It was a hot and steamy type of Christmas. An Evergreen festival found inside the Everglades; tables set with gator jerky and a brown case of dried cat tails decorating a mahogany tabletop covered in polyester.
Awake at five thirty in the morning, I sloppily drag myself out of bed to shower, dress up, and consume breakfast while my family continues to sleep. Decorations juggling lights in intervals, strobe effects playing outside my window as I groggily put on my work issued t-shirt and a sweatshirt to bask against the brisk cool weather outside. I am hardly awake, unjolly as I check my pockets for my phone, my wallet, and my keys. I walk out of the door and a few steps permit me to run back inside and to throw my sweater on my bed, as the air shows me a misty warm seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit. Living in Florida for more than half of my life (twenty-one-years total), I am still not used to the hot weather that is consistent throughout the year.
Driving to work, I nod in time to the tune of millennialist Christmas compilations composed by Christian indie incarnate/Atheism’s idiot savant Sufjan Stevens – of whom I had witnessed live in concert two months before – the 6 CD box set titled “Songs for Christmas” purchased at the merch table. The array of jingle jangles, traditional Christmas fare supported with witty and weird instrumentals carrying the tune, the Holidays have come once again. It’s a breath of cool air, icicles surrounding the mist, the exhale of CO2 condensing into a fog centimeters in front of my eyes, and I am thrown into a whirlwind of sensations reserved for the enlightened. The question permits to me, as a Sufjan Super Fan, to ask myself “is it better to present one’s self as eccentric and weird or to be emotionally edgy teetering with blasphemy?” Given the rapid influx of nonreligious millennials, I, a heathen-like believer, discover solace within a man’s admiration of orthodox fare, melodiously spoken in the most unorthodox manner. The same effort to do me good in a world growing disillusioned to how the world works, instead resorting to promote to how they work themselves.
With the roads darkened, streetlights nonexistent, I drive through the fog accompanied by a gentle backdrop of home-country guitars, strumming banjos, and snow-falling piano keys as the Sufjan song “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” moodily toots high on repeat. However, in the belated bliss normally felt during Christmas, a sudden thought had hit me and I started to seethe in remorse; growing somber and a bit melancholy. I had dreaded for this day. Throughout the week, I was granted to only work during the weekends (as agreed by the HR manager whom I had first spoken to while applying) to use my weekdays to focus on schoolwork. That wish was granted, but soon there was one day that I was permitted to work: Christmas. The day happened on a Friday, and of course, being new at the job, the context given to me was to simply be fortunate enough to work at such a highly-esteemed position. Such that by having any objection to say otherwise would ultimately end in my untimely demise and to an abrupt end of a seemingly easy job.
An eight-hour shift awaits at my arrival. From seven to three-thirty, and I could only pray to make the day go by fast or to slowly embrace our Disney-like delfino of high times and low sorrows. My workplace, if one is curious to know, takes place in the noted hotel complex serving food and drinks to the masses famished with hunger. A simple primeval urge to have breakfast before a monster out and obsessed with hangriness overtakes any evidence of human reason and consciousness made out to our stoic ethics and mercy towards our common man.
The mornings were the worst, and everyone younger than aged twenty-five shared this viewpoint due to a few conditions. The first reason that we all look forward to is that the mornings are subject to pairing of lazy young workers (i.e. me) along with the most diligent of workers. By “diligent of workers” I pertain to a set of later-aged, work-hardened Haitians who excel at their job; unafraid to raise their voices to anyone who slows down their pace. Sheltered and young aged, fresh faced college workers, such as myself, are not used to such treatments. We were raised in affluent surroundings and to be faced with a sharp tongue and patience of a demon, not many college workers worked in the morning, nor were we willing to do so. Second, the crowd. As mentioned before, breakfast is notorious for attracting a great number of families with a primeval urge to consume exorbitant amounts of food hours after they had awoken. Third, and finally, the morning is best experienced sleeping in. The sunrise is seldom witnessed by those who are my age, simply because we’re knocked out on our beds to bother with the act.
But complains are complaints, and despite the usual qualms stated against my employer, Tootsie World, I remained quite optimistic. It was, at latest, the best job that I’ve held in my spotty, largely empty, work history of a youth mostly spent on education. The Merton Resort, a throwback of upper-class brick layered households and cobblestone streets, embraces of some living Dickensian surroundings complete with a pool on the side property, next to the aquarium sized parking lot. My restaurant, located within forty paces from the front desk, was aptly named The Hearty Heath Hoedown. While we were originally served as a restaurant, we also shared a gift shop in the same premises. It was here at the gift shop where I, wide eyed and naïve, bought my last-minute Christmas presents for my largely spiritual (religious) family, spending over a hundred dollars on three items just before work started. Stuffing the contents into my foot locker, I head up to the dining area to start my day. Little did I know, that on the day when I had hoped to be the happiest of all days, it soon turned of those days. I’ve had some bad days working in The Hearty Heath during the year that I’ve worked there, but looking back, quite ironically, Christmas turned out to be the worst day of them all.
I look at the whiteboard to see my name centered on a position that I haven’t worked since training. Despite this, I went out in front and on the first five minutes, I received the to-go order of a breakfast platter of bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits and seasoned potatoes covered with a flimsy plastic lid. There was also another order of oatmeal that goes along with the American-sized starter. I headed over to the hot section to pick up a bowl of oatmeal with a covered cup of brown sugar placed on top. Heading back, placing the oatmeal inside the paper sack. I then noticed that the white stacks were running low, so I called out to anyone who would listen “Does anyone know where I can get white paper bags?”
The head chef Mary Carver, who was not so merry in working her Merry Christmas shift, overheard my worrywart question and looked up in an annoyed surprise.
“Hey, you!” Mary scolded me in a direct tone. I looked over.
“How long have you been working here?”
“Three months.” I responded.
“So why are you still asking about where your items are?”
Whenever scolded, I stay silent.
Chef Mary pointed me to the supply closet, housing most of the condiments and supplies that were reserved for the dining area. I walk to the closet, while the board was still covered, and hastily search for white paper bags. I could only anticipate the upcoming breakfast rush; looming over me like a silent bullet soon to be shot in my brain. Seasoned employees, on the other hand, reassured my never-ending anxiety. Christmas is the time of year when hotel employees are spared of the impending crowd, as the rest of them would rather head to the major parks, where patrons cannot walk a few steps without rubbing shoulders with one another.
This observation was true, as the restaurant was mainly spotty, with only a few brisk moments of a family coming to the ordering kiosk, thus being less entailed to experiencing an hour-long rush. This idleness, however, unpassed Chef Mary who demanded idle employees, such as myself, to go out and interact with the guests. I then went out and conversed with a family, wondering if the newly released Star Wars movie was worth the twenty-dollar ticket to which they unanimously agreed. We further conversed about their Christmas plans until Chef Mary passes me and makes a quick aside to my ear. “Take off your gloves!” I look down and my five-fingered condoms were still covering my palms. From Christmas, until the day that I left, I had viewed Chef Mary with a perpetual filter of malice; an intensified droop of the eyebrows as I muttered curse words under my breath whenever I walk by.
Four hours slowly pass, breakfast is over and lunch begins where I am now switched into the area where I serve the hot side items and kids meals.
“Hey, you have to be in the Hot Box now. Remember from training?” a middle aged yet stern Haitian who goes by name of Stella, scolds me in subversion. I comply, but deep inside, I fume in anger. During the Hot Box shift, I try to subvert this negative energy by having some fun. I raise my voice in question, “Where are the plates?”
“Okay…” Line cook Tiffany, middle aged, overweight, and country bumpkin raised, quietly responded.
“Where are the plates??”
“Where are the plates!?”
That shut me up. And I then see plates hand in front of my eyeballs and I remain at work without opening my mouth any further.
I look up and I continue to serve others against my own expense. Some of whom would turn out to be from my own family. My brother, ecstatic to see me in action, records a thirty second clip on his phone as I do the work, holding my head to remain composure as the whole world continues do droop into a hot, mushy mess. Minutes before I stall from the overwhelming pressure, the breaker then notifies me to go on break. Heading inside of the breakroom, I lounge around for a few seconds listening to anything but Christmas music. My junior aged co-workers then find me and call me back outside. Apparently, there is a certain type of person who wants me, out of all individuals, to serve them their food. Heading out to the dining room, I see that, of course, it’s my family who had asked me to serve them. I serve them their food, and after a few comments between them about how expensive and delicious the entrees were, I then head back to the break room to soothe myself in solace of a Christmas wish to having a good day has since turned into a myth.
The afternoon hits and the new group of employees arrive to take over the morning people, myself included. Tired and back at Expo, I rest my eyes down into the floor to take a few deep breaths. It was a long day, and after the seventh hour, I was ready to go home. Wallowing in my sorrows, I hear a husky voice call out behind me, “Is that tray ready?” I look back and a tray full of dishes ready to be transferred. The voice, belonging to the slim Korean-German Autumn Chon, who is no stranger to the development of my increasing disenchantment to authority, grabs the tray and places it in front of me.
Autumn then reminds me, “Make sure to check that there’s food behind you.”
And at this point, it was an hour long wait until I was granted to clock out. I was hoping to do anything to make the minutes go by faster. Surprisingly, 3:30 had hit the clock, and I walked out of there desperate to forget about today for the rest of the week. Christmas was the only day in two weeks of which I was granted to work, and after my diatribe with a few officials. I felt blessed to have to not work the next day, because the day was halfway done, and I wanted to go home and call it a day. All I wanted to do was to simply sit in my room and to read anything that came to me. Instead, I had to go home, get ready to the Christmas mass, and to consume a Holiday dinner with my family.
For working during the holiday, I was promised to receive a holiday’s pay to make up for a day normally reserved for spending time with friends and family. And in the manner of working eight hours, it turned out, since I was new to the workplace, and I was working part time, I had to remain content with the Union-set paycheck.
Walking out of the employee entrance, the hot Florida sun was beaming down my face as I walked to my care in a huff. Like the previous, precarious premonition experienced during the drive to work, I knew that Christmas, even though it was not yet over, was going to end badly.
Part 2 will be posted most likely after Christmas.