Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Crude Gourmet

Walter stood over the grill, sweat dripping off his forehead. The grill always let out an angry hiss when one of his sweat drops hit the hot surface.  He took the spatula and pushed it toward the well at the edge of the grill, along with any cigar ashes that happened to fall.  That was one reason Sarah, his daughter hated to go into the restaurant.  “Ewwww Dad”, she’d say, “…that’s just gross.”  But Walter didn’t care, he was just going through the motions; he worked twice as hard as he ever did and made half the money. “What am I doing in a damn restaurant anyway?” he thought. 

At age 60, Walter was declared obsolete.  Before computers came along, he would repair all the typewriters, adding machines and pay-masters for banks in Manhattan. Walter was proud of the work he did and offered a mild protest. His boss stared at him incredulously and said:  “Walter, you’ve got to be kidding, your machines are antiquated and crude.” Sure, Walter would have been happy to retire at age 60, but he had no real savings and three teenage kids. So, he thought he’d move to Florida, maybe work at a small bank that didn’t have all those computers yet. But he could hardly get any interviews and when he did, no one was interested in him fixing old machines.
Walter grabbed the first opportunity he found: a friend was selling a restaurant. It was a typical breakfast and lunch place, with eggs, sandwiches and hamburgers. Ironically, Walter didn’t know how to cook and he never even worked in a restaurant.  “What the hell”, he thought, “I can do this”.      

Before she left, Sarah always said, “Dad, don’t forget, you’ve got to scrub everything down at night or the roaches will carry the place away.”  Walter gave his usual response, “Yeah, yeah, sure”, knowing that he would be so tired that he could hardly drag himself out the door. 
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I wrote this for the Week 84 Trifecta Writing Prompt where we are to write a 33-333 word composition using the word “crude” in the context of something marked by the primitive, gross, or elemental or by uncultivated simplicity or vulgarity.

Your comments are appreciated.


35 comments:

  1. Not a restaurant where I'd like to eat! Poor Walter and poor customers.

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    1. Yeah, not a good situation all the way around. I heard of worse things happening in restaurants, though! Thanks for commenting Gabriella. :)

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  2. Unfortunately too accurate - i enjoyed your writing good descriptions

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    1. Thanks Steven. It even came out more real than I planned. Pretty grim.

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  3. How sad! And he would have been skilled labour before.

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    1. Yes, that is the essence of my point. He was skilled and proud and they abruptly took that away. No wonder he didn't care about having the "proper" restaurant. Thanks for noting this Joe. I'm not sure it came across.

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  4. Let's just hope the roaches are too tired by the end of the day as well! ;)

    I also echo the great writing sentiment! And congrats on your Trifecta win yesterday!!!

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    1. Thank you for all those kind words Valerie. I'm afraid the roaches will eventually take over. And they are definitely nocturnal.

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  5. Okay having worked at greasy spoons before, the sweat thing isn't an unusual occurrence but still, ew. I'd rather have the cigar ashes. That's the thing with industrial and technology revolutions, some portion of the people will always get left behind. At least he gave it a shot.

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    1. I'm sure that his loss of the job was inevitable, I was more disturbed by the way it was done. I was also trying to convey the devastation, regardless of the justification. Thank you for your comments Shannon.

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  6. I totally agree with Joe. To be declared obsolete by society yet, still have bills to pay, is an affront to the dignity of a very proud man. Unfortunately, this sort of unhappy ending is all too common for those who have not been prudent with their financial affairs, have run into health problems, etc. You have done an excellent job of capturing the helpless feeling of being caught in that trap.......being too tired to work and too broke to quit.

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    1. Thanks Tom. I appreciate all of those comments and thoughts. You hit the nail on the head regarding his dilemma and details which are not included due to the word limit.

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  7. I feel bad for the guy, but geez, he shouldn't be in the kitchen, either. We constantly have to evolve if we want to have a chance of being employable.

    (Sadly, I knew a cook much like this when I waitressed at a restaurant-which-shall-not-be-named. If they'd send me on break while he was cooking, I'd eat a salad because I could get that myself!)

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    1. Thanks Janna. I think he was in over his head. The trauma of losing his job almost preclded him from learning anything new. I had a couple of restaurant jobs (for a very brief period of time) and Walter was a model of cleanliness compared to what I saw. :)

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  8. Well written and thought-provoking. I agree with Janna, though I would guess that at 60, never thinking he would be obsolete, he wouldn't have the skills to know how to become employable again. Still yuck, he definitely shouldn't be in that kitchen.

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    1. Thanks so much Jo-Anne. He didn't stay in the restaurant business too long. Actually, his main shortcoming was not getting the food out fast enough. Customers didn't know about the other stuff.

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  9. The saddest part about this are those statistics that say only a small percentage of us will have saved enough for retirement. And it doesn't help that the banks crashed taking with them much of what some did manage to save. Technology moves so fast I imagine it seemed to Walter like almost overnight he became redundant. Thought-provoking piece... great descriptions - very well done! Though I wish I hadn't read the comments with all the stories of just how bad it is behind the scenes of restaurants. Yikes.

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    1. Steph, thanks for all those kind words. I think the restaurant saga took a little from my main point, which you "got" so well, is how "crudely" people are treated in these situations. Sure, he could have planned better, but somehow, it just felt so wrong that he was out so suddenly. There is s little known movie by Jeff Balis called "Waiting" which is a comedy about what happens behind the scenes at a restaurant. You do not want to see this movie, and, whatever, you do, do not send food back in a restaurant!!!!!!

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  10. oh, I feel for Walter and for all of us that feel obsolete.
    it was so well written, I could smell the sweat and the burgers.

    WOW>

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    1. Thank you so much Kir. Your comments mean a lot.

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  11. I have a feeling that many of us will become obsolete without continually re-educating ourselves in our particular technology-economy storm. Btw, should the final paragraph also read Walter, rather than Hank?

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    1. Thanks Jody. I think being aware of needing to keep up is a very good thing but it is a hard thing to actually keep up to speed as you get older.

      I fixed the incorrect reference. He was originally Hank and I didn't catch that one. Thanks for flagging it.

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  12. Such a radical shift, from repairman to cook. I can see why he would grasp at anything, and why it didn't take long for it to start to depress him. Here's hoping things get better.

    Thank you for linking up. Please don't forget to return for the voting!

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    1. Thanks Tri. I'm glad you saw that. He wasn't a crude guy, the world just beat him down.

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  13. I imagine a lot of people felt that way when computers and technology started doing their jobs for them and the people themselves are considered obsolete and trying to find a job at something they never thought they would do as 'work'. Very descriptive and sad.

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  14. Argh! Brutal. Poor Walter. No wonder he's so cavalier about kitchen hygiene. Hard to blame him for not having the reserve of energy to even give a crap. A tough read, but really nicely done.

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    1. I think you hit the nail on the head. Thanks Kallan.

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  15. I guess it was close to cooking but no cigar -- love the descriptions.

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  16. I believe this is the current way of the world, lumdog!
    Can really feel the heat of those kitchens (physical and metaphorical).
    I worked in a restaurant after college. Learned a lot. Still eat out. Just try not to think about it. Also, I have an iron stomach.
    : )

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  17. Poor Walter. Stories like his are far too common. You did a fantastic job capturing his defeated frustration. Well done!

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  18. Poor Walter! There's got to be nothing worse than feeling un-needed and just "going through the motions".

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