So this is how it went down:
The first time I see chef walking through the kitchen this afternoon I cheerily say hi, and then ask him for a minute of his time. We go and stand by the flour bin by the back door.
"Um, Mike and I need next Monday and Tuesday off, chef," I say.
Chef winces. "Ooooh...why do you need them off, and if you say it's for a baseball game you can go and fuck off." Wow. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. How did chef know? I should know by now, chef goes everywhere and knows everything.
"It's for a baseball game," I answer, chewing on my lip. Chef takes a breath. Steps back. Stands up straighter.
"We're going to be busy on Monday! We already have 50 people on the books, it's the busy season! I tell everyone - I tell the sous chefs - everyone - no more days off now. We have to work. And you want days off to go to a fucking baseball game? It's just baseball! It's just a fucking game!"
"I'll work six days a week for you for the rest of my life," I weakly offer, completely ready to beg.
"I give you all the days off that you ask me for all the time, don't I?"
"Now you come to me today and tell me that you need two days off next week, in the busy season? What am I supposed to do?"
"I already paid for the tickets," I practically whisper.
"Oh, that's real smart. Now what, now I have to give you the days off?" Chef looks at me, demanding an answer. "A fucking baseball game is more important than your career, than your paycheck??" Again I have no answer. He stares me down. I don't look away. "I'll see what I can do, I can't promise you anything," he says, and stalks off.
So. That went swimmingly, I think as I return to my station, my face feeling numb, my stomach in a knot. Kevin gives me a quick look and can read my expression like a book. He sidles close to me and murmers "What did he say?" I just shake my head. I frown. "Not good," I manage. "Dude, you're still going, aren't you? You have to, it's the World Series! He doesn't understand, the French don't like baseball." I nod, but I'm by and large disconsolate. Prep time crawls by.
Jonathan, the sous chef, approaches me later. "Look, don't say anything to anyone about the fact that I helped you get those plane tickets." (Jonathan got us a good deal on his Expedia.com account and is therefor aiding and abetting us in pissing chef off.) "Everything is cool, but you're going to have a discussion with chef about it later, you and Mike. Just deal with it, I know it's hard, but you're going to get the days off, okay?"
Oh great. A discussion. In chef's office.
"You did the right thing," Jonathan said, and clapped me on the back. "Remember what we talked about? Life isn't all just about showing up to work and earning a buck."
Easy for him to say.
After family meal is over, Kevin and I are setting up our station for service. Chef walks down the line. "I want to see you and Mike up in my office." Here we go. Kevin looks at me as I walk away, and out of the corner of my eye I see him pound his chest over his heart with his fist, sign language for "Stay strong, bro." Mike and I follow chef up to his office, sit down, close the door. Chef sits behind his desk.
In a nutshell:
- we are impulsive, irresponsible and wreckless
- baseball is stupid and unimportant
- don't we care about our paychecks, our careers?
- James (old sous chef from NYC) likes baseball as much as we do, do we think that he goes off and leaves everytime the Yankees make the World Series? (I want to say something like, well, he'd get to go every fucking year, then, but this is definitely not the time for jokes.) No, James doesn't, because James is responsible, he has a family, he has a job. He needs to make money.
- once again, there is nothing important about a game of baseball
"Sir, this is a dream of ours...we may never get a chance to do it again. When I started cooking, working here was a dream of mine, and I made it happen. This is another chance I have, and I feel like I can't turn it down. This job, this restaurant - it's so important to me. I have so much respect for you that I would never intentionally make you mad, sir. I apologize. I know baseball's not important, but it's important to us."
- we are irresposible
- baseball is stupid
- what if the restaurant was going to do an insane amount of business? Who would work our stations for us?....
"So." Chef says. I wait for the hammer to drop. "You can have Monday and Tuesday off, then you come back to work on Wednesday, and if this shit happen again you will fly off without your paychecks, you understand?" Nods all around. "Okay, now get back to work." We leave the office as fast as possible.
You know what? Chef is right. I'll admit it. It is wreckless to just spend $500 dollars that we don't have and go up to a city for a baseball game for which we don't have any ticket nor hope of getting tickets just to stand around on the street outside of the stadium and get drunk. It's selfish and ill-advised to put chef in the position of having to juggle the schedule around for us. We do know better. It is the restaurant industry, after all. And the busy season is approaching. Chef was absolutely right about it all except one thing:
Baseball does matter. The Red Sox matter. I wouldn't miss this opportunity for the world.
When we walked back into the kitchen and I returned to my station, Kevin gave me the "What's up?" look.
"It's on," I say.
"Would you care to elaborate?" he asks.
"Fenway Park, Sunday, World Series. It's on."
Thursday, October 21, 2004
So this is how it went down: