Forks

Close up view of a kitchen table fork isolated on a white background.
Close up view of a kitchen table fork isolated on a white background.

The place where I work is a large institution. We have three different cafeterias, in which you can have everything from a sub sandwich to rotisserie chicken to pizza straight out of the oven. It’s a state of the art facility with many unique procedures that have patients driving for hours to get here. In my department, we stay up with the latest and the greatest technologies to support the folks above. We are, literally down in the basement with the facilities management and a morgue. And in this state of the art facility there is one epic fail. Forks!

At this time, you will say that we should be using metal utensils that are washed and sterilized to save the environment. And you would be correct, but as the majority of us, we use their plastic forks. Being here for 13 years, I’ve seen some changes. Once the forks were located in the same type bins as the metal counterparts, sometimes they were just in big old box, where anyone could reach in, touch, sneeze or other things to the other utensils prior to you getting one. Perhaps they thought that was too convenient for employees to get to. Perhaps they were losing money on forks. With the advent of the “new” cafeteria, we got new plastic utensil dispensers.  These monoliths are meant to dispense one utensil at a time, which is great for most people when it works within its operating parameters, but now, after a year, they’ve become worn. Beaten. Some of them now eject two or three fork utensils at a time.

Having two or three forks thrown at you is disturbing.  I think of that scene out of Carrie, when she uses her powers to hurl knife projectiles at her mom.   Most people, shocked, go into a trance and leave the secondary objects lie on the counter, never to be used. After all, who would pick up a fork or knife strewn a counter? Why was it left there? What bacteria has collected from sitting on that hard marble surface? Did it touch the floor? Why didn’t someone just throw it out? How do you know something didn’t just use the damn thing and miss the waste basket?

There are too many questions to ask.   Forks all over the place. It’s like going into a fork battle ground, like those pictures from the civil war with dead bodies all over. I think I should see Abraham Lincoln standing next to the ketchup dispenser reading his address with a solemn face, and top hat in hand to his heart.

These forks have givin’ their all and they must be recognized. Ejected before their time, they lie here as a reminder of once was. Every time we visit this place we should say a prayer, for the brave utensils that made the ultimate sacrifice. This is holy ground.

 

I can almost hear a cafeteria worker crying softly throughout his speech, as she cleans the counter tossing them gently into the waste bin and then reloading a magazine of forks into the dispenser. The magazine empties again and the cafeteria worker loads another. “Is there no God, here Sir?” she says deep in her chest. Sad eyes. Weakened arms as she loads another magazine, and then the forks are gone again. Cleaning the lost souls from the marble, and wiping down with lukewarm water and germicidal bleach solution with a disgusting cloth. Her shift over and she walks home. “We lost many, but it was their finest hour.”

Tips

Portrait of young waitress in white blouse holding a tray
Portrait of young waitress in white blouse holding a tray

I am a good tipper. In fact, I find it hard not to give someone a 20% tip. If you are my bartender and make a good drink, gosh, you might just be able to retire. I understand how hard it is to wait on people. I was an employee and a manager for several years at a local Arby’s before I went on to real estate, secretary, PC support, and then on to network/systems administration. People can be disconcerting. People can be downright arrogant. Moreover, for some reason they think they are always right. NOT! However, when the waiter or waitress is just rude for no reason, I would like to know why. I bring this up because of several occasions recently experienced.

 

Kim and her daughter were having lunch at a local restaurant. They perhaps had the gall to order from the all-day breakfast menu at 11AM that caused the older waitress to becoming enraged. She threw their food on the table, and making little mouth ticks and rolling her eyes. Kim first thought that she was having a bad day, but later observed her being extremely polite to everyone else. Between Kim and her daughter, they agreed and walked out without leaving a tip. I do not know that I could do that, and does the waitress really learn from that?

 

Kim and I were at this restaurant about 7PM, a castle looking building located on what used to be a private country club.  The Berks Jazz Fest was playing in the bar room, and we were enjoying being just outside the doorway, getting a measured amount of music just enough to hear but still being able to talk. We waited fifteen minutes, for the waiter to show up, a talk and a gawky teen who appeared to be scared of his own shadow. He took our order, drinks and food and disappeared. We waited and grooved on the slow and fast metered beats and then our food came out with the manager. She set down the food with our questioning looks. “Did you order drinks?” Yes. Back into the bar room she went, and got an iced tea and my martini. “If you want any more, get me, it is on the house.” Then the waiter brought out water glasses, and a tray of bread, excusing profusely. OK, I thought. New guy. First time. I get it. He apologized. The food was good. He got his 20%, but we have not been back.

 

The third incident was at another restaurant. Kim and I arrived at 5PM and were seated quickly. Our friend Alison joined us. The waitress was quick with our drinks, and we waited for food. It was a transitive time. I get it. I watched at help showed up and quickly took their positions. The floor manager came over and apologized for the wait. OK. We at the bread and drank our drinks and eventually the food came out. It was good. We finished and waited. I saw our waitress deliver food to other tables as it came out, and she was busy. However, there were times when she was jawing with the manager or the other waitresses, and totally ignoring my trying to flag her down. We waited 30 to 45 minutes before Kim stopped one of the other waitresses asking for her help. Again, the manager comes over and apologizes and hands us the bill. Didn’t ask if we wanted more drinks. Didn’t ask if we wanted dessert. Alison asked that the bill be split, which he did not. He went back and split the bill. Still our original waitress did not come over, totally ignored us. I am still scratching my head. What did we do? If it was not her table and she was covering, why wouldn’t she continue with it? I do not know. I gave a tip, less than I would have and noted on the bill that it was less because of being ignored.

 

What happened to customer service? I like to go out when I can, and I do not like to feel like I am an inconvenience to the server. I do not care what shit is going on in your life, you are there to do a job, and if you do not, or if you are rude then maybe you should not have it. I must say, Kim and I were out this weekend without incident, reminding me that these incidences are the exception instead of the rule.