In the summer of my 42nd year, I lost my job.
Okay, officially, my contract as a campus chaplain in a university environment was not renewed. Either way, the language hardly matters; what matters is the practical effect on one's family and the vocational dissonance in one's soul.
Dressed in all-black and surrounded by chafing dishes, bar kits, middle managers and the working-class scraps of heavy hors d'oeuvres, I now find myself pulling the unexpected shift—as a temp—in the prime of life.
To be clear, it should go without saying: I have not found myself. Which, in any case, is a rather privileged discussion. On most temporary shifts, I feel a weird disorientation and a nagging dislocation. It's as if I am the fake palm tree in the corner that, upon my first shift as a banquet server, I moved out of storage and into its event-specified location: a Las Vegas-themed corporate Christmas Party.
Temporary Shift is a series of brief dispatches from the front lines of the service industry—a place for observations, reflections and stories, which may or may not be the stuff of dreams. It's a personal attempt to wring some sort of meaning out of the inevitable dirty dish rag.