Ah, shift meal: how do I love thee? You never know what you’re going to get when you eat whatever the cooks feel like making. But we eat it. Not only because it’s free but because it will give us energy and sustenance to make it through our shift and give our customers the service they so rightly deserve. I work in a restaurant with an open kitchen so “grazing” is next to impossible since the kitchen is about two feet away from the customers. On the off chance that I can snag a piece of food, I have to run to the dish room and inhale it before the manager sees me “stealing” from him. I depend on the shift meal. The one that was produced for me last week was something I have never seen before and I hope to never see again. It looked like Turkey Tetrazzini but instead of turkey they used shredded dark meat chicken that was covered in a layer of melancholy and instead of tetrazzini they used vomit that came from my dog after he takes his monthly heart worm medication. Good God, just make me butter and pasta and I’ll be a happy bitch.
I get to work at 4:00 and stay until midnight. If I don’t eat that shift meal at 4:30, then by 9:00 my body will force itself to eat whatever I can scrounge from a bus tub. Since I generally frown upon eating leftover bites of tilapia and french fries, I eat the shift meal. I looked at the steaming bowl of confusion that the cook had made for me. I never want to sound unappreciative but I needed details. “Um, what is this?”
“Is good,” said the cook. “I make.” And that concludes the description of my shift meal.
I picked up the bowl and pulled out my reading glasses for a closer inspection. I was able to identify some pasta and what appeared to be a green bean. I asked for extra parmesan and got myself a huge glass of water to wash it down with. If all else fails, I could simply swallow it without chewing and hope for the best. My first bite was a noodle. It was fine. My second bite was indeed a green bean. It too was fine. My third bite was chicken and it clucked when I bit into it. I decided right then that my shift meal had come to an end. As it went into the trash can, I heard the meal ask, “Hey why did I cross the road?” I walked past the cook who had served it to me only forty-five seconds before and I assured him how delicious it was. “Mucho bueno pollo, señor. Gracias.” I then went right to the sidestand to locate my emergency rations for the evening: a piece of bread, another piece of bread, and yet another piece of bread. A long night of hunger at the restaurant was ahead of me.
Isn’t it ironic that so many times we are at work serving plate after plate of food, we never get to eat it? There have been countless times that my mouth watered as I served a bowl of mac and cheese. Or I wanted to bury my face in a mound of french fries right in front of a customer. However, I am pro. I push my hunger away and focus on the task at hand: serving food to my customers. Never mind that I am starving. Never mind that tomorrow’s shift meal will probably be a stew made up of whatever was leftover from last week’s special. I ignore the hunger. For I am a waiter. A bitchy, hungry, angry that I was served some nasty ass bowl of crap for my shift meal, waiter. And from now on, I am also a waiter who never leaves home without a granola bar in my pocket.