Our volunteers have to be sturdy and stalwart – they heft around a 7-gallon soup pot, they transfer the soup into two 3.5-gallon insulated food servers which they then carry to the trunk of their cars and drive them over to Barbara’s house in North Berkeley. At Barbara’s place they have to unload them from their cars and re-load them into the vehicle for delivery to our homeless friends that night.
There have been several occasions when my husband and I have gone to collect soup from our cooks who live on the second floor of older buildings and we have had to carry it down stairs. Once, before we had our soup-servers, on a particularly steep and windy set of stairs we almost lost our grip on the soup pot and I had visions of gallons of soup cascading down the steps. That was a terrifying prospect but not as terrifying as having to tell Barbara we had lost most of that night’s dinner for the homeless!
So it finally happened… but oddly enough not on stairs but in an elevator. One of our regular and most generous volunteers and his sweetie, whom we shall call A & S, were cooking soup for us for the very first time. They live in a modern high rise building in downtown Berkeley. When the soup was good and hot and it was time to load it up and take it over to Barbara’s they poured it into the two insulated food servers, loaded them both onto a hand-cart and wheeled them into the elevator to take them down to the garage. Easy-peasy right?
Alas the handcart tipped as it entered the elevator and the top server fell off and the clasps sprung open with the impact of it hitting the floor and… horror of horrors the elevator was awash with nearly 3 gallons of hot soup! Yikes! What to do?
Ever resourceful… A and S mopped up as much as they could with paper towels and squeezed it back into the food container – at least Barbara’s two large dogs would have an interesting dinner tonight. A took the container’s over to Barbara’s and amid profuse apologies offered to scurry home and cook up another batch of soup. Barbara said,
“Don’t be silly! No worries… we will fix it. Now boil some water!”
She proceeded, with A’s help, to expand the existing 3.5 gallons of soup with pasta and extra beans which she had in our “Rapture Stash”. It was going to be a “loaves and fishes” night for sure. It was 30 minutes until our usual serving time on the streets of DT Berkeley. Our homeless friends would be anxiously waiting outside the Veteran’s Building for our arrival with a hot homemade dinner. Tick – tock – tick –tock…
Meanwhile back in an elegant downtown apartment building the “soup elevator” was being summoned by residents eager to get out and enjoy a beautiful Sunday night. It was time for dinner at a nearby restaurant and a stroll.
“Why is the elevator so slow tonight?”
It finally arrives and the doors open and the floor is covered in… what?
“Did someone throw up? No, thanks… I think we’ll wait for the other elevator!”
S is frantically and industriously swabbing out the elevator as best she can with paper towels and a mop but people keep pressing that darn button and she is being bounced from floor to floor as residents summon and then reject her elevator. Uh uh… S is now beginning to feel queasy…
“Is it possible to get motion sickness in an elevator?” she wonders. “Is that why Macys stopped hiring elevator operators who wore a fancy uniform with impeccable white gloves and announced the floors as he pressed the buttons.
“Going down, Ladies and Gentlemen. Next stop, Floor 4… home goods, linens, fine china and bridal registry. Doors are closing… step inside please! Doors are closing!”
After countless interactions with appalled fellow residents… S removed the final traces of soup from the floor of the elevator and retreated to her apartment. She lies down on the couch with a damp towel over her eyes hoping that the sickening feeling of being tossed up and down like a small boat on heavy seas would soon abate.
A little later A returned to the apartment after seeing Barbara off with the newly expanded soup. He sees S on the couch and unwisely asks,
“So what’s for dinner tonight?”
~ Written by Sonia Jacques
(from notes and interview with the volunteers involved)
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