Michishige Kaito

About being happy at work

It’s no secret that I work in fast food to make ends meet. I got into it some ten years ago, to make it through a rough patch… and I’ve been doing it ever since, on and off. Two years here, two years there, four years yonder. I spent a few years in IT in the middle, but when that went sour, the next job I landed was fast food again. I hate it, but it seems I’m good enough at it to get hired.

My current job consists of covering other people during their vacations, and their weekly off days. This means I work 3 days a week most of the time, with occasional stretches of around 30 days nonstop, which I call “workathons”.

Workathons are really rough. As most food industry jobs, this one is very physical. This place is busier than your average McDonald’s by a far stretch, and everything is hand made, fresh, and caringly cooked. There are days I think it’s a stretch to call it “fast food”, but hamburgers and fries are that, no matter how much work goes into it. Working for weeks without getting a break eventually turns into an infinite loop of work-sleep-eat-repeat.

Just today, I’m on my first day off after a kitchen duty workathon. The “kitchen” simply takes care of preparing everything that’s needed to work. As the only person in the kitchen, it takes me a couple hours every day to get things ready for business. This has to be done before opening shop, evidently. This means 2-3 hours overtime. Every day. Unpaid. Stressful. Thankless.

During downtime, everyone else on staff sits at the bar, having coffee, talking about football and women, or watching TV. Not the kitchen guy. He (or me, until yesterday) gets to chop lettuce and tomatoes, marinate meat, prepare sauces. During busy times, the kitchen is just as busy as everyone else, because that’s where fries and smoothies are done. And let me tell you, the locals love them some fries and smoothies.

Despite everything, I go to great lengths to make sure that all food is fresh and carinly prepared. After all, even the smallest portion of fries is fated to end up in someone’s mouth. You just don’t fuck around with that. You just don’t.

We who prepare the food care. The boss doesn’t. And he actually works as one of two servers, so he’s in the middle of the fray with us, instead of being some detached and distant entity that shows up for payroll once a month. He gets just as stressed as everyone else. And he doesn’t care about stuff like quality. He just wants people served and getting the fuck out to make space for more people.

But hand made food takes a while to be prepared. Things have to cook, bread needs to be heated, things stacked on it after it heats. Smoothies need time to blend, despite being in a $300 blender that’s hell on wheels. When an order comes in with 7 different smoothies, and I have two blenders, there’s no way around it taking me some five minutes to get them ready.

Let that sink in. It takes me five minutes to blend seven delicious smoothies, with fresh fruit, perfect milk/sugar/fruit ratio, and perfect serving presentation. I’m sorry for tooting my horn like this, but it’s taken me years of serious practice to get this good. But boss wants everything faster. And then, even faster.

Sundays are incredibly busy between eight and eleven pm. Nobody wants to cook, and everybody needs to be in bed by twelve, because Monday morning is around the corner. That means that a metric truck load of people are going to order takeout all at once. And I only have two blenders and two massive deep friers. And two hands. Two very fucking busy hands.

This last sunday, I had a queue of 43 portions of fries. Every basket of fries makes 4 portions. Every basket takes about 3 minutes to fry properly. Do the math. It’s not my fucking fault you had to wait an hour, mate.

Customer has to wait. Customer gets angry, complains to boss. Boss shows up in the kitchen where a very stressed guy is running around, sweating, cursing, and generally giving death stares to random objects while trying to stay afloat in a sea of smoothies and fries and lettuce and tomatoes.

Boss asks me “what the fuck is wrong with those fries? They gonna get out today or what?”. I just glare at him and then continue making smoothies while the fries cook.

Since I didn’t reply, he walks over to the deep frying station, lifts the basket out of the boiling oil (splatters it everywhere), and promptly declares “this is ready. get it served”. Dude. That’s not anywhere near ready. That shit is raw. Are you for real? What the fuck, dude? Get out of my kitchen. Now. Don’t touch my shit. Get. Out. Now.

My glare doesn’t have any effect, nor do my silent threats of inminent violence. He’s the boss after all. He doesn’t care.

You want raw fries? Be my guest. It’s your business. I got the queue of 43 portions done in under 20 minutes. Boss was ecstatic with how smooth service went.

And you know what? Nobody complained. They ate all their fucking raw fries, drowned in ketchup and mayo. And then asked for seconds.

After ten years of fast food, I feel like an idiot for caring, for getting stressed over making perfect fries and smoothies and hamburgers and hot dogs. Nobody cares. And when I care, I get laughed at, I get scolded by my boss, and I just drown in the sheer amount of work that keeps on coming.

You’re having your fries raw as of today. Go fuck yourself.