Oh shift meal, why have you forsaken me? Each day when I arrive at work, I look to the heavens and ask that today be the day I am given something I truly want to eat for a meal rather than the usual bucket of slop that is placed before me. I smile at the kitchen crew as I punch in and I offer them cold beverages in the hope that they will return my act of kindness with a bowl of macaroni and cheese instead of a bowl of macaroni and fuck it. As my sidework nears completion and I find my eyes glancing towards the window to see if they have bestowed upon us our daily meal, I try not to get my hopes up that there will be a hamburger waiting for me.
At last, I see Juan setting our plates in the window, his face beaming with pride over his creation. At least, it appears that his face is prideful, but after today’s meal, I think that may be a face of vengeance. I hesitantly approach the line to see what wonders await me and hopeful that today will be the day I am not disappointed, scared and angered by what appears on my plate, but today is like every other day.
Oh, dear God, what the fuck is that? I recognize chicken and pasta, swimming in a bowl of red. The very sight of the wing answers the age old question of why the chicken crossed the road. It was to get the fuck away from Juan. Was the wing broiled? Boiled? Microwaved? I have no idea. The sauce appears to be one of a cheesy marinara nature, but one taste proves otherwise. It tastes like it was made by squeezing the liquid from a dish rag that had just been used to clean up the menstrual accident of a pygmy rhinoceros in the throes of birthing triplets. The pasta only dreams of being al dente when, in fact, it is much closer to al dead-te. The amount of oil in the bowl is enough to moisturize a small colony of dry-skinned people who live in some arid climate far, far away. I have seen more life-like skin on leather bags at thrift stores than I am seeing on this chicken.
“Thank you, Juan,” I say.
“Fuck you, Juan, “ I think.
Sadly, I retreat to Table 16 to look at my bowl of food and give thanks that I have a Cliff bar in my locker. Yes, it’s a free meal and I should be thankful for it. I know there are children who are starving in other countries who would be grateful for this bowl of boiled chicken wing and pasta with sauce of disgust, but those kids aren’t here right now. If they were, I would gladly feed them this food, honestly, I would. But they aren’t here and I have only one choice and that is to take a few courtesy bites of this shift meal so as not to hurt Juan’s feelings, although he hurts mine almost every day when he feeds me gruel. After I have forced down a piece of pasta and I make sure that no one is around to see me, I pick up my plate and head to the dish-room where it is deposited into the garbage.
This is a regular occurrence, but today, I took a video to so you can fully understand my daily battle with my shift meal. Tomorrow is another day and maybe it will be the one that brings me a simple grilled cheese with french fries or a voucher for a slice of pizza from next door.