Free the space for nothingness
It was August 7th when David Kanigan suggested I write a post based on my response to his post “You Missed That…” Here we are, the last day of August and I am finally writing it. I did start composing last night but it took me so long to find David’s post because my computer decided to be slower than molasses in January that I abandoned the project in frustration and decided to watch the second half of “Chef’s Table with Jeong Kwan” because watching the first half the night before is what brought me back here in the first place.
So, here I am now. My response to D.K.’s post was this:
Yes. Mindfulness is a state of being.
It’s funny. On Wednesday, while sitting in my canteen, for a “quiet moment” (i.e. no customers, everything stocked, nothing needing my attention) I was so aware of just how many sounds I am being bombarded with in that tiny space. The hum of the three fridges – each their own sound, the clicking of the hot plate, the whir of the A/C, the flapping of my protective plexiglass “window” every time a breeze came. It was both disconcerting and oddly soothing at the same time.
David’s response was:
You should write a post based on this comment. That’s beautiful.
Kiki seconded the motion and, after a chat on Messenger with Sawsan, I said I would. Thank goodness I didn’t say when I would do it!
As I worked yesterday, I kept thinking of Jeong Kwan and her being present in the moment – giving herself completely with an open heart and love to whatever task she is doing. I decided to try to be mindful (instead of incredibly bored) as I made the sandwich fillings: weigh the meat, calculate the percentages of the add-ins needed as per the recipe such as mayo, sour cream, old-fashioned grain mustard, etc.; take out the food processor, wash and chop the celery, add to bowl sitting on scale, add each ingredient by weight, mix with spatula. Then, process ham or chicken (or pass hard-boiled eggs through a cooling grid) and add to bowl. Remove my ring and go in with my hands (except for the eggs) to mix well as it is way way more efficient. Feel the cold ingredients and their textures as I lift and fold, almost in a kneading motion, scraping sides of bowl with the side of my hand to bring into the mix. Let my mind remain empty as I do it, focussing solely on the task, a meditative state. For me, this is the form of meditation that works for me – besides walking. Of course, today, of all days, I was disrupted by a client who scared the bejeezus out of me by calling out. No matter. I was able to get back into that frame of mind after I got him his hot dog.
Pushing eggs through a cooling rack
By being mindful, it somehow felt less monotonous; less brain-draining. It helped me give meaning to a simple, repetitive task that I do three times per day, twice per week. Does this mean I love it? Hell no. Not even close. What it has done is confirm that I definitely do not want to work in the food preparation business ever again. I shall, however, not leave them hanging and finish my season. Even if it kills me. Slowly. Is it mid-October yet?
Dishes done for the third time, vacuum-formed packs put away, I was able to relax between sporadic customers. It had rained non-stop on Tuesday so I was frankly surprised there were as many golfers as there were. The air was crisp; the wind, fierce, the grass certainly soggy, and yet there they were. They truly are a special breed of fanatic.
I sat there, trying to read when the various hums and clicks got my attention and I realised this was the reason for this post in the first place! So I set my timer to see just how often the two most annoying and loud items go off. The vent, the air-conditioning, the small fridges each have their own humming sound that remains constant. The hotplate starts an almost frenetic clicking sound that goes up to reach its crescendo then slows down until the clicks are more intermittent. The cycle takes 2:35:42 exactly – I timed it. Twice. The big-ass Foster fridge motor starts off with a thud and a shudder and this odd echoey-rattly sound before lowering into a loud hum. The cycle takes about 5:03:07. I timed it twice but missed the start by about 5 seconds as my phone had turned off and frankly, I hear the damn thing all day, I was done focusing on it for this. I have noticed one of the other fridges has its own sort of shuddering restart or whatever you want to call it but I didn’t bother with it. I actually took this video two days after David’s post, thought I’d try to redo it and then decided meh. This’ll do to give you an idea.
I have never spent so much time alone and in my head, as I have since I started this job on June 18th. Yes, there are busy moments and lots of customers but they come and go quickly, in a rush to hit their first or back nine. It’s not like serving in the restaurant of the previous golf club I worked for where you get to know the customer’s names and favourite beers and create a rapport. Sure, there are quite a few regulars, here: Monsieur Pomme, who orders an apple-oatmeal muffin every single time – and says not a single word other than to order, or now, smile as I put his muffin on the counter before he asks; or Mr. Oxford (from whence he hails) who orders his coffee with four laits – pronounced lays (milks). There are friendly and not-so-much-so types and no one lingers. That’s to be expected in a canteen or casse-croûte, as we call it.
Random view from my window to distract you from how long this post is
Employees come to get their lunches and snacks as well and some, a few only, take a moment to chit-chat. Other than that? Me, myself and I. And my head. And my thoughts. And the incessant humming and clicking. I tried putting the radio on to drown out some of it but, being under a cement terrace, the reception is not always without the grating scratchy sound of not quite being on the channel – you remember those? A radio with a dial that you have to adjust ‘just so’ to get your station? I know, I know, I should simply download some music on my phone but honestly? I don’t think of it. Regardless, it’s not worth it, it just adds to the cacophony.
Somehow this post has not turned into what I thought it would. So since it was a reflective piece, I’ll leave you with a nice little reflection of the setting sun on my just rained-on street.