Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

The joy of late-night foooooooooooooooood

Again, relief: that a new experience was a good one. Saturday night/Sunday morning was my first late-night shift manning the front window at Big-Ass Sandwiches. 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.: four hours of near-nonstop order-taking for hungry, mostly happy, sometimes drunk people.

So THAT'S kind of sort of a little bit like what working graveyard shift is like. I had not done that before; the latest I ever worked at the call center was midnight (the earliest I ever started there was 4 a.m.), and I know not to do graveyard at industrial-type jobs like my current bindery/pressroom temp gig. Eight hours of that in the small hours is probably too much for me. But this -- this I can do. I was hesitant about it when co-owner Lisa Wood first asked me last month if I'd like to try late night; she told me it's less daunting than I thought. She was right.

Also, not surprisingly, coffee saved me. Small cup consumed before I started my shift kept me going better than without (even after I'd napped part of Saturday afternoon). Useful tool, this thing you coffee people drink...

(Should I thank by name the bar where I got the coffee, because they let me have it for free? I'll be cagey about that and say no. I didn't expect them to do that, by the way, and I did tip. Free coffee is a nice bonus. But I digress.)

Heading to the bus after dark reminded me of my morning commute earlier this year, making me more glad we have more morning light right now. I had an increasingly loud bus, but was able to read. I was bundled for a cool night: yellow coat, red Oregon Coast sweatshirt, and my lowest layer being my Big-Ass Sandwiches T-shirt. (Hey, even one of the cart owners next to Big-Ass Sandwiches owns a Big-Ass Sandwiches T-shirt. That's Mark of Olympic Grill, a hot dog/cheesesteak cart on the same corner. The carts try to support each other. Bless them for that.)

Two cooks -- one guy I knew (Keegan), one guy I didn't before last night (Barrett) -- manned the cart with me. Our mutual friend Gerald, who's cooking at a nearby brick-and-mortar restaurant, briefly visited before he headed home pre-11 o'clock, pizza box in hand so he'd get more energy later. The cart had a line of about six people at 11:00; I opened the front of the cart slowly, which was good because otherwise one guy would've gotten his face slapped with the chain used to pull the front closed. And we got moving.

Thank goodness people were mostly happy. Drunk enthusiasm is an often fun, often maddening, enthusiasm. It can mean that someone may happily say how cool my glasses are; it can also mean that someone might change their order three times before I could put that order ticket on the shelf above the grill. It can mean people are loud; I think I did a good job of listening carefully over the people who started chanting. It can mean people are in the mood to play verbally; I was able to joke with some of them, and also commiserate with them over the "June-uary" cold Portland's having. But mostly, it was enthusiasm, and I like supporting that. I also like that we didn't get a single person who got mad at the idea of french fries as a topping on their sandwiches. (Seriously. This can be an issue. I prefer when they get surprised but then get willing to try it, because yep, the sandwiches all come with fries as a topping by design.)

Our few breaks in traffic, the three of us inside the cart talked. I'd realized last month that I hadn't talked enough with the other guys in the cart, because I was (even by my brooding standards) way too wrapped up in myself last month, and I made an effort to talk to Keegan and Barrett last night. I'm glad I did.

The night, overall, was steady; the last hour was almost nonstop orders, to the point where I was a little surprised to see 2:30 on the cart clock. We even sold out of the breakfast sandwich (scrambled eggs, fries and your choice of bacon or sausage -- or both, if you add a buck!) soon before 3:00. Keegan let me know when to stop taking orders; he knows the flow of the job much better than I do. (He also knows when to make an exception: our very last order was for a regular who showed up right after Keegan had said we were done taking orders. His call.) Then we had over half an hour of closing-up-shop: putting food away, counting money, sweeping the floor, cleaning the grill and the cutting boards, checking what needed to be replenished, filling out a report on the shift's orders, and more.

Keegan was nice enough to offer to drive me home, but I wanted to stay downtown and take advantage of an opportunity. Brian Wood, the other co-owner of Big-Ass Sandwiches, is cooking at the just-opened bar/dance club Jones Retro, at NW 1st and Couch a few blocks away from the cart. It's a late night breakfast place that opened last weekend: soft opening Thursday May 31st, official grand opening Friday June 1st. The menu is Brian's design. The menu looks good. I can vouch that my first meal was good: country-fried steak tenders with a mushroom-based gravy (post-4 a.m. they were out of meat gravy). I was there for the last hour of the night's operations, and it was nicely chill; the dancing was over (the dance area closes at 2:30), and the people still there were relaxing and conversing. I could read, though of course I can read in much louder environments, like the bus earlier. I also quickly got to visit Brian in Jones's nice-sized kitchen, as he started to clean up for the night.

Through Jones's windows (yes, a bar with good-sized windows; Jones is in the former McFadden's space), I could see signs of the city waking up. The eastern half of the sky grew lighter, adding some light around the quarter-moon's glow. Max trains trundled by towards the airport. A little after 5:00 I bundled up one more time and started walking, to get a #9 bus to near my neighborhood. Diffuse dawn colors peeked from behind the clouds to the east. I saw Saturday Market and Skidmore Market in overnight, closed-down mode, with some people walking through to check on them. More movement was happening as dawn approached, and it was calming. I was a little tired and goofy, and ready to rest. The bus got me to about 10 blocks from my place, and I walked the rest; then I checked online quickly and got some sleep, from 6:30 to 10:00. I've taken it pretty easy today.

I can do this. I'll be more open to doing this on other shifts.
Tags: portland

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