A Bag of Bananas & a Bottle of Tamari

December 17, 2018

The month of December was a special time in my professional life. Let’s just be real here, I currently run a small kitchen program out of one of the more “well-to-do” coffee shops in PDX. We poach eggs, toast the toast, whack pits out of avocados with vigor and then carefully shingle, and sometimes shmear, the lovely green fruit onto toast and sell it for $10 a pop. And the locals can’t get enough of it, it’s fascinating to watch.

When I came on in September I was briefed of a second location opening near the Nines hotel smack in the middle of Downtown Portland. I spent December running around, contacting vendors, creating spreadsheets, costing out new menu items and shooting nasty looks at anyone who appeared to be enjoying the holiday season.

Monday, December 17th at 5:00 am found me low on sleep, driving in the dark, rainy morning to the shop to start prepping food for the new location. We were set to open in two days and my plan to set up the kitchen at the new space in the morning had been bumped by last-minute construction.

I turned the key the other manager had given me, pulled open the door and was immediately greeted by a shrieking alarm. At that moment I knew it was going to be a very bad Monday. No one had thought to brief me about the alarm and I hadn’t thought to ask. I began calling every coworker unfortunate enough to have given me their number until someone finally woke up and gave me the code.

I rubbed my eyes and stumbled around the counter where I realized I had beaten the barista in and I didn’t know where anything was to brew the coffee. I poked around the pristine coffee area for awhile knocking things over and trying to find the beans. Eventually, someone arrived, took in the situation at a glance and sent me back to my area to whip some cream cheese into submission while they brewed the life juice.

I went home at 11:00 am and went on a quick run to clear my head during a blessed break in the rain. An hour later I was out of the shower and my phone began to buzz incessantly about metro shelving sizes and could I pick them up on my way over. I responded to messages while pulling on my socks and complaining to Tony about the whole situation before shrugging into my raincoat and headed back out into the dismal day.

My produce vendor was supposed to deliver a large order of, well… everything to the new location that morning. However, due to the delayed construction going on they’d had to deliver all the produce to the current location, leaving me to haul all of it over in my little Toyota.

I picked up Dean, one of the other managers who sports a very well-kept, handlebar mustache, packed the car to the gills with produce, and drove downtown to find the loading zone near the new shop was full. I drove around for 20 minutes and finally found parking three blocks away. I recruited a few people and we began hauling the produce through the rain.

The car in the loading zone finally moved and I ran like the dickens to squeeze into the spot before someone else sniped it. Finally, all the produce was unloaded, if not a bit waterlogged, and I drove off to find more permanent parking. It was a busy day downtown and I pulled into the first parking garage I saw.

It was 3:00 pm, I was feeling behind and had the entire kitchen to set up still looming ahead. I scurried out of the garage to street level, glanced at the street sign which read “Broadway” and in smaller letters underneath “600,” plugged the new cafe location into my GPS and walked about 10 minutes to it at a brisk pace.

Skipping ahead to 8:30 pm, the kitchen is set up, I am exhausted and wave goodbye to everyone. I gathered up a brown paper bag of twenty ripe bananas, a bottle of tamari that was supposed to stay at the original location, and an herb case still in its box that needed to be returned to the restaurant supply store. I donned my raincoat and stepped outside. I plugged broadway and 6th into my phone and began to walk…

I arrived at the cross streets after about 10 minutes to find no parking garage in sight. My phone was on 8% battery and the bright, white light mocked me as I realized I had no idea where my car was. I knew Broadway had been a cross street so I picked a direction on Broadway and began to walk. I walked to 1200, wandering in and out of parking garages that weren’t the right ones, and then walked back down Broadway the other direction. My phone died and the expensive herb case that needed returning was getting soaked.

I walked all the way to 300 searching up and down side streets in vain. I had spent next to no time downtown before that day and had no sense of direction or a clue as to where I was. Everything looked familiar and I couldn’t tell if I had seen that bench on my walk from the garage or during my earlier parking escapades while unloading produce.

I weighed my limited options and headed back to the cafe, which I found by some small miracle. I plugged my phone into the iPad charger and sat on the floor miserably waiting for it to come back to life while Dean, the mustache wearer and the only one remaining at the cafe, patiently drank a bottle of sparkling water and tinkered with the settings on the coffee brewer trying to get it ready for opening day. Dean was getting home by bus and could do little to help but offer some words of sympathy so we sat in silence, me, dean, the bag of bananas and the bottle of tamari.

The phone glowed to life again and I let Tony know about the situation. He began researching parking garages and sent a slew of them my way to look at. I looked through them and picked one that looked like the entrance I remembered and was about the right distance away.

I ditched the herb case, gathered up the bag of bananas and perched the bottle of tamari on top. I plugged the garage coordinates into my phone which had a promising 20% battery at this point.

Off I set, only to find that my phone was so cold the GPS was stalling and I had been walking in the wrong direction for the past four blocks. I shook the cold, slippery phone, zoomed out and tried to get my bearings. Then I set off at a brisk clip turning the phone every which way willing it to work. Meanwhile, the paper bag that held the bananas was about soaked through and had started to disintegrate.

Right as I came to a crosswalk I checked the directions again and the shift of my weight caused the bottle of tamari to roll out the side of the disappearing bag and it shattered onto the sidewalk where the dark, salty sauce mixed with the damnable rain. I gathered up the bits of glass and carried them two blocks until I found a trash can to toss them in. I adjusted the wet bag and realized my hand was bleeding all over the bananas. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to scream or just weep incessantly into what remained of the bag.

But since neither of those would have been much use and “Mama didn’t raise an entire fool” I left the shattered bottle behind and marched to the garage. I walked up and found the gate pulled down over the entrance, the garage had closed at 9:00 pm and it was going on 10:00. I set the soggy bag of bananas down with a wet, dull thud, examined my bleeding hand, and checked the fares on Lyft and Uber, both of which were $40. I called Tony to come to get me and stood miserably under the garage overhang spitting mad.

Time passed, people walked by, I stood stoically by my banana bag and began fiddling with the edge of a paper in the little compartment on my cell phone case where I keep my credit cards. Tony was about 5 minutes away when I realized what I was picking at.. I pulled the paper out and it was my parking stub with the garage address listed in neat print, nearly a mile away. Normally, I leave those in my car so there is no way I can forget it when I need it to exit the garage. Ha. Ha. Ha…

Tony arrived bringing the role of paper towels I had requested and Muggsy, who stood in the backseat, her little tail thumping the glass. I shoved my hand into a wad of paper towels, tossed the bag of bananas into the floorboard and Tony drove me to the garage where I paid a whopping $20 to retrieve my car and then sped towards home on the vacant highway.

I don’t recall much else of that evening or the rest of opening week for that matter. But eventually the shop opened, life went back to normal, as it always does, and Christmas and New Years clicked past. My friend, I hope this story made you laugh, shake your head, and determine to never leave me in charge of parking the car.

To Be Continued…

December 17, 2018

The month of December was a special time in my professional life. Let’s just be real here, I currently run a small kitchen program out of one of the more “well-to-do” coffee shops in PDX. We poach eggs, toast the toast, whack pits out of avocados with vigor and then carefully shingle, and sometimes shmear, the lovely green fruit onto toast and sell it for $10 a pop. And the locals can’t get enough of it, it’s fascinating to watch.

When I came on in September I was briefed of a second location opening near the Nines hotel smack in the middle of Downtown Portland. I spent December running around, contacting vendors, creating spreadsheets, costing out new menu items and shooting nasty looks at anyone who appeared to be enjoying the holiday season.

Monday, December 17th at 5:00 am found me low on sleep, driving in the dark, rainy morning to the shop to start prepping food for the new location. We were set to open in two days and my plan to set up the kitchen at the new space in the morning had been bumped by last-minute construction.

I turned the key the other manager had given me, pulled open the door and was immediately greeted by a shrieking alarm. At that moment I knew it was going to be a very bad Monday. No one had thought to brief me about the alarm and I hadn’t thought to ask. I began calling every coworker unfortunate enough to have given me their number until someone finally woke up and gave me the code.

I rubbed my eyes and stumbled around the counter where I realized I had beaten the barista in and I didn’t know where anything was to brew the coffee. I poked around the pristine coffee area for awhile knocking things over and trying to find the beans. Eventually, someone arrived, took in the situation at a glance and sent me back to my area to whip some cream cheese into submission while they brewed the life juice.

I went home at 11:00 am and went on a quick run to clear my head during a blessed break in the rain. An hour later I was out of the shower and my phone began to buzz incessantly about metro shelving sizes and could I pick them up on my way over. I responded to messages while pulling on my socks and complaining to Tony about the whole situation before shrugging into my raincoat and headed back out into the dismal day.

My produce vendor was supposed to deliver a large order of, well… everything to the new location that morning. However, due to the delayed construction going on they’d had to deliver all the produce to the current location, leaving me to haul all of it over in my little Toyota.

I picked up Dean, one of the other managers who sports a very well-kept, handlebar mustache, packed the car to the gills with produce, and drove downtown to find the loading zone near the new shop was full. I drove around for 20 minutes and finally found parking three blocks away. I recruited a few people and we began hauling the produce through the rain.

The car in the loading zone finally moved and I ran like the dickens to squeeze into the spot before someone else sniped it. Finally, all the produce was unloaded, if not a bit waterlogged, and I drove off to find more permanent parking. It was a busy day downtown and I pulled into the first parking garage I saw.

It was 3:00 pm, I was feeling behind and had the entire kitchen to set up still looming ahead. I scurried out of the garage to street level, glanced at the street sign which read “Broadway” and in smaller letters underneath “600,” plugged the new cafe location into my GPS and walked about 10 minutes to it at a brisk pace.

Skipping ahead to 8:30 pm, the kitchen is set up, I am exhausted and wave goodbye to everyone. I gathered up a brown paper bag of twenty ripe bananas, a bottle of tamari that was supposed to stay at the original location, and an herb case still in its box that needed to be returned to the restaurant supply store. I donned my raincoat and stepped outside. I plugged broadway and 6th into my phone and began to walk…

I arrived at the cross streets after about 10 minutes to find no parking garage in sight. My phone was on 8% battery and the bright, white light mocked me as I realized I had no idea where my car was. I knew Broadway had been a cross street so I picked a direction on Broadway and began to walk. I walked to 1200, wandering in and out of parking garages that weren’t the right ones, and then walked back down Broadway the other direction. My phone died and the expensive herb case that needed returning was getting soaked.

I walked all the way to 300 searching up and down side streets in vain. I had spent next to no time downtown before that day and had no sense of direction or a clue as to where I was. Everything looked familiar and I couldn’t tell if I had seen that bench on my walk from the garage or during my earlier parking escapades while unloading produce.

I weighed my limited options and headed back to the cafe, which I found by some small miracle. I plugged my phone into the iPad charger and sat on the floor miserably waiting for it to come back to life while Dean, the mustache wearer and the only one remaining at the cafe, patiently drank a bottle of sparkling water and tinkered with the settings on the coffee brewer trying to get it ready for opening day. Dean was getting home by bus and could do little to help but offer some words of sympathy so we sat in silence, me, dean, the bag of bananas and the bottle of tamari.

The phone glowed to life again and I let Tony know about the situation. He began researching parking garages and sent a slew of them my way to look at. I looked through them and picked one that looked like the entrance I remembered and was about the right distance away.

I ditched the herb case, gathered up the bag of bananas and perched the bottle of tamari on top. I plugged the garage coordinates into my phone which had a promising 20% battery at this point.

Off I set, only to find that my phone was so cold the GPS was stalling and I had been walking in the wrong direction for the past four blocks. I shook the cold, slippery phone, zoomed out and tried to get my bearings. Then I set off at a brisk clip turning the phone every which way willing it to work. Meanwhile, the paper bag that held the bananas was about soaked through and had started to disintegrate.

Right as I came to a crosswalk I checked the directions again and the shift of my weight caused the bottle of tamari to roll out the side of the disappearing bag and it shattered onto the sidewalk where the dark, salty sauce mixed with the damnable rain. I gathered up the bits of glass and carried them two blocks until I found a trash can to toss them in. I adjusted the wet bag and realized my hand was bleeding all over the bananas. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to scream or just weep incessantly into what remained of the bag.

But since neither of those would have been much use and “Mama didn’t raise an entire fool” I left the shattered bottle behind and marched to the garage. I walked up and found the gate pulled down over the entrance, the garage had closed at 9:00 pm and it was going on 10:00. I set the soggy bag of bananas down with a wet, dull thud, examined my bleeding hand, and checked the fares on Lyft and Uber, both of which were $40. I called Tony to come to get me and stood miserably under the garage overhang spitting mad.

Time passed, people walked by, I stood stoically by my banana bag and began fiddling with the edge of a paper in the little compartment on my cell phone case where I keep my credit cards. Tony was about 5 minutes away when I realized what I was picking at.. I pulled the paper out and it was my parking stub with the garage address listed in neat print, nearly a mile away. Normally, I leave those in my car so there is no way I can forget it when I need it to exit the garage. Ha. Ha. Ha…

Tony arrived bringing the role of paper towels I had requested and Muggsy, who stood in the backseat, her little tail thumping the glass. I shoved my hand into a wad of paper towels, tossed the bag of bananas into the floorboard and Tony drove me to the garage where I paid a whopping $20 to retrieve my car and then sped towards home on the vacant highway.

I don’t recall much else of that evening or the rest of opening week for that matter. But eventually the shop opened, life went back to normal, as it always does, and Christmas and New Years clicked past. My friend, I hope this story made you laugh, shake your head, and determine to never leave me in charge of parking the car.

To Be Continued…

Savannah Says...

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