Friday, January 20, 2006

Why TheTrayTiger, you ask?

So for the IB program back in high school, we had to complete 200 service hours during the course of our junior and senior years. For my requirement, I chose to work in the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen in downtown with my friend Mark during the summer. Our first day was Monday at 7:30 am. When we arrived a bunch of 60-something year old grandmothers looked over at us, "OHH Estelllle! It's the two young men Abigail was talking about! You boys ready to help out?" "Um, yes, that's why we're here" "Great! You can start by slicing those carrots over there [hands me an enormous knife]." So the next hour or so was occupied by slicing and dicing various fruits and vegetables, fruits et légumes, frutas y verduras, Obst und Gemüse-- you get the idea.

After that hour, Estelle could tell I was a little bored with the affair and wanted to move on. "Mike! How about you show this young man around, maybe show him the food line!" Mike was sort of a shady character you weren't quite sure if you trusted the first time you saw him. He talked real fast, but didn't look you in the eye, and he had been in Vietnam... Anyway, he was the guy who did all the dirty work around the place, like cleaning the bathrooms and stuff... "Hey, kid, what's your name." "Edwin." "Alright Edward, lemme show you around. Right here we got the foodline, you know, that's where we serve'em the food." "Cool." "You gotta keep hot water underneath to keep it all nice and hot." "Right." "And over here to your left is our dish washing station." "Alright." "Actually, the only dishes we wash are the trays, cause they sort of double as plates. I used to have to wash all the trays by hand with soap and water. It got to be pretty tough keeping up with the exit crowd."

He directs me over to a large square metal contraption. It has a old crusty piece of tape on the front of it with the phrase in all caps "THE TRAY TIGER!!!". "So about two years ago we got this here tray-washing machine donated to us. This guy at McDonald's showed me how to use it... hm, he's dead now. Anyway, so it has three stages, the first washes with soap and water, the second hits it with bleach, then the third.. I dunno what it does, but the whole process takes less than a minute." "Why is it called The Tray Tiger?" "I dunno, it's been there awhile. I guess we were so happy about getting the machine."

I ended up working as the tray-washer for two and half months that summer. I got to be pretty efficient and I was subsequently nicknamed The Tray Tiger myself. When my tenure came to a close I decided I should leave some kind of legacy for myself. I went around to a few office stores and finally found one that would stamp out onto an acrylic name plate "THE TRAY TIGER!!!" (yes, I did get a "wtf?" look from the guy at Office Depot). It was a black lacquered finish with bold white font. My last day at the soup kitchen, I went and affixed it to the tray-washing machine with this permanent supertape. I hope it is still there to this day.

Following this experience, I had been trying to decide on a good screenname. The one I had at the time was wholly inadequate and relied on numbers after the name to establish its uniqueness. TheTrayTiger was my solution, as it was a combination of letters so singular that it had been hitherto never created as a screenname, nor did it return any Google hits. It was perfect. My screenname was distinct. It required no numbers. I was THE one and only... TRAYTIGER.

St. James Park, London


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