Fine. It had ended, three months of working in the food industry, more on the serving and management line. Broken free from the exploitation of my capabilities, and garnered a more than enough, valuable, painful, exhausting experience.

0600, I had to wake up, clean up, and walk to my work. Some Youtube and breakfast of bread to put me in the start of the day. No coffee, I had an aversion for it because it made me drowsy.

0705, reached at working place, a restaurant, set up the counter, ensuring all the machines and workers were in order, no malfunctions were allowed under my jurisdiction.

8 hours and 30 minutes passed, 1530, closing done, shut down.

I had day-offs on Sundays, and on alternate Tuesday- the official rest for the restaurant for all workers. No double pays on public holidays, no medical lifts, no overtime pay, no EPF or SOCSO (a must for employees in Malaysia), no rest in between working hours, eventually I had no reason to apply for this job, but the offered flexible working days- not as flexible as I thought (would be discussed further on), and it was close to my house which meant I, with the incapability to drive, would be convenient to earn some cash.

The job was based on daily pay basis, but the accrued wage would be paid to me twice a month. RM30 was my starting for the first two months which was a pittance, half the wage of any commercial companies. It was then raised to RM35 in my last month there, still very, very low.

Lunch was offered, free of charge. It was the ‘complimentary’, the fact that I used parenthesis on the adjective describing my free lunch was because my boss only offered RM6.30, maximum for my meal, it was meager. Only on the food, but not on the drinks, at least the water, just plain water, Chinese tea, and herbal tea was free-flow for the workers. I had to rotate each type of food every day.

Digressing a little, let me explain the modus operandi of the restaurant. It consisted of seven departments- pork noodle, fish ball, wantan mee, wok fried food, beverage, bread and condiments, and cashier. I was one of it, the cashier, a one-man show, managing everything from head to tail. Orders come right through me, bills, and stock checking for the bread and condiments department was under me.

The restaurant, in which I would not want to mention any names about the aspects of it but using counterfeit names for them that would represent clearly about their roles in the restaurant. The boss and his wife ran the show, not fully committed, the boss arrived late almost every morning, this would put me in a dire situation in which I did not have any money to change to the customers because the starting money for the cashier was with the boss. His wife reached work at around ten in the morning every day which was in the middle of the peak period. They lacked the fervour, the burning passion in carrying out this business. The boss had a wide web of human relations, he also held a couple of other businesses at hand whereas his wife was new to the business world, she was mainly a housewife. 0700 was the start, the boss usually reached half an hour later, only a scanty ten percent of the time he would be earlier than me.

I first started working there in the midst of my final and the most crucial examination for Malaysian, SPM. I just could not stand studying everyday at home, it nearly drove me crazy, so I went out to find a job. This was what I chose, a line in the food industry, handling a restaurant. During the first month, I served as a waiter, taking orders, cleaning tables, dealing with a multitude of human attitudes. It was a treachery, a strenuous training to my body. My legs ached after the first day of my work. I had to do most of the servings because I commit to what I do, it is a part of my principality, even though there were ‘kakaks’ to help me out. There was once I nearly broke a tray of dishes by letting my concentration amiss by a split second. The whole restaurant was looking at me, glaring into my very blunder. The first lesson I had obtained, concentrate, be aware of every moment in life.

Time passed, one month, I was entrusted with the mantle of being a cashier. Panic attacks, and multitasking came into my line. The system of keying in the orders and handling the computer was a cinch to me, I got the hang of them within a week. Weekends were the worst of all my panic attacks I had encountered, I almost lost my chill and blasted at everyone, but I learned to hold on to my composure, the second lesson.

During the first two months, I fostered a bond among all the departments except for the beverage guy. Pork noodle, fish ball, wok fried food, wantan mee, bread and condiments were in good conditions with me, considered as congenial. However, the beverage guy was a pain the ass, a motherfucker, a straight- up arrogant, churlish, truculent, imprudent asshole. Strong language was a must to describe this particular guy. He thought he was the only one who could make all the beverages, he did not even give a damn when the boss told him to do a request, he had the guts to tell the boss to fire him when he was pissed, even I had utmost difficulties in dealing with him, I thought of a subtle way to deal with him after a few weeks, with tolerance, the third lesson. He eventually resigned by himself, to me he was mentally deranged, what a fool to deal with.

‘Kakaks’ also played an important role in this system, they served and were affiliated with the bread and condiments department. Although they were illegal immigrants- obtained from my observation, they still worked. There were five of them, two of them were completely devoted into the job whereas the other three were goofing around, half asleep all the time. They made mistakes most of the time, as I did, we were no different, but their pay was higher than me by almost twice, I did not utter a word of complaint against the boss or anyone, their error would be responsibility, it was part of my job, I had learnt to swallow them, move on from the mistakes and negate them from happening with all I could do, the fourth lesson.

Customers- the true boss of the restaurant, without them, there would be no income. They could be bad, worse, but they would not be the worst because there would be someone even worse than the worst. I had to put up with their attitude, ninety percent of the time, they thought we were their slaves, whistling to us, calling us names that was inappropriate, showed us faces when they were impatient, treating us as if we were a pile of shit. However, there were still the marginal, the people who were fraternizing, patient, and lovable. Not more than ten among the hundreds of customers who walked in everyday.

Food needs time to be prepared, I could not understand if you- the customers, wanted it to be a microwave effect, please head to the nearest Mcdonalds in the area. A quarter of an hour was the most, the customers needed to wait for our food to be served, it was not that long, plus, that situation would happen with a low twenty percent of the time. Patience is a credence of life, if you have none of it, may you lead yourself to dire straits.

Several occasions I got myself in deep soot, for instance there was the lead in water incident, where there was a piece of pencil lead found in the beverage of one of the customers. I was called to attend to her, it was a pain in the neck, I forgot to say a word of sorry to her, I was recovering from a panic attack from that time. After replacing the beverage with a new one, she called me over, a shitstorm was brewing, she threatened me to make this incident viral, I had no say, I kept myself quiet and let her babble swayed into thin air. I was culpable and get over them as soon as possible because there were other customers, she was just one customer, I had to forget about it, and resumed my work.

There was this incident about the finger in the food, I had to confess my fingers were in contact with the food when being served for several times. However, this was turned up a notch. When a ‘kakak’ was serving the food, her finger was clearly out of reach of the food. The customer made a fuss about her finger staining her food, my eyes clearly observed the otherwise, the customer summoned me to have a see on this situation. I offered him to change his portion, his response was rather discourteous, “after you cook another one for me, I scared you spit inside my food.” he was getting on my very nerves, “I will pay for your mistake.” what? I had to accept the situation in acquiesce. Humans could be worse than trash from inside out, another lesson.

On a scorching Thursday mid-morning, the restaurant was thronged with people which was unorthodox considering it was a weekday. A roar broke out from fish ball, and a cacophony broke out between her and one of the ‘kakaks’, arguing over some minor issues of not supplying her with sufficient cutlery. The shrill shook me to the bones, the boss’ wife went to put out the fire, extinguish the attack of the fish ball on the ‘kakak’. It was a disgrace for fish ball to lose her chill in public, scolding someone, demeaning, shattering one’s self-esteem overtly, and the ‘kakak’ did a sloppy job. Both were to be blamed.

Money, pricing, the intrinsic value of each object came into my realisation, I became more conscious about how I deal with money, especially when spending them because my earnings were a pittance. Another lesson captured.

Discretion in speech is utmost imperative in this industry, I had to be very careful with the choice of words when talking with the customers or anyone in the restaurant. Making enemies with them would be a dread. Thus, one must get along with everyone of them with an easy-going manner. Last lesson, perhaps.

This path was chosen by me off a whim, I did not sift through the repercussions and the benefits of this job. However, this valuable experience is worth to be emblazoned in my mind because what I had learnt in this three months transcended the five years in school. Acknowledging reality, having the savvy, the sagacity to be more discretional.

P.S. end NOV 2016- 28 FEB 2017
Working days…

The Road Taken

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