Saturday, September 8, 2018

Dog Days

I think I have eaten more hot dogs since I returned to the US than in any comparable three-week period in my life up to now.


I had been threatening to do that anyway while I was in Europe.  Here I was surrounded by all this interesting and delicious food and thinking, “Man, I need something familiar.  And huge.  And why can I never get enough to drink here?  Why do they only sell soda in 500ml bottles instead of the standard American 55-gallon drums?  You know what?  When I get back to America I’m going to go to my local Giant Mega Everything Store and get one of those hot dog meals, the kind that includes a hot dog made from every scrap of three different pigs and a soda large enough to have its own weather patterns (and free refills).  And I’m going to pay for it with the change underneath my car seat, because FREEDOM.”

And then I’d go find some new and lovely meal out on a terrace or at our friends’ house and forget about it because that is actually so much better than a hot dog meal of any description, let alone that one.  I still haven’t hit the Giant Mega Everything Store, though I might yet.  I need new tires for my car soon and really where better to eat than a place where you can get both tires and hot dogs?

No, part of my increased hot dog consumption is the simple fact that they are easy to make and with a week of jet lag and the sad realization that I needed to feed myself again instead of relying on friends, easy was good.  Also, Labor Day fell in there somewhere and while it is true that Labor Day is a holiday that ought to be spent being grateful to the working members of society who fought for and took from the unwilling hands of plutocrats such things as weekends, sick leave, laws against child labor, 8-hour days, and other things that too many right-wing-victim union-hating Americans take for granted these days, it is also true that Labor Day is a great excuse for a picnic, which of course will include hot dogs.

The other reason, though, is that I have spent large chunks of two days selling hot dogs to the pressing masses, and part of the deal is that you get one for free on your shift.  And, honestly?  They’re actually really good hot dogs.  Especially when slathered in mustard and pickled jalapeno slices the way they’re supposed to be.

Lauren’s participation in the Local Marching Band has been pretty thin this year, what with all of our various travels plus her running a spotlight for the Local Businessman High School summer musical and her usual County Fair immersion experience.  I’m not sure she’ll be back next year.  But for the moment she’s still a member and when they put out the call for volunteers to work the concession stands for the UW Madison Badger football games this fall, Kim and I signed up.

It’s a pretty sweet deal for everyone, actually.  UW Madison gets free concessions staff.  The non-profits get 10% of the take from their booth way up on the upper deck concourse, and if they have enough people to help out in other short-staffed booths they get a cut of that too.  The first game we did this, last week, the band cleared over a thousand dollars.  That buys a lot of bus repairs.

We’ve done this twice now.

The first one was a week ago Friday, and Kim and I ended up down at a different booth since we had extra people and they were short-staffed.  I spent the entire evening frantically making nachos (which, oddly enough, are mostly consumed in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of games, and not before or after) and hauling bags of ice.  From about halfway through the second quarter to about the end of the third was a madhouse, though it has to be said that the fans were polite about it.  It was a long night, though.  It was hot, and by the time we left the stadium it was well after midnight.

On the plus side, the home team won (not that we saw any of it, tucked away in our booth).  On the down side, my back just cannot handle that kind of lifting, twisting, and repetitive motion anymore, especially in a place that is as confined as that one is.  I spent most of Labor Day weekend chewing on ibuprofen like it was mint candy and vowing not to work any more concession stands.

But they do need the money, and they do need the people, and there are posts in the concession stand that don’t require that kind of twisting and lifting and motion.  So today we were back at it.

Part of the reason I relented was the fact that it was High School Band Day at the Badgers game again, and Lauren would be playing.  I had this notion that I might break away to hear her play during the game, which of course was not the case (who was I kidding?) but it might have been.  They leave for the game early – I had to have Lauren at LBHS at 4:50 this morning – and it wasn’t like I was going to get back to bed after that.  So why not?

That and I figured I could work a register, which is hard on the lungs calling back orders but much easier on the back.

It was also about 20F cooler today than last Friday.  That’s a huge difference right there.  The home team won again.  And the madhouse that was the 2nd and 3rd quarters was once again composed of polite and friendly people, which always helps.

Once again I had my hot dog with the requisite mustard and jalapeno slices, and it was good.  I’m not sure what we’re doing for dinner tonight – my motivation to make red beans and rice is pretty slim, so perhaps that will happen tomorrow instead. 

Definitely not a hot dog, though.


James A. Brown said...

How lucky. Isn't it curious how angry some people get at "the staff" in scenarios like that? Of all the things in the world for people to channel their anger towards, the hill they choose to die on is the indignity of a minor mix-up at a concession stand.

David said...

Yeah, I've never understood that either.

The UW doesn't give out straws or lids with drinks (too many of them launched into the air and ending up on the field) or sell beer (not sure if that's UW or NCAA policy), so there were some disappointed people, but everyone took it pretty much in stride. And the few mixups we had we got through without drama. As a teacher, I find that most people will work with you if you keep them informed. There was one menu item we sold this second round that took several minutes to prepare (it had a lot of ingredients) so I just warned people when they ordered it and they were uniformly gracious about it.