Saturday, April 12, 2014
We’re sitting outside a café in the centre of town. This is supposed to be a quality family moment after picking our son up from school (no rush hour, no traffic, just ice cream and coffee in the sun. Ah, Sicily…) Our three year old has his nose stuck in his father’s phone playing video games and my husband is meeting and greeting in restaurateur capacity, (the same suppliers, loafers and wise boys frequent this café by day as our restaurant by night) reducing me to arm candy.
One guy greets my husband with two kisses on the cheek. After all this time it still reminds me of The Godfather, still gives me the chills. I don't know this guy. He talks most deferentially to my husband seeking his advice on an array of matters related to restaurant management and in particular the question of suolo publico or pavement space for the all-important chairs and tables outside. I could give the guy loads of advice but he isn't seeking mine. Pay the council rates for it, organise it in good time because bureaucratic issues take forever, and save a little of your takings for the Fines of May. Yes, in this business in Sicily, May is the month when all fine collectors - from Health and Safety Inspectors to Tax Collectors to Finance Police - dust off winter cobwebs, shine up the brass buttons on their uniforms and hit the bars and restaurants to rake it in on long spring evenings.
Who was that guy? I ask my husband when he finally leaves us alone. He's the guy, says my husband under his breath, who swiped our dishwasher. Aha, the one who is opening a mediterranean restaurant just forty metres from our place. No wonder he was so obsequious. A: he'll be close competition, B: he'll need our wisdom constantly and C: he's just swiped one of our main men.
I understand our dishwasher’s reason for going, they've promised him shorter hours because it is not a bar so it should close earlier. But still we were sorry to see him go. He knew the ropes and we'd been through a lot together: Casualty, the time he put the stem of a wine glass through the palm of his hand, broken crockery and glasses (crateloads at the beginning), and despite his tendency to be absent when we needed him most (at weekends), he was part of the team. And most importantly he had been trained to do a little extra; he was the chef's right hand man - or left hand, as our kitchen layout would have it.
When, in a month or two, our poached dishwasher comes looking for his old job back because A: the new boss is not as understanding as my husband when he messes up, can't work weekends etc, B: doesn't pay him on time, and when he does it’s cash in hand and no benefits, and C: he realises he has to work the same hours anyway… When he comes back tail between legs, I think I know what my husband will say....