Continuation of Clash of Cultures.
Zee Zee had the demeanor of a hard man. Someone street tough and without humor. He was wiry muscular under his t-shirt, and always wore a white painter’s cap, (more 80s fashion). Although he cooked as much as George or me, or anyone else, in my mind’s eye memory, I mostly only remember him washing dishes and cleaning.
It was only after a long while working together that I saw he wasn’t really as mean as he looked like he would be. In fact, he was a nice guy. He was pretty introverted, and did his job without chit chat. But he wasn’t abrasive or off putting when I dealt with him.
I found out his real name one time when I saw his paycheck envelope, but I don’t remember what it was. He went by Zee Zee and that’s how I knew him. (He said his cousin was called Cee Cee.)
One night in the late summer, (after I had turned 16 and could drive to work on my own), there was an accident in the restaurant. It was after closing and I was cleaning up. Zee Zee was sharpening a knife in the back, and I heard him curse. Zee Zee rarely spoke, and I don’t know that I ever heard him curse before.
I rushed to the back room to see what happened, and I found him holding a cloth on his hand. He told me he had cut his hand. There was a good deal of blood on the table, and the white cloth was reddening up pretty quickly.
I asked if we needed to go to the hospital, but he said, “No, let’s just go to the drug store.”
He was the elder of the two of us, so I did as he said. I drove us in my mom’s car to the nearest drug store.
We both went inside together and I picked up the items he told me to, we checked out, and went back out to the parking lot. I helped him use the alcohol and bandages to clean and wrap up his hand. He had bled a lot, and I was thankful for the dark of the evening — the only light we had was from the parking lot lamps — so I didn’t get a real good look at the cut. It must have been pretty deep. I was surprised at how he didn’t complain or show any sign of being in pain.
Some people walking through the parking lot would look over at us as we handled the bloody cloth, the alcohol, the bandages, etc. Zee Zee commented, “They probably think we’ve been fighting.”
“Well,” I said, “you’re the one who’s bleeding, so I must have won.”
Zee Zee actually chuckled at that. I think that was the only time I ever heard him laugh at anything.
He took a few days off from work to let his hand heal, and my step-dad told me I should have taken him to the emergency room, (for insurance and such). But when Zee Zee came back to work, (after seeing a doctor, at my step-dad’s insistance), it was like nothing unusual had happened.
He was his regular quiet and hard self, and I was back to being intimidated by his quiet and hardness.
* * *
All in all, my several months working at the Chick-a-burger, in the inner city of my small town, was a truly educational experience. I learned something about a lot of stuff that I had only known through the television and movie media and suburban myths. And I learned some little things about myself, as well.
So ends my tale of my clash of cultures.