It’s come to this: I’m cleaning out deep fat fryers with a dish cloth and window cleaner spray.
My supervisor is a small weasel of a man and as we talk we hold onto available surfaces for support as the floors are slippery with oil. I know George Orwell had to deal with things like this in his Paris kitchen but he didn’t have deep fat fryers to contend with.
Today I’m in a sports stadium kitchen where a fine layer of grease covers everything, even the previous layers of grease. Over time this fatty strata has softened all corners and edges and even glued certain objects such as a wooden chopping board and a telephone into place. I wipe around them then give up like everyone before me. You’d think sports fans wouldn’t care what they eat or what they pay but this is clearly not true as many leave their food and drink in disgust at the till once they see the final price. I know this because earlier in the evening I was manning one of the tills where the notes stacked up at a frightening rate; it’s a license to print money. I got a total of three dollars forty in tips from customers who recognised me as a person rather than just a faceless school drop out. I was running through what luxury items I could purchase with my hard earned tips…
One and a half shoelaces.
Doggy treats from Aldi.
A little book of hugs (damaged).
…when my supervisor came over and told me that I wasn’t allowed tips and must add my three dollars forty to the till.
So now in revenge I scoff some cardboard tasting chicken, a few chips and a bottle of Powerade in the walk-in fridge unit while he’s busy doing something else. The fridge unit is freezing – funny that – and although I’m afraid of getting shut in here I stay until I’ve finished swallowing. Calm down, calm down, I’ve just noticed there’s a bell to ring if I do get forgotten.
The punters are watching the football match now so I walk round with a broom – this is the true pro’s ‘look busy’ ploy – and try and strike up a conversation with the two Indian sub continent guys in the kitchen. They seem nice enough but I have to ask them to repeat everything they say three times before being no closer to comprehension. We resort to smiling or waving required items at each other: ketchup, twenty cent pieces, rubber gloves…
Outside it’s a balmy evening and football teams Melbourne Hearts are playing Melbourne Victory in glorious evening sun. I’m quite suddenly clocked off by my supervisor so I sneak out into the stands to catch the last of the game. I spend twenty minutes watching quality football. It’s a derby, a piece of manufactured rivalry and sure enough, later on there’s a punch up between the factions on the station platform.
But I’m jumping ahead. Before the fight, before the train station, after clocking off, whilst watching the game, as if by magic the weasel reappears and asks me to clock back on and clean the deep fat fryers. I think this is where we came in.