On Sunday Mr. Russ let Mr. Skeptic know that he had a prep person’s position for him at CPC number sixteen. He shared the whole franchise enterprise with two other people: one of them to be Nick, following a process of losing money. About a year earlier, Mr. Skeptic had seen the sole owner of the franchise visiting Mr. Russ at CPC number twenty-nine. During the meeting they sat at the end of the restaurant and spent over two hours talking about the business. At the end, they came to the conclusion that they find Nick and share the whole business between three of them. Again, it was about a month after that conversation that Mr. Skeptic saw the three happy men in an evening. They spent a short time in the dining room before moving to the office in the basement to sign the contract. From that date on, Mr. Russ divided his time between CPC location at downtown Ottawa, CPC number sixteen, and CPC number twenty-nine.
“It’s hard to find a person for that kind of work,” Mr. Russ warned Mr. Skeptic, “You have to stand in one spot for hours and cut vegetable. Go there tomorrow and meet Edward. I have spoken to him about you.”
“I thank you very much Sir,” surprised Mr. Skeptic said, “I won’t forget this.”
“Don’t forget you go there without your union,” Mr. Russ warned, with gestures of face and hands to follow, “If I hear you take your union, I’ll kick you out of there and here. Let’s make everything clear.”
“I promise,” returned Mr. Skeptic, “By the way, what that union has done for me here that it may do there?”
“Work your hours; make your money; and leave,” Mr. Russ said as his last words.
On Monday evening, Mr. Skeptic called CPC number sixteen and spoke to the kitchen manager. He was told to meet the dining room manager the next day in the morning. The woman who was his age received him in a serious manner and asked for his social security number.
“Did they tell you what your pay-rate would be?” she asked.
“It’s eight-fifty,” the dinning room manager said in a tone that Mr. Skeptic felt she was trying to convince him to refuse the position.
“That’s okay,” he answered in a low tone and walked out of the restaurant.
His rate at the CPC number sixteen was one dollar and seventy-five cents above the minimum recognized wage; and two dollars below what he used to make at the electronic plant. His nine years of working at CPC number twenty-nine was totally ignored; and he was regarded as a new employee with one factor in mind: he was not a fresh of the boat immigrant. Few years later, when he saw a very new immigrant was hired at seven dollars and fifteen cents per hour; he understood that factor. The new immigrant was making only fifteen cents above the legal minimum wage.
“When they see you in despair, they take the most advantage of you,” Mr. Skeptic thought on his way home while he was thanking god that he had found that job, “An old dirty game. But, imagine if I did not have this, the house was gone and my wife’s and children’s wishes.”
Thus, on June 14, 2001 Mr. Skeptic started working his morning job at CPC number sixteen with new faces and new challenges of different kind. No one gave him proper training how to do the job as both kitchen managers were in the process of being transferred to other locations and those who were to replace them were new on the job. They were doing everything including dishwashing, cleaning, taking orders, managing, and cutting. The only things that did not draw their attention were vegetables. To them, it was an easy job that anyone could do.
Beside, many in the restaurant looked upon Mr. Skeptic with suspicion. The dinning room manager, her assistant, and Edward saw him Mr. Russ’ trusted person on a spying mission. The fact that Edward and dinning room manager have been Nick’s managers at his store and had been assigned to their new positions through him, was contributing to their suspicion. They concluded that Mr. Skeptic was to counter-balance Nick’s monopoly on the way the store was run. The clear result of this attitude was that they abstained cooperation with Mr. Skeptic, loading him with so much difficulties to force him quit the job that he so desperately needed.
With the beginning of the second week of work Mr. Skeptic noted the increasing demand from certain servers. He was expected to fill the dinning room fridge with prep as it was used up. Sometimes, they called upon him to carry their dishes to the customers or collect the empty dishes and bring them to the dishwasher. Some kept calling him a slow man. The dinning room manager assistant was rude. She found many problems with his work. Sometimes, she would say customers complained the vegetables he cooked smelled. When he asked about a solution she would shrug and walk away. Sometimes, she would tell him to stop doing an unfinished task and start another one because a customer had ordered a portion of that item.
“I can make one portion,” he would say, “Let me finish the unfinished job.”
“Do what I am telling you,” she would tell the man who was many years older than her and had worked for the company for almost one decade while she had started her career six months before.
Sometimes, as he returned her a smile, she frowned upon him. Sometimes, she criticized him for sitting while preparing a large bowl of strawberries. She never lent him a helping hand with preparing any of the items of which he made over three hundred seventy portions of.
It was one of those busy afternoons and after an argument with the dinning room assistant that Mr. Skeptic called Edward to his office and bitterly complained about the dining assistant.
“I don’t know what I am supposed to do,” Mr. Skeptic said, “No one is telling me how to cook the vegetables and they complain it smells.”
“Well,” Edward said, as he did not expect a strong reaction from Mr. Skeptic, “After you cook the vegetables, you should cool them in ice water.”
“Could you not tell me this before? Why she never helps me while I see her sitting in the dinning room talking to colleagues for hours?”
“Believe me,” Edward returned, “She is not going to be here for too long. I have heard many complaints about her and I will let her go.”
“You let no one go because of my complaint,” I just want you people tell me how to do the job and how to correct what I do wrong.”
“It’s not only because of you.”
“I am here to work only and that’s it,” Mr. Skeptic concluded.
“I see you are working hard. She is not the only one who has to leave. There are other people who have to leave as well. People like this dishwasher; a few servers; and a few kitchen workers have to go. I cannot baby-sit people and pay them.”
September 11, 2001 was an unbelievably clear and sunny day. It was still warm. Mr. Skeptic had already received Edward’s approval to start his work one hour earlier on Mondays and Tuesdays in order to give himself enough time to pick up his children from school. So, when he turned the alarm system off; changed to his white shirt, white apron, and black pants; and returned to his table and began to work it was seven o’clock in the morning. One hour later the tall young cook arrived; ate a piece of pecan pie; drank a cup of coffee; smoked a cigarette at the smoking section of the restaurant; and slept on a bench.
“Can you wake me up at nine please,” the kind man asked Mr. Skeptic, “I love you”.
Time was well passed nine o’clock. The dinning room manager was not in as it was her day off work. Her husband and young son had cleaned the dinning room the night before. Mr. Skeptic remembered he was to wake the young cook up. He went to the dinning room and called the snoring young man and return to work.
“Damned ovens are not turned on yet,” the young man growled; and turned three ovens on and walked to the chicken fridge to bring the chicken to put on spits for cooking before eleven o’clock when customers started to arrive.
It was around ten o’clock in the morning when the dishwasher arrived with a loud noise and turned the machine on.
“Did you see those planes flying into those buildings?” the young native-North-American man asked Mr. Skeptic with excitement.
“This young man watches so many action movies that he brings what he has seen to work,” Mr. Skeptic thought.
“I have no time to watch action movies Dude,” Mr. Skeptic said, “Even if I do, I don’t waste my time on those kind of things.”
“It is real,” the young man said, “It’s somewhere around in one of these cities.”
"I don't know."
“Perhaps, you were watching the preview of a movie,” Mr. Skeptic suggested.
It was of no use to argue with Mr. Skeptic. The young man walked away.
“Perhaps,” he said and started whistling, “Bastards have left too many dishes for me to do early in the morning. They don’t do their job at night and leave most of it to me; and Mr. Edward yells at me for not doing everything.”
Soon after his disappearance, the tall cook turned his radio to the highest volume. It was broadcasting a live program about the passenger planes that had attacked World Trade Center buildings in New York City and Pentagon in Washington DC. Another plane had crashed in the fields around Washington. For the first time ever Wall Street Stock Exchange was closed for business. From that day on everything in the world was overshadowed by the incident for a long time to come.
“With this magnitude this is a damned semi-coupe-de-tat,” Mr. Skeptic observed, “Everything will be affected by this. They were working hard to sell the North American Missile Shield and people did not like to support it. This can be used to support that move. Now, they will support it.”
“You are a crazy man,” the young tall man observed.
“Now wait,” Mr. Skeptic said, “From tomorrow everything will be rushed towards open wars. People rights and privileges will be taken away. Everything will be justified under this event."
“You go too far,” the young man added, “They will go after a handful of criminals.”
’Definitely, that’s not going to be the end of the story,” he said.
“Sorry,” Mr. Skeptic told the young dishwasher, “I did not understand you.”
“I told you the planes attacked the buildings.”
“Well I left home at six o’clock in the morning. I knew nothing.”
That day government offices were closed all over the city at government’s order. People were asked to gather at Parliament Hill to support the people of the United States. All airplanes destined to the United States were diverted to Canadian airports; and people were asked to be vigilant about the people whom they suspected to have some ties with terrorist organizations. Time for personal revenge had arrived for the people who were looking for an opportunity to vent their hatred. Most of them followed the same pattern that had been publicized already. People with Islamic backgrounds were the ones who were associated with terrorism the most. Some radios openly spoke about it. In short all fingers were directed at the people whom Western World had a historic enmity with.
It was around eleven o’clock in the morning when the dinning room assistant manager appeared at Mr. Skeptic’s table with a friend of hers.
“My car doesn’t start,” she told Mr. Skeptic, “I wonder if I could borrow your cable for a boost.”
“It is warm outside,” Mr. Skeptic thought, “This stupid person thinks I have bomb and wires in my trunk to explode somewhere. She doesn’t know my big mouth is a bomb.”
“This is my key to the car,” Mr. Skeptic returned, “I have a boosting cable in the trunk. I need it for wintertime. You can go and get it. But, you car wasn’t around when I checked last?”
“It is in one of the alleys behind the restaurant,” she returned, “I don’t want to open your car.”
“There is nothing of any value in my car,” Mr. Skeptic said, “Go help yourself. Well, lets go together then.”
They walked to Mr. Skeptic’s fourteen-year-old-car. He opened the trunk; pulled the boosting cable; and presented it to the young women.
“No,” said the dinning room assistant, “It’s too short. We need something longer.”
“This is what I have,” he said.
“Thank you any way,” the young women looked at one another and left without the cable.
As Mr. Skeptic suspected, in the environment after September Eleven two thousand one everything was subjected to war. Shortly, it was established that the organization behind September eleven attacks was Al-Qaida: The Base, located in Afghanistan. From then on, everything smelled blood and gunpowder. Government passed legislations to investigate any organization and individual by mere suspicion of any involvement in terrorist activities. Anyone who claimed to be a terrorist was obliged to appear before a judge to explain why he had used the word. Even if someone joked that someone was a terrorist was to explain why he used the term. Troops were put on the stand for deployment to war on terrorism. Some newspapers allocated a page to reports and the news about war on terrorism. Radio and television stations were hard at work to mentally prepare people for war circumstances. Trade unions were restricted. Human rights were violated. Some individuals were sent to other nations to be tortured for information. All in all, there was so much noise in the air that people rarely noticed that many companies that had operated for a long time were going bankrupt. In fact, those companies had gone bankrupt years before September Eleven. The new environment provided them courage and the chance to publicly declare they were indeed bankrupt.
Many airliners declared bankruptcy. Some of largest companies demanded bankruptcy protection from governments. Shares of many companies were reduced to pennies. Interesting enough, most of the big names in the industry were somehow connected to the ruling parties who were in power already. This was the time that Mr. Skeptic was convinced that his hi-tech company was gone with the wind forever. Many people lost their jobs.
As shortage of workforce went away, Edward fulfilled his promise. One early morning Mr. Skeptic saw the dinning room manager assistant in the office faxing her resume.
“I have to leave,” she said, “They don’t need me any more.”
“They still need a dinning room manager assistant?” Mr. Skeptic suggested.
“The dinning room manager doesn’t need me,” she answered.
Within a few days the assistant was gone. The dinning room manager used some servers and the cashier to receive guests and arrange the schedules. Sometimes, her under-age daughter went behind the bar and made drinks for servers. Mr. Skeptic’s warning did not work as he heard: “she is not drinking alcohol any way”. More pressure started to mount on Mr. Skeptic. Young workers had returned to school. Edward told him to serve the customers who came to the take-out section as he was working on his salads: the most difficult job one could do.
In the middle of cutting vegetables the cook would call his name: “Mr. Skeptic take out”. He had to wash his hands; dry them; run to the take-out counter; show a smile to the customer; take the order; and do it.
“Call me if you need help with take-out okey,” Edward would tell him; but he would never show up for help called upon or not. Sometimes, Mr. Skeptic saw him walking behind him to the dinning room without paying attention to customers who had lined up behind the counter. Sometimes, Mr. Skeptic turned aback to pack the customers’ food only to face the dinning room manager behind himself. Then, he would see her walking away without offering any help.
“What is this supposed to mean?” he would ask himself, “Are they checking if I am stealing a quarter from their cash. They are available to spy on me, but unavailable to help me?"
Then, Edward would come to him.
“I heard you promoting quarter chicken white meat,” he would say accusingly.
“What you mean?”
“You should not ask the customer white meat or dark meat. We lose money in that way. Most people order white meat and we are stuck with dark meat that we have to throw out.”
“Well, you do it yourself then,” Mr. Skeptic would say, “It is not my job to do the take-out and the dinning room for you at the same time.”
“They tell me you do that for Mrs. Organizer at CPC number twenty-nine,” Edward would return, “You must do that for me too.”
“Why these people do not understand,” desperate Mr. Skeptic would tell himself, “I do that there when I have nothing to do at the bar. I don’t leave my order at the bar and go to the take-out to take an order for Mrs. Organizer.”
“I don’t care,” Edward would return, “Work is work. I am trying to keep your hours.”
Mr. Skeptic would not dare saying anything more.
“Why he’s not trying to do the job after I’m done with the salad?” he would ask himself without coming to any response that he was being mercilessly exploited only because he needed the job. It was in this way that sometimes he told himself: “we have a house now; but we have no life to live in the house”.
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