I’m extremely fortunate.
I’ve loved every job that I’ve held in my adulthood. Yes, almost every day is Friday for me. But it wasn’t always that way.
As a 15-year-old working at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken I really wanted to like my job, but I was often bored … and hungry. When I wasn’t joking with customers that Col. Sanders was really a Nazi spy (hey, I grew up in the 80s), I could be found in the stall of the men’s restroom eating a two-piece snack. I was caught twice in the walk-in fridge eating cole slaw and pudding cups. The second time was the final straw.
It was then on to Red Lobster, where they told me I’d have to work my way up from the dish room. I might have worked there for three months when I decided that I was tired of smelling like cocktail sauce, grease and rancid fish. After all of my pleas, I was once allowed to scrub potatoes. On another occasion, I dredged tiny shrimp in some sort of crumb mixture. But each time, I was sent back to clean up everyone else’s mess.
Maybe construction could’ve been my thing, except, I liked neither heat nor hard work. As a 16-year-old go-fer working in the middle of the Texas summer, even the $10-per-hour cash (in 1986, no less) wasn’t worth it.
But through it all, whether I was dealing with a drunk customer at the drive-thru, or a surly construction foreman who spent about 10 years too many in the sun, I managed to find some sort of satisfaction. Oh, I wasn’t always happy scrubbing bowls, lugging around lumber or packing nine pieces of Original Recipe into a small bucket. But you’d have never known it from the other side of the counter.
A few weeks ago, I stopped at a convenience store for some beer and Lemonheads. I asked the lady behind the counter how she was doing.
“Not very good,” she responded.
“Why not?” I replied.
“Now, why you gonna ask me ‘Why not?’ when you really don’t care?” she shot back.
“Well, I care, else I wouldn’t have asked.”
“You don’t care,” she said. “People always be coming in here asking me ‘Why this?’ and ‘Why that?’ when they don’t really give a damn. Truth is, it ain’t none yo business anyways, so I don’t even know why you asked.”
I just laughed at that point and told her that I hoped her day improved. Fast forward to this past week, when I entered the same store and the owner was working the late afternoon shift. As it goes, he had to let his bundle of sunshine go, because “she just didn’t know how to deal with people.” You don’t say…
A checker at one of my favorite local grocery stores is another usual suspect when it comes to being tight-lipped and less than courteous.
During a shopping trip last month, the scanner declined my check card. So, I scanned it again with the same result.
“It declined your card,” she said, without expression.
“Yes, I know,” I responded. “It looks like it’s going through and as soon as the signature part comes up the screen goes blank.”
“Your card is declined,” she repeated in the same monotonous voice.
“Yeah. Is it my card? Or is it the machine? Because, it gets to the signature part and then goes blank”
“It declined your card,” she said for the third time, her stare just as blank as it had been for the previous 30 seconds.
So, I pulled out another card and everything went through fine.
“Looks like I used the wrong card,” I said to her with an embarrassed laugh.
Then, without a word, she handed me my receipt.
Words, I’ve noticed, are also hard to come by for some counter workers at fast food restaurants. But lately, when I approach the register and the person wearing the flop hat and name tag just looks at me, I look back.
I’ve lost a lot of staring contests through the years, because I can’t help but laugh. The only way I tend to win is when I think of something sad. I’ve not had to take it that far at the local McDonald’s or Burger King, since most of them break at about 15 seconds. But, I’m more than willing.
Before you go thinking that my own little case study involves only low-paid workers in high octane working conditions, consider the pharmacist — a position for which the median salary in the U.S. is about $115,000 annually (salary.com).
Ever notice that he can make eye contact with you all day long and remain expressionless? I often feel as if there are some ivory tower qualities about that raised enclosed little section of the store. While we’re on the subject, why does it take 45 minutes to count 30 pills and place them in an amber-colored plastic container?
And what about judges … on competition cooking shows such as Chopped? Though I could find no hard salary data, my research tells me that these guys make a minimum of $100,000 — per episode. But let’s be conservative and assume that they make only $50,000 or even $25,000 per episode. At $25,000, each judge will add more than $375,000 to his annual income by the end of August. Not bad.
I don’t make nearly as much. Chances are, you don’t either. But — I’ll bet — we smile a lot more during our day jobs than they do.
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I’m neither Chinese, nor am I sharing with you an ancient recipe. This is one that I — a German — developed about 20 years ago. While I’ve had some pretty good Chinese eggrolls over the years, these are my favorite. They became my wife’s favorite as well — after I threw a fit following her initial tepid review. Feel free to change the ratio of meat to vegetables. I’ve also added chopped mushrooms and a small amount of chile paste. The results were tasty.
World’s Best Chinese Eggrolls & Three Dipping Sauces
1 – 16 oz. bag Shredded cabbage (tri-color cole slaw mix is fine)
1 cup – Fresh bean sprouts
1 – 8 oz. can Bamboo shoots, drained, rinsed and chopped finely
1 – 8 oz. can Water chestnuts, drained, rinsed and chopped finely
1 – Celery stalk, chopped
2 – Green onions, chopped
3 – Garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp – Fresh ginger root, minced
2 tsp – Five spice powder
1 lb. – Ground pork
1/2 lb. – Shrimp, cooked and diced
1 – 14-16 oz. pkg. Eggroll wrappers
Beaten egg (for sealing egg rolls)
Vegetable oil, for frying
In medium skillet, cook ground pork over medium heat with 1 tsp each of the ginger root and garlic. While pork is cooking, mix cabbage, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, celery, green onions, shrimp, remaining garlic cloves, ginger root and five spice powder in large bowl. Drain cooked pork and pour on top of filling mix. When cool enough to handle, mix well.
Spoon about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the filling in the center of the eggroll wrapper from left to right. Grab the bottom corner of the wrapper and fold it over the mixture, tucking it. Fold in the sides (it’ll resemble an opened letter envelope at this point), then roll the eggroll until there is no more wrapper. Dab the eggroll with beaten egg so that the top corner of the wrapper sticks to the roll.
Repeat process until mixture, or wrappers, are used. (Mixture freezes well and makes a great starter for next time.)
Use a deep fryer, if possible, heating oil to medium high. If using a skillet, pour enough oil to reach at least halfway up the eggrolls. Fry eggrolls until golden on all sides. Serve hot. Makes about 20 eggrolls.
Apricot Sweet & Sour Sauce
1/2 cup – Apricot preserves
1 TB – Soy sauce
1 TB – Rice vinegar
1 TB – Fresh cilantro, chopped
Mix preserves, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Cook uncovered over low heat in small saucepan until preserves liquefy. Turn off heat, stir in cilantro. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes to cool and thicken slightly.
Soy Chile Sauce
1/4 cup – Soy sauce
2 TB – Chile paste -or- chile garlic paste
1 TB – Green onions, chopped finely
2 tsp – Honey
Combine all ingredients.
Mustard Ginger Sauce
2 TB – Ground mustard
2 tsp – Ground ginger
1 tsp – Rice vinegar
1 tsp – Soy sauce
2 tsp – Water
Combine all ingredients.