Small Little Hierarchies

I have myself working food for the winter, until my outdoor job starts up again. I cook food in the morning, drive it to a corporate cafeteria, and serve it to hundreds of people on their lunch-breaks. I have a tremendous dislike for this job. Not just the serving food at insurance headquarters and Bailout Bank corporate-parks, but the owner of the fast-casual restaurant I work for runs the restaurant as a labor mill – productivity isn’t high enough, make the employees do more but don’t give them raises, $9.00/hr is plenty for them to run themselves sick over grills and rice pots and mashing avocados.

Most of the people I work with are Mexican, both legally in the US and illegally in the US, and the rest are middle-aged white people who spite authority and social greed and don’t understand why the owner of the restaurant, who owns a dozen other restaurants, needs to make the GM work 70 hours a week because he’s refusing to give anybody a minute of overtime.

We’ll call the owner Gary.

Which brings me to a reason I don’t like hierarchy – people shouldn’t hold authority over other people. But if you want to survive, you have to live with the authority others have to determine your value as a human, because there is no way for you to be self-sustaining – you are fully dependent on the system, and you need that hourly-wage.

The corporate cafeterias we serve are all managed by a single company, which we’ll call Quantico. The regional manager is a maybe-27-year-old blonde woman. We were setting up the line in a cafeteria, getting ready to serve, when she walked in and was greeted by my boss, Gary, the owner of the dozen fast-food restaurants.

We’ll call this woman Maggie. Maggie is a good-looking woman in a pantsuit and a business hair-bun, holding a binder of Important Documents. She picks up a conversation with Gary, saying, “I’ve been running all over trying to find more tickets for you guys but none of the stores have any. I went to OfficeMax, Giant Eagle, Wal-Mart – I swear I’ve never hated shopping so much.”

To which my co-worker Bill chimes in, “Oh, sure, I doubt you ever hate shopping.”

Maggie looks from Gary to Bill, blinks at Bill with her mouth slack…

And just picture this for a moment, because Bill’s close to 40, rents a shitty duplex where homeless addicts piss in alleys with gunshots somewhere down the street; drives a 1995 Mazda, works two part-time jobs at $9/hour, and has no desire to marry or to Get A Real Job. And Bill, who has never met Maggie, the Regional Manager for Quantico (and technically our boss), has just made a blatantly misogynistic remark to her. This decimates all norms of our social hierarchy – for this, I appreciate Bill, marginalizing the authority this woman is supposed to have over him.

Bill was a high school baseball-star. He got caught smoking pot in high school, but the teacher let him go. He’s had numerous girlfriends over the years, proud to have dated the high school prom-queen. He was arrested once for drunk-driving. He used to sell landscaping equipment with great commission, but quit after 10 years because he was bored of it. He has several of his dad’s old guns, and lived on unemployment for a while. Bill lives a simple life, no aspirations to make more money than he needs. He’s also active in his church, which is how he knows our General Manager, which is how he got the job – neighbor helping neighbor, an important part of Bill’s All-American, Anti-Authority character.

We’re serving food at another cafeteria for a large insurance company. The lunch rush is over and the line has slowed down. Two young woman walk in. They both have blonde hair, are in shape, and look to be about 22 or 23 years old. The one who is a bit taller does the talking, and has a deeper voice. They’re sharing a meal, and the taller one places the order, does the questioning about “What’s that stuff, there?”. The shorter one stays quiet, holding her own arms or hands or leaning on the counter, staying right next to the taller girl.

The taller girl is wearing an Oktoberfest Munchen shirt. I’m excited. I ask her about it; I’ve been to Munich, but never to the festival. How was it? She tells me all about it, it was amazing. Her name’s Sara. And this is great – because here are two young women with affection between them, excitement because they’re new to each other. And their faces are clear and bright to be alive, because they go to Europe and to music festivals and road trips to national parks; because they are happy to be alive and to experience and explore and have in-depth conversations with spontaneous strangers sitting in GreyHound bus stations because it’s raining while they wait for the bus to Arizona. They are free and beautiful people.

The couple gets their food and walks away towards the cafeteria tables. Bill says something to our other co-worker, and they share to each other how excellent it would be to get between those Two Hot Lesbians – Damn, that was excellent, I can only imagine what I’d do them.

Bill and my other co-worker keep glancing over at the couple, and the two Hot Lesbians are quiet at a table by themselves, and the table is cordoned off in the middle of the cafeteria, and there is a large marquee sign above them, and they are insecure and timid and looking only at their Insurance Corporation lunch.



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