I was almost to the Inn today when my phone rang. Chef was calling to tell me he had been fired by The Owner, who appears to be clearing out employees like brush along a fence line. Last Friday he let three of our wonderful Brazilian folks go including the guy who helped me with the functions and, most notably, the woman who creates our wonderful wedding cakes and who is eight and a half months pregnant. He told her she couldn’t have her paycheck until she finished the cake for the Saturday wedding. Chef and our baker usually work the kitchen together on Tuesdays, so firing Chef today was not the most well planned move; The Owner spent a good part of the afternoon finding someone to work the line tonight. There aren’t that many of us left.
In her wonderful novel, Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel describes how the emotions of the cook are infused into the food he or she is making, thus infecting those who eat with the same feelings. In one scene, Tita is full of passion for her beloved as she cooks a meal for a large group and, by the end of the meal, everyone has paired up and run off to make love in the woods. In another, she transfers her anger and everyone is nauseated by the meal. If what Esquivel describes holds to be the least bit true, tonight was not a good night to eat at the Inn.
The rest of the week may not be so hot, either.
I have no idea what will happen in the next few days. All I know is I feel like I live in a soap opera. This is drama with a capital D. This weekend we have a wedding and three other smaller functions (50-100 people each), as well as a Mothers’ Day brunch (140 reservations so far), so I think I’m safe to assume the drama is not yet over. I’m assuming we will have some new folks join the cast, since we are incredibly short handed right now, and I also assume we have not seen the last of those, in the words of Top Chef, who will be told to “pack their knives and go.”
Even though I was only there for three hours today, I was exhausted when I got home. Ginger suggested I walk with her around the neighborhood rather than curling up on the couch and going to sleep, my escape of choice. She was right, as usual. We walked and I ranted and pounded my feelings into the pavement and came back home with a better sense of myself in the midst of the turmoil that is the Inn right now. I know who I want to be regardless of how the circumstances turn.
I also know I want to do more than use this page to vent my feelings or put the Inn on window display. Part of the reason I write is to distill the feelings and circumstances of life into something that is discernable and hopeful. I’ve been wondering all evening how it can be that the business of hospitality attracts some many volatile, if not violent people in the same way the business of faith, which is one of faith, hope, and love, attracts its fair share of power mongers and downright vindictive SOBs. I think the diagnostic clue to the primary toxin in both cases is the word business. It’s difficult to live in the creative tension of being both prophetic and profitable. Living in the midst of our dining room drama I’ve also been reminded Jesus was calling us into a dangerously creative tension when he said, “See, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Be then as wise as snakes, and as gentle as doves.” (Mt. 10:16)
The question I keep asking myself is, “Who am I called to be in these days?” I’ll continue to figure that out when I play my next scene on Thursday.