When I was in High School we lived on the Espanola turn-off right next to an Esso gas station that had a little restaurant attached. We ran the restaurant for one summer and the whole family had to get involved. My dad was still working in the mines so his contribution was to sit in the back room from time to time peeling potatoes. My mom was the one with experience so she taught the rest of us how to wait on tables, operate a cash register, and cook in a short order kitchen. She and my oldest brother, Richard, ran the day shift and my next oldest brother, Dave, and I ran the evening shift. Of course, if a busload of tourists or hockey players pulled up we could just pick up the phone and call next door for reinforcements.
It wasn’t a very big place but when it filled up things were hopping. That was the case one evening when Dave and I were on the job. The grill was sizzling and there was a buzz of conversation as I made my way briskly from booth to booth. We were definitely in our groove and everything was operating like a well oiled machine. Dave had several plates all lined up and ready to load in the kitchen with fish and chips in the fryer and burgers cooking on the grill. He was building a couple of club sandwiches when he reached under the counter for the gallon jug of mayonnaise we kept there.
What I heard was a heavy hollow sounding thump followed by an inarticulate bellow. All conversation ceased and I rushed into the kitchen with visions of severed fingers lending speed to my feet. What greeted my eyes was not nearly as lurid as what my vivid imagination had conjured up in those few seconds of panic. Even so it was bad enough…so bad in fact that I couldn’t stop myself sagging against the doorframe, completely overcome by the irresistible urge to laugh out loud.
Dave stood immobile in the centre of the kitchen with the empty mayonnaise jug on the floor at his feet, its lid still clutched in one hand. He was almost entirely covered in a thick coating of mayo. In fact the whole kitchen, which wasn’t very large, was covered in mayo. There were even splatters on the ceiling. He had grabbed the jug by the lid and swung it around and up to set it on the counter when the lid let go in mid swing. The jug hit the floor squarely and with some force but because it was plastic it didn’t break. Instead the entire gallon of mayonnaise was forcefully ejected out of its mouth like grape-shot out of a cannon aimed at the moon. Physics in real life. Dave slowly removed his glasses revealing two perfectly round patches of clear skin around his eyes. He grinned, teeth white in a white face. “I think we’d better call for reinforcements,” he conceded.
We made more than money that summer. We made memories and we learned that we could always count on each other. I thank God for my family.