A week ago Thursday, I stood at the counter in the health department’s environmental protection division with ten minutes to spare before closing time. I had the proof of workmen’s compensation in my folder of regulatory documentation, and my heart was racing at the prospect of finally being finished with the city’s hoops and ladders. Ms. Owens flipped through my folder of goodies and said: “Now, I just need a copy of your lease.” I dropped my head so hard, I thought my chin would hit my chest. I could see myself putting the lease down on my desk with one hand as I picked up the workmen’s compensation plan with the other. I’d gone from having an incomplete folder to having … an incomplete folder. She looked at my face and said: “We open tomorrow at 8:30a.”
I knew that, of course, but I also knew I had to be in D.C. the next day – and that I might hurt someone if I had to wait another day to be approved to open. Apparently, it was written all over my face. All I had to say in a practical whisper was: “I have to be in D.C. tomorrow.” Ms. Owens then made me an offer I could’ve kissed her for, and after a comedy of technical errors and slow cell towers, Ms. Owens had in her inbox emailed photographs of each page of my lease (my better half is the woman to have in a pinch!), and I had the little yellow card that said I could sell food with the approval of the City of Baltimore!
Since then, days and times have completely run together, kinda like this:
Alone on Sunday in the programming department on what was likely my last day of producing a live television program. It was the longest job of my life, and at times, I was remarkably fulfilled in this building. It remains nice work if you can get it; I’ve just gone as far with it as I’ll ever be allowed to go – and life’s too short to go through the motions.
Monday brought the window vinyls and more elbow grease. Tuesday brought an aborted store sign installation. (I may never understand why it’s so hard to get a good sign in two weeks’ time).
Wednesday brought a grease fire in an oven at the commercial kitchen where I cook that started ten seconds after I turned it on to preheat. By 3 p.m. I was scrambling to safely finish the goods for the opening I was determined wouldn’t wait another day. Thursday morning, 3 a.m.: about twenty dozen cupcakes, pie cups and cookies later, I fell into bed.
And on the first snow day of 2014 in Charm City, the doors of Stupid Delicious! sputtered open for business at a pace designed to work out the kinks.
The so called grand opening will be Saturday – the first time in years I’ll miss kung fu class without being at a tournament or on a business trip. Then again, this is a business trip – all day every day, minus time out for the martial arts addiction that keeps me from flipping out. The last seven days of blurred sunrises and sunsets have driven that message home, if nothing else.
Now time to catch up on sleep… while I can. 🙂
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From elated to deflated. That’s the succinct description of my holiday week, raging against the machine of regulatory madness. I should have known it was too good to be true when the health inspector squeezed me in for my final review just two days before Thanksgiving. She made a beeline to the bathroom to inspect the all-important “open” toilet seat, ignoring the painstaking time I’d spent affixing the soap and paper towel dispensers to the awkward corner wall nearest the sink, to say nothing of the arthritis aggravating purgatory I inflicted on my knees to caulk every crevice along the baseboards. But at least the work was done. It was there, as it was ordered, irrespective of being acknowledged. And with it, I passed the health inspection – with a particular note to how cozy I’d made the place since she was last on the premises a month earlier. I was bouncing off the walls on the way to the Restaurant Store for added supplies.
First thing Wednesday morning, I phoned the building inspector’s office to set up that inspection – the third and final city-inflicted hurdle before opening. He could come out first thing Friday morning, while the rest of the country recovered from turkey overload. Seriously? I could actually wrap everything up and open my doors any time after Friday? After all the plumber and carpenter craziness, could the grand opening really be that drama free?
No. Decidedly not.
“Did you have a fire inspection?” the building inspector asked when he called to tell me the time window for his arrival at the store. “It’s not in the computer.”
You mean the three-minute inspection that cost me three figures that the nonchalant inspector told me would be in the system that afternoon? The inspection that took place two weeks ago? That one?! I thought.
The building inspector was exceedingly gracious when he arrived to tell me that everything looked in order for my use and occupancy permit. He didn’t even have to go through with the inspection without proof that the fire department had already been there. I lucked out on that, at least. I did not, however, luck out on reaching the fire guy to have him correct his oversight. I had the man’s cell phone number, but he wasn’t answering!
Monday morning and three phone messages later, the desk-bound fireman was still not in the office! It was time to go over his head. His supervisor said he would take care of my approval within thirty minutes. Twenty-four hours later, I discovered he had not.
By 10a Tuesday morning, I was closer to tears than I had been at any time through this challenging experience. I had already missed my intended opening week. How much longer were these guys going to keep the next phase of my life on hold?
Not minutes after asking myself that self-pitying question, I received back to back phone calls. The fire inspector had been on medical leave and apologized profusely for the two-week delay in my approval. I thanked him and told him to get well soon. Immediately following that surprising expression of good will, the building inspector called to tell me that with the fire inspection approval in the system, I could pick up my permit downtown. I will be there when the doors open about eight hours from now.
Who’s left to torture me before I ring the register for the first time? The sign guy, that’s who. That’s tomorrow’s target, before teaching two classes of kung fu. My students are going to think I’m on something if I don’t get my signs before I get to the gym. Good thing tomorrow’s classes are in the boxing room….
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