Sixteen : The Shaolin Art of Oven Management (Part 2)

The door slowly closes behind me, then slams as the electronic locking mechanism takes hold. I’m a prisoner now, I think to myself, locked in some kind of part bakery, part hell.

If this is hell, then Socks is the devil. I tell him this later and he laughs heartily, which is how I know its authentic, if it weren’t, he’d just smile and chuckle lightly while working a little bit harder. Funny how working “ass to mouth” as he calls, for eight hours or longer at a time, can bond two people so quickly.

The break room is empty and quiet, which is a huge change from the day shifts I used to work, when the only quiet you could get was smoking outside, usually in the cold and rain. I rummage through my pack and pull out a pen. Stuffing it into my pocket, I turn on my heel and spin toward the direction of the bakery. I pull an apron from its plastic house and throw its noose around my neck. Sealing my fate, I jest aloud to no one as I loop the strings behind my back and tie a pretty bow just below the bulge of my belt. The beard net is next, which is to say I take a hair net and loop either side over my ears, making sure the loose piece of string that hangs out is by my neck, avoiding the unpleasant tickle of it on my nose as I breath. The hair net follows, actually going over my head, looping underneath my ears to keep the beard net (hair net) in check.

The sink runs hotter than usual and I feel my skin harden ever so slightly against the tide. Rinse, lather, scrub, rinse, then one, two, three as I run my hand underneath the paper towel dispenser, the machine coughing up brown sheets of paper, the sound of plastic on plastic grinding together as it wheezes with each pass of my hand. Three swipes, perfect hand drying quantity, and one for luck. I dry my hands as I walk the straight path on the “golden brick road”, two painted yellow lines forming a path marker where racks aren’t supposed to stand.

The finger scanner to clock in hates my right index finger, as usual, and immediately loves the left index finger. Work has officially begun.

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