AT HOME — “In time like these…,” is a phrase I keep reading, as if anybody has a fucking clue what they’re talking about.
Humans are tattered worldwide. Nobody has the answers. Often the loudest in the room know the least, and our POTUS is a blind steer on roller skates. Millions in the hospitality sector are out of work, and have been for weeks. They do not know what their financial future (or present) holds, and governmental infrastructure is struggling to support them. For most of us, this is our first look at a true catastrophic global event and watching the news can be an anxiety attack.
In the restaurant industry, you can get weeded. But you know the steps to remove yourself, even if it feels like a sisyphean effort at the time. Our current reality feels more like a server nightmare, because nobody knows how to get anything done. The POS are all taken, the Sprite ran out, and your 12-top ordered 12 Sprites.
I’m looking for distractions everywhere. Just today I spent an hour reading about good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, which is apparently a thing. But most of all I’ve been spending time wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life.
“I didn’t choose hospitality, the hospitality industry chose me,” is how the bullshit cliche goes. The truth is that I fell into hospitality because it let me hold on to this childlike sense of wonder and spontaneity I saw in the world; I refused to let it die. This place nurtured the gluttonous, wild animal in me and taught me how to make a living without compromising my idea of vitality.
This is a common story. Which is why hospitality workers do not typically mingle well with others outside the industry. We see outsiders as tame and domesticated. Outsiders see us as… well, in my experience, those who actually SEE us are enamored by our spirit. Our vocation is their vacation. But in the past few weeks, we’ve all been equalized; and I’m having trouble adjusting. Not just financially, but psychologically.
Sure – I am broke, I can’t make rent, and I just bought groceries with a half-maxed credit card. But, SOMEHOW, what I am struggling with the most is a LACK of chaos. Not bad chaos, but the good kind of chaos that comes from a life in hospitality.
My nights come and go, predictably. I know exactly what is going to happen to me every day. If I don’t move, neither does the world around me.
The mail comes at the same time every day, and the carrier has never wheeled in 18 boxes and asked me to sign for it while I’m making dinner. The fridge never yells at me for ordering food at 8:00pm. My roommates never want to have a drink after dinner, recounting how service went. I’m watching The Wire tonight, and unfortunately there is a 0% chance that Stringer Bell will lock himself in my bathroom to cry and pass out. The closest I’ve felt to being on stage was the time I checked the mail in my underwear. The closest to a long meandering story from a stranger I’ve heard was just now, when I re-read this Editorial before submitting it.
I’m sitting in the living room of my apartment, staring at my cat, waiting on it to do something surprising. I’m looking at the world ablaze, waiting for anything to surprise me. The world is chaotic, but I’m writhing in the silence.
Do I have a choice? No. I just have to ride it out like everyone else. The best I can do is hope that the introspection of quarantine doesn’t kill the young, unfettered spirit that drew me to hospitality in the first place.
I hope you can hold on to yours as well.