About an hour before dinner service last night, one of the servers walked through the kitchen and whispered, “The health inspector’s here.” We had no cause to panic because we keep a clean kitchen, things were where they were supposed to be and at the appropriate temperatures. We knew we had nothing to worry about and we were all still a little nervous.
The inspector was a nice-looking man, about six-two, with a shaved head and an easy going air. He was in the kitchen for about six or seven minutes before he spoke to anyone. He moved from counter to counter, then into the walk-in refrigerator, and then on to the line, opening drawers and containers and flashing his digital thermometer to get his readings. He reached me station toward the end of his visit. Perhaps because we shared the same hair(less) style, he spoke to me.
“How’s everything today?” he asked.
“Pretty good. Almost time for dinner service,” I answered.
“That’s why I’m here now,” he said. “I try to get in and get out before it gets busy. It wouldn’t be fair to show up in the middle of the meal.”
He made a couple of other checks, spoke to the manager about his findings, and was on his way. We passed with flying colors – only some minor infractions, none of which was in the kitchen. For all we knew we were doing right, what everyone wanted to know was what we got wrong. Perhaps that’s partly because the job of an inspector is to point out what’s wrong more than it is to say what’s right. The way the evaluation form is set up, the only marks he made were for things not up to par. I wonder if that view of life is hard for him to turn off when he leaves work.
When I was in high school, I worked as an office boy for a doctor’s clinic. I would go in after school, make the coffee run, file charts, make copies, and do whatever else they thought of for me to do. The clinic was made up of ten or so doctors of various specialties and varying personalities. One day, the urologist and the proctologist got in a rather loud argument in the hallway near where I was standing. The proctologist finally stormed off and the urologist turned to me and said, “That’s what happens to you when you spend your life looking up a proctoscope.”
I walk into someone else’s kitchen and start looking around to see how easy it would be to cook in that room. (Most kitchens aren’t designed for people to actually use them.) Police officers and those who work to keep law and order often end up thinking no one can really be trusted. How we look at life day after day makes us think that’s how life looks, period.
The inspector looked at our kitchen as a place that has to make the grade and I see it as a place to make meals. Neither viewpoint can afford to be exclusive of the other. It does help for him to come in and remind us of how we can improve; it might help him to come in for dinner and see how the place looks from tableside. (I wonder if he ever eats out.)
Easier for me than him, I think.