I stand over pots of water willing them to boil. I should invest in one of those electric kettles, you know, the ones that boil water in 60 seconds. The quickness of my Keurig has lost it’s luster. When I first got it, I was so happy to have a cup of coffee 60 seconds after awakening without having had to set the timer on the coffee maker (which I almost never remembered to do). Now, I stand in front of it, rolling my eyes and wishing I could have my coffee in 30 seconds. Once they make one that does that, I’ll think that’s too long. I told my husband the other day that something is wrong with the microwave. My oatmeal seems to be taking longer than expected. It’s not. It’s taking the same amount of time. It’s me. I am not a patient person.
My impatience is not limited to inanimate objects. I do try very hard not to lose my patience with people, especially those that I work with, particularly those with limited skills, but sometimes that’s a tall order. This weekend it proved impossible.
Given the fact that we are currently understaffed (for a variety of reasons, including illness, injury, deaths in the families) one would expect the rest of the staff to pull together in an effort to get the job done. One would be wrong. One should lower one’s expectations. One should know better. One should try to not lose one’s patience.
So, we have a few staffing holes. It happens. That usually means that the managers work more. To fill the holes. Not here, though. Nope. In fact, they seem to work less. Our General Manager, the one who makes the big bucks (and I mean the big bucks!), had a cold and left in the middle of the Saturday night rush. Let me say that again. Because she had a cold. I have a cold, too. So did several of the other staff members. I brought in a bottle of hand sanitizer and a box of tissues. We went through both in one night, what with all of the nose-blowing we were all doing. We make every effort not to infect our guests and our coworkers. Officialy, folks who are coughing their head off and wiping mucous from their nasal cavities should not be working around food. But we had no choice. We only had two managers on to begin with, as a result of another manager not being able to stay a couple of extra hours. Really? His excuse? His wife wanted him home for dinner. Whatever.
As there was no manager to do a pre-shift meeting on Saturday, in fact there would be no manager in the kitchen all night, I took it upon myself to try and rally the troops. I pointed out what most of them already knew, that we were short-staffed and that some of us were on medication. In other words, we were short-staffed and we were sleepy. I pointed out that, despite our obvious deficiences, we would all still have to bring our “A-game”. Actually, I begged. A short while later I noticed that we were out of ice, lemons, plates, and steak knives. I sent out a general alarm. That is when “S” responded, “‘K’ is on ice and lemons. I don’t know who is on the other stuff.” I explained that “K” also had the flu and five tables. I very nicely reminded “S” that she had been standing in front of me at pre-meal when I gave, what I had thought of as a very sincere motivational speech. Clearly, I had thought wrong.
I noticed that she was checking her phone messages (Yup. Checking her phone messages, for Christ’s sakes!). I asked her if she might be able to find the time to pitch in and help with just one of the aforementioned tasks, after she had finished her personal business of course, who was I to interfere with her social life, after all? I was just the woman running around like a chicken without a head, expediting everyone’s food, doing take-out orders, and running all of the food out to the tables (hers included). Oh, and handling guest complaints in the dining room because the one manager who was on was nowhere to be found. Nowhere.
I left the kitchen to attend to whatever needed attending to at that moment. When I returned, she was standing in front of the soda machine, still on her phone. My patience was wearing thin. I noticed another coworker juggling ice and lemons. God Bless him. Once again, I asked her to get plates and steak knives. Her response? “You’re the food runner. Why don’t you get them? You’re the one who needs them.” I had to feel the top of my head to insure that it had not, in fact, blown off. Summoning what little was left of my sanity, I, once again, explained that I could really use all the help that I could get tonight. That I would really appreciate it if she could join the rest of us in doing a little work. At the very least, I asked her, could she help me run some of the food that was going cold in the window? I went to get the plates and the steak knives. What else was I supposed to do?
When I returned with the much needed supplies, I saw her heading out the kitchen door. Empty-handed. She had sauntered by a window full of food (some of which was for her tables, by the way) and walked out the door. Empty-handed. I thought we had made a deal. Again, I was wrong.
At this point the manager finally made an appearance. I asked him, as politely as I could, where he had been hiding for the last forty minutes, or so. I explained that there were any number of server checks that were jerry-rigged because I did not have a key to do the necessary voids/comps, etc. He told me that he had to open up some product, prep some tomato butter, blah, blah, blah. I can tell you this much, while it takes minutes to perform those tasks, it doesn’t take forty of them. No way. No how.
I did not, however, turn in my coworker for not helping out or for being on her phone. A few minutes later, though, I saw him putting what looked like her phone in his pocket. Seconds later she came into the kitchen with another server and I heard her say, “I don’t know why she had to be such a bitch. I know she told him I was on my phone. Everyone around here should learn to mind their own fucking business. It’s not my job to run food or to do other people’s sidework. And he’s giving me my phone back. This is just bullshit.” This is where I lost my patience. Partly because up until this point in our relationship, “S” and I had always gotten along. Sure, she’s lazy and defiant, but had never been so where these character traits had concerned me. I could have let it go, but I didn’t. I was frustrated, tired, overworked, and sick. I think it went something like this:
“Are you kidding me? Why don’t you direct your conversation to me? Why be so passive-aggressive about it? Clearly you have something to say to me, so go ahead and say it.”
(No response from “S”).
So, I continued, “I never told anybody you were on your phone. You’ve been pretty obvious about being on your phone all night. So, don’t blame me for that. I may be a bitch, but at least I’m not a lazy bitch. I think I was pretty nice to you before, but still, you managed to screw me. Thanks. In terms of what my job is, let me tell you what my actual job is. My actual job is to walk into the kitchen and take food, food that, by the way, is completely ready to go, orders that have been expedited by someone else, and deliver it to tables. Tables that, by the way, should be pre-bussed. I shouldn’t have to try to juggle removing people’s appetizers and dishes while trying to put their entree dishes down. I shouldn’t have to clear menus away either. Or get them napkins, or takeout boxes, or drink refills. Now, let me tell you what my job is, in reality. There is almost never an expediter. So, I have to expedite and run the orders out, which takes way more time. I feel like I’m playing “Beat the Clock” with the kitchen. Because I can’t expedite and run out the food as fast as they want to push out more orders. When I manage to stack six or seven plates up my arms, instead of the three that I am, according to corporate, supposed to be carrying, and I get out to the table I can’t put them down. Why? Because most of you guys do not pre-bus your tables. And you are the biggest offender. And you know it. So, that makes my job a bit harder. Wouldn’t you agree? I knew you would. Also, I’d be willing to bet that at this very moment you’ve got customers in need of drink refills. Wanna make a liar out of me? Go check. I guarantee you that the time you spend on your phone managing your social life adversely impacts your level of service. I guarantee it.
But I still didn’t mention to anyone that you were on your phone. And you’re right. I am not the boss of you. Just a coworker who has to pick up your slack. So, please do not lecture me on what my job is or is not, at least not until you have managed to master your own. I do my job and, very often, your job. Maybe my expectations of you were too high tonight. I should have known better. If that makes me a bitch. So be it.”
She just “harrumphed” and walked away. But other coworkers heard us. So did the manager. Later he and I had a conversation about it. I apologized for my outburst and explained that I had tried very hard not to lose my patience. He told me that I had nothing to apologize for and pointed out that the rest of the night went very smoothly. Really, though, it is so annoying that I have to become a lunatic to get other people to do their jobs. It kills me that being reasonable often does not produce the desired results. Oh, and he gave her back her phone. At the end of the shift. 🙂