When the head, and assistant chef, stepped into the pot-wash, on most occasions, they would accompany the pans and dishes they set down for washing, with a comment.
Almost all were directly aimed at Barry, the permanent employee I was partnering.
When I had started the holiday cover week, the head, and assistant chef had spoke about Barry.
‘He’s simple-minded, slow.’
The comments they made on their visits to the pot-wash weren’t so nasty. But they got irritating. The same thing. Recalling a verbal half-slip Barry had made the week before.
After about the fourth incidence, I asked Barry about what was being said.
He explained, insouciantly.
After about the fifteenth time, over the course of perhaps an hour-and-a-half, the paucity of imagination of the head and assistant chef struck me.
‘Speak your mind gents,’ I imagined intoning, and enjoying the silence.
Perhaps the head-chef, realised he needed to mix it up. Very shortly after that he started producing some pre-school French phrases:
‘Bonjour Monsieur’ and
‘Parlez-vous Francais’ to which I reacted by saying:
‘Estoy aprender un poco espanol’ and similar and the head-chef recognised I was saying *something* back to him and eventually a small exchange took place in which I, courteously explained I knew a little holiday Spanish. (With detachment there is a sickening thought that I was trying to explain I was not just a dish-washer… oh pointless pride.)
‘You should say something to Barry,’ the head-chef said, who continued as though speaking in almost wonder, ‘he’ll just look at you.’
‘Why would I do that?’ I answered the h-c immediately – and the h-c said nothing as he customarily left the pot-wash, and me with my thoughts.
Immediately my thoughts were not kind to the h-c. He was supposedly a grown-man, yet his treatment, his, empathy/humanity toward Barry, was no better than a snobby late-teenager.
I slightly admonished myself. I wished I’d said:
‘*What* would I do that for?’ – in order to give the h-c a question he might think to answer for himself. Perhaps the more directly interrogative *what* would find the answer – and the h-c would be ashamed at the answer he couldn’t avoid:
He liked the thought of making another human being a spectacle, a figure of fun.
Slightly later on in the morning, a blonde woman, who I had, in my first days found sociable – but who had become un-sociable, nudged my uncomfortableness with her, a whole lot further.
‘Can we …’ she started, as she suggested a task for myself and Barry.
I find the indirect verbal construction ‘can we?’ especially irritating. I wonder at its origin. I think the phrase’s only possible decent use, might be as part of a podium speaker’s rhetorical question.
Off the podium, no-one, who has ever used the phrase ‘can we’ has ever took any part in the task they want others to perform.
No-one who has ever used the phrase ‘can we’ has ever had any intention in helping in the task they want others to perform.
I believe the ‘we’ when used by one person, toward a small group of others, is a method of detachment.
The person has an inability to say the more human and natural ‘can you.’
Perhaps the person who uses the phrase should be pitied.
At the time, I was in the middle of a sweating, working day, and pity for a virtual boss was in short supply.
In fact I felt the opposite. I wanted revenge from this mealy-mouthed blandity.
A thought crossed the mind. A direct approach:
‘My father told me never to trust anyone who said ‘can we’ cause everyone knows – they never will.’
I discounted the consideration. I was a temp. Making an issue of something like that, *like that* would be seen as misfit aggression. But how was I to vent my sudden and demanding frustration?
I found a way. And maybe, ironically, I have to thank the head-chef – for his earlier attempts at continental tongue.
Perhaps without the head-chef’s earlier words, my month’s previous dalliances on the Babbel app would have remained dormant. But they didn’t. From somewhere I remembered the Spanish for *blonde* – and from other reading the fact that in Spanish, ‘burro’ is synonymous with donkey, and stupid.
Stupid is not what I wanted to say about the blonde, but it was near enough.
‘Usted Rubio burro,’ I said to myself.
Anyone with Spanish, might point out that as I was not addressing the woman I should have said ‘ella’ not ‘usted’. But it doesn’t matter. I had satisfied, articulated my frustration.
‘Usted rubio burro’ I said at the head-chef when he stepped into the pot-wash. And *that* made it even better.
Because the head-chef looked at me, blankly – and said:
‘What are you talking about?’
He spoke. He didn’t ‘just look at me’ but it was virtually the same happened, as he had told me would happen in another.