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The Sound of Silence

Oops. I missed a blog post yesterday (Saturday). In fairness, I spent the night running around in the first snowstorm of the season trying to get ready for it (somehow caught off guard – again – by the first storm.) We had to move our cows around and deal with some limbs down and a momentary (THANKFULLY!) power outage followed by an internet outage. Had I been planning, that post would have been written ahead of time. Anyway, today’s quick post is a good reflection on why it’s probably more than okay that I skipped a post yesterday…

The Deafening Silence of the Range Hoods Turning Off.

Many moons ago, I worked in a kitchen at a small country inn in York Harbor, Maine. It’s actually where I met my wife when I left the kitchen and became a front desk clerk. But that’s another story for another time. (Though I still remember the moment I first met her – and the moment I begged our manager to let me be scheduled with her – this was a high school or just recently post highschool job for her – and for me at the time, it was my High School and then post highschool job – was on the fast track to being a lifer there – another story for another other time 😉 I digress.)

This post is about a “feeling.” It’s one I wish I could coin just one word for – sort of like the Germans do with just the right word for a situation. I worked as a dishwasher, and then as a prep-cook, I worked the grill for pub food and salads/desserts for the main restaurant. And we were always SUPER BUSY. Perhaps I’ve always been a workaholic- even as a dishwasher, I took work seriously. I remember sometimes waking up after a really long 3 to finish shift dreaming that night about putting away hotel pans or dealing with the pots from the saute station. It was all hustle.

The kitchen was a symphony of sorts. A noisy, raucous symphony punctuated with foul language, inappropriate comments, and folks shouting at each other (at least in the mid to late 90s). To someone just glancing in – it would seem like a disordered and clanging mess. But it was a symphony. We got it done. The parts worked well. And we were spent! At the end of the night. Imagine this noisy place. There were wait staff and bus staff bringing plates and dishes back, shouting orders around, running in and out of that swinging door with the glass in the middle, so there was never (well, rarely) a collision. The line cooks and chefs ordering each other around “Fire Table 6!”; “Salads out at Table 4!”; “Get me more lobsters!”; “86 the baked stuffed lobster haddock!”; etc. etc. There were buzzers, beepers, timers, broilers, steamers, fryolators, and the dish machine cranking out the noise.

And it was hectic! Unless you were on the line at one station – there was a lot of running back and forth to get stuff that they needed on the line or grab their pans and bring them new ones. More ingredients. Just a blinding pace of running around.

Beneath all of this – there was a noise that you never “heard.” Once that noise went off, though, you could 100% hear it. And I loved that part of the night. It was a moment of zen. All of the line and grill stations had a set of range hoods. Constantly sucking the great smells and smoke of the busy fine restaurant up and out of the kitchen, lest we all not be able to see what we were doing.

At the end of the night – the machines would start going off one by one. The steamers. The open broilers. The convection ovens. The grill fryer. The dish machine second to last. And then, at some point, when all of the heat-producing appliances were down and cooled off enough, someone would flip that switch. The range hoods would go off. I’ve been tempted to try and go back there and hang out in the kitchen for a bit before and after to hear it again (I’m weird.). But once they went it off – the silence almost hurt! A slight ear ringing, like the drive home after attending a musical performance. It was a deafening silence. Normally around this time, we were picking up all those rubber mats with the holes in them and taking them out back to spray them down. Someone else would be squirting the floor cleaning chemicals into buckets. Someone else would start scrubbing the floors. And then we’d spray them down and squeegee. That final 20-30 minutes was so relaxing.

The noise was gone. Even the radio was often off by then. This place that used to be alive was now getting ready for bed.

That silence. That calm. We don’t sek it out enough in our lives.

That’s really it. That’s the point of the post. I implore you (and me, I implore myself to listen. Any post that sounds “preachy” is really written to myself. Like my freedom post that I still read every so often. If this helps you, well, great.). I implore us to find the opportunities to turn the range hoods off.

Right now, as you read this. There’s a 50/50 chance your shoulders are tense. A lesser chance you are clenching your jaw. A chance you are thinking of all the stuff you should be doing. That’s the noise and the machines. Just stop. Sit here. Breathe. Relax your shoulders and realize “there is more time than I need to get the important stuff done and still survive and have downtime.” Relax and breathe. I’ll wait…

….

….

There. Hear that deafening silence?

Now. Look for opportunities to be intentional about this and create silence. The post about intentionality doesn’t just apply to “doing stuff” and getting stuff done. It also applies to give yourself space and a break intentionally. I didn’t do a post on Saturday. A streak in the making was interrupted. But we’ll all live. I’m here again. The habit is starting to form slowly. Stop rushing from meeting to meeting. Go open a timer and see HOW LONG a minute actually is!! Sit there for a full minute. Try 5! We have way more time than we think.

Find clever ways to create space for that silence. At Straight Path, for the second year in a row, we’ll be closing down for the week from 12/24 – 1/4. It’s an oddish thing for a company that sells services by the hours per quarter to do. And we’re the DBA team for 70+ clients. It’s an abbreviated shutdown. We basically go into “Emergencies Only” mode. We have a few people in “light coverage” each day looking at our daily checks for serious issues that can’t wait until 1/4, checking our support inbox for important issues, and being there for clients. But even the few of us out of the 14 who are “on” that day – it’s like being in the kitchen at 2 PM – there aren’t any fans on. The easy listening is on instead of the classic rock. Most machines are off. It’s a slower prep phase. That was my favorite week of Straight Path last year. Knowing that we’re all off erases the “guilt” that a workaholic like me might feel being off knowing others are on. It’s like we’re all in it together. And doing a few easy things from the family room with the comfy clothes on is hardly “work” 🙂

Find that space. Find that quiet. Turn the fans off.

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Article by Mike Walsh

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