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Loving The Job but Hating the Hazards

Pre-packaged PAK KAIN meals for retail market
A's Goodies PAK KAIN meals

Whatever happened to ‘compartmentalizing issues’? It seems like when you start a good day but then it drastically shifts your disposition due to someone - who wore two different colors of socks that morning – takes it on everyone else along the way; so you just pause to think “…now there goes my happy thoughts…” and the domino effect starts its motion.

I was called for an abatement hearing a few days ago as I was “caught” preparing or ‘food handling’ by a health inspector that approved my permit as a “retail market”, where all I can do for my San Francisco food store is sell pre-packaged food, just like how Wallgreens or 7/11 sell theirs: self service. I was justifying my “violation” that I was assisting the elderly with bad eyesight or those that don’t know who to use “my” type of microwave oven (you know there are so many models) or those on wheelchairs who can’t ‘reach’ the numbers and such.
Nonetheless, I was issued an abatement paper – defined as a “Pleas and Case Management hearing” and I was to present myself to a ‘Director’ of the Health Department in San Francisco, with the inspector and her Supervisor to be “corrected” in a ‘court environment’ preliminary “hearing”. This is a first for me and I had mixed feeling of anxiety.
There were other cases with much bigger issues than mine, like cockroaches found on the floor of their prep areas, operating without permits, dead rodents found in the walk-in freezer, on-going construction while serving food and I suddenly felt comfortable as my “sin” is too trivial to compare to what the other ‘violators’ have to deal with. However, I prayed that I will simply be made to ‘promise’ that I will never do it again, so to speak.
One particular case took most of everyone’s attention as the 2 restaurant owners had their lawyer with them as the seated Director of the Department, the Supervising Inspector, the Area health inspector and the Plan Check inspector all listened to the lawyer’s representation and rebuttals, stating that the previous owner’s health permit of the restaurant is still un-expired and in ‘effect’. Therefore the restaurant, being in escrow was still operating with a permit. The main argument though is that food is being served as the renovations were on going, and the restaurant was ‘open’ for business and that there was nothing submitted for the approval of the renovation, hence the Plan Check and the Health Department insist their case.
Back to my point, since my title is about “loving the job and hating the hazards”… one person within the case being heard was totally emotional and “passionate” about the arguments and I am sure everyone listening noticed that this person was already on the verge of ‘anger’ as she was expressing it with her gestures and facial expression, complete with accelerated tone of voice. If I may say, the rest of the cases heard with this ‘now angry person’ are obviously doomed to have its share of steam, including mine.

As my case was heard, I tried to reason to the seated director presiding the hearing, about the ‘assistance’ I was doing deemed as “food prepping and cooking”; we exerted effort in ‘opening the packaged meals’ which I ‘admittedly’ took responsibility for. I no longer attempted to lengthen the hearing so we just waited for the session to end, no more ‘buts’ from me.
As we turned to walk towards the door, the inspector instructed me to make sure to remove any signs of “food prep” stuff including the ‘design display’ of a wok on the top shelf of my store, should be taken out and she will visit again. I nodded my head and smiled. However, her supervisor seemed to be on the roll that she started to say – you are a retail market and not supposed to prepare food and cook in your store and you should not even be allowed to have your food eaten on premise! Why do you have chairs and tables in your store? You should go to the Planning Department and get an approval otherwise you have to remove your chairs and tables….. !” Mind you, this was after the hearing, therefore this is now her ‘own’, personal informal decisions. Cutting the story short, we are prepared of course to show as evidence, that as we went through the ‘ordeal’ of legalizing our permits that took seven long –century like- months; the Plan Check Department - approved by its own ‘separate division inspector’ gives us the right to have those chairs and tables on premise as we were approved and allowed accordingly. (It is not even her jurisdiction.)
Now this is the ‘crux’ of my point: I believe that this person knows her job well, dedicated to her task of keeping the public healthy and safe, and I am sure that she has learned to love the job as she stuck with the job for some time and the experience has given her the confidence to know the ropes of her position. However, she has likewise probably seen the worst of violators too and that is why the hazards of dealing with such violators and their lawyers that attempt to go ‘around the system’ has pushed her against walls repeatedly. But - what about the ‘compliant ones’ who don’t deserve the same rude and unfair treatment? It is such a disappointment when you know that a good day can suddenly turn one’s world into a pivot, just because someone is having a bad one. Meantime, we should pause and think about what we do for a living too. We probably love our jobs and enjoy its benefits and use the income to feed our family, but as we face the hazards of our jobs, maybe we should learn how to address issues separately and individually, according to the appropriate ‘respect’ each person or people deserve.

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