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Monday, October 24, 2011

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 catering company’s owner’s wedding.

Ricky and Johnny own the catering company. It was Ricky’s wedding.

Ricky and Johnny have a very tight-knit extended family: religious, community-minded, and fierce. The family 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 by actually witnessing something, to know 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 up.

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 sparkling crystal; the crisp linens; 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 is about to die.

In describing Johnny’s face later to a rapt kitchen crowd, T 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 back through the swinging doors, through the kitchen, and out the back door.

The cooks back on the grills watch as Burnie begins to gabble about how he has a right, dammit, and he demands to know – Johnny, dark red and glowering, 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, !@#$ing complaining about your !@#ing working conditions?! Whatsammater? Paulie being mean to you? Have you lost your !@ing mind?!  PAULIE! Get your !@#$ out here and bring Genius’s coat with you! You’re down one @#ing cook for the night!”


And we never saw Burnie again.

The End.

38 comments:

ICKY said...

I remember that day well.
I was actually frightened for Burnie.
Paulie and the 2 brothers were very large men with very short fuses.
As I remember it, the brothers were very close, so to interrupt ones special day with whining, in front of family like that, not a good idea.

Shelly said...

Burnie is probably still running-

Pearl said...

Icky, they are burly, swarthy men with large appetites and volatile mood swings!

Shelly, you had to wonder what was going through his mind when he decided to complain on what was, essentially, his boss's wedding day...

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl! Burnie sounds like a slacker, so on principle I shan't criticise him, but MAN, talk about a bad time to drop the ball. As for "I have rights!", it's the whine of the undeserving idiot. Grrr, etc. Indigo x

Belle said...

Crazy behaviour! I'm afraid he deserved what he got. I think Burnie needs to have a job like I did once- gluing boxes together.

Silliyak said...

Prequel to "Weekend at Bernies"?

Audubon Ron said...

Yep, that's what I wudda done.

Pearl said...

Indigo, that's the line that made us all howl like monkeys: "I have rights!" Yes. You have the right to get thrown out on your ear by a large Lebanese man. :-)

Belle, I agree! Have to wonder where he is now, though...

Silliyak, Now THERE'S a movie that needs a prequel. :-)

Pearl said...

Audubon, as my grandma would've said, Burnie needed firing.

Eva Gallant said...

Whoa! Bernie was an idiot, for sure!

Crystal Pistol said...

oh boy! I would have LOVED to watch that exchange! There is nothing better than a nasty scene at a costly wedding. :) Poor Bernie. He'll be a hot head his whole life and experience this kind of punishment forevermore.

Off the subject, you suggested I read Main Street several months ago. Just finished. Carol and I are the self-same person. Sinclair Lewis knew me before I was conceived in the womb. :) Great book.

Friko said...

Blimey; what kind of company do you keep?
Rough or what!

I like the menu, though.

jenny_o said...

Awesome descriptions - and may I say that, in my opinion, although Bernie wasn't bright, his boss's brother was no winner either :)

Pearl said...

Eva, well, there's a reason it's "Burnie" and not "Bernie", as in Burnie might've done more inhaling than most...

Crystal, I'm so glad you liked it! I love how he writes.

Friko, I think, if you don't work in the food service industry, it is shocking just how rough/loud/crude/childish it can be back there. :-) And the food with this particular catering company is always first-rate. There's a lot of stress in a kitchen that size, so they tend to work hard/play hard.

jenny_o, just re-telling a story that was told to me. :-)

Joshua said...

So...no video of the event? That would have been excellent. Sucks about the wedding, but putting him in his place is awesome.

Pearl said...

Joshua, there's never a videographer in the kitchen when you need one!

light208 said...

Sheesh, some men just don't realise there's a time and a place. Although I imagine he might have a better idea now

Douglas said...

Having spent 4 years in Uncle Sam's "yacht club", I had no trouble decoding the profanities.

I'd have been cheering him on.

Diane said...

Yup. Agree. Bernie needed to be fired . . . from a cannon!

Steve Bailey said...

Bernie sighting everybody.... he is now working at Wendys!!!

Gigi said...

You know, people like Burnie get what they deserve.

Great story though - wouldn't you love to see this scene in a movie?

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Such an end to the blessed day. How was the salmon, btw?

Leenie said...

Great post! Loved the visuals.It's good for us people at the table to know a little of how the machinery works behind the scenes of those perfect events. Now I'm going to see if I can come up with the ingredients for a Greek salad.

Looks like you may have to put comment approval on your blog to get rid of "Anonymous" and "Michelle." Some people have absolutely no class.

Ian said...

In an other-wordly psychic thing our two blogs have a slight commonality today as I too look at rage in the kitchen with my target being chefs. Love your scenario and it enhances mine most effectively.

CarrieBoo said...

Burnie got buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurned! I wonder what he's doing now...

You are da comedy masta, Pearl. (And thanks, btw.) :)

darlin said...

And that's about the way it goes. I was working for a restaurant until a few months ago, we cater all sizes of events and there always seems to be one, the one who slows down everything. Totally digressing here... back to what I was going to mention. My boss flies back home, about 5000 miles away to attend a funeral, the cook calls her on her cell phone (naturally during the celebration of life, the boss forgot to silence her phone) and thinking it might be an emergency she leaves the service... to be asked if we have any more peas! All rights were lost immediately with one phone call, that's all it takes sometimes.

Great writing, it totally reflects how the catering business can be. I personally wouldn't want to work for a boss's reception... no sireee, I have but tread carefully if you ever find yourself in that situation is my best advice!

ICKY said...

Anonymous ......your an idiot.

The Elephant's Child said...

I have to agree with ICKY's assessment on anon. I tried hard, but he/she lost me. Loved the tale of Burnie's demise in that particular job though. Thanks.

Jocelyn said...

A week-and-a-half ago I attended the limpest wedding EVER; I know it's not the right thing to say here, but I'd just about have rather been at what you describe than the heartless affair I attended.

Upshot of both, though: weddings are dumb. I'm increasingly a fan of those who walk up to a judge with a friend or two in tow.

In other news, it appears I shall age into a perfectly crotchety Old Lady in the next few years.

Roses said...

Wow. That should be in the How to Work Rule Book, as an example of what not to do.

Especially, in a kitchen. For a function.

He really was suicidal.

Tempo said...

Poor Burnie, but if you cant take the heat.....
I see our friend has started posting 'anon' dribble....lucky you Pearl! :-)

The Jules said...

He totally had rights. The right to get beasted for being a wuss.

Also, the right to remain silent, a right that someone above might choose to exercise?

Pearl said...

Anonymous/Michelle/Dusty, you tax me, you really do. And the amount of space you're taking up in my head has just been revoked. I shall do my utmost to delete you, daily. Stay where you are, haunt something else. I have your address, physical and computer (Hello, Vancouver!) and contacted your service provider yesterday. Now go away before I call the police.

I may be going back to not allowing anonymous comments. I don't like that, as I believe everyone should be heard, if they want to be, but nonsensical and sometimes obscene rantings are a bore.

Pearl said...

To anyone who may have read the above and the "police" comment, he's also sending e-mails. Great guy. Not.

20prospect said...

But what about the SALAD!!!!

What happened to the salad!

R. Jacob said...

Sonny: How's Paulie?
Clemenza: Oh, Paulie... won't see him no more.
substitute Burnie for Paulie!

SeaD said...

20Prospect beat me to the punch. Did the salads make it to the table? Also, You deleted the comments before I saw them, but from what Pearl said, there appears to be a heckling troll with my name. Guess it's good I'm not using it here.

This is a fun place. No place for boors.

Pearl said...

The salads were made like "that" (insert snapping fingers here) family-style (large and horribly heavy glass bowls) and the rest of the food did not suffer.

I'll bet Burnie did when he got home though...