Thursday, October 4, 2007

corporate penny pinchers

I work as a waiter in an "assisted-living community" -- corporate lingo for a warehouse for the old. After every meal there is food left over, maybe enough for 3 to 5 more meals. Some cooks urge wait staff and dish washers to take some; others are more restrained.

Last night Anna was working. She told me to "make a plate for yourself." I did, and set it aside while I finished mopping the floor. As I was mopping Peter, the executive director of the place, came in. He opened up the tin foil around one plate of food, and glanced at my uncovered plate. "Where is Anna?" he asked. I thought maybe he was hungry. Someone told him she was in the bathroom.

A few minutes later she came in and said, "Make sure you eat that before you leave! Peter was asking me whose food it was, and I told him it was Carol's, that she had paid for it." The rule is that we cannot take food home, although we are allowed -- supposedly -- to eat on the job. "Peter thinks the cooks are over-preparing food," she said, "so we can take it home."

Making an issue over food that is eaten instead of dumped is downright immoral. To see a man who makes in the five or six figures sniffing around at left over food worth a few dollars at most -- food meant for the trash, whose loss is already counted in expenses -- shows the real character of corporate success. Not the sharp, dashing young men in suits and ties breaking with tradition and "thinking outside the box" as seen in so many commercials. Corporate success is guaranteed, rather, by compulsively accumulative, nitpicking, stingy behavior.

"There are people dying of hunger in this world," I said.

"Exactly," said Anna.

"We need to go union," said Lisa, the young dish washer. I resolve to research the issue. We need a counterweight to the compulsive, nannyish, undignified behavior of management.

According to most conservative thinking, "nannyish" as an adjective only applies to government. But I think corporate hacks illustrate this trait better. And their nanny-ishness is not mitigated by a wish to protect, better or help the worker: it is solely aimed at the security of their own fat asses.

Selfishness is the new virtue.

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