Friday, November 19, 2010

A Day Today

I am glue. I am duct tape. I am glue. I repeat this to myself all day, like a mantra. I am glue. I am duct tape. I can help hold together the machine, but it is not my job to fix it, nor can I change the intrinsic nature of the machine. I am glue.
It has been a day. A day and a half of a day and still a double at work tomorrow and brunch (oh fuck a bunch of brunch) on Sunday, and I have yet to have my supper. (Which is soup. Which is simmering on the stove. I love soup. I love it so much I think I'll marry it.) I fired someone today.
I should say WE fired someone, because I am not the boss (I am glue) but I am the manager and I hired the man so it fell to me (I am duct tape) to let him go.
It was like breaking up with someone I never really liked in the first place. It was something I wanted to do, something I needed to do, but not a comfortable thing, no, and dreams were shattered. His dream of having a job. His dream of having a job where he could play with his phone all day, come in late, and disappear for long periods of time for whatever reason to do whatever it is he did. He asked for another chance. He was shocked, confused, hurt. He said he didn't understand, and that this was so unexpected. An hour after he left he called and asked again if there was anything he could do to change my mind. No, I said. I am sorry, I said.
There is that, and then there is this illness that is going around. Our sous chef was out sick and told me today that he threw up thirty times on Tuesday night. Thirty times! I did not ask if he actually kept count, although that is what I was thinking. Not that I didn't believe him but that is a pretty high number, and you'd think you would lose track around ten or so. He also said that he had a 103.9 fever. I told him that I was glad he was not brain damaged, and he concurred. His mother, our lady boss, has also been sick, which is why there was a reservation taken for 15 people in a private room for today at noon and no one told me. (I am glue.) Generally, when there is a private party on the books I schedule another server to take care of them. Today I took the party, as well as tables in the dining room and on the patio. The luncheon was a meeting of judges, and God forbid I ever get arrested (again) and have to stand before one of them because surely they will remember how I was tardy in refilling the iced tea and took forever to get their checks. There's a certain amount of pressure to get checks to people anyway, but when those people are expected in court, it ups the ante a bit.
The day shift ended as smoothly as it could, considering, and then the dinner crew started showing up. I sat and worked on the schedule for Thanksgiving week. I talked to the bosses about how the firing went, and how the judges were. I talked to the servers about the change of staff. A chef needed to talk about a hostess who sassed him. Our bar manager wanted an ear for her troubles with the bar staff. I explained to our new manager? office manager? assistant manager? about why it is necessary to put people on a wait sometimes, even when there are empty tables. I worked on the schedule some more. I made phone calls and cajoled the people who are not going out of town to work doubles over that weekend. I even made up a song about it to make it seem more fun. I said, over and over again, It will be Fine. It will be Great. I said Thank you, I love you. I filled in the head chef about the goings-on and we talked for a bit about his mom, who had passed early this week. It is very sad, and I told him that I was sorry to bring it up during dinner service but I didn't want to pretend I didn't know or that it did not happen. He said that it was alright, he thinks about it all the time anyway, and we agreed that it is nice to say things out loud. I hugged him, and I had never hugged him before, and it was sweet and funny.
I also hugged one of the hostesses when I saw her in the hallway as she came in and we both leaned into each other and sighed. She is a hostess, but she is also my baby sister's best friend and she is one of my little girls and her tiny bones are precious to me. It was good to see her face.
When our new server showed up to train for dinner I said, Hello Sexy-Pants! Come here so I can sexy your pants! Which doesn't make sense but makes sense for us because we have worked together before at another restaurant. To another server I said, No more talking. I don't even want to see your lips moving as if you are talking. Come move your face into my hand so I can slap you without moving my hand. Then I said, I love you. I am leaving now. And I hugged him too.
Then it was time for me to leave and so I walked around gathering my things and I hugged all the other servers. I told them all thank you, and I wished them a good night. I hope everyone is nice and you make lots of money. That is what we tell each other, and we laugh because we know not everyone will be nice and the money will be what it is on a chilly night a week before Thanksgiving.
There are things I can do, and there are things I cannot do. I can listen when people need to say what is resting heavy in them. I can reassure and be calm, even when I know that we will get our asses handed to us as we often do. I can work like a beast. I can tell people I love them. I can do that. And that is something that is not in my job description but it is something that, when said and meant, establishes loyalty and trust. They know that I will never ask something of them that I am not willing to do myself. I tell them they are beautiful, because they are so beautiful.
Here is the thing (I am duct tape): if you do your job well, people will tell you and thank you, but if you do your job really well, they will hardly notice what you do at all. That is the goal. That is the prize. To move through a space all the way to the end and touch but to not leave a mark, and when it is time to walk through the door everyone is smiling. I can't always do this, but when I can it is so fine.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I went to vote yesterday and it was easy. There was no line, I just walked right in, showed the nice ladies my ID, got my ballot, filled it out, received my sticker, and walked back out the door. It's not as good as at my last precinct which was held at an old folks home and the ladies there would give you baked treats and day-old bread from Publix, but still, pretty sweet.
It got me thinking about change, about Change, and about how a few years ago we rallied as a nation and went out and voted for Change and we did it, yes we did it, Yes We Did. Lately I've been hearing talk and grumbling about "Where is the Change?", as if people feel cheated, as if they thought they voted for a Superman and what they got was a man, just a man, and how could that be? I don't understand this. Or I do, I do in my heart, because I know that the grumbling and the rumbling start with people who never voted for the change at all, they just dress in sheep's clothes and start up the whispering of dissatisfaction and that whispering is a mighty tool in our country. People like to talk shit, they like to rail, they like to repeat things that sound cool and smart without really having to think about things, or come up with anything original. Sometimes it works for one side (Yes We Can) and sometimes it works for the other (Where's My Goddamned Change?) but for whomever and wherever it works, it does. It's a game of sides, and I am tired of the game but there it is.
We are a swiftly tilting boat on choppy water and whenever we list to one side everyone runs to the other, and then someone shouts a panic and we all move on back, and the whole time there are whispers that the Captain is to blame, but it is a boat, and will list, and will tilt, and if we were listening to the Captain we wouldn't be running back and forth to begin with.
Real Change doesn't come fast, we know that. We like to think it does. We want the Slim-Fast and then we want the Ultra Slim-Fast. We want American Idol, we want the magic bullet, the two weeks to whiter teeth, the rocket to stardom, the lottery ticket to make us instant millionaires, we want it, we want it fast, we want it now. We are told that it is not only possible, but it is The American Way. We want what we want without having to actually change anything we like at all. That is why we are not happy with our Captain right now. Change is slow, and we might have to compromise.
When I was at Heartwood Institute taking classes in acupressure and Chinese medicine, my teacher told us that it would not be easy to get our clients to change. He said that people are sick the way they are because of the lifestyles they lead, and they like these lifestyles or they wouldn't live like that. So much of what makes us sick is that which we enjoy. To be healthy one often must have a deep internal change before a physical one is possible. If you develop diabetes because you love cake, and you are given cake your whole life to make you feel better and to make you happy, you must learn to love more than cake. If you don't, you can still stop eating cake but you might grow to be irritable and discontent. Or you don't stop eating cake, and you lose a foot. It is that simple on paper but I don't mean to be insensitive. We are not simple beings, the things we love, the things that we are attached to are deep within us, and make us who we are. To change who we are is difficult indeed. Sometimes impossible. I think we can all recognize that.
So if we cannot stop eating cake to save our lives, why do we expect one man to change a nation as quickly as one may change his socks? We love our money, we love our things, we love our air conditioning and our very fast and big cars, we love to bitch and blame and whisper. We love to have our Own, and God bless the child whose got his own, but where does that leave the child without?
Chinese Medicine also taught me that you cannot separate the body to heal it. If your head hurts, rub your feet. They are connected, it is one body. We are starting to understand this in Western medicine as well. If you have a sore throat and you are given antibiotics, the doctor may tell you to take a probiotic to replenish the flora in your digestive system. A sore throat and a stuffy nose are far away from a colon or a vagina, but they are connected and they affect the whole. It is a marvelous and complicated thing, the body. So too is a nation. Far too complicated for me to figure out.
I see how poverty provides a breeding ground for desperation, which in turn creates an environment ripe for fear and violence. I see how well funded schools feed minds and health care protects bodies and these two things are essential in ensuring our people a way up and out of poverty. It is common sense and yet it does not pay out as fast as giving money to big business and funding oil companies and creating bigger and better weapons to protect our giant assets. To improve the health of our nation we would do right to invest in the health and wellness of our children. Which of course would take generations to see any return on said investment and by that time those of us sitting here now will be dead and we are really really loathe to make any sort of changes that may improve things after we die.
The very smart and the very rich know these things, but we don't listen to the very smart and it is not to the advantage of the very rich to acknowledge them. The very rich are also safe in that the big picture is far too big to grasp in a satisfactory way. The money that it would take, the man power and the changes it would take to truly and properly fix our nation's ills are so vast that the human mind simply cannot grok it. I am an average human being, not stupid, not brilliant, and my mind makes a strange shift and shimmy when I try to imagine that sort of magnitude. I don't know what to do.
So I vote. I vote for people who seem to have the people's best interests at heart. I vote for the people who have fine minds and some sort of soul, who see this nation as one body, and who want to make some healing happen.
The people who have made the greatest contributions to change for the better do not live to see the full manifestation of those changes, but they do it anyway. Because they care, because they are far thinkers, because they passionately believe in what is right. Even when great and fast changes have been made it takes a very long time for us to sink into them and feel them. President Lincoln didn't just say, "I'm going to kick it up a notch. BAM! I freed the slaves!" and then everything was equal. It took people time and time again to fight and pray and speak and march and die and new people to be born in a different world to make an even more different world and still it is not perfect. That change is still happening.
I voted for my President because he spoke of change, but also because he is smart. I voted for him because he loves his family so clearly, and therefore I know he is capable of love. I voted for him because he speaks of health before he speaks of wealth and because he stands tall and is proud in his body, as I hope he is proud of our nation. Because I am not a foot or a hand, but I am my whole body. And I am not one person, I am a family, I am a city, I am a nation.
It took us a very long time to get sick, and it may take us a very long time to get well, and I am sure as hell not going to damn the man who I believe is going to fight with all he's got to make us better. No matter how long it takes.