It’s the 4th of July. I can’t help but think about past Independence Days. I’ve had to work many a national holidays, including several July 4ths. When I was a catering manager, we had an incredibly busy conference during the first week of July every year. Every person on staff was working full-time, some even over time. Myself included.
In 2008, I was scheduled to work 13-15 hour days throughout the course of the week. I was not happy about having to work through another family holiday, but I was willing to suck it up for the OT. On the first day of the conference, I was scheduled to start at 5 AM. I rolled out of bed, showered, and raced my butt into work. For almost the first 3 hours, I ran my ass off, working as hard as I could to get everything handled. At about 8:30, the staff was able to take a breakfast break.
We all sat down to eat some eggs and bacon, and one of my bosses, Marissa, looked me in the eye and said in the most serious tone, “It looks like somebody forgot to put makeup on this morning.”
I started to mumble that I was planning on putting it on during the break, when my lead server–who was one of the quietest and sweetest girls that I knew–looked at Marissa and asked, “What’s the big deal with that? Why does that matter?”
Marissa glared at her and said, “Well, that’s part of her uniform. Makeup makes her look more presentable. Presentation is important.”
Well, I was young and sassy, and I would be damned before I let someone tell me how to present myself. So I stopped wearing makeup, most of the time. Especially to work. I wasn’t going to let anyone determine whether my appearance is acceptable based on the makeup that I was wearing.
Maybe it was because of this sassy ‘tude. Maybe it was because of my klutzy self. Maybe it was just something that happened. By the end of that day, I couldn’t walk. I had somehow sprained my ankle through the dinner rush (this is something that happens more often than it should. I am the world’s biggest klutz). My plan was to head out to see an 80’s hair metal band at the Taste of Lombard, our local festival, after my shift ended sometime after 8–I was super excited about it. But I couldn’t walk. I was pissed at the universe.
I was crying in a stairwell because I didn’t know what to do. One of the sous chefs, my pal and confidante Jack, came in and calmed me down. He backed me up and helped me get myself together. He reinforced that we worked at a place where jerks reigned supreme and we could survive by being better than anyone else there. (He was great for my ego.)
I left there, limping, but Marissa never noticed.
The next morning, at 5 AM, my ankle was so swollen, I couldn’t fit it into my safety shoes. I went into work wearing gym shoes, hobbling as best as I could, and after an hour, Marissa took note of my shoes.
“Why aren’t you wearing your safety shoes?” She demanded.
“I sprained my ankle and can’t walk very well. It’s so swollen that I can’t fit my foot into the safety shoe comfortably.”
“Well, you need to wear them. Go put them on now.” She looked at me, impatiently, as if I was her 7-year-old daughter.
“Marissa, they won’t fit.” I was almost crying. I was in a ton of pain, and trying to work through it, though I really had wanted to call in sick… “I can’t wear them.”
She stared me down, scrutinizing me,”Well, if it’s that bad, maybe you should just leave.”
I didn’t know how to respond. Secretly, my 4th of July dreams were coming true…sort of, “I…uh…”
“You know what, Chrissy? Just go. If you can’t walk, and it hurts that bad…just go home. We’ll see you tomorrow.” I didn’t trust the tone of her voice, but I decided that I would leave anyways.
So I left. It was the 4th of July; I managed to not be at work, but I couldn’t go out and enjoy the day. I set myself up in bed for the majority of the morning and afternoon, I watched the Mr. Darcy version of the good Pride and Prejudice (in which I fast forward to all of the Mr. Darcy parts), and waited until the fam showed up for a BBQ. I didn’t get to go see the fireworks with my pals at the Taste; I had to sit with the parents at their friends’ house because I couldn’t walk, but I got to eat potato salad and watch fireworks.
I found out later that Marissa was walking around all day telling the staff (MY staff. MY employees.) that I had probably sprained it in a drunken stupor when I went out the night before. I may have had my moments, but that certainly was not one of them. And really…who was she trying to kid? She was the biggest lush of us all.