't look away. And that was good steak. Not sure I wouldn't do it myself if I worked at the Nevele. Tips sucked too, i am sure this was the only way he was goign to see real meat in his diet.