Word of Mouth

Cutting lemons, folding napkins and other mindless wastes of time

Welcome to In the Weeds. Kyle will be right with you -- most likely to complain about something. Usually he is pleasant, but this is his place to blow off some steam. Don't take it personally; he just needs to vent because he's been doing this for about thirteen years. Enjoy your meal.

As a co-worker and I stood around one day cutting lemons and talking about how much we hate cutting lemons, I asked, "How much time do you think we've spent in our lives cutting lemons?"

He thought for a second, then began to calculate the total. He was about two sentences into his math equation when I realized that I had easily wasted months of my life cutting lemons.

"Never mind, shut up," I interrupted. "I don't actually want to know."

And I've spent 80 percent of my restaurant life as a waiter -- so I shudder to think of how much time bar-tending lifers have spent slicing citrus. Folding napkins and polishing glasses and silverware also rank high on the list of tasks I would definitely bribe my co-workers to do for me.

It's not the actual tasks that I despise; I am more than fine with working at work. It's just that to cut lemons and fold napkins, I have to go into a semi-comatose state. If I'm going to stop using half my brain and bullshit with friends, I would just as soon get drunk.

Anytime I'm rolling silverware or polishing wineglasses, I'm reminded of all the other things I could be doing. I go to sleep every night wishing I had more time to read, exercise, relax or accomplish any number of useful tasks. But not once as my head hit the pillow have I thought, "I sure am glad I spent an hour on bullshit factory work."

This kind of work exists in sharp contrast to the rest of the job, which makes it seem all the worse. I love the restaurant industry because I get to interact with a lot of people and be around food and drink; very few days are similar. But when I'm doing menial tasks like cutting lemons, I'm doing none of the things I enjoy about restaurant work; nothing is new.

This is probably the reason that many longtime restaurant owners are shockingly grumpy. Doing the same brainless work for thirty years might make any man want to down all the Scotch in the bar and fight half the staff.

So when a customer orders water and then asks for a load of lemons and sugar so that they can make their own lemonade, aka cheap asshole juice, I'm not only mad at them for being pathetic, I loathe them for forcing me to cut two extra lemons.

When restaurant life gives me lemons, I'm not going to make lemonade.

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Kyle Garratt
Contact: Kyle Garratt