Who will work the field with his hands?
Who will put his back to the plough?
Who'll take the mountain and give it to the sea?
Don't look now, it ain't you or me.
Don't Look Now (But It Ain't You Or Me)
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Monday evening, I was watching my son play baseball, when I got a call from Pete, the owner of the restaurant I work at part-time. Ricardo, the lead cook at the restaurant was killed in an automobile accident on Saturday night. His funeral will be this afternoon, and his body will be shipped back to Mexico to be buried in his hometown.
I can't really say Ricardo was a friend. He was, though, more than a co-worker.
A few months ago, my wife was telling me about a conversation she had with her father. My father-in-law had seen celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain's show "Kitchen Confidential," and Bourdain had referred to the camaraderie in the service business, and sharing a drink with your co-workers at the end of a night. There is nothing quite like the intensity of a restaurant or tavern on a rocking night. It is difficult to come down from it. Bourdain talked, my father-in-law had told my wife, about the uniqueness of that experience, sharing a drink and talking at the end of one of those intense evenings. It's hard to describe it to someone who hasn't experienced it. I think that both my father-in-law and my wife felt like they understood me a little better, got a little insight into that part of my life.
Anyone who works in the restaurant business can tell you that in most restaurants there's divide between the kitchen staff and the waitstaff. Our restaurant is no exception. Sometimes there's open hostility. The perception of the kitchen staff is that the (mostly) white waiters are out there making a lot more money than they are with a lot less work. The waiters' incomes are dependent on the kitchen staff doing their jobs competently, and they see themselves at the mercy of resentful, sometimes surly cooks.
At the end of the night, though, that breaks down a bit. Waitstaff and kitchen staff share a drink, talk and wind down from the evening. That was my experience with Ricardo.
The restaurant business has been good to me. The extra income has allowed me to do nice things for my family. It's allowed me to travel and take an occasional vacation. It's allowed me to put extra money away into a retirement account. If my plans work out, it'll allow me to leave teaching and give me an income while I go back to school and change careers.
Ricardo's work was part of that. Without his work, mine wouldn't have happened and wouldn't have been as lucrative. I never forgot that, and never will.