My parents didn’t exactly tell me they were upset when I left Engineering my Junior year of college. I assumed. One day my Dad called me long-distance to say all was not as bad as one might expect. In fact, he chirped, it was quite the opposite.
My Dad never did ask if it was a good time to speak when he called. Me simply picking up was enough for him to assume I actually wanted to talk to the person on the other end. Truth was, it was 8 am on Saturday. I was still wearing last night’s toga. The phone was ringing…loudly. Someone wasn’t following the 10 ring rule. I needed to stop it.
I let him speak. Apparently, while I was far away in New England an ice rink in Central Park was being renovated. The project was over budget and behind schedule. Just when all Hell was about to publicly break loose, in waltzed this developer guy who said he could get the job completed on time and under budget. And he did!!! My father laughed with delight, pride and wonder.
Normally, this news might have been a good enough reason for my father to call. I was ready for him to sign off. But …there was more! I had a chance to be part of History thanks to his connections to the project. I was to show up at The Rink on my first day of my upcoming Winter Break at 7 am to start work….
”As for Barry.” Dad told me. He pronounced his love for me before hanging up.
I did as instructed….after a week of mid-terms.
The Rink sat low in a wooded and rocky hollow in the South East corner of Central Park. Although the sun was up –the light hadn’t hit the ice yet. Only the top of the trees glowed orange. It was a pretty nifty spot. The romantic landscape filled me with a dewy peace and quiet. Yet, I was energized by the impressive stone and steel skyline which rose up above the bucolic scene. This was going to be pretty cool, I thought. In all of my years in Central Park, I never remember being to this Rink. You learn something new every day…how could I have missed this place?
No one was anywhere near The Rink. Not even a squirrel. A very relaxed security guard was slung long and low on a folding chair at the door. His name tag read Antonio. I asked for Barry. Antonio’s hand looked just like the hand from the Sistine Chapel as he pointed to the far end of the clubhouse. “Thanks!” I said. “Yo” he replied as he settled back into that folding chair. Antonio looked younger than me.
I found Barry behind a heavy swinging door to the kitchen. Everything was in the dull shine of stainless steel. Barry, dressed in cotton and wool, was a fast moving guy. He was buzzing around searching for something. He was finding lots of things, but not what he needed. When I began to feel really weird just standing there unnoticed, I figured I needed to announce myself.
“Uh…” I said loudly “I was told I can find Barry back here….Mr. Barry”. He stopped moving momentarily – “I’m Barry” he grunted dislodging something from inside a low cabinet. He slammed a rolling pin on the countertop above his head and climbed in further into the cabinet. I could only see his butt and shoes.
“Uh, well….My Dad told me I should arrive by 7…Here for some job…Job application…Job…Here..My Dad…” I kept filling the silence with sentence enders. I wanted to apologize and leave – like by running.
Suddenly Barry stood up and slammed the cabinet shut. He was shaped like a pear. Even his head was shaped like a pear. A wisp of hair rose up and bent over just like a stem. He scuffed over to me as he pulled his belt up and tugged his tie down. Now he was smiling…he happy to see me. Too happy. I shook his outstretched hand – it was cold, soft and pudgy.
“Welcome” he said and he motioned for me to follow him. We now were doing a little bee dance together. We buzzed here. We buzzed there. We avoided mid-flight collisions as he changed directions with me right behind him. We were picking up and depositing items in random places. While he was orienting himself he told me he was the office guy who oversaw Rink Operations in Corporate. Due to staffing issues he was made to work there. Today he was going to train me…and he would be free!! He was almost as excited as my Dad. I wondered if they knew of each other. I figured I shouldn’t mention it. I was carrying a whisk. Barry needed more sleep, or less coffee, or maybe both…
“So!” he clapped “You have to have this place open in less than an hour”. His pudgy hands made good loud claps. I wondered why that was – wetness, air pressure, velocity? Could you test clap efficiency? How? This line of thinking was evidence of why exactly I shouldn’t be an engineer…
The next 45 minutes Barry treated me to an impromptu style stream of consciousness training session. He was a high strung sort of guy. At the end of his rope type of high strung. Not been home in days type of high strung. I followed him calmly and nodded so much my head hurt.
“When you come in with your key there that I gave you, the first thing you have to do is turn on this switch. Then go over to here and get this thing turned on from under here to get it warmed up in time. You can heat up the water first, that helps if it is really cold…and watch this over here because it can fall over…then you go over here and start getting the food ready – first you should get…the menu is up there…then you need to go to the safe and get the cash….you know how to use a register right?….But we will get to the cash later – at the end of the day you do inventory…throw out anything that has been cooked or heated. Wrap up and store the rest. Call these purveyors on each sheet for orders every other day and order the par.. they show up and you need…well, you know how to receive inventory right? OK…great….then here is the schedule you will be making…you have four employees….and the payroll is due on Tuesdays – you know how to do payroll?…..you can eat whatever you want – just mark it on this sheet here – make sure the employees do too…then you ring it up using this button here…with the other manager key….put the paperwork in here… you understand cash management right? Have you ever been arrested? Here is the list of phone numbers in case you need anyone at Corporate. Dial 9 first on line 2. How about we have some coffee?”
We toasted to my induction into the Corporate Restaurant Management World over two steamy light-no-sugars in cardboard cups. I was on my way Up Up Up!! It was then he asked me a question “Do you model or something? Is that why you’re here?” He seemed embarassed to have asked when I said no. Maybe I needed to put on some weight or something.
Before I knew it Barry was over the knoll scuffing to one of those shiny office buildings on the other side. I could almost see smoke trailing behind him. Was that his thighs rubbing together? I turned my gaze back inside into My Domain. All was still. I gave a nod to Antonio…he thrust his hands into his front pockets and stretched. The sun hit the ice. A lone sparrow hopped on the railing. I wanted a folding chair too.
And so, I had started my career in the Hospitality Business. The Rink became part of me.