A considerable portion of the most unfortunate moments of my life begin with a gloat. One would think that after establishing this pattern I would stop taking opportunities to flex but one would be wrong. It’s engrained in my DNA, almost pathological. I own a big trumpet and I love to blow it. See what I did there?
On a slow Friday evening I found myself alone with the two lovely ladies who were my colleagues at the office. We had spent the entire day updating end of the month reports and our minds were worn out. Naturally we started conversing to kill the time. A whole day of staring at a screen and clicking away on a keyboard will do that to you. After being immersed in technology for a while you just want to feel human in the most quintessential of ways. Somehow we ended up discussing catastrophic blunders committed while training for the job.
Christine went first with a story of how she poured scalding hot tea on a seated guest at the restaurant she was interning at. The tea wasn’t even meant for him, but he was surprisingly civil in his reaction. Perhaps he was a real gentleman, or maybe the body-hugging miniskirt and adequately unbuttoned shirt Christine was wearing at the time coerced him to behave. He asked for her phone number after the incident, so I guess we’ll never know. Natalie’s story was more tragic and didn’t have a very happy ending. While serving drinks on a busy Sunday at a popular joint, she spilled about five glasses of Baileys on a not so friendly lady. She got a scolding and was embarrassed publicly. She was an intern too. After hearing these heartwarming tales I couldn’t help myself. “I’ve never had such an embarrassing moment. I guess I’m just very lucky,” I said with an arrogant smirk.
My relationship with lady karma is unpredictable. Sometimes we cuddle and fondle, other times she smacks me upside my head. Two days after our little heart-to-heart with the ladies I began my internship at the kitchen. My amazing reputation had preceded me so the kitchen team had very high expectations. There goes the trumpet again. As part of my audition I was tasked with preparing chicken for the entire staff team to take as part of their dinner. I was delighted. Another opportunity to flex by crushing it on my first day.
The fastest way to make tasty chicken for a large group without spending too much time on it is to roast it in an oven then cooking it in a sauce. That’s precisely what I did and the end result was glorious. There are about seventy staff members and each person is entitled to two pieces, which are sizeable enough. The pieces have to be literally counted to ensure that they are enough. This tally had been done before the chicken was popped into the oven so I saw no need to repeat. All was well, until dinner was served.
I was entertaining a chicken thigh while admiring someone else’s when two chefs approached me and asked how many pieces of chicken I’d gotten. “One,” I replied, “Much like almost everyone else.” They then exchanged looks of bewilderment and walked away with resolve. The lady next to me was fond of chewing my ear off but that particular night her dress was shorter than usual so I was motivated to indulge, more so when she started narrating how the cook in charge of staff meals had a history of rationing food with bias for monetary favours. A combination of being impressed by how tasty my chicken was and the aforementioned short dress had me giving a lecture on ethics. I used no uncertain terms to express my admonishment of the whole affair and the lass that constituted my audience couldn’t get enough of my wisdom. How dare the crooked cook prevent people from experiencing my culinary excellence? I was having a ball.
At the staff cafeteria where all this was happening, other staff members had gathered around to watch the evening news. Like an Avengers team, the head honcho emerged from the darkness, escorted by the executive chef and the other two chefs who had been investigating how chicken was rationed that night. “Turn that bloody thing off and summon all those in their rooms. I need everyone here now!” I got literal chills running down my spine. I like a good dramatic scene, when I’m not part of it of course. Park Rangers had been part of the crowd. Shikholi, one of them, immediately released the safety lock on his rifle and prepared to shoot in the air in case things got chaotic. That’s how important chicken is in Tsavo.
“Old man, please don’t screw with my mind. I want five whole chickens from you or so help me God…” The executive chef, usually a humble and friendly man, was now barking profanities at the poor old cook. The cook, Henry, is an old man who doesn’t quite understand English so he wasn’t fully aware of the seriousness of the situation. He couldn’t understand why people were demanding chicken from him. Profanities were being returned with blank stares and questions in Swahili. Henry was either completely clueless or a master of deception. At this point I was called aside by the two chefs to collaborate their story. I explained that after the baking, I transferred the chicken to the pot and cooked it in the sauce before bringing it down to the staff cafeteria. “Did you transfer both trays of chicken into the pot?” Everything froze after this question. I had not at any one time during the day seen a second tray of chicken. “I separated the chicken into two trays. Did you cook both?”
Every time I have a bad dream I can feel deep in my conscience that I’ll wake up. It allows me to continue dreaming in peace. In that moment I searched my entire being for that assurance but it wasn’t there. This was as real as the sun. This new information was communicated and a team dispatched to search the kitchen. The team returned less than five minutes later with the mysterious second tray of chicken, cold and untouched. Alas! Here was the monumental screw up of my training period, the very same one I had bragged about not having two days prior.
Needless to say, scolding was dished out in ample portions. I gave a public apology and Shikholi put the safety on his rifle back on. Ironically, half the day had been spent in a sensitization class about occupational health and safety, during which alertness had been insisted upon. Touché Karma. I do not look forward to our next encounter.