It’s ten in the morning and I am knocking on the front door of Le Pigeon restaurant on East Burnside with my left hand, the one that is otherwise full of a travel mug of sloshing coffee. I think of the very white and very difficult to launder sweater I’m wearing, and then stop knocking and wait. One of the prep cooks, already settled in to his shift six hours before the restaurant will start serving dinner, throws a hand over his head to indicate he’s heard me.
When I am halfway through the door, he asks me if I am the stage (nearly rhymes with “podge”). A little flicker of recognition tickles my brain – I know that word. I knew that word when I was working for the Brilliant French Baker, but I cannot recall quickly enough what it means. The stage, the stage…I realize I am waiting too long to speak and by now he must have figured out that I am not the stage, else I am a very poor stage, unaware of what or who I even am. Then I worry if maybe I am the stage, even though by now I think I remember that a stage is some kind of kitchen intern.
So I say, “I might be. What’s a stage?” I had decided yesterday that I was not going to try to affect coolness this morning as I usually find such endeavors rather futile and exhausting. Besides, by now I am sort of amused by our scene and I imagine that whenever the real stage arrives – probably heavily tattooed nineteen-year-old who has been working in kitchens since before he was born – we will all have a good chuckle.
“A person who works for free,” he tells me. I pause and then reply, “That sounds familiar, but today I’m a writer,” which I see immediately does not illuminate for him why I am knocking at Le Pigeon’s door at ten in the morning.