This month we’re looking back on all the strange and wonderful food jobs people have held during the summer. Whether it’s a job at a local scoop shop, a grocery store, or the concession stand at a baseball field, the skills and memories you gather in those short, hot months usually turn out to be invaluable. Here’s Naomi Tomky on her experience on learning a new language on the job.
I balanced a dozen still-steaming pizza boxes on one knee while a guy ribbed my terrible Spanish pronunciation. “Y tu?” he asked, “And you? Are you Hungarian or Hawaiian?” I was selling pizzas at a professional basketball game in Queretaro, Mexico, and no matter what, the two styles we sold — Hungarian and Hawaiian — were near-impossible for me to pronounce in Spanish. All night, I’d shout and repeat myself, open boxes, and point to the flyer I’d started to carry with me. If it wasn’t for the sheer spectacle of the gringa selling pizzas at the game, I’m sure they would have left me back at the restaurant.
Other days, I would learn new words in a trial-by-fire of hangry customers: “Cubierta?” I repeated in the kitchen on my first day. A coworker laughed and handed me silverware.