While in the back dish-room, I come to the sort of makeshift hallway leading from the kitchen to the front counter to put away some things. The shift manager, who I’ll call Helen, asks me in an almost barked-order kind of way if I’ll put down a basket of fries in the fryers. I could not help but notice that she was right by the fryers when she told me that, and well within her reach was the machine that deposit’s the fries into the fry-basket for you. Adrenaline in me surges, but I take a deep breath. I put down my dishes, walk over to the fryers and put down a basket, the fries steaming in the bubbling oil as I was steaming from the boiling blood in my veins. And I just walk away.
I’m aware of the factors. One psychologist of mine told me that if he had to wrap me up in a single word, he would undoubtedly use the word “intense.” Another psychologist of mine seemed to feel the same exact way about the word “sensitive,” with the close runner-up undoubtedly being the word “cerebral.” And I tend to interpret things such as what just happened as not only literal but symbolic, allegorical or metaphorical, like a gesture pointing to something deeper. The more “gestures” that point to a particular “deeper” place with that person over time, the more convinced I am of those “deeper” things.
She didn’t need me to do that for her. She could have far more easily done it herself, but she chose to delegate it. She had only done it to assert power over another. And she had singled me out despite the various crew members in her immediate vicinity. I tried to ignore all that, as it was just feeding the adrenaline.
Maybe I was being too sensitive about this. Just yesterday everyone had been telling me about what a bitch on a power trip she was, especially Mary, and I told her that as far as I’ve seen, she seems nice enough. Loud, but she talks openly and jokes around with me on occasion. I knew I had only seen her in passing and that the following evening, this evening, would be the first time I had ever worked with her for an entire night shift. Regardless, I elected to give her the benefit of the doubt. I was operating on less doubt than before, clearly, but I shouldn’t convince myself that she was a Nazi quite yet. Look at the present factors, I told myself: look at the context outside of her and you and in which you were both embedded. They were busy, she was no doubt stressed, so maybe that was all it was, and I tried to keep that in mind. I’ll give her one, I told myself. One free pass donated by the benefit of the doubt. That’s all.
Perhaps ten minutes later, I hear someone screaming my name from the direction of the counter, usually a clear sign of an emergency: there’s a huge spill in lobby, they need help in the kitchen because they’re incredibly backed up. Something of that nature. Nonetheless, I’m irritated. And I’m allowed to be. If she was coming across as mean before because she was stressed over the ongoing rush and I was able to excuse the way she talked to and ordered me around, I could excuse my own response in this case for the same reasons. Anything less would be inconsistent.
“What?” I yelled back, repeating it again when I walked from the dish room in the back up towards front counter, where Helen was standing by the fryers. It was her who had been calling. She pointed to the fry machine. Without looking at me at all. She told me to fill it up. I was looking at her intensely. The fry machine, which was perhaps a foot away from her. She wanted me to fill it up.
I slammed my hand down on the fry machine. “Why would you call me from the back kitchen when you’re standing right there? Can’t you ask one of your crew to do it?” I barked it, too. I said it loud. And in all that I was only being firm, not screaming like the lead vocalist in a Metal band, just talking much louder than I usually do. She stared. Her hip shot out a bit to her right. She pointed a lot during the whole thing, but not in time to her speech patterns. She told me not to speak to her like that, and I could go back to the dish room.
Mom? Is that you?
Interesting, that a person who cannot speak without turning her own verbal volume to the max would find me talking at that same volume to be unjustified. True, it was undoubtedly far louder than my own, personal baseline volume of voice, but it was still an interesting bit of hypocrisy on her part. “Do as I say, not as I do.” Outside of the factor of volume, you were left with the intriguing fact that somehow by asking her a simple and begging question I had in turn evidently threatened her sense of power and control. All this despite the fact that I’m not her on-call bitch, and she doesn’t have any authority over me.
When she told me I had no right speaking to her like that, I immediately turned it around on her, explaining that she had no right speaking to me as she did. As I said it, she spoke over me louder and louder telling me to “go back to the dish room, go back to the dish room” poking her chin out as she said it as if she were trying to summon and guide through those ridiculous-looking motions some latent, long-distance stabbing ability of hers. All as I was telling her no, I don’t have to, and I’m not.
Then Mary, the closing manager, stepped in and yelled at us both to stop it. She said stop it quite a few times before we did, so for a short while there was this sort of off-beat techno going on between the three of us with our, “go back to the dish room,” “no,” and “stop!” I honestly don’t remember which of us had the final note, but I do remember turning around, shaking my head in disbelief.
Some people are just out to assert their power over others, compulsively scratching that itch to control, to push others down. All so they can feel high, mighty, and march around all holier-than-thou. I wanted to scream to her: You crossed the line. I pushed you back. Deal with it.