Thursday, February 11, 2010

Backflips gone wrong. A retrospective.

I had a bit of an accident the first week I moved to Atlanta. The evidence of which is in the picture of myself you can see to the left. I’m pretty bored and feel like writing something so I might as well spin you a web of stupidity.

Ted and I went to a Braves game with his sister and her dude earlier in the day. We imbibed a good amount of Miller Lite tall cans before leaving and hitting the bars. The bars didn’t offer anything too exciting besides a cross-dresser in a cheerleading outfit. We elected to spend the night drinking heavily to offset the mundane bar experience. We returned to Ted’s apartment, where I slept on his couch until we procured our current apartment, we decided to head to the pool. The pool hours ended at ten, and it was nearing three in the morning, but we didn’t care.

“Fuck the rules!”

We entered the pool and went right to work. Yelling, diving, splashing, general stupidity. It’s amazing nobody called the cops or at least the apartment complex to complain about the noise. The pool is surrounded by apartments and we were yelling like it was two in the afternoon on the Fourth of July while AC/DC played on giant amplifiers next to the pool while bombs exploded from un-oiled tanks.

Eventually, we realized that neither of us had ever done a backfilp. This, of course, had to change. I stood on the edge of the pool, facing out, and jumped backwards with no real plan in mind. I had watched the Olympics in the past and played a lot of Tony Hawk, so I felt I was qualified to just go for it. I jumped, pulled my legs up, and held until I crashed into the water.

“Did I get all the way around?”

“Pretty much. My turn.”

We practiced our backfilps until we had them perfected. This new skill, of course, would come in handy later. However, we couldn’t stop there. Backflips turned into running backflips which turned into gainers (spinning the opposite way of your momentum). Jumping off of chairs followed that before I decided to do a harmless swan dive. Pocahontas did one in the Disney movie, can’t be too dangerous, right?

I jumped, with impeccable form, and entered the water. In my enthusiasm, I forgot the pool was only five feet deep. I hit the water with enough force to travel ten. After breaking the water tension I immediately hit the concrete. My hands scraped along the bottom like I was clearing snow off of my windshield, followed by my face that hit like a half-deflated basketball.

I stood up and immediately grabbed my teeth to make sure they were still there. Luckily, they held strong. I walked towards the edge of the pool and Ted noticed something was wrong. I got out. He followed me and inspected my wounds.

Nose isn’t broken, teeth aren’t missing, can still walk. Success. Everything else is merely details. I grabbed my towel and felt the blood begin to run. My face was pretty much covered in blood as we walked back to his apartment, joking along the way. It would have been very easy to get embarrassed or mad about what happened, but that wouldn’t be fun. The blood dripped down my face, onto the pavement, onto my chest, and all we could do was laugh. It was just too ridiculous to take it seriously. Sure, I could have broken my neck, but, I didn’t. We made it out so who fucking cares.

I went into the bathroom and looked at my face, or, I guess, what was left of it. Ted grabbed me some band-aids and anti-bacterial cream and I patched myself up, not looking forward to the next day.

When I woke up, I was surprised that my face wasn’t the part of my body that hurt the most. It was my stomach. It seems obvious now, but I hadn’t really thought of it before then: Doing backflips for an hour works out obscure stomach muscles. I didn’t know I had backflip muscles, but I do, and it’s pretty apparent that they were out of shape.

I picked up my phone and saw two messages I had sent the night before. The first was sent a little before three a.m. that said, “Going to the pool, fuck the rules.” The next was sent a little before four a.m. that said, “There is blood everywhere.” That pretty much sums it up.

I walked to the mirror and saw the holes in my face and the chunk of hair that was probably plastered to the bottom of the pool and thought, “Well, I hope I don’t have to go to a job interview for a couple weeks.”

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cleanliness is Next to Speediness

I contacted a guy a couple months ago about a local magazine he was starting. It was to be based around the service industry. Reviews, stories from work, etc. I threw something together for him to try to get a feel for what he wanted. I sent it, he liked it, then I lost contact with him. I don't know if it's ever going to happen so I might as well put my article on here.

Here it is:

We all know that we don’t live in a perfect world. People habitually speed up when they see yellow lights as well as pretending the change in their pockets doesn’t exist when walking past Salvation Army buckets. However, when people step into a restaurant they seem to believe they step into a world of magic. A world where everyone washes their hands and no corners are ever cut in the name of efficiency. This, however, is wrong.

I have worked in many different kitchens throughout my pursuit of the American Dream and have noticed a few running themes. I’ll skip past the obvious one, that every kitchen has at least one habitual substance abuser, and talk about the side of working in a kitchen that most people don’t want to think about: Fast-paced restaurants are not spotless.

Sure, they may be clean enough that people don’t get sick, but they aren’t the shining, sparkling havens of cleanliness we may want them to be. Mr. Clean is not the kitchen manager and Scrubbing Bubbles do not slide all over the floors at night. Sorry. When you’re trying to figure out if that strand of melted cheese is a hair or not, don’t be so quick to assume it didn’t come from someone’s head. Or worse.

I’m not saying every restaurant is infested with mice and filled with drunk cooks farting into their hands. Far from it. Restaurants are usually able to find a happy medium between being safe and sanitary while also delivering food promptly. The truth is, people rarely get sick from food. It happens, but it isn’t as big of a threat as some think. You could lick a high school basketball court from one end to the other after a game and not get sick. You could eat a filet of fish that has sat on a counter for three hours and not get sick. Trust me. I’ve served it.

When it comes to getting grossed out by un-cleanliness, I am at the top of the list. I habitually wash my hands when out in public out of fear of catching a cold. I stand as if surfing when I ride the MARTA train to avoid touching the poles. But when it comes to sitting in a restaurant, I am a pragmatist. I know what happens back there and I’m okay with it. As long as I don’t see my burger hit the floor, I’ll eat it. However, I‘m not going to trick myself into believing it never happens.

You may be wondering how restaurants can get away with having below-standard sanitation practices when there are health inspectors hired by the city to regulate this very thing. It’s pretty easy; they don’t do their jobs well. Every restaurant I’ve worked in got a notice about a week before the inspector arrived. These were hell weeks. All employees would be scrubbing every inch of the building to prepare for the inspector. When the day would finally come, we would hide the list of things we needed to dress up to seem acceptable. The inspector would walk around, find a couple minor problems, like the refrigerator door’s seal not being tight enough, write our little grade sheet and move along. As soon as the inspector would leave, we would all breathe a deep breath and continue using the same gloves to handle beef that we used for the chicken.

This system of health inspectors is not completely worthless, however. Restaurants are now required to post their cleanliness grade for customers to see. This gives the restaurants the incentive to perform well. In early 2008, a restaurant in Gwinnett County scored 13 out of 100. Yeah, that’s right, 13. The health department closed down the restaurant after probably continually muttering, “You have got to be kidding me. Just wash your fucking hands! It’s easy!” So, if Mar Y Tierra in Lilburn opens back up, go the first week when the health problems are all fixed because they will surely revert to their old ways soon after.

Okay, so some restaurants take the idea of expediting the food a little too far. But I will stand by the general idea that complete cleanliness is unnecessary. Sure, I’d like it if every restaurant that ever made me a sandwich did so without skipping any sanitary steps, but then again, I’d like wings to sprout out of my back so I could just fly to the liquor store. We can’t always get what we want so we might as well get used to reality. I’m going to have to keep driving drunk to the liquor store and you’re going to have to keep eating sandwiches cut with knives that touched raw meat.