Saturday, January 28, 2012

walk-in smoke rings -- a parable

I've been many things in this lifetime, it's been an incredible journey.  Depending on perspective, I'm really "just" to my '40's, either that, or I'm "already" breezing past my '40's - but I already feel as though I've lived a richer life than most will experience . . . I've witnessed more than my share . . .

I've done my share of stupid things, brave things, bold things, even illegal things, and I'm working on doing my own share of inventive things too - I've got a bucket list!  I've been good, bad and (worst of all) indifferent.

I've traveled less widely than some, more widely than others.  I've camped and backpacked and explored my country, my homeland.  I've dug deep in our earth, crawled through the tightest of caves, I used to teach rock climbing and rappelling, I have a great love for river rafting.  Many have seen more, a few have done more, most have seen and done far less.  I'm happy with that!

In terms of BDSM, I'm sure there are some who can match or exceed not only my 30 years of experience but also my many hundreds of hours of play (regular 8 hour LSD fueled scenes for most of my 20's and lots of my 30's add the hours up fast ya know!)  I also know there are many who only wish they had once experienced a single session of the kind of play I've known as routine.

The jobs I've had?  Wow, they run the gambit, each fulfilling in their own unique way.  A select few have worked one or two of the jobs I've held, but I'd honestly wager everything I own and have that nobody can perfectly match the wildly varied list of professions I've managed to use to put food on the table, a roof over head, and toys in the toychest.

And Serafina in many ways surpasses my experience.  The things she's done, her accomplishments and creations, are still amazing to me to this day.  I guess in her case it's a testament to what unbridled, untapped, and absolutely unused passion and sexual energy will do in a sexless marriage, it's going to express itself somehow!

I'm not sure why I'm even adding all those details and notes about our lives, other than because this piece is a parable, and as such, it has a multitude of levels and meanings, the reader can take what they will from the tale, ponder it (or not) and develop their own conclusions about the ultimate meaning of all these words . . .

I once worked as a Chef at an exclusive resort, in what was then a 4 or 5 star restaurant, it's still similarly exclusive to this day, although I personally have no idea how restaurant ratings might work in this day and age of food bloggers.

I did my bit as a Sous-chef‎, among other positions I worked which would include: pastry chef, commis, chef de partie, and aboyer.  The kitchen in an exclusive restaurant has a hierarchy as strict as any formal BDSM Family, and position in the hierarchy was hard earned.

I preferred working days.  The stress was not as great and I actually preferred making some of the lighter dishes that were served before supper.  My particular version of Niçoise salad was renowned (a number of world travelers told me it was easily the best they'd ever experienced ) and I loved all the knifeplay in cutting up and presenting a really proper steak tartare.  I also loved getting my work day finished before the Executive Chef, a notoriously temperamental Cuban who was also a night owl and drug fiend, and his hand picked night line crew came into work.

One day, as I was bundling up my knives and changing into my street clothes, I heard a tremendous clatter from the back, where the walk-in coolers were located.  Normally it was something I'd investigate, but among the voices I heard raising was not only the Executive Chef, but also his boss too, the "Head of Food & Beverage" - at least that was one way I heard his title expressed.  Most of us called him "Big Ass Bob", at least that's the name we used behind his back.

The voices also seemed to include the hand picked crew of line cooks that made evenings at this particular restaurant run to management's satisfaction.  Our Executive Chef hand picked and personally trained that particular crew, they were each assigned a single station where they worked exclusively night after night.  My day crew rotated stations and cross trained, but they'd have none of that among the evening cook staff.  Having a single specialty did make the line of night cooks a productive bunch, I'll admit, but after any extended time in their position they also began to feel more than a little irreplaceable.   

I didn't really like dealing with any of them, everyone's ego was terribly out-sized, so I pulled off my chef's hat, put my head down, and disappeared out the back door.  I often wonder if there was any way I could have managed to stay behind and witness the drama that I know occurred, oh to have been a fly on the wall.  I also will be eternally grateful for the good judgement I had in walking out the door.

Before I tell you what really happened that night, I need to tell the story of what happened when I returned to work the next morning.

I got to work at 5:30 AM, used my keys to unlock, bleary eyed but ready to brew some coffee, fire up the grill to make my own breakfast, find a nice scoop or two of Hagen Daz ice cream (chocolate / chocolate-chip) to top it all off, and then have a cigarette.  All before the rest of the food staff arrived at 6:00.

Instead of breakfast, I found an angry excited Cuban, something like 500 pounds of chicken he was boning - his razor keen knife flashing faster than I could follow, and a crisp stack of disciplinary forms, one each for everyone in the night kitchen.

I was curtly instructed to take the forms over to the personnel office (in a separate building of the resort.)  When I asked my Executive Chef what had happened, he began cursing loudly in Spanish (normal) and then he sharply stabbed his blade directly into the surface of the cutting board table (abnormal) which I took as a punctuation mark and signal for my departure.

The forms were delivered.  Yes, along the way I stopped and read them all.  I poured over the detail, at least at first.  I quickly discovered each form looked the same, each form was identical in detail.  Every single individual in the night kitchen had been written up for - "Smoking in a food preparation zone" - a serious offense but not a firing offense for anyone with an otherwise clean work record.

When I was done with the quizzical looks over in personnel, I returned to find the Chef gone (thankfully) and his pile of boned chicken finished.  He'd completed in less than a third of the time it I would have taken to do the job, and I'd always been proud of my ability with a knife, I was a meat-packer's son after all!

It took me some time to find out what really happened that night.  Nobody involved in the incident would say a word.  Questions got silence and an icy stare.  I'd never particularly liked that crew, but we'd always gotten along well enough, now that was no longer the case.  Even my best friend at the resort, a guy who'd been part of my day crew but had transferred to nights, refused to give me the slightest hint.

Eventually, after leaving that particular resort, I met up with my buddy, the guy I'd worked with on days before he transferred to the "dark side" and the night line crew.  He was catching a bus home to his family in a few hours, he told me, wouldn't I have a few drinks for old time's sake and to help pass the time?

After more than a few drinks, as the clock at the bar creeper closer to closing time and his departure, I eventually decided I had to ask . . .

And to my great surprise, he answered.

"Well, you have to understand," he began.  "We all knew you didn't like cocaine, that's why you were never going to be part of the hand picked crew we had on nights," he said.

"We preferred to all meet in the storage room downstairs,"  the story continued.  "Remember the storage room that had the table, the one with the mirrored glass table top?" he asked.

I answered with a bit of a knowing grin and a nod.

"We used to cut our lines of coke there," he said, grinning back at me.  "The ventilation was good too," he added.  "I bet you didn't know that storage room was climate controlled?"

"Nope" I said somewhat curtly, eyeing the clock that was creeping ever closer to the story's end.

"Well it was," he intoned.  "About the time we finished our lines and somebody had a doob rolled up and lit, these big old fans would kick on and suck the smoke right away."  My friend seemed to be reveling in the story's telling now, enjoying the fact that I was hanging on every detail.

"So what happened that ONE night," I asked anxiously as I watched the bartender getting ready for last call.

"Everything was out of the storage room for a banquet, so Chef, Cheech, and First Cook decide we needed a new place for the party," he confessed.  "We ended up back in walk-in-four," referring to the most remote and least visited of the restaurant's four walk-in coolers.

"While First Cook rolled and started to burn one, Cheech produced a mirror, and Chef a little blade.  Chef had just snorted up a big line and was in the act of passing the mirror on, when Big-Ass-Bob come bouncing into the cooler, nearly upending Chef, who'd had his back turned against the door.  The mirror goes flying, the cocaine goes flying, and there I am standing there like the fucking Cheshire cat, a grin on my face, and a lit joint in my hand."

Now I'm starting to understand where the story is going.

"We were all really scared at first, I mean you know Big-Ass-Bob was the one who'd written the zero-tolerance policy about drug use. Here we'd all been caught with drugs at work, and Bob's threatening to call the police, everything but involve the fucking FBI.  Then one of the line cooks spoke up . . . He asked Bob how it was going to look for his career to have the high honor of closing one of the world's elite restaurants after firing every single one of the cooks," it was explained.

Oh how the worm had turned, I thought to myself.

"You see, there was no way Bob could fire the entire group without dramatically impacting the operation of the resort, especially if Chef went with them, it would close the restaurant for what could turn into weeks, it could be months before proper replacements could be found and trained.  Because of the "zero-tolerance" policy Bob had written into our contracts, drugs or drug use couldn't even be mentioned when he wrote us up on discipline," he continued.

I saw the bartender heading our way, ready to tell us it was time to go home, but I'd found what I'd needed.

"So that's how you managed to get written up for "smoking in a food prep area" when instead you'd all been snorting coke and smoking dope right there under all our noses?" I asked.

"Yup, that's it," he called back over his shoulder as we parted company.

So there it is my dear reader, the true story of smoke rings in the walk-in.  A modern parable, if you will.  There's a message there among the rings of smoke, you just need to know where to look!

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