At 4:04 p.m., I pull into the newly paved parking lot behind the Natural Fact Deli. I grab my CDs out of the car and cross my fingers that Kevin, my boss/manager and owner of the deli, won't notice the time. He is busy chatting with a customer and I squeeze past them, hoping to remain invisible. I throw on an apron and busily begin working on the evening's to-do list. Slice sweets. Grate jack cheese. Portion burrito chicken. Fill curry squirts. I opt for slicing the sweet potatoes, lifting the heavy box onto a prep table. Kevin walks past and inquires about my weekend. What did I do? Did I have a good time? By the way, you're late.
Ah...busted. But it doesn't matter. In the same breath, he continues on about ice hockey scores (he's rather upset with me because I'm cheering on the Colorado Avalanche and not the Blues) and what needs to be done before I leave that evening. Kevin is a pretty neat boss, probably one of the most laid-back and easy-going people I've ever worked for (though quite driven to make the deli a lucrative endeavor) and my job at the deli is (usually) a pleasure. Kevin promotes a fun and eclectic atmosphere. No stuffy uniforms. Conversations about everything. Music is constantly blasting in the kitchen area, and a jazz recording or Frank Sinatra is usually on repeat in the dining area.
Kevin eventually leaves, and I'm alone with one of the new hires. We talk about what needs to be done and then split up the work. Burrito beans need to be made, so I ask Rachel if she can cover the counter for a while; the beans are easy but time consuming. She agrees, and we go about our business. All is well until about 6 o'clock: dinner rush. It's nothing compared to the daily lunch rush, but it proves difficult when you have two people instead of four and a lengthy list of prep work to do. I'm hoping Rachel can handle the customers so I can knock some of the larger items off the list, but it doesn't quite transpire the way I had hoped. I soon find myself making Southwest Chicken Burritos, Veggie Burritos, Santa Fe sandwiches, and Greek salads as Rachel mans the register. This goes on for about an hour, until 7:00. We both head back to the prep area and tackle our chores again.
We quickly knock the items off our nightly list, in between serving the few straggling dinner customers. The patrons of the deli seem as laid back as the restaurant's atmosphere; it must be contagious. There are many "regulars," and some come in so often that it is quite easy to guess exactly what they will order. Like the woman who orders (without fail) the Veggie Burrito with no cheese, no salsa, plus hummus and extra vegetables, celery on the side please. Customers are also eager to chat it up with the employees. I once had a thirty-minute conversation with a woman I had never seen before. She was just so nice and was happy to shoo her dinner partner away so we could talk about "girl things."
8:30 rolls around rather quickly this particular evening. I flip the closed sign in the front window, lock the door, and Rachel and I begin our nightly hour-and-a-half long closing ritual. Take out the trash. Do the dishes. Sweep and mop. Count down the register. Clean everything. Kevin is a stickler for sparkling tables and floors. If one fails to do a small but important activity, such as mop the bathroom floor, he knows. And I will inevitably hear about it the next evening when I rush in at 4:05 pm (perhaps I should fix my watch) to begin the workday over again.