Good Riddance Karma Sushi, I Hope I'm Still Tough

"I did not choose the sushi life, the sushi life chose me."

- Mark Twain (?)


For the past four months, I’ve worked five to six days (or nights) a week at the most popular (read: fucking busy) restaurant in Flagstaff. Every morning I opened, every evening I closed, I wished only ill will upon Karma Sushi. Without fail, I would show up to work after having run, so I was pretty pissed off to be standing up. This anger, this resentment, would funnel its way from my calves, to my heart, to my eyes. The only time I actually saw the fury I had created was when I would seek refuge in the bathroom from the shit storm that is Karma Sushi, but I’m certain every customer and co-worker could see the fire raging in my soul.


A quick aside about the bathroom at Karma. I love that bathroom. Seriously. I LOVE that bathroom. It served as my fortress of solitude for the last four months. I would drink a ton of water throughout my shift so if someone were actually watching me it would make sense I went to the bathroom so often, but usually I was just seeking a quiet place to cry. Anyone who knows me even slightly well knows I’m a germophobe, but I sat on the bathroom floor in Karma. Even for a few minutes, just to rest the legs, it was the best part of my shift. I was careful to never linger too long in my safe haven; I didn’t want anyone to think I was pooping.




When I look back at my time as a sushi boy, I kind of think it has a lot to do with my recent running success. I harbored so much resentment for Karma Sushi so deep in my being that it naturally came out during my runs. During long workouts, I would think of all the times I burned my hand while pouring boiling hot miso soup, and would negotiate with my brain to let my body push a little bit more because of everything my blistered hands had been through. In the middle of stupidly long runs, I would barter with my cerebral matter to just let me go one more mile because of all the times it had let me haphazardly rub my wasabi into my eyeball. I hated my job, and I loved every minute of it.


At my new job I get to sit down, I will get to eat lunch, and I will get soft. I will no longer be hardened by having to be on my feet all day; I will say goodbye to skipping meals because the sushi grind does not quit; I will stop resenting people. Obviously, I expect this to affect my running. Sure, I’ll probably be more recovered for my training, but I’m pretty sure I will be losing the blue-collar edge I had gained over the last few months. It was rewarding to train hard while working hard. As painful as it was to see Fauble on the couch when I left for work, and then when I was back from work to see him not having moved an inch, it was also satisfying to know I was fully committed to making this running thing work. I felt tough. I ran tough.


Quitting during the holiday season was pretty “baller” on my part. Schedules are set, employees have requested certain days off, and then KABOOM I drop this bomb. My manager gets pissed and starts ripping into me. Telling me how I “don’t respect the sushi trade and should never expect to get a job in the sushi industry and will spend the rest of my life regretting this decision.” It was terrifying! And it never happened.


It was actually pretty disappointing when I put in my two weeks. No one seemed to make a big deal of it. I never thought I was that crucial of a cog in the sushi military complex, but I enjoyed lying to myself.


My quitting during the holidays does create an interesting scenario, though. The Karma Holiday Party is this Sunday; my last day is next Friday. Technically speaking, I still work at the restaurant, but I worry if I will be accepted warmly if I make an appearance to the shindig. I view my fellow co-workers on a teeter-totter—slowly effervescing between enemy and acquaintance. Because of my sore legs and generally unhappiness to be at Karma, I don’t think I became the most loved employee of the last four months. That, coupled with the fact that I’m unsure if I have screwed up anyone’s holiday plans enough for them to stage some sort of ceremonial assassination if I was to appear at this party, I have created a dilemma for myself. This isn’t exactly like “Sophie’s Choice”, but it is pretty much “Sophie’s Choice”. I haven’t slept much recently.


With my current lifestyle of poverty, it’s hard for me to pass up free food. I’m kind of like a monk. Living off only what people are willing to share with me, you know? Karma seems willing to share an evening of food and drink with me; however, I may end up paying the ultimate price: death by chopstick. I have to go, though. I have to show I’m still tough and willing to do scary things.


The holiday party will be my final, and probably my only, hurrah at Karma. It was a humbling experience and I attribute thousands of successful miles to the organization, but it is time to move on. Leaving the sushi life behind me is something I have fantasized since probably my third hour of my first day working there, and yet the nostalgia of hating something so much is already creeping into my being.


Goodbye, Karma. It’s not me, it’s you. Please do not write. Please do not call. I will see you for happy hour in a few months when the healing process has begun.






Stephen Kersh