Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I am sitting in the lobby of my workplace doing some writing before I have to tutor. The lobby is also the sitting area for the food court. Right now, all the food employees are eating lunch before the basketball game starts. The food court is managed by a big giant corporation. The manager is out there in a fancy suit talking to the food workers as if they were five.

"Everyone," she says in a teacher voice. "Yesterday was Debbie's birthday. But we missed it. So we are going to eat CAKE now and celebrate."

The employees look up from their burgers, fake bowties dangling on starched fake tuxedo shirts. They grunt or express other similar pessimistic sentiments. The manager says, "Now, after we eat the cake, what will we all do? What?"

The workers respond in monotone: "Wash our hands."

Manager: "Now that's very good. The last time there were only ten names on the hand wash sheet and we have 34 employees. Someone is either not washing or not signing."

The employees are all quick to assure the manager that they have indeed washed their hands. They ask her to smell the soap on their skin. She nods and lights the candles, commands them to sing. They begin to drone Happy Birthday to Debbie, who looks like she wants to die. The manager grabs a tiny piece of cake and stomps away. The workers all start to laugh and then resume talking about their lives. They tell Debbie she looks 25.

This is a lie. Debbie looks about 86. To use my father's phrase, she looks rode hard and put up wet. But she is their friend and they tell her this nice thing. After the manager leaves, they begin to jovially celebrate her birthday. I get the impression they actually celebrated it the night before. I'm glad about this. I hope nobody washed his or her hands. I hope instead they used the hand washing sheet to wipe their collective butt.

This incident makes me remember ridiculous corporate procedures from when I worked at K-mart. Just the thought of that damn hand washing sign up makes me remember "meet and greet" and other forced behavior that made me want to jab a staple gun into my skin just to make sure I was still human.


Anonymous said...

The condescending attitude is not necessary, but the sanitary conditions are. As someone working quite a bit with food safety, I have to tell you that most food borne illness is caused by improper handling. Wish Debbie well and the manager hell, but for the sake of public health (and all that is holy), don’t wish disobedience with the hand washing thing.

Em said...

Don't you know it is un-American to treat workers in the service industry with respect and dignity?

Valtastic said...

I hope you didn't eat food there if you were wishing they didn't wash their hands.

Seriously should they really sign a list saying htey washed their hands? You know one person that didn't was there hands signed the list and the pen is now contaminated.

I also wish I got cake for my bd..

PeaceLoveMath said...

Sounds like the "Office Space" birthday scene. Was there a guy in thick glasses who didn't get a piece?

About the last post: I want to hear more about this florist and his work as an interpreter - what was the story?? Why was the writer's answer to your question so interesting? I am rather confused and feel like I missed something.