Saturday, December 24, 2005

Last shift at the Bonnington Cafe

Thursday I did my last shift in the Bonnington Cafe. We've been doing the Vegan shift for the last few months now; I did the evening bit, playing the waiter.

When I was growing up, I thought one day I'll be a university student and for some reason I assumed this would necessarily involve working part time in a restaurant/cafe as a waiter. I can't say I was exactly looking forward to it. Waitressing seemed to require both coordination and good social skills, engaging with strangers etc. Being both awkward and shy, I thought of it as a kind of intimidating test or challenge. Yet at the same time it did contain some promise of transformation.

Years went by. I started university and found job as a subtitles translator. It paid well, I got to improve my Arabic and English, and it did not invovle balnacing 5 plates on one hand. Then I worked in writing software in a start-up. This job required no motor abilities beyond the keyboard and social skills were a bonus which most employees lacked altogether. So it seemed that I would never get a chance to be a waiter. On the one hand I was relieved, on the other slightly disappointed.

But life sometimes take unexpected turns. And so I found myself wearing a sexy red checkered apron, in a vegeterian restaurant in London, taking orders etc.

The Bonnington is not a usual Cafe. It's a workers' cooperative; there's no landlord or boss. Each night is run by a separate crew, serving different cuisine. There's about 20-40 people involved, which makes it at the same time very anarchic and extremely rigid (come to the Cafe meetings and you'll see what I mean). On our night, we split the money equally between all of the workers.

It's been great fun. Since most of my labour is intellectual, reading or writing, every chance I have to do some physical work is much welcome. On extemely busy shifts I found myself just not thinking at all about anything for 6 hours: what a relief. Plus, there is something deeply rewarding about giving people food. Some kind of primordial pleasure.
I think I'll miss it.

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