Subject: Combination Bowl

Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2000 01:48:09 -0700 (PDT)
From: “Steve Kerr”

The pizza factory hasn’t gotten any better. Helen the psychotic hell bitch boss hasn’t mellowed. The opposite. She barks and rants all day. She’s only ever silent at morning tea. Her silence is far more intimidating than the usual barrage of commands and abuse. She hunches over, says nothing, looks fucking intense, and drags long deep lungfuls out of her Holiday Special Filters. She’s got pretty big lungs. She never lets the tip of the filter get more than a few centimetres away from her lips. Everyone sits petrified on their $4.99 warehouse green plastic moulded chairs and watches her smoke. We’re just waiting for her to think of something someone did wrong. Whatever it is, we have no comeback, because she’s a psychotic, and we’re on her turf. It’s her reality.

Sometimes her husband, the other partner of the company, sits next her and mirrors her body language toke for toke, like their marriage vows specified not only living and working together, but inhaling and dying together. I just sit there and watch the ballet. “Find release in every action”, Che Fu says.

Her husband’s called Ken, pronounced key-en. I get the impression Ken learnt most of his biggest words from the TV sports commentary. He doesn’t get metaphors, except maybe “The Bottom Line”, which isn’t really even a metaphor when you think about it. He’s active in the National Party. He thinks poor people should shift the cars off their front lawn and plant potatoes. This is Jenny Shipley country. He hates paying tax, and figures the amount of tax he pays on his weekly carton of Rothmans King Size, combined with his private health insurance policy, will more than cover the cost of any health care he may require. Who knows, he may be right. He’s obviously a man who thinks a lot about the future and about his responsibility to his country. I mean, why should he have to pay tax to support losers who get sick? His pizza business allows him to occupy the moral high ground in any political discussion.

Ken seems to get worn down by Helen as well, so when he came in one day with a brown paper bag from the chemist I thought for a moment he might’ve brought in some kind of powerful tranquiliser to knock her out. No such luck.

On Friday I got to drive the Pizza Promotions van to pick up the donuts from Stan, who runs a donut caravan in the carpark of the Papanui Warehouse. American Donuts. Stan has a moustache and a ponytail, and drives a customized cherryred Kingswood ute. He defines donut industry chic. One time Stan arrived at the factory with a load of donuts, but the driver’s side door handle wouldn’t work, or the window winder, and the passenger seat was filled with donuts so he couldn’t get out that side. He struggled away for a few minutes inside his beautifully painted testosterone billboard, but in the end we had to go and open the door up and let him out.

Friday night I went out with Crazy Richard and some notoriously potent Christchurch beer. For those who’re interested, he’s off to India, and can be contacted at iamneverdrinkingagain@yahoo.com. Whatever the opposite of prophetic is, that’s his email address. He got incoherently pissed, went all pale, and puked in the garden. Luckily, the worst thing that happened to me was diving into a rose garden that I thought was geraniums. So on Saturday I went to work after four hours of sleep, and looking forward to a motherfucker of a hangover that hadn’t even begun to come on yet. I spent the first hour or so stumbling into towers of lamingtons, until I felt the first piercing stab of The Headache and my motor coordination began to return. But it’s always the nausea which is worst. It was like suddenly everyone was trying to make me throw up. “Steve, could you get me two bags of ham, one pepperoni and one bacon and make up some meatlovers mix.” Next door, Ron Hodges’ Caravan and Marine were spraying some toxic smelling anti-corrosive solvent shit all over the place. It was a fucking conspiracy. I thought, if I can just hang on til morning tea and get some fresh air I’ll be okay. Fresh air. At morning tea I was the only one out of a staff of ten that wasn’t smoking.

One of my most ridiculous responsibilities is scraping down the bench at the end of the day to collect up all the congealed “Pizzarella”, bits of meat product, defrosted capsicum chips, spilt tomato sauce and so on. This all goes in the Combination Bowl, which then goes in the fridge, and, the next day, constitutes the topping of the “combination” pizzas – a little bit of everything.

The thing about Pizza Promotions is that they represent the antithesis of the high-value-added-intellectual-capital-knowledge-based-information-economy-society thing. Pizza Promotions are in the business of Adding Value to Lard. They sell their meatlovers slabs for $9.50 to scout troops and kindergartens. Sure, the food is highly processed, generally repulsive and probably toxic, but still $9.50 is pretty cheap. So, the only way they can win market share from Pizza Universe or whatever down the road is to push their lowly paid workers harder and harder, treat them like shit in a bucket, and generally be more and more demanding and demeaning and unhygienic and repulsive. They pay this down’s syndrome woman, Moreka, who comes in on a Friday $20 for her day’s work. Squeezing out more lard and refined sugars for their buck. No doubt, they will always be able to more find middle-aged solo Mums who’ll come in and work and put up with it so they earn some spare cash for a new pair of jeans or their kid’s birthday party at Orana Park or whatever. I think it’s just one of those it’s a shitty job but someone’s got to do it situations. I don’t know if it’s bad. It’s just business. It’s not aesthetically pleasing, but who gives a fuck about aesthetically pleasing except overeducated underemployed middle class university students? The bit that sucks is just that the boss is lunatic who gives them no respect and no one does shit about it. But noone actually deserves to be treated that way.

Helen asked me if I wanted more work there. I wanted to say said no way man, you’re a hideous tormented pizzapacking-hosebeast on speed. But instead I chickened out and said I was starting another job and wouldn’t be around anymore.

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