Friday, December 05, 2008

Cocktail Sauce Syndrome

The Eastpointer

Cocktail Sauce Syndrome

Paved Roads and Telephone Poles

By Richard E. Noble
“Another example of the Cocktail Sauce Syndrome,” I mumble to my wife Carol as we sit and watch the nightly news.
“Exactly!” my wife will answer.
We met many, many years ago in a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale where I devised the original Cocktail Sauce Theory.
The Theory evolved from the General Manager of the restaurant chain that employed me.
This guy was a cocktail sauce fanatic. Every time he would walk into any of the chain’s thirty-seven family style seafood restaurants, he would pick up a platter from the waitress station then wander around to any unbussed (not yet cleared) table and gather up all the unused 1oz cocktail sauce containers.
He would then cart them over to the manager and give his usual speech. “You see this? Now these all would have gone into the garbage even though they are unused and unopened because nobody cares. Now you want to see that food cost of yours go down and get this restaurant making money? Save the cocktail sauce.”
I went into the office after closing time and sat down with all the cost and analysis sheets. I added up all the costs of the cocktail sauce that the restaurant used in one month.
If I didn’t give out any cocktail sauce to any of the customers, I could not lower the food cost even one point. It required, like a $2,000 drop in my cost per month to lower the food cost one point. I could run around all night gathering cocktail sauces and I wouldn’t accomplish poop. They wanted me to lower the food cost by about 20 points.
This was not very hard to figure out, I had to find some big expenses and cut them down and stop sweating the small stuff. And I did. I lowered the food cost in about six months by more than 20 points. When the general manager came in with my analysis figures he couldn’t believe it.
“What the heck did you do?” he asked.
I told him that I had all the waitresses saving the cocktail sauce.
He had me promoted shortly after that.
Now that brings me to paved roads and telephone poles.
They finally paved my road, against my will, and I have never estimated the cost but, way back then, when they finally paved it, there were probably ten or fifteen homes on my road - and they were all trailers. There wasn’t a regular house on the street. I will bet that they could have come up to each of us and gave us a million dollars each in place of paving that road.
People lately around here are saying, “Where did all my tax money go. I don’t see anything new around here.”
Well I do. There are paved roads everywhere. Even the Island had dirt roads when we first came here. And now all these paved roads have to be maintained and kept up and that’s only a half a million dollars a foot, instead of the original million dollars a foot.
Most everybody who came and settled here 20 and 30 years ago got the seafood poverty dividend. Things were for nothing around here compared to the rest of the coastline of America and all because Franklin County smelled bad.
When people came here to visit me they would say; What the heck is that smell. I’d tell them it was the spent oyster shells from the shucking houses and spoiled fish guts - this is a seafood town.
“How can you stand it?”
“Well the folks around here are all seafood workers and they made a choice a long time ago. They could either have oyster shells and fish guts and a livelihood, or they could have fancy-butts like you running around trying to clean everything up and complaining about the smell. They chose the fish guts and oyster shells.”
My friends would always laugh.
So in those days we had no paved roads, no fire plugs, no cable TV - no TV reception at all - in fact you could barely hear the local radio station while oystering out on Catpoint. And shortly before that there was no radio station at all.
There were very few rules and codes that anybody gave a darn about. And that was because poor people buy a piece of property because they are tired of paying rent, not because of its “curb appeal” or who lives next door. They are happy they finally were able to have a place to live rent free. They don’t even know the meaning of the word “equity” and they usually don’t care.
So the Cocktail Sauce Theory is that while everybody is sweating the small stuff, the big stuff kills ‘em.
Instead of taking jobs away from county workers, I would suggest that we stop paving roads for a couple or three years. Firing workers is not only tragic for the people who get fired but it hurts the local economy. Putting more people to work is the solution, not the problem.

“A Little Something”is R.E. Noble’s first book of poetry and it is now on sale at Amazon and locally at Downtown Books along with Hobo-ing America, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Farther and Thy Mother. Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived here in Eastpoint for nearly 30 years.