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Monday, June 8, 2009

Suicidal Behavior in the Workplace

Burnie had always appeared to be an idiot.

But he proved it the night of Ricky’s wedding.

I wasn’t there when it happened, but T was.

It all happened at the one of the catering company’s owner’s wedding. Got that? Ricky and Johnny own the catering company. It was Johnny’s wedding.

Ricky and Johnny have a very tight-knit extended family: religious, community-minded, and fierce. It is of such size that there are several catered events a year: weddings, anniversaries, memorial services, holidays. If you work these events, you come, through reputation or witnessing something, to know a number of them.

A catering kitchen is a machine. Everything is a matter of timing; for the machine to run properly, it must fire on all cylinders, in order. One bad cylinder and the whole thing seizes.

Burnie was a bad cylinder.

“Burnie,” said T, “had an inflated sense of his own abilities.”

Ricky’s wedding wasn’t a buffet but a banquet, that is, the tables did not line up to serve themselves at the buffet table but were served, family style. Ice water, bread rolls, butter and antipasto trays were already at the table.

On the menu tonight? Large bowls and platters of a classic Greek salad, mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, beef tenderloin and salmon on cedar planks freshly prepared on mammoth portable grills just outside the kitchen door.

Burnie was in charge of the salads.

In hindsight, of course, Burnie should never have been in charge of the salads. When you’re backed up on salads, you’re backed up for real.

And that’s what happened.

Despite Paulie’s repeated shouts of “You got them salads?” and “How you comin’ on those salads?” they were not ready when the call came to move on the salads.

Paulie’s mouth dropped in incredulity. Late delivery of the salads meant the sauces were off, that the meat had to wait, that the potatoes and grilled vegetables, nearing completion and ready for the warmer, would sit longer than optimal.

This was not cheap food.

Paulie roared. “What the hell have you been doing? Get on it. GET ON IT!”

Burnie, humiliated, threw a towel to the floor. “You can’t talk to me like that!” He stormed out of the kitchen and, in a move that caught T's eye and bode ill for the immediate future, into the reception hall.

Think of the loveliest wedding receptions you’ve been to: the extravagant floral arrangements; the crisp linens; the crystal; the beautifully dressed men and women; the children holding hands as they run, laughing, through the crowds. Everyone’s had a couple of drinks, partaken of the tables of fruits and cheeses. The hall is filled to the ceiling with happy voices.

Burnie charges into the reception in his kitchen whites.

He sees Johnny, owner of the catering firm and brother of the groom, standing on the dance floor talking to what appears to be a number of his aunts. Burnie interrupts their conversation, placing a hand on Johnny’s arm.

“I gotta talk to you,” he shouts at him.

From the window in the kitchen door, T watches, horrified. Burnie was about to die.

In describing Johnny’s face later to a rapt kitchen crowd, he said: “You could see Johnny’s blood pressure rise. He went purple.”

Johnny removes Burnie’s hand from his arm, spins him around, and with a hand on his back, pushes him quickly from whence he came, through the swinging doors, through the kitchen, and out the back door.

The cooks outside on the grills watch as Burnie begins to gabble about how he has rights, dammit, and he demands to know – Johnny cuts him off, his face dark red and glowering. He whirls him around, grabs him by the collar.

Lifting Burnie off his feet, Johnny slams his body against the brick wall of the reception hall. He begins to shout, the F word liberally lacing his speech, a monologue that is as brief as it is explosive.

“You interrupt my @#$! brother’s wedding for this, you @#$-for-brains son of a whore? You step in a celebration dressed like that, !@#$ing complaint about your !@#ing working conditions?! Whatsammater? Paulie being mean to you? Have you lost your !@ing mind?! PAULIE! Get your !@#$ out here and bring Genius’s coat with you! You’re down one @#ing cook for the night!”

And we never saw Burnie again.


RedCurlGirl said...

haha oh no!

The Retired One said...

God, I miss those wedding receptions! You know, the ones with drama where an old boyfriend shows up and a fight breaks out between two men over a woman during the reception.....
the ones without drama are no damn fun!

kimber p said...

omg..I was going to say I wish I'd have been there, but the awesome way you described it, I was there!! Now let me kick off these painful shoes and dance the night away!!!

Chris @ Maugeritaville said...

This sounds like a scene from a movie, featuring Steve Buscemi as Burnie and Benicio Del Toro as Johnny.



De Campo said...

If you really want to see Burnie again head over to George Washington Bridge. I believe that his bloated body should start to bob up in the Hudson any day now.

Bring your own salad.

f8hasit said...

I used to own a catering compnay myself...and had employed a Burnie-esque person for a short (very short) period of time....

Although in the height of the moment when the F-bombs are exploding, it's not so funny. But damn if it doesn't make a great ancedote for conversation now...


ICKY said...

I'm not sure anybody saw that poor burger flipper again.....ever.
What Pearl didnt mention, is How "connected" they were to "familia"
Think of the movie "A Bronx tale".
"Yea, they had 5 fingers, but only used 3"

f8hasit said...

Hey Pearl...I've been enjoying your posts! So glad I 'found' them. Fact is, I've enjoyed them to the extent that I have bestowed upon you the Kreativ Blogger award.

Stop on by and pick it up!

Anonymous said...

Ahhh....Pearl this story makes me miss my NY roots. Growing up there exposed me to just this sort of...shall we say...'work ethic'.

Don't disrespect the family...is all I'm sayin'....

It reminds me of the one movie...with that one guy...you know...he had a gun.


Eskimo Bob said...

(Mindlessly putting popcorn in mouth)

"Hey babe - someone's showing our wedding video on the TV."

"Well - I'll be. They don't look like us there Bob. But that's what happened. Sure as sugar."

"Uhh Huhh."

powdergirl said...

You paint a vivid picture Pearl, there's always a Burnie in the kitchen isn't there?

SparkleFarkle said...

Why do I have the sudden urge to run out and rent Weekend at Bernie's???

Douglas said...

So that's why there was no salad at my reception...

Joanie M said...

Oh, I can SO see this happening, frame by frame! YIKES!!! And Bernie will have the balls to show up for his paycheck later on this week. I'd put money on it!

Fancy Schmancy said...

I'm assuming this story is old, cause there is no way you want to be talking about that family while you're still in any way connected with them, right? Very funny, the schmucks the food industry will attract!

mapstew said...

Very Very Good!

Pearl said...

RedCurlGirl, oh, it’s perfectly true!

Retired One, I do love a good reception!

Kimber, save us a spot on the dance floor!

Chris, you’re not far off…

De Campo, poor Burnie. It’s hard being that dense.

F8hasit, the scariest moments always make the best stories later.

Icky, they’re not Italian, but they could pass…

F8hasit, thank you!!

Sweet Cheeks, I loved that movie! :-D

Eskimo Bob, I’m glad you can “see” it!

Powdergirl, I guarantee there’s always a Burnie!

Douglas, there was salad, it was just a little late!

Joanie, I wonder if he did ever show up for money? Those things are always cash jobs, and I’m having a hard time picturing the person who show his face again…

Fancy Schmancy, it was this year, but no worries! There are only a handful of my friends that read this blog!

Mapstew, thank you, sir!

Green-Eyed Momster said...

Stuff like this usually happens during a Full Moon! I swear....


'cuz I'm the mommy, that's why! said...

Not sure I would have wanted the salad prepared by the disgruntled Burnie...
Thanks for the FB add! I'm now Jane Doeadeer. It's my secret-agent name. ;)

WhisperingWriter said...

Oh wow!

I love the way you write.

Anonymous said...

Oops! There is a time for complaining - and a wedding ain't one them!

BPOTW said...

Wow! That's all I'm saying!! Thanks for posting at BPOTW!

SweetPeaSurry said...

Oh my ... people like Burnie ... ha ha ... burn my hide! Jeez those peeps just need to get it together already!!! LOL