LIke oil and vinegar.
With Dave joining us Vanessa’s behavior took a turn for the worse. We stood in the kitchen and I introduced the two of them, Vanessa smiled at Dave in a dangerous way. My hopeful expression said, “I know we’re going to get along just fine.” Vanessa, gravitating back to her power base, marched to the counter to help a customer. Eyeing our first challenge with a wry expression Dave said, “She seems nice”. I proceeded with the tour. To show off my large freezer I opened the double doors. Although the compressor on top was rattling loudly there oozed from inside growing pans of thawed, dripping dough and a warm belch of mildew-laden air. This was not how I’d planned it.
I was holding the phone between my chin and shoulder while standing inside the freezer trying to turn rusted thumbscrews on some kind of electrical panel. The woman on the other end of the line didn’t want to break a fifty-pound case of shrimp for me. She had no sympathy for my refrigerator problems. I was visualizing Lemon and butter laced Tiger prawns, Capers, Tomatoes, roasted Garlic and minced parsley over shredded whole milk Mozzarella and a thick red Tomato sauce simmered with olive oil, onions, garlic, fresh Oregano, Basil and Thyme.
While pinching the phone under my chin the bands of my trapezius muscle on my right side contracted like the rubber band on a child’s wind-up airplane. Not considering that burning bridges with the biggest restaurant supply house on the island could be business suicide I dropped kicked the phone into the kitchen. Dave stooped to pick it up. “Hello? I’m sorry we’re having a little phone trouble, can I call you back?” “Vanessa would you tape this phone back together for us?” Vanessa passed him on her way through the kitchen showing no sign of acknowledgement.
“Vanessa? Have you got a minute?” I wiped the grit from my hands and stepped out onto the Lanai. As I sat resting a minute slipped by, “Vanessa?” She sauntered to the door with a saccharin smile and big eyelashes. “Have you got a minute?” “Of course! How can I help you?” “Dave is going to be here every day at one and he’s going to need your support in order to make the transition from a bakery scene to an afternoon Pizza shop. Can you handle that?” She pulled her head back, “Of course boss anything you need! I’m excited, I love Pizza!” “Good! Thanks for that. I appreciate your help. Can you see if that phone is working? I dropped it again.” She slipped back inside. I sat looking over the rail into the garden considering the lack of value in her reply. I retrieved the phone handset and called a refrigerator repairman. It costs to call him, he charges for driving, diagnosing and for standing in the kitchen eating your food and scratching his back side while the questionable appliance runs through a twenty minute defrost cycle all at 75.00 per hour. Someone was smiling down on me that day and sent me Derek. An anomaly of a repairman, he had heart, he had sympathy and he under charged. Dr. Derek fixed his machines so well that as of this writing some are still humming faithfully away. I won’t give you his phone number, he’s my secret and if I share his number he may get too busy to answer my calls. He’s quite an asset for a fledgling restaurateur who bought spray painted, derelict refrigeration and could rarely afford to pay the repairmen he would inevitably have to call. Derek wasn’t like the others. He took personal responsibility for the refrigerating organ of the food service machine. His way was analogous to eastern healing. Once adopted by Derek as a client, if your refrigerator broke it was as if he’d failed. He’d come and humbly fix it.
It didn’t take Derek long this day to perform his exam – it needed a new compressor. That’s like thinking your car needs an oil change and finding out you need to replace the engine. With no choice but to follow his advice he left to order the motor. The morning moved on by. Dave left for the beach, Vanessa continued terrorizing and intimidating the few customers that found us hidden in the back courtyard and I made myself busy shuffling around the kitchen humming and cleaning.
We found the money to fix the freezer, we found the money to pay Dave and we opened at night. With our new management triad, Dave, Katie and I, we worked the bakery into our second summer. We handled one new customer, one new employee and one new crisis at a time. Then in the second week of September two significant events occurred on the same day. On a Thursday morning Vanessa returned to work after her day off and announced she had met a wonderful man on the beach the day before and they had gotten married… She would be leaving for the mainland at the end of the week. Hurrah! Fate postponed the eventual reality that I would someday have to learn that it’s okay to fire someone.
The same morning the national weather service issued a hurricane watch. Then at five pm that evening the national weather service released an official hurricane warning. That meant dangerous winds and torrential rains could hit in twenty-four hours. We turned on the television to catch the news. The hurricane was called Iniki. Iniki meant “a sharp piercing wind”. Only a couple hundred miles out it had strengthened considerably to 120 mph winds and changed it’s path from missing the islands to one that hooked north to possibly roll directly over our little dot in the ocean. Late that evening I tried to go to sleep. I lay on my back and blinked in the light of the full moon, my mind marched with contingency plans.