June 20, 9 A.M. One hour until the opening. A number of people lined up in the café. In front of us, a man with a French beard and a suit, Zaigo Tsumihara, standing before the reception counter addressing us.
“Alright people, there are only 60 minutes left until opening. All of you have received your contracts and tour of the facility, as well as the details about your jobs and shifts. Change into your uniforms and get ready to open.”
With his little speech over, Mr.Tsumihara dismissed us. But I had one problem. I was told to report at 9 A.M, and as soon as I came, we were assembled and were given this reporting speech. I had not been briefed about anything and had not seen any contract either. The other employees did not object so obviously I was the only exception.
Before I could ask the manager about this, “Hoshino, in my office,” Mr.Tsumihara called me out himself. As everyone headed to the changing room, I walked towards the manager’s office instead.
By the time I entered the office, Mr.Tsumihara was already in his seat, taking out some kind of paperwork from his drawer and putting them on the table. I took a seat across from him.
“Here’s your contract,” he started explaining, “The reason you are given this so late is because, one: you came without an appointment. And two: you had conditions of your own. So, obviously we had to put together a special contract for you.”
I went over the contract. Surprisingly, it was a two month contract. They had actually listened to my absurd request. ‘They actually cared about their employees so much’, of course that’s what they wanted us to think. “You said you wanted to work during summer break only. I figured two months would be sufficient. But during that time, you will be working three shifts. Two in the factory and one in the kitchen. That is our condition for your shorter contract.”
In exchange for working only for two months, I was assigned three shifts, from 4 in the morning to 6 in the evening. No matter how you looked at it, it was no way a part time schedule. Maybe they wanted to get the same amount of work from me as from others, but just in two months instead.
A normal person may have lashed out or even fainted on these terms, but not me. In fact working more gave me a better chance to encounter the owner. Plus, three shifts meant a more than generous wage as well.
“I have no objections,” I stated my satisfaction.
“You shouldn’t have. No matter how you look at it, this whole contract favors you. You were the one who demanded a short contract and you were the one who wanted to work early morning rather than late night. And people would beg for your amount of work to earn the money that you are earning at your age. You better show some gratitude and do your job responsibly,” he maintained an attitude branding his authority.
“I will,” I ascertained him as I signed the contract.
10 minutes until the shop opening ceremony. I changed into my uniform and put on the apron. Since it was just the opening day, there was no factory work for me. As I made my way to the kitchen, I could see a line of customers outside the shop. The waiters were busy setting up everything.
In the kitchen there were already two people.
“Yo, you’re the guy who got called to the manager’s office before your first day. Ahaha,” and extremely upbeat guy with bleached hair and piercings. Species like his are normally considered alien to a kitchen. Yet here he was, a blotch of paint on a painting.
“Hello there. Are you the other part timer?” The other person was a decent man with short, straight hair and an innocent face.
“Yes, I am Negai Hoshino. Pleasure to be working with you.”
“I am Koda Kuzuhara. A part timer like you. I will be taking the noon and evening shifts,” the decent one replied.
“I am Mukai Fujita. I will be a full time chef here. Looks like I’ll be looking over you two, so you can call me Fuji,” and then the delinquent spoke with a large grin. Both of them looked older than me.
Kuzuhara looked slightly older, but Fujita was clearly an adult. I was inclined to address him with honorifics despite his looks.
For the first day, everyone was summoned at the same time. That is why there were more employees in the shop. This would be the only day where the three of us would stand in the kitchen at the same time. After today, Mr. Fuji would be the only one in the kitchen full time. I would be with him during the morning and then Kuzuhara would take over at noon.
Manager Tsumihara walked up to the doors. As he slowly opened them, the waiters and waitresses lined up behind him. One minute on the clock. And everybody countdown the last remaining seconds.
“The bakery and café Mithaas, Tokyo branch is now open officially,” the party poppers *Pat* popped open as confetti twirled in the air. “There will be a 30% discount on the complete menu for today. Please enjoy your experience with us.” With that, he stepped away from the entrance as the digital display over the doors displayed ‘Now open.’
And hence, my first day at my two month part time job began.
“So how was your first day?” I heard Myra’s voice, a bit distorted than usual as I had my head slumped back against the train’s seat.
“It was exhausting to say the least.” I answered a beat later. It was just the first day and I was exhausted beyond my expectations.
“But you had a half shift today, right? Were there really that many people?”
“More than you could think. From all the normies in the city to housewives, I saw all of them.” You could say that it was just the opening rush but if someone told me that this rush won’t die for at least two months, I wouldn’t be surprised. “How about you? Summer camp any fun?”
“That is a stupid question. Since when has summer camp been fun?” she replied now equally bummed as me.
“I don’t know. I have seen people genuinely enjoying it.”
“Those aren’t people. Those are nerds from planet Nerdcury.'' and then she laughed at her own joke causing a chuckle to escape from my own mouth, “If only I was not behind on my studies, I wouldn’t have to go to summer camp. Maybe I should just drop high school and find a job.”
“How are you going to stay committed to a job when you can’t even complete high school?”
“Way to ruin the mood. You have no imagination do you,” she pouted at me for not following along.
“I have plenty. Just not enough……. to spare to lend it…... to idle thoughts.” my words started gaping like a toy low on batteries.
“You really are tired. You sure you won’t be pushing yourself?” To think that Myra would get concerned at my condition was not a good sign for my future work life.
“(Honestly I don’t know.)” I didn’t even realize that the answer I gave was only in my head. I never voiced it and hence, Myra took out her textbook and let me rest.
I had confidence in my stamina for staying up 16 hours a day in my daily routine. But the stamina I built just going to school was nowhere enough to last even half a day of work.
“(And I have to do two months of this.)”
“(Honestly, you look like the devolution of humanity right now. You sure you can handle it,)” Dee decided to give his kind thoughts as well.
My future looked grim.
I passed out on my bed as soon as I reached home. Thankfully, I was able to wake up fresh and on time. Just a bit hungry, but I had no time for breakfast. I reached the factory and changed into my worker uniform. And reported on time. But there were no people I could see gathered or anything. Everyone was working as if they were familiar with their job.
“You’re here part timer. Right on time as well. I was not expecting that to be honest,” the first person to address me was none other than the manager wearing a factory coat and helmet over his usual attire. I thought that he would arrive at like 10 in the morning and then leave before everyone else. But he really did take his job seriously to be here before sunrise..
“Negai Hoshi reporting, Sir,” somehow I wanted to show my respect by saluting him like a soldier.
“Good energy too. Follow me. I will brief you about your work.” With that, he turned his back to me and started moving and I started following him.
“Can I ask something?”
“Go ahead,” he answered without stopping or turning back.
“Where are the other part timers?”
“There are none. You are the only one on this shift. There will, however, be one during the shift that you are in the kitchen. But that is it.”
“So, there are no part timers except me and that other guy?”
“None.” No wonder I got the job despite my conditions. It must have been a golden opportunity for him to at least see someone claim that they could take this morning shift.
Now that I looked at the other workers, they were all middle aged. And a few of them I recognized from my interview. What bothered me is that on the day of the interview, only a few machines were running. But today, the whole factory will be operating. The workload would’ve been multiplied, yet the number of workers was the same. The workload and workforce were imbalanced.
Mr.Tsumihara gave me the register with the schedule as well as the list of batches to be prepared along with instructions on how everything is prepared. All of the chocolate based products used the same base. Same went for the other flavored products. It was my job to prepare those base flavors. After that, the people at the next station could use it for whatever product they were in charge of.
That was all I had to do for the morning. For the evening, I was in charge of making the choco cubes. They were like sugar cubes, just chocolate flavored. A very popular product considering they could be used with not only liquid, but semi solid and in some cases, even solid eatables to make them chocolate flavored. In fact we used some in the cafe’s dishes as well. I was going to complete the batch of choco cubes each day and get them packed as well.
At first, it sounded complicated and overwhelming. But once I got to work, I found it fairly simple. Because most of the work was done by machines. All I had to do was remember the recipes and steps while operating the machine. And once everything was in the cooking phase, there was nothing else to do. There was nothing else to do. No wonder there were not many workers needed. They could multitask during these waiting times. But as a part time worker, I didn’t have any other tasks. So, I had nothing to do. Honestly, this was more relaxing than fatiguing. So, this is where the future was headed. With advanced machines, even the most fatiguing tasks were becoming simple.
The really tiring part of the day was my time in the kitchen.
“Where were you? The customers have started coming in already,” Mr.Fuji said as soon as I entered the kitchen. I was in the same building so of course I wasn’t late. It was the customers that had already filled the place the minute the shop opened.
“I’ll get right to it. Tell me what you want,” I replied and Mr.Fuji started giving me orders. Good thing he was here with me so I only had to do assistant work. He would take care of the baking and dressing.
The orders kept coming, we kept making, cooking and baking. And time sped up.
“I am here. Hoshino, you can leave,” before I realized, it was already noon and Kuzuhara was already here for his shift. I switched with him and it was as I had thought. I was more exhausted than my morning shift in the factory.
I took a short break before changing back into my worker uniform and heading back into the factory. Once again, my work was fairly simple. The machine worked automatically. All I had to do was check that there were sufficient molds, the vitals of the machine and then turn it on. It was actually quite satisfying seeing chocolate getting molded into solid cubes. And the last part of my job was to see the cubes that came out. Filtering out any weird cubes. And they would go on to packaging and storing.
That would be my routine for the next two months. But,
“It is too slow,” I was already getting tired of it after a week. As always, I was waiting alone as loud machines worked automatically around me.
“(For once we agree,)” of course Dee, who had been in search of ‘fun’, agreed with me.
“It is going to take forever for us to meet with Shakkar Raj Gupta.” The pace at which we were going, two months would not be nearly enough. “We need to speed this up.”
“(Do you have something in mind?)”
“We need to stand out a bit.” For one week, I had observed how this factory worked. And I thought I had found the way to become a star employee. I placed the register I was given before me. Every worker had been given one as a home copy, so that if someone forgets to update the official register, they could use the personal register at home to remember. Or if there was something missing in the official register, the personal registers of workers could be used.
I took out the box cutter I had been given with my uniform and other tools. Made a light cut at my left index finger and pinched it to draw out some blood. I could feel Dee’s excitement already.
“I wish this register would show me each and every batch that will be prepared during the next two months and where they will be going to,” as the words left my mouth Dee appeared.
“Wish accepted. Bound,” the same robotic words as always. But other than that nothing felt different. Until I picked up the register and looked inside. It was filled up with more information that it had slots for. Every batch that would be made in the next month and where they would end up. Everything was there. In fact, the products that were to be sold in the bakery had the names of the customers that would buy them as well.
Dee, floating above me, also took a peak in the register. “This is going to help us?”
But I just kept looking through the pages instead of answering him. And then I saw an interesting entry.
“(A6, eh,)” I mumbled unconsciously as a smile appeared on my face. “Yes this is going to help. Dee, our next two months are going to be worth it after all.”