Joanne stormed out of the kitchen into the back prep area.
“What’s her problem?” I asked.
We worked at a fast food restaurant at Victoria Park and Finch and I had said something typically insensitive, stupid, or not well thought out. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but what followed stuck with me.
The co-worked I asked the question of, let’s call him Lou, just shrugged.
“I was joking. I’m always joking around,” I said.
“Yes, she should be used to it by now.” Lou shook dry a basket of fries he lifted out of the bubbling deep fry oil. The oil and fat felt as if saturated into the very air we breathed.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
I was no mere french fry cook. I worked the grill. It would be only a matter of time before being granted permission to cook breakfasts on my own – Alan Mohammead ruled that large expanse of metal that was the morning grill. He was a lanky, six and a half foot tall east indian Seneca College student with a penchant for all things Micheal Jackson and all the grace and angles of a water strider.
But this isn’t about Allan.
“Well, about you making jokes all the time.” Lou dumped the crispy fries into the heated, metal chamber and salted them before using the customized scoop to fill up flimsy cardboard sleeves and arrange them in rows under the heat lamp. He then walked the line of fryers to the fridge so he could grab a couple packages of frozen, prepackaged onion rings and a chicken sandwich.
She walked between us to get to the front, tossing me a frosty glance in the process. I brushed it off with a smirk that no doubt only made her more angry.
Garnishers then came to the heat lamp, asking for their burgers to be sped up and I turned to snatch toasted buns from the rotating toaster and served up burgers. Over my shoulder I asked. “What is that supposed to mean?”
When Lou didn’t answer I turned to face him. “Well? Tell me.”
He still didn’t look at me when he said, “That says alot about what people think about you. Or maybe what you think about yourself.”
I was maybe fourteen or fifteen at this time. Very smart and very stupid all at the same time. I was writing college english papers for extra cash and things like that but attached no importance about actually knowing anything about myself. Who was this goof to tell me anything?
I wondered if Joanne would be the next one to come and ask for her order to be sped up. Maybe I would apologize. I very likely considered making a joke at her expense to distract her and make her laugh. But no, she went around and cleaned tables and gathered up trays during the small rush. She wanted to have nothing to do with the kitchen while I was making burgers.
Throughout that short dinner rush, I continued to press him, but he was precise with his words when he finally said, “Well, it just makes me think if you always joke, then do you ever really mean what you say. Sometimes, you have to think about it.”
The rest of the shift was pretty quiet after that. I knew enough at that point to keep my mouth shut.