Despite the fantastic Lebanese mezze there is to be found in the Temple Lounge off Cowley Road, despite the remarkable momos from the truck that appears every Wednesday at the Gloucester Green market, and despite the best efforts of the much beleaguered co-operative People’s Supermarket (which in fact closed for good two years ago), perhaps the most famous food in Oxford in England is to be found on the table of formal hall.
“Are you afraid of getting burned?” asked my supervisor as I gingerly lifted a floppy, undercooked crêpe with a spatula. I looked at it with dismay as it fell apart. She swept it off to the side with one long motion of her own spatula, greasing the griddle again. “I’m not,” she said as I struggled to spread the thick buckwheat batter evenly on the huge griddle.
For three sweet weeks in 2008 while the economy was on the brink of extinction, I decorated cupcakes. The job—froster at a cupcakes-only bakery—came from my roommate, who worked there on weekends. She was working part-time at the ACLU during the week. The decorator job opened up when she got a full-time spot campaigning for Death with Dignity.
Financially, things have not been going well for me since July 17, 2014, when I was laid off by the newspaper where I worked for eighteen months. That’s 10 months without full-time work, folks. Recently my unemployment ran out. In January my father died. I’ve had two sprained ankles for I don’t know how long. It’s kind of been a mess.
My shifts were from 7pm to midnight. I worked every night except Sunday making $30 a week.
Once a year, my roommate and I say “screw it” to our just-big-enough-for-two two-bedroom and invite all our nearest and dearest and then some to come hang out in our apartment, all at once, to be fed.
It’s 6 p.m. on a Tuesday night and I’m having a meltdown. I’m in the seventh grade and sitting cross-legged on the floor of my mom’s home office. There are dozens of small stacks of white paper laid out across the floor with no discernible organizational method. She knows exactly where everything is, but only because it’s a giant game of “memory” she’s been playing for the last 15 days. It is April, the middle of tax season.
When my boyfriend and I first started to pretend to be grown-ups, grocery shopping was an adventure.
It started, like so many weddings do, with a white dress. Not the wedding dress, which would come later, but a little cotton sundress I found on a rainy San Francisco day. I was waiting for my fiancé to arrive from his nonprofit job so we could walk together to Williams Sonoma and start to register for kitchen utensils. I ducked into a high-end store to get out of the rain.
“Driving for UberX isn’t the worst-paying job I’ve ever had. I made less scooping ice cream as a 15-year-old, if you don’t adjust for inflation.”
Matt Debenham is a writer, a parent, a teacher, and now he works at a grocery store too.