Definition of “C’est Normal“:
1.) Totally out of the ordinary 2.) A modest way of accepting a compliment.
I came to work today at the Parisian restaurant I cook at, armed with hexedrine, bandaids, advil, nicorette gum, and my coffee to-go mug. I quit smoking 7 years years ago but I tend to clench my jaw during service and the gum allows me to bite down hard while releasing a stress reducing drug into my tired broken body. It also helps me through the thirteen hour work day when I feel tired – which is constantly. I chew a lot of gum.
The disinfectant hexedrine and bandaids are for my finger that is infected in the cuticle. It swelled up twice it’s normal size until my boss popped it with the tip of a knife and a teaspoon of yellowish white puss came oozing out. It felt so much better afterward because the pressure from the swelling was unbearable. At one point I was sure I was going to have to go to the hospital, but he reassured me, “C’est normal!”
“C’est normal? My finger looks like ET’s and you’re trying to tell me it’s normal? You really think that puttting the tip of a knife into my cuticle is going to honestly make my finger feel better? I probably have Avian Bird Flu from gutting hundreds of game birds with my bare hands – and I’m going to die! Look at my finger! This is not normal!!!!”
“Ah ba oui, c’est normal! I ‘ave had zeees before. I will cut for you and you will see.“
I looked the other way and took a deep breath while he lanced it. Together we went through the “une, deux, trois” countdown quite a few times before I actually let him follow through with the surgery. After popping he sqeezed it hard and we both looked on in utter fascination as a lava flow of thick whitish stuff came out from the side of my cuticle. Kinda cool in a really grotesque kinda way. Forgive me, I hack apart small animals day in a day out – bodily fluids have become “c’est normal”.
The togo coffee mug, as I found out, is so completely other wordly that it cannot even be considered “c’est normal”. When I arrived today everyone including the exective chefs, the barista, the servers, and the rest of the staff were curious to know what I was drinking out of and why. They don’t do coffee togo in Paris and if you ask for “emporter” you get burning hot coffee in a thin plastic cup that blisters your fingers. And believe me you, my fingers have enough problems as it is.
“You’ve never seen a coffee togo mug?” I asked to the barista. I then explained how it worked and he fell about laughing. He couldn’t get over what a great idea it was. I couldn’t get over the fact that no one had seen one before! It was like I had just invented lipstick or something. Just about every car these days has a place for the coffee togo mug – attends! – no one drives in Paris. How could I forget?
Every Friday we have cleaning day and we all arrive early to clean the kitchens. There are no after hour cleaning crews. We are the after hour cleaning crews which often turns the thirteen hour work day into something horrific. But we are rewarded with croissants and pastries after our underpaid slave labor is completed.
The responsibility to buy the pastries goes to a different chef each week. Once and awhile some one does something special like coming in at 6AM to make crepes and waffles for our staff of 35 – that would be my boss and the Chef de Parti of Garnishes. I got talked into helping out but couldn’t get out of bed until 6:45A.M. Bleary-eyed, grumpy, and dreading a 15 hour day I asked: “Why are you doing this? It’s Friday and we are booked solid.” I got the a tandem response: “C’EST NORMAL!”
When you really love your job and love pleasing the people around you, you go the extra mile to do things that are special. You take the time no matter how tired you are to make some one else’s day better and brighter– that was the rational I was given at least. And honestly, I’ve never seen our very very young kitchen staff more excited to eat breakfast or put in the long hours. There was definitely an unusual joie de vivre in the kitchen that lasted the whole day.
I, however, still would like to challenge that turning my work day into 15 hours makes anybody happy because then they have to put up with miserable old me. My husband can attest to that!
Just a side note: I’ve started closing the service at the Viande station. And, if you don’t mind me bragging for a petit second, I also happen to be the first woman to ever work at the viande station at the 3-star restaurant I cook at…
Ah, buh oui, c’est normal, uh?
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