Last night I took my son and J-Mo to the Twins / Mariners game at Target field.
J-Mo, like my son, was a captain on the Highland Park Football squad that won the Twin Cities championship.
My kid was the center and ran things on the O-line, where J-Mo was the middle linebacker, he broke the school record for most tackles in just 2 seasons.
So the 3 of us are waiting on my friend Doug Skipper. He's the one who is holding onto the tickets, and we can't get in to watch batting practice until he arrives.
In front of the ballpark is a statue of former Twins great Harmon Killebrew. This is where Skipper makes his "dates" meet him before each game. However, as usual, Skipper is running 15 minutes behind, so the 3 of us are just basically standing around with our hands in our pockets.
The sad part about waiting there is that Harmon died just a few days ago, and a disease called depression starts creeping into my thoughts.
It's 4;43 pm, just that point of the day where a "real guy" starts to crash one last time before they catch their last wind of the day.
Now all these white haired mourners begin flocking towards the monument like they were visiting Elvis at Graceland.
Instead of throwing roses and brassieres though, these folks are chucking baseball cards and crumpled uniforms at the foot of the statue.
I loved Harmon as Christ loves the church, but it was that time of the afternoon. I was crabby, Skipper was late, and I just wanted to sit down.
As the boys talked, softly I started laughing.
They looked in my direction and asked what was so funny?
I replied that I just noticed how both of these young men had both of their ears pierced with dainty / jeweled studs, and I threw in that if Killer were still alive he'd probably b**** slap both of them.
J-Mo laughed but of course my son got pissed and wanted to retaliate.
Like me he was beat so he didn't put much effort into attack.
Feebly he looks at his co captain and exclaims.....
"You wanna know how out of touch my dad is? When were were watching Jersey Shore, he said that he could take Ronnie the Juicehead (slang for steroid user) in a fight."
Now J-Mo, like my son, has just come back into the cities from his first year at college. He's studying to be a cop and my son's statement cracks him up.
"Tydus, your dad would whip the s*** out of Ronnie, it wouldn't even be close."
Now my kid is actually upset. Just when his stare was turning reptilian, he realized that his present powers where not strong enough to defeat the both of us, so instead he chose to reel in his facial anger.
He simply did not want us to have the victory.
"Dude, I'm not even making this up, Ronnie's huge, but he's a p****."
I chimed in that in series #1 there was that episode when he fought a middle age man my size, and the old ruffian gave the muscle head a black eye. When the 2 fell to the pavement, Ronnie had no ground attack.
J-Mo chimed in....
"Yeah, I saw that episode. when they went down, Ronnie was on top and all he did was started flailing punches. He should have went for the face before opening up the sides."
Then in a tone of excitement that I shouldn't be proud of, I interrupted J-Mo...
"I would of started off head butt to nose, head butt to cheek bone, and then I'd throw down elbow hammers!"
LOL, J-Mo had the same look that the Scarecrow returned to Dorothy when she said she was going to score him a heart.
This look of Joy & Rapture was more than my son could bare, so being a dad, I realized it was time to pull back the reigns.
"Listen kid,I'm not trying to come off as a street fighter. I'm old, but that's kinda my point.I really think if me and Jersey Shore Ronnie got into a thing, and it began to escalate, I'd have to take him out of the equation before he even knew the conflict was going to turn physical."
Ty looks and shakes his head on a swivel....
"So you're saying you'd sucker punch him?"
J-Mo ran to my rescue and finished my response before I could start it.
"He didn't say sucker punch, he just said he'd finish it first. Sometimes in this world, you do, what you gotta do, and worry about explanations later."
So now I told my kid that I'd buy him nachos if he dropped it, and decided to love his father for the rest of the night.
My kids a nacho whore. The deal was done.
Skipper shows up now, and our foursome ambles into the park.
Me and Doug cut free and sat on the 3rd base line, by the foul pole, as the boys went into left field to shag home runs during the Mariners B.P.
So Skipper orders us a couple of beers and begins telling me a story about the time Dan Fogelberg snatched his racket ball racket in Wyoming to play racket ball, and then I hear a loud screaming coming from the left field porch.....
"Dad - Dad I got a ball!!!!"
This proclamation wasn't uttered by my biological son, but yeah...you guessed it, J-Mo held a now scuffed up official MLB baseball over his head.
He had such a look of pride.
When the boys came back, Tydus told me that J-Mo went horizontal in the air and crashed into the seats, beating out 1/2 dozen louts in order to take home this $6 keep sake.
When I asked who hit the homer, both kids looked at each other with uncertainty.
I suggested that since Ichiro was the most famous, that we should be in agreement that he hit it.
So after that, all of us took pictures with J-Mo's souvenir, declaring that we had each caught this priceless treasure and put them up on our Facebook walls.
I received 20 some comments, but over 1/2 of these people congratulated me with a pound of trepidation attached.
After finishing his nacho's, it started to get dark and Ty's vampire blood must of kicked in. He became cheerful now and requested that I tell J-Mo about the time I blew my top with Camel.
Now I've told this story dozens of times, and I almost always soften it. Often times I even change the guys name (it's actually Kamal) because I don't want to throw bad karma at him and have it bounce back on me, but my kid knows my secrets and he wants the legit version.
The story about Kamal, or the outcome of our story in fact are not even the compelling part story. The part that interests me is the preface.
Today in America many people live in a PC world.
The Media reports in a P.C. fashion, they'd like you to believe that the whole world is comprised of happy/mindless soldiers that line up without question, and from that moment on, everybody is going to be treated fairly.
Corporations, H.R, Educational Institutions, The Artistic and Environmental communities, they too think that there are no more shadows left on the planet that can hide name callers and savages.
LOL, they are so wrong, they have never worked in a restaurant.
Working culinary gigs is akin to laying down in a pit of vipers.
A lot of chef's compare their work place to a pirate ship or the wild west is another descriptive scenario that I've seen freely launched..
We could spend all night discussing sociological, physiological or economic reasons for why this is, but just for tonight let's just drop that part of the convo and instead agree to agree that "It is what it is" and that will suffice for the moment.
Have you ever watched prison movies?
Have you ever seen the unthinkable things that take place behind bars?
In someways a restaurant is a segue between anarchy and emancipation.
Prisons have bars, and the physical presence of them eats into the convicts minds.
Food Service Workers don't experience that, but in some ways can their plight be more surreal?
Peeps in the Food Show might not have bars holding them back, but instead they seem to be surrounded by a strong force field that holds them back from opportunity.
When you step into a concept for your first day of work, the employees might not whistle at you and call you "Fresh Meat", but most of the times they'll kinda do the opposite.
They ignore you.
New Guy is just doing what they can, but almost every crew has a numbers of "Lifers" on it, and these guys haves seen 1000's of people use their vocation as a pit stop.
I think in some sense when a Lifer encounters the newbie, this moment can be empowering, and humiliating at the same time.
Kamal was an alcoholic that worked computer tech. For whatever reason he had to work with us part time to make his ends meet. Who knows, maybe he was trying to send money back to Bombay.
When a new person submerges themselves into a bakery. There are written rules, but there are unwritten rules as well.
Kamal broke all kinds of unwritten rules........
#1 - He wasn't able to move quick or find what we call "3rd gear" which basically means that you have to move with an element of speed that is almost uncomfortable or disaster will strike.
#2 - He showed up 6 minutes late, 8 minutes late, 12 minutes late. One thing I will say for Food Service workers, almost all of them take a HUGE amount of pride in being punctual.
#3 - Maybe the worst rule that Kamal broke was to to ask for logical explanations when he was asked to do something. In a production area....explanations are sacrilege.
The nice thing about being a Non Supervisor is having the ability to play the "Nut Roll."
"I don't know, that's how we've always done it" or "I dunno, the foreman said I had to, I was just following orders."
Those 2 sentences are so cruise control, some guys make a career out of using those 2 lines exclusively.
But when Kamal started questioning unwritten precedents, that's when the mob turned on him.
That's when the crew started calling him Camel.
I know that if this were a Disney flick, some good egg would stick up for him, but you gotta be careful when you're a Lifer, because as soon as the current problem gets set to sea, you'll turn around and find 3 more new ones drifting into port.
When a crew has turned against you, its a wicked - sick thing to see. It's kinda like watching a mentally challenged child light fire crackers with dry fuses that are only 1/72 of an inch long.
The flame doesn't even hit the fuse and "BOOM" .....finger chunks on the floor.
Kamal would walk into the shop, he's already been at his other job, he's already put in an eight hour shift, he'd already had 3 or 4 shots of whatever hard liquor was on special down the street.....and then he would walk in and say.....
That's it, but Jimmy D would just give him the finger while wearing a scarf wrapped around his head, imitating a turban even though it was late July.
Helmut would talk to him in a voice that was shaped after Abu the Indian convenience store clerk from the Simpson's.
Squirrel Head would move to another table if he ever did one of his tasks next to her.
And the list goes on and on.
Typically a normal person, or a person who lives in normal circumstances will quit within a couple of days.
I never liked being a prick to people who struggled to float, but at the same time, I never really wanted to work with somebody who was going to slow me down either.
When people first started calling him Camel, Kamal would take great offense and ask in a polite way for the offender to stop misidentifying him, but they didn't and finally he gave into the tyranny.
These abusive behaviors take place because this is the only way that people w/o education,privilege or position have to control their environment while simultaneously compensating for their lack of confidence.
Entry level Food Service work is brutal, it really is like swimming in a shark tank.
So it's Friday, and I'm the bench foreman, or the night supervisor, I don't exactly recall, but I do remember I was in charge.
Kamal came in late, staggered politely and took forever to roll out his bread sticks.
The staff was on him.
People made references to magic carpets, snake charmers, and every other stereo type you could use to offend an Indian.
My mind started to boil.
It was like the time Phoenix the cat brought baby rabbits into my house and wouldn't kill them, she had to torture them so she could be amused.
I was so angry with her, but she was a cat, and that's how most cats dispense their feline justice.
Those little rabbits had 1/2 their organs hanging out of their body.
I ended up putting them out of their misery by taking their heads off with a hockey stick.
Watching people w/o hope displaying this same behavior is a raw experience.
If you work in the "Real World" you'll cast aspersions at such "Cave Floor" behavior, and who knows...maybe you are right to, but let me submit, w/o necessarily trying to condone.........
Aren't prisons isolated from one another? Well then how is it that each and every one of them share the identical primitive ways of policing themselves?
Is it out of actual necessity, or is it a strange coincidence that each and every one of these institutions have perpetuated cruelty out of boredom to serve no other reason than pleasure?
As usual....I digress, so the peeps were slamming on Kamal, the tin building was scorching hot. the bread orders had filled the building, everything turned upside down for me.
I went over to Kamal and demanded that he pick up the pace or get his f****** a** out of there.
He returned my anger with his own.
He spun around and dialed up his FOF (freak out factor) and gave me this evil glare with his blood shot eyes. Then he began yelling in a shrilled voice.
Some of the employees were laughing, while the other portion were screaming.
OMG...it was like one of those 70's movies were the director uses new camera techniques to display Peter Fonda while he's on LSD.
I snapped, yelled and walked towards Kamal, when he saw me moving forward, he suddenly found his composure.
At this point I was swearing at him, firing him at the top of my lungs and he could of turn around and walked out, but instead he shifted gears and apologized with a soft voice.
I chose not to give him a red carpet to retreat on.
Months passed, I was on the 74D MTC bus downtown. I was about 5 miles from my house at this point.
The bus pulls over to the curb and who gets on the bus?????
Yep, it was Kamal.
Now the bus is like 80% empty, but when Kamal was walking down the aisle, our eyes locked.
He proceeded to continue down the aisle and sit in the seat directly behind me.
This puts me in a lose-lose position.
If I turn around and and monitor his behavior, he has the joy of knowing he has struck fear into my heart.
If I choose not to turn around, I will prove to him that I never paid him the honor of considering his unique circumstances a threat, but that kinda seems like a high price to pay for the possibility of a blade across the larynx.
9 out of 10 times you can count on Klecko to select the Idiot Option.
I didn't look back once.
When the bus pulled up to my stop I thought.....
"Oh-Oh, daddy-o is going to follow me home huh?"
But as I got off the bus, I turned around and he was gone.
He slipped off the bus w/o me hearing a thing.
At first I thought his disappearance was ghostlike, but as I reviewed the circumstances throughout the remainder of the evening, I determined that maybe it was me that has been haunted by some ghosts of my own reality.
As I finished my story, I looked back at my son. He was sending text messages to no one of importance.
I ordered another beer.
The Twins won 2-0