Mea Culpa

I feel everybody speeding pass me, taking over, just driving on the speed lane of the road.

I see it happening more and more. I feel I am left behind.

I also don’t see them to be much smarter than me. They are simply average.

I see only one difference. Confidence. Self-confidence.

I can see they don’t  tend to over analyse things like I do, trying to plan every step, to predict every trouble that can arise, every consequence possible. They just drive, go ahead, don’t  ask all the time “What if I won’t make it?”, What if I fail?”, “What if I don’t like it?”.

I am standing in the same place for years now. I came to London, got my first job in catering and I stayed. Of course I’ve changed places – physically – but idea stayed the same. Catering. I earn more, true. But I am still a caterer. I can afford to go on nice holiday. When they are over, I go back to catering. I feel like there is nothing else I could do, I can’t see what else is there, like I was cursed and made to die as a catering assistant. I hate this job.

Facebook doesn’t help. I can all the time see people who moved on. I can see people going away, excelling at my workplace. They just do their courses and move on. Cristiane. Slavek, Moham, now supervisor J. Painfully I realise that the only thing that keeps me where I am is Me Myself and I. My indecisiveness. My fear. My 30 years old “I-don’t-know-what-I-want-to-be-and-who-I-want-to-be-and-who-I-am-now-and-where-I’m-going”. Restless, uncertain, undecided, scared, frustrated, sick, miserable and just simply undoubtedly unhappy I am, tossing.

8 hours

480 minutes

28 800 seconds..

I hate each and every single one of them.

Photo

How much is the new spine?

I will give you three examples, three evidences for my thesis.

First.

I twisted my knee, it swell, but I still came to work. I thought I was doing them a favour. It is always one pair of hands more. It is always a trouble when someone goes of sick. Limping, I was slowly wiping tables. Can you do it faster?! – is what I heard instead of “Thank you”. That was long time ago. Now I call off sick it I have sore toe.

Second.

One of my colleagues, friend even, was sick for few months. Did anyone at work call her, asked how she was doing? She lives alone. Did anyone try to find out if she is all right, if she needs anything? There is some sort of special service for such situations – if a staff member is off sick for a long time, they can visit them at home just to find out how they doing, help out. It is especially useful for people living on their own. Unfortunately, no one was interested to find out. Luckily, Bev has a big family.

Third.

About two weeks ago, during lunch, at the peak, a woman collapsed on the floor in convulsions right in front of the hot counter. I didn’t see the exact moment as I was kneeling to get something out of the cupboard. I only heard a loud thump, only a body hitting the floor can make a thump that loud. She banged her head on the floor. I guess out of all places you can collapse at, hospital is the best one. Canteen was full of doctors and nurses, so she got help very fast, immediately. She was laying on the floor, convulsions ceased, medical staff around her, in the meantime someone has brought a stretcher. Did they tell us to stop serving – at least for five minutes – to help doctors do their job? Nope, they call a security lady who blocked the way, so people didn’t wander around where the lady was laying on the floor. This way, please – security female was directing people. After the poor woman was taken out, floor was washed and disinfected, we kept serving. I was a little bit shaken, I’ve never seen anything like this. A colleague working with me, who saw the whole situation, had to sit down to cool off. Maybe it was epilepsy, maybe a seizure, maybe a stroke. We are catering staff, we don’t know. Maybe she could die on that floor in front of us. Maybe stopping the service would be just nice, respectful, reasonable thing to do? If she died would the body be simply carried away, floor disinfected, service uninterrupted? Is it all about money?

At the end, comes my thesis:

They simply don’t give a damn about anything but money. We could also just die there, they would get the sweeper, swept us off and carry on. We are good as long as we are of any use. When we get sick, no one cares, we become a hindrance. Sick, maybe even dying customers? why would they care when facing money loss? Or maybe I am just being dramatic?

I write it inspired by yesterdays accident. Supervisor M., carrying some coffee cups was walking the corridor, along the doors to fridges and one freezer. She slipped, fell on her butt, hitting her tailbone. She wasn’t able to stand by herself, someone had to bring the office chair and sat her on it. Again, no better place to fall over then hospital. She was sent to A&E, where instead of getting some actual help, she got paracetamol and a bunch of leaflets about back injuries.

This is a subject for a separate story. In my country a patient in such situations would be examined, X-rayed, not like in UK just interviewed and sent home, after being given and information “If you start feeling any tingling in your legs, come back to us“.

After she was back from A&E – actually, she was pushed on a special armchair with wheels used by porters, she went home, one of her siblings came to pick her up. She wasn’t even able to get up to put her coat on.

Why did this accident happen? It happen because door to the freezer had been leaking. It has been leaking since months! They’ve tried to fix it without much result. Months! How much time do you need to fix the door? After so many months they could have order a new one! But then… You would have to care… Especially of how much money it would cost.

Professio(a)nal

It is Friday, early morning, 6.30 am to be exact. Alarm wakes me up so I can call off sick, as I’m not feeling well. I wait few minutes to be fully awake and then I try to call. No one answers. I wait two minutes and phone again. Still nothing. It’s already 6.45am. But… third time lucky, they say. I call again. So called “Supervisor: J. picks up, in the background I can hear energetic African music – means she just came and still plays it on her phone. She’s always late.

I tell her all I have to say. Procedure is that she has to ask what is the reason for my absence, what is wrong with me.

I have a flu. I have been feeling unwell for the last few days and today is just too much… – I say. And it’s the truth.

Now she should inform me – even though I know that, but it is the procedure – that I should call before 2pm if I am coming on monday or no. As it was a weekend coming up, I could also call on Sunday. But instead “supervisor” J. says:

Yeah, whatever – and hangs up the phone.

Idiot of the day (part 2)

Friday lunch. As always fish & chips and two other varying options to choose from. As alwas VERY busy. Like they didn’t eat for a week… As every friday we’ve run out of fish. It is just too busy, kitchen is too small, chefs can’t keep up with the pace, can’t cook fast enough to feed this angry horde.

A queue of 5 – 7 people waiting. Among them – Her. Regular customers know it happens, so they are waiting patiently (patiently <- patient = hospital) to be served. But some of them – I noticed before – develop a certain weird habbit. They stare at us. There is always two of us serving and whenever it happens that we run out of some dish and they have to wait, they stare. They keep following us with their eyes whatever we do. This usually give us time to refill other products, to bring more plates and take-away boxes, to wipe up surfaces or drink water as it is very hot in there. And when we do that they stare like it was a theatre, live show, TV. I usually try not to make any eye contact, but I can physically feel their eyes, watching my every move.

So is She staring. At me. I caught her with the corner of my eye. She is starring at me with an angry face, lips pressed tightly. Why is the fish not ready yet? – that face seems to ask. I am here, waiting? Why do I have to wait?! I am too busy to wait! I don’t have time for this! This is all your fault. I see she’s giving me an evil eye. I make a decision – instead of avoiding her, I decide to confront her. I turn to fully face her, I am about two meters away from her. Then I look her straight in the eyes, smiling a little. God knows, maybe my smile came out ironically or she saw mocking in my eyes. If that’s the case – it was unintentional. Suddenly She huffs and puffs, her head starts shaking, she takes a deep breath, lifts her green tray high up to drop it on the tray rail in front of her. There is so much impact in her move, though, that the tray bounces up and ends up on the floor. I am not sure if She even notices that as she is already marching away moving her arms briskly.

We look at each other with D., real angel of a girl, and carry on. Fresh fish arrives 30 seconds after She walked off.

Bad, bad catering assistant!

OMG! It is probably unprofessional and maybe even rude what I’ve just done. But, to my excuse, I’ve had enough… 8hrs in that place is enough.

Thursdays are always the worst days. On Wednesdays there is everybody on duty. Everybody. All three supervisors, all permanent staff, all zero hours staff. At 6.30 am supervisor and one staff member start shift, then at 7am someone comes, next person, second supervisor at 8am, and one staff member at 9am, plus two part time girls from 10am to 3pm.. Late shift starts at 11.30. At this time there is a third supervisor coming and two other staff members. Another part-time girl starts at 3pm. Day is running smoothly and easy. Unfortunately after that, comes thursday. Usually it is two people less – there is no one starting at 10am, and no one at 3pm. This turns Thursdays into a nightmare. It reminds me The Old Days, before the New Company took over, when we used to run like headless chickens, between tills, coffee machine and cleaning.

Today is also thursday. Busy as always plus some hospitality to prepare and deliver. I am not sure who was making the list we use to prepare but apparently we forgot about one customer and they never got coffee and stuff they paid for. They were clever though and nicked coffee that I delivered to a different customer who then called complaining: Where is our coffee? After it was all sorted, lunch started:

I got this feeling that they’re gonna break down the door
I got this feeling they they’re gonna come back for more*

Here we are getting to the point. I started at 6.30, so I finish at 14.30. So was J. 14.30 came and passed and no one came to take over. J. finished serving one customer, turned around and walked off. Making hot chocolate, I shouted to her to call someone. I finished making the hot chocolate, no one came. So what did I do? I turned around and walked off. I walked off leaving a line of about 8 – 10 people dumbstruck. Are you kidding me?! Are you serious?! – I heard them asking. I replied Yes, I am, but I am going to call someone. So I did. I don’t know if anyone came there, and how long it took because I’ve disappeared in the thin air.

Why didn’t I wait? You see, I didn’t wait because first and foremost it wasn’t the first time – I remember plenty of times, waiting, calling and no one came. I ended up stranded there for 15 minutes. Second reason – they are such excellent time keepers. If I am late to work 10 minutes they tell me off, they keep tracking my break time, we all have to clock-in and out when we go, so we can’t be even a minute too long. Otherwise – they tell us off. Third reason – no on was controlling this place today. Manager nowhere to be seen, one supervisor busy, the other supervisor was J. who walked off first.

*Quote comes from The Killers’ song Tranquillize.

On my limit. Wall.

I hardly control myself. Hardly. Millimeters separate me from being unpleasant, rude. Sometimes I even brush against it… For example: two situations. First – a customer came to the till to pay for chips. He said he paid for the rest of the stuff he had and showed me a receipt from a card machine. And then I said: This receipt doesn’t show what you paid for anyway. It just came out. Ooh, ok – was his reply. He pissed me off, I’ve lost it. He kept shoving me that bloody receipt like I was questioning his version, like I didn’t believe him. And to be honest, I didn’t give a shit at that moment if he paid or he didn’t. It is non of my business to check him. Second situation: a guy was buying an Americano, black. I made him a fresh one, I never use old shots of coffee. Fresh coffee made so-called crema on the surface – a sign of freshness, it goes off after a minute or two. He saw the coffee and with a reluctance in his voice he asked why it had such a color, he didn’t want with milk, he wanted black, why is it so light in color?!  J. helped me a little bit here. But still, I got pissed off. He’s not happy with a fresh coffee. Like he never had a coffee before. Or like he got a fresh one for the first time in his life…

Air conditioning is not working. Always around 6pm it goes off. Fumes from boiling oil hover all over the restaurant, I look around and it is like I was looking through a fog. Everything is milky. I breathe it in and out for one hour, till I get a pounding headache, till everything around me spins and I have to escape for few minutes to the changing room, to wet my face, my neck my arms with water to cool off.

Feeling like that, how the fuck can I keep smiling to these idiots, when everything is always wrong? This is the worst thing about this job. It doesn’t matter how hard you work (I can’t work any harder), how much you give off yourself, how many extra miles you walk with no water, exhausted, crawling – it doesn’t make a difference. Everybody is still unhappy. Managers. Supervisors, colleagues, customers. You tear your guts out and still, nothing is right, everything is wrong. All blissful energy is sucked out and wasted. Good energy, glittering, glowing energy. I am drowning in a river of toxic waste.

Of Robots and Men

Are you prisoners? – asks me jokingly blond-haired domestic assistant as we walk from our changing room towards the lifts. She just heard me and J. complaining about things in our workplace.

Yesss! We are! – I reply – you are not allowed to do anything in this place. Today – I went to the toilet, then on my way back I stopped near the juicer to get myself a cup of a grapefruit one. Supervisor L. saw me taking the juice and says “You just went to the toilet, now you are drinking, soon you will have to go again”. I waited until she served a customer and I said to her: “Listen, L., not everybody are cyborgs, you know, robots like you!” – and I walked off.

Earlier the same day I had another argument with L. It was few minutes past 8am and she wanted to send me for my break! (My shift is 6.30 to 14.30).  I told her I wouldn’t go because it is way to early. You are the only one who always has an answer to the supervisor! – she said in her squeaky voice to which I replied that later I am not going to work for almost 6 hours straight without any break. M. was there too, displaying sandwiches, so I told her that she started first, she should have her break first, but no, they want to sent me. I also said that if I am working 6 hrs they owe me break during that time anyway – which I am not so sure. Maybe one of you knows? From what I’ve heard you have a right to 20 minutes break if you work more 6 hours.

After that short, intense discussion I went to my coffee station and carried on with my job. Few minutes later it turned out I was right – it was absolutely too early to go!!! Manager came and told M. – main supervisor for the day – that she can start sending people for breaks when Susana comes at 9.

They – managers and supervisors – are trying to control everything. When we go for breaks, when we go to the toilet, what we drink and when we drink it. It is simply a bit humiliating reporting to your manager or supervisor that you need to leave the station to go to ease yourself and they don’t let you – because it is busy, because we have audit, because there are top managers visiting. There is always something. The only way is not to ask but to communicate it to them and just go without waiting for permission.

They forget that they are working with people – humans – not robots.

– Maybe you should wear Pampers? – smiled my blond domestic assistant.

– If they could make us do that – they would. – I say.

Incontinence pad