Here are some things that have happened to me over the years at work. For whatever reason, these memories pop up in my brain over and over again. Keep in mind that most of this occurred while I was a teenager. Also, I worked in very, very unprofessional kitchens up until I was 25. They are not in order.
#67 - I worked at a restaurant once for two days. On the first day, I realized that they were microwaving eggplant parmigiana. I slept on it. On the second day, as I was microwaving eggplant parmigiana, I walked out before the timer finished and didn't tell anybody I was quitting. As I was leaving the line, somebody asked where I was going and I said, "I've got to go to my car real quick." Real dumb answer.
#109 - Years ago another line cook thought it would be hilarious to set my chef pants on fire. He was a hillbilly from Texas. I grew up thinking lesser of Texans because of this guy and his brother. His brother was the dumbest person I've ever met. We asked him to label pasta one time and he spelled penne "penhen." PEN-HEN. Anyway, the guy who set my pants on fire, his name was Sean. He was maybe 10 years older than me. When you're 16 you just assume everybody over 19 is 40, but he was probably 26. He was tall and bulky and I'm sure he could have picked me up and thrown me in a trash can if he wanted. I got real pissed that I had a hole in my pants, so I put a bunch of chocolate syrup in his gas tank. When he found out (I stuffed the bottle in his tank), all I heard was, "I'm going to kill this mother fucker!" I immediately went to hide at the server's station. I remember seeing him through the swinging doors and he was sliding his feet like a bull waiting for me. It was one of the first times I remember thinking, "Oh yeah, you can do things and then get punched in the face for it." Sean and I are cool now.
#90 - At a restaurant called Sghetti's, there was this wild summer where fireworks were used for just about every prank. I didn't find it fun. I'd be trying to work and somebody would just throw firecrackers on the ground next to me. Real pirate behavior. You'd be getting to work and just get bombarded with bottle rockets as you were parking your car. Anyway, my brother put an end to all of this. In a genius move, he taped a pack of firecrackers to the back of a sauté pan and put the pan back on the stack. The "chef", who was behind all of this nonsense, picked up the pan and put in on an open flame when an order came through. This thing rattled and basically exploded on to the ground. He was so startled he had to go sit outside on a milk crate for a half hour to collect himself. Nobody messed with fireworks after that. Fun fact: My hometown, New Castle, Pennsylvania, is considered the Fireworks Capital of America.
#114 - There was a lot of prison antics going on when I worked at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. I used to talk a lot of shit to my coworkers, and I always got repaid in strange, violent ways. One time I was working an omelette station and a fellow cook very slyly walked past me and shanked the fuck out of my arm with a paper clip he twisted into a knife. I had to leave because I was bleeding. Even more ridiculous, one day when I was talking a particular amount of smack, a fellow line cook asked me to come in to the walk-in cooler because she couldn't reach something. Three fourths of me thought we were going to make out. I walked in the cooler - a huge, long, semi-truck style fridge with only one door, and she ran out laughing like something just worked perfectly. As soon as she left, three other cooks walked into the cooler with brute swagger. They had socks, fucking socks, filled with oranges. I remember one of them saying, "What's up, now?" and I just got beat with orange filled socks. I had to fight my way out and remember having bruises for a few days. We were all giggling like idiots as it was happening because it really was the most ridiculous thing.
#219 - A chef made up something one time called "sauté bowling" which was another prank I wasn't a fan of. Basically you start by getting a sauté pan scalding hot with oil. When the oil smokes, drop some water in there and look the fuck out because the flames reach a few feet high. Once the pan was on fire, you dropped it on the ground and then kicked it across the kitchen towards somebody. I know. Really had a lot of potential to be harmful. I'll never forget seeing a saute pan with flames three feet high sliding towards me from the other end of the line.
#13 - Back to the casino. I was on a lot of drugs and alcohol. I was good at my job but also a god damn mess. I used to mix energy drinks and white wine at 7 AM. I'd take Percocet at 9 AM. Chain smoke and drink caffeine all day. I used to get Percocet for free. A coworker would just give it to me. Then one day he said, "Hey man, I've been giving you a lot of Percs, would you mind throwing me a couple bucks?" Sure! After all, I had been getting all of this euphoria for free. Before I knew it I was buying drugs everyday and I don't know if he was trying to slowly work me in to being a customer with the freebies, but it worked. I was doing a lot of damage to my body at 25. One day my boss dangled my ID badge with his finger, a picture of me looking tan and healthy, then he looked at my face and said, "Jesus Christ Palumbo, what happened to you?" I got sent home one day because I was "too pale," which I think my boss was telling me to clean up or I was going to get fired. I developed a pretty nasty habit of having to be either intoxicated or high to work.
#5 - I shucked oysters for a few years in Austin. The guy that showed me how to shuck was Big Mike. Big Mike was this dude from New Orleans who sold drugs. I know he sold drugs because he was always saying, "Hey, I need to run to my car real quick" in the middle of a lunch rush. Big Mike taught me how to sharpen an oyster knife by scratching it against the concrete outside. I remember saying, "Oh, and then you clean it" and he was like, "Yeah" like he wasn't cleaning it. Big Mike passed away.
#300 - I stormed out of a restaurant one night because the owner was way too hands on. I tore my apron off, and as I dramatically slammed open a screen door to the outside world, I'll never forget he said, "You're not quitting. You're going to take a walk and cool down." I might have actually done that if he didn't tell me what I was going to do, but instead I responded, "No, I'm actually quitting." I remember he just watched me walk the whole way to my car. I was being groomed to be the chef at this place, and I was 19. That responsibility scared the shit out of me. Whatever we were fighting about, I think that fear of responsibility was the reason I walked out.
#35 - I got drunk, so, so drunk inside of a food truck one time with my friend Eric Krug (not a cook, just a friend who hopped on the truck), and we started blasting "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen so the whole neighborhood would hear it. Afterwards, when the other cook and I drove the food truck home, I was hanging out of the side door pretending like it was a fire truck. It is good that I don't drink much anymore.
#59 - Saw a coworker snort heroin once. He did it off of a white surface in the chef's office. We were talking for like, probably 20 minutes after he snorted the line. The whole time he was talking, I was just staring at a little half line that he left on the table and it dawned on me, "Oh, I don't think he knows that's there." I told him he left some heroin on the table and he goes, "Nuh-uh. Where?" I pointed at it again, and he peered in even closer to it. When he saw it, his eyes lit up and he exclaimed, "Oh, shit. Thanks!" then he snorted the rest of the heroin. I immediately felt regret over telling him there was more there. His name was Shane. I feel like people named Shane are trouble.