14
Mar
07

Now, There’s a Man Who Gets Into His Work

The person on the other side of the counter is often so full of bile and vitriol that I have to check under the bun to make sure there isn’t a razor blade or thumbtack nestled between the lettuce and the tomato. If they spit in it, I’d probably never know. And it’s nothing I’ve done; I’m just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be disgruntled. They may have a perfectly good reason. Her shifts are too long, monotonous, soulless. He’s frustrated he’s not doing something else. She’s mad at her boyfriend. She’s not getting paid enough to put up with this crap.

Maybe they’re just lazy and insolent.

Here’s some insight:

Whatever it is, they sure can suck the fun out of the lives around them.

Last night at a pizza place in O’Hare airport, we ordered two pepperoni pizzas. The woman behind the counter looked back at us for about five seconds, without addressing us, before turning to the kitchen and yelling, “Yo, A. Need you up front,” and then disappearing into the kitchen herself.

A man I presume to be A stepped through the kitchen doorway and stood at the cash register taking turns looking at each us patiently waiting, waiting, waiting for … something. Pizza, maybe. His huge, brown eyes rolled silently back and forth, stopping on each of us, expectant. They said, “Yeah? … What?” far more eloquently than I would have expected him to say with words.

Jeff stepped forward. “Two pepperoni pizzas. And two root beers.”

A snapped into action.

Later, when I returned to ask a third employee for two plastic forks, he slowly reached into the bin, grabbed one and handed it to me.

“Uh, can I have two?” I said.

Sometimes, though, they can work past the routine crap and have fun with their dull jobs. Like tonight. We got the old “if you see something, say something” speech on the F train into Queens tonight, but the conductor gave it a little panache.

If you see something, don’t be scurred and keep it to yourself. Tell a New York City police officer or an MTA employee. We may not be New York’s finest, but make no mistake, we run this town. Always have, always will. M. T. A.

Why shouldn’t this guy be disgruntled, too, like many of his colleagues? Maybe he was, but his theatrical interlude was ironically one of the clearest examples of professionalism I’d witnessed in quite some time.

Next stop on this Queens-bound F train is the bridge, the bridge, the br- br- br- br- br- br- bridge. Queensbridge.

In place of the usual grey faces of the ride home, most everyone who was listening had a smile. I imagine the conductor did, too.

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the untallied hours

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