I avoid restaurants. Not due to a hygiene fixation, and certainly not because of a weight problem. On the occasion that I do wind up in one of these spirit-crushing, minimum-wage-paying houses of exploitation, I scan the menu and choose the simplest meal.
Anything from the deep fryer is fine with me. As the server takes our orders, I imagine someone about my age, wearing a dirty apron, sweating, in a yellow-lit kitchen, with a classic rock station playing on the fly-encrusted, vintage radio.
Each individual request is greeted by this phantom cook with a grimace of exasperation or a full-hand smack to the forehead, as if with each successive order the customers have wholeheartedly insulted something very deep and personal inside an already bruised ego.
Primordial cook Perhaps I take things too seriously. But more likely it's because I spent over 15 years in the hospitality industry -- everything from hamburgers to haute cuisine.
I still feel a primordial cook inside of me. One who wants to spit on the floor in disgust, wipe a dirty knife with an even dirtier apron to chop unwashed carrots, then sweep out the deep-freezer and put the contents of the dustpan into a pot, simmer for an hour and proudly call it "Winter Vegetable Soup" at $6.75 a bowl.
I can spot an experienced cook a mile away -- nicotine stains, bent knees, feet expecting a wet patch at any moment. Perhaps, tucked away in his wallet, there's a folded piece of paper with the designs for his future establishment, complete with shark tank and pool table.
Fine selection During my student years, I was guaranteed at least one good meal every day, and the things I couldn't eat went into my pockets or down my pants. I have a fine selection of silverware and china, boxes of matches, a beer mug collection and some half-decent patio furniture. I also have flat feet, carpal tunnel syndrome and a chest full of grease and smoke.
One day, when I was working in fine dining, I was summoned by the owner, who bade me follow him into the bright, stuffy men's washroom. Surrounded by the glaring- purple interior, we stared hard and long at a clogged urinal.
Not being too proud, and as a show of his ability, the owner got on his knees and pried the urinal pipe from the wall with his bare hands. We peered inside at the blackness. Finally, the snake was summoned, the kind that's used for drains. We uncoiled the imposing thing and wormed it into the gaping hole.
The owner got a terrific thrill out of pumping the tool back and forth, putting great gusto into the task. He stopped, panting heavily, and craned his red neck against the wall, his eye to the hole.
"I can't see a fucking thing," he rasped. He half-waved his arm, "Here, you try."
I assumed the same position and repeated his demonstration, with perhaps not so much innuendo.
After a while, my thin arm aching, I, too, peered longingly inside the small metal hole.
"Do you see anything?" growled the owner. Close to the wall, I heard a low rumble, which stopped abruptly. The soundless hole gave up nothing until I got as close as I could. Suddenly, a gush of viscous black liquid, complete with half-decomposed pubic hairs, hit me full in the face.
Aghast, I should have closed my mouth. The burst of black bile sent me flat on my back, where I bellowed with rage and humiliation. Amidst my own blubbering and spluttering, I could hear laughter. Eventually, I cleared my eyes of the nasty stuff and found myself staring straight up into the owner's face, happier than I had ever seen him.
"What's so fucking funny?" I shouted, hoarse and coughing, forgetting my station.
"You," he snorted, and pointed a finger at me while holding back an immense laugh. "Ha ha ha ha."
I continued to curse while I pulled myself together.
He sweetly laid a fatherly hand on my shoulder and told me, "There's worse things you can stick your hand into."
"Like what?" I asked, as I started to laugh myself.
"Well," countered the owner, sucking his teeth thoughtfully. "You could have put it in an elephant's cunt."