The events began when I went to bed Saturday night feeling an incipient cough and tingle in my throat signaling the beginnings of a cold that I was powerless to stop. I lay in bed praying that was not the case only for my prayers to be answered by coughing the following morning. Being earnest and probably too innocent, I messaged my manager for my shift, The Boss, about my slight cough and concerns for food safety. Coincidentally he also had a cough and he simply said that if the cough isn’t severe that I can come in, and so I did whilst coughing somewhat all the way to work.
When I actually arrived my cough had totally subsided and dear lord was The Boss not lying about having a cough - he was keeled over having a coughing fit, coughing into his shoulders and elbow, and his eyes were red and baggy from a mix of sleep deprivation and miserableness.. Does it help if I say he made sure not to cough with food near him? And here I was asymptomatic and half an hour ago I was messaging him about my slight cough being a food safety concern which might’ve looked like me trying to get out of work? I could tell he was irritated at me when he quipped “Would you like any honey or tea?” I even had to ask him to repeat himself because I didn’t hear him the first time, and then I said probably too cheerily “No, it’s not that bad,” not realizing at first he was being sarcastic and he wasn’t actually being thoughtful.
That wasn’t even the last act I did that irritated him. I put in some lemon lime juice into the carne asada (super special steak) when you’re supposed to put in fresh squeezed lime juice. He had a big sigh of frustration complete with the head and arms hanging like a rag doll.
Luckily the day carried forward pretty smoothly besides the two earthquakes just experienced. Also there was a group of new hires who were friends that started their first day. They also had a friend who started working two days ago who I mentioned before was the guy who received virtually no training and didn’t even get to watch the orientation videos. His name will be The Veteran because of the long weary looks of frustration he had throughout the day being told advice and what to do.
As a guy who got hired 1 month ago I could relate, but I found myself somehow being the source of the same trivial frustration I experienced when I said that you should squeeze the juice out of the sofritas (braised tofu), but then elaborating later that you only need to do that with burritos so they don’t overflow. From my experiences I get that the frustration is from being not set up for success with subpar, or in The Veteran’s case, non-existent training, in combination with a fast paced and high pressure environment with unrealistic expectations that would make anyone flustered and stressed with not great coworkers. He even had to walk off and was being teased behind his back by my two coworkers speaking Spanish about how he got pissed off for being told to sweep or something. I wasn’t there at the inciting moment.
I later heard The Boss talk to the Full-Time Human about his frustrations with trying to open; some pans and dishes weren’t clean and the sink wasn’t emptied of food. There were probably some other problems too. I felt for The Boss having to shoulder the volatility and stress of a workplace where you don’t know what to expect when coming in. He’s under immense pressure to open and can’t call out sick and he even has to deal with some too-ahead of himself smarmy Chipotle Employee who puts freaking lemon lime juice in the premium carne asada. The whole situation is one big sigh of frustration. Walking into a kitchen full of dishes this morning isn’t the first time that’s happened, or even one of the bad times, and most definitely not the last time.
What really made my day though was seeing how the new hires were trained. The other employees, except The Veteran, had gotten a chance to watch the orientation videos. That’s when The Boss told one of the new hires that he’d be shadowing their friend, The Veteran, who had only been on the job for three days. The absurdity of the situation was not lost on The Veteran who had a bewildered and humored facial expression smiling ear to ear. At the time though The Boss was pretty sick and massaging his temples to relieve himself of a massive headache though so I’ll give him a pass...but I have my sneaking suspicions that level of training is par for the course.
That wasn’t even the best part though. The first interaction the new hire had with his would be shadowee, his friend, The Veteran, was to bro shake his hand with his own entirely unwashed, ungloved hand. Now just imagine all of the germs and bacteria aggregated from between the last time the new hire washed his hands, past the moment of opening the door of Chipotle that hundreds of people have touched, and up until the moment of that fateful handshake with his friend/3-day certified trainer. The moment their hands touched a great disturbance in the force was felt. They both hesitated for a moment mid-shake and I feel like they both realized they messed up. Standing next to them was The Boss too tired and fatigued to notice or care.
Here is a new hire, who I shall now call, The Bro, because he’s actually pretty friendly, who has committed a food safety violation in cooperation with the person who he’s supposed to shadow who himself has only been on the job for three days and hasn’t even watched the orientation videos. That day was the new hire’s very first day on the job, and only the third day of The Veteran’s job though. In fact, the handshake itself is not harmful, just as long as the mistake is identified and hands are washed after...but The Veteran didn’t wash his hands... A case of the blind leading the blind, all of course with a good amount of the fault on management for not training them correctly in the first place...and partially being understaffed and not having time to train them if I want to be nice? I mean, I want to be lenient since The Boss was so sick, but even then isn’t that a food safety violation in itself? I don’t know anymore.
On the topic of food safety, there’s a range from trivial strict corporate guideline violations to pretty bad food safety violations that i see in the workplace. Food is used even if the food technically is no longer fresh by corporate Chipotle standards. That means a lot of foods made in the morning yesterday are used in the evening today when they’re only technically fresh in the morning of today. Other violations
I see include people going on their phones, and sneeze or cough into their elbows or shoulders occasionally. Honestly, I’ve even absent mindedly walked into some bad food safety violations my first week mixed with an over cautiousness that made me wash my hands so much the skin on my hands started pruning and looking like brains.
That is the extent of how bad food violations are I’d say, which is...pretty bad still. Just throw in some underpaid, and overworked people who could give less of a crap about the workplace. There is some good backbone though for some guidelines, especially the more egregious ones like avoiding cross contamination and never EVER touching food without gloves on.
Anyway, after witnessing a war crime by a deceivingly peaceful handshake and some dishwashing, my shift ended and I walked back home only to have my back aching like hell. Then my legs started aching more than normally. I ate some food before realizing I was going through a cold full swing. I ended up staying in bed in the same curled up position for the next 14 hours in between feeling like I had to throw up while feeling simultaneously too freaking hot and cold. When 6 AM hit I knew I had to be there for opening...for The Boss, who was opening again, especially since he was already down one opener. I tried my best, but after two intervals of being on the verge of throwing up, I had to give up, especially knowing nausea disqualifies me from setting foot past the cash register anyhow. During the ordeal I thought to myself, “Why am I putting myself through this? Am I really going to sacrifice my wellbeing and endure hell just for some crap entry level food service job? Give me my deserved sick leave.” I texted in sick...7 minutes before my shift was supposed to start. Anyway, I bet The Boss was pisssssed off, possibly thinking I was trying to dodge work and of course...having another rough opening day. Forgive me, The Boss. And that is where our story ends. Thanks for reading.
Edit: I’ve recovered from my cold mostly but now I think I’ve got an ear infection. F meeee
Edit: I got tylenol
Edit: I got a bloody nose
Edit: it stopped