Sunday, 5 May 2013

Life as a Rubbish Catering Assistant, Part the First

The adventures of an undeserving employee

This just cries out for some googly eyes
Picture the scene: a little less than a year ago, I shuffled to my job interview at a cafe in the centre of Glasgow dressed largely like a Mafia henchman on Atkins. My suit (and by ‘my suit’ I mean ‘my brother’s suit’ (and by ‘my brother’s suit’ I mean ‘my temporarily commandeered formalwear’)) was far, far oversized and hung off my sweaty arms like a wizard’s robe. 

I was more than a little nervous - and being at the best of times endowed with the sociability of an Asperger’s-afflicted brick, feeling like the Coat-hanger Incarnate wasn’t boosting morale much. Nevertheless, I continued my bold shuffle to the till and squeakily announced my presence.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about the interview itself. Ushered over to a table at the corner of the cafe, the interview lasted maybe six or seven minutes; the longest question asked of me was probably a tie between  “can you work saturdays?” and “do you have any questions for us?”; and, best of all, both the friendly interviewers pretended to ignore the gathering puddle of perspiration that began to create a moat between us and the rest of the room.

I may be exaggerating.

A few hours later, I was given a call inviting me to take the job as a part-time catering assistant asking whether I could come in the next day for a ‘little induction’. 

And so it came to pass the anti-social brick was hired. You can’t help but wonder who else was interviewed.

Fast forward twenty hours, and I was on the other side of the counter and staring in wide-eyed horror as my first customer approached, whistling and grinning mildly to himself. 

What if he wants a coffee?” I wondered, my eyes momentarily stopping flicking for an escape route and instead zoned in at the coffee machine (which may well have spent its spare time moonlighting NASA’s spare remote control). All the while, the man was meandering closer. 

My brain kicked itself into a frenzied overdrive: 

That machine looks way too complicated to be a coffee maker- Maybe I could wield one of those filter handles instead - battle my way out - go into hiding - find a nice cave somwhere-”

Having worked myself to this panic, It took me a few seconds to realise the whistling, grinning man was now standing opposite and looking right at me. A few seconds silence. Some more. His grey-black hair were ruffled into a baseball cap and his knuckles were blithely rapping a drumbeat on the countertop. Some more silence. Why? It had suddenly struck me I had no idea what I was supposed to say to him. 

My mind seemed to be drawing a blank on one of the most simple questions posed.

“How can I help?” I mentally tested alternatives, “What can I get you?”. 

The man had stopped whistling, letting his fingers drum the tune off into silence, and it was here my mind decided and leapt into action. My lips parsed, and

“What do you want?”

Gloriously burst forth. 

It wasn’t, on reflection, the politest of enquiries. My eyes bulged at the blunder and I tried to smooth the rudeness out with a smile, but found my facial muscles had packed up and headed south for the next several decades.

The cap-wearing whistler, however, luckily turned out to be a regular - if ‘regular’ encompasses people who exist in a state of tea-drinking hibernation - and didn’t really notice my complete lack of social protocol. He grinned again absent-mindedly. “Tea please”, he said. Tea was served, the next customer hopefully felt a little less interrogated.

Serving drinks to customers, though, was only half of my new job’s requirements. Compared to my dishwashing, in fact, each muscle spasm seemed a BAFTA-nominating smile. Thus, after half an hour so of customer-intimidating I was steered back through the kitchen, acquainted with the essentials of a dishtowel, pointed to the little hole in the wall where dishes came through and was given a go at drying. 

The problem herewasn’t that the dishes weren’t being cleaned properly - it was the opposite. Engulfed with the possibility that I was the Guardian of Hygiene, the sole gateway between a customer and potential sickness, I entered a state of OCD where I made absolutely sure each cup and saucer and teaspoon had been blitzed enough that it was the cleanest utensil this side of central station. This is all laudable but meant the inflow of dirtied dishes weren’t making the outflow look bad as much as holding the outflow’s lunch money above its head and giving it a serious wedgie.

I may have, once, spent a few minutes wondering if I could build a happy place out of porcelain and plastic trays.

Thus ends part the first of my adventures - it is exam time after all. Tune in next week for part the second

which includes such highlights as prophecy conferences, dancing with milk, and accidentally insulting the obese.

Or you might enjoy another blog! -

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