I’m confident that I could have worked at a doner shop while in Istanbul. It’s my fourth summer at the pizza shop in New York and I’m standing behind the counter separating paper plates. The screen door creaks open and a couple enters; another family has already been seated with menus and I notice they’re ready to order. Coverage of girl’s Olympic beach volleyball is on the television screen and the pop song Call Me, Maybe sounds on the radio. The youngster at the table bobs his head to the kitschy jingle and orders a kid’s cheese ravioli.
The phone rings and I rush to beat the second ring, “Bazzi’s Pizza, delivery or carryout?” Meanwhile I’m trying to plug-in the order for the four-top I just took. They want two cans of pop, a fountain pop, a Yuengling, a glass of Chianti and four waters to go around. Trays don’t exist in the shop so I’ve got to run back and forth several times to get them all their drinks.
The door in the front opens – a group of thirteen adults and children enter the restaurant; it’s just become crowded. “Dine in?” I ask, “yes, and we’ll sit outside.” Phew, I’m thinking, a break from the heat that emits from the two ovens, some natural light and aroma that isn’t pizza. The phone rings. The family of thirteen orders pasta all around; “The fettuccini carbonara comes with a salad – Italian, ranch or blue cheese dressing for you?” (Times nine because the kid’s meals come with just bread). Just my luck; I end up walking in and out of the restaurant enough times to burn all the carbohydrates from every dish they have ordered.
While I’m busy handling plates of food, answering phones, clearing tables, making boxes for the deliveries/carryout’s, and taking orders, two youngsters drop two bottles of root beer on the tiled floor. I’ve got to balance everything and grab some rags to wipe up the mess and to make sure no one cuts himself or herself.
Like the men working in the doner shops, I have a break for a coffee and a cigarette; I need the energy to make it through the night. I can easily imagine the chaos of the doner shops that stay open until 5AM – feeding all the wanderers and street junkies in the middle of the night.
I return, catching the phone at the third shrill. Returning to the chaos of pies, I remember that my shift isn’t over until 3AM. It’s no longer families and cute kids coming in for pizza, Olympics, and bad music but drunk locals from the Rumors Bar across the street. And as soon as I know it, I am bent over cleaning the contents and broken glass of the saltshaker that’s been poured and then dropped on to the already dirty tiled floor.