The “Idiot Sandwich”!

sandwichI had to work on Monday this week. I don’t normally work Mondays. Or Thursdays. I bookend my weekends with my days off. It is in this way that I get to psyche myself up for and decompress from the weekends. Sometimes, though, I am in need of another day off, so I have no choice but to switch with a co-worker and work on either a Monday or a Thursday. When I can, I opt for Thursday, but this week I couldn’t work that either, so, Monday it was.

It would have been nice not to have to switch at all. Really, I didn’t need the whole day off on Wednesday, I just needed to be out of there by 4:30. If I could rely on the co-worker who relieves me on Wednesdays to come in thirty minutes earlier, I would have just worked it out that way. But, I can’t. In fact, this co-worker is, on average, thirty minutes late for all of his shifts, so asking him to come in early was not something I wanted to fool with.

While he has his good qualities — he can be both charming and funny, and he is my “go-to” guy when it comes to questions of a technological nature — punctuality is not his strong suit. He manages, though, regardless of how late his arrival time, to roll in with his piping hot cup of Starbuck’s. He always calls, though. I suspect he does so while in line at the Starbuck’s. Oh, and he’s always apologetic.

Frankly, I’d rather that he forego the apology, admit that he’s at the Starbuck’s, and bring me a Pumpkin Spice Latte, but that never happens. His excuses often have to do with traffic, faulty water heaters, or automobile incidents (these run the gamut from locking his keys in them, misplacing his keys, needing a jump start, being unable to drive in the rain as a result of having no windshield wiper, etc., etc., etc.). Well, at least he’s amusing — and consistent.

So, I had to work Monday this week. There are many reasons that I hate to work on Mondays — few of them having to do with the fact that, well, it’s Monday, which means it’s slower and I make less money. Mostly, they have to do with how the restaurant is staffed on Mondays. I’ve come to think of myself, when I work Mondays, as the meat in the “Idiot Sandwich”.

Monday is our regular lunch cook’s day off, too. I’ve grown accustomed to our regular lunch cook. He’s an acquired taste, but we get along. I’ve actually grown quite fond of him. I’ve learned to ignore what I had, at first, thought were prejudiced gender-related outbursts — he’s got a lot to say ’bout bitches and ho’s — because I now know that he’s just rappin’. Or, as I like to call it, “crappin'”. We have our moments, but, overall he’s a decent sort. And, he’s great at his job. Great. As in, I’ve never worked with a better line cook in my life. So, there’s that. Even if, under the guise of his crappin’, he, on occasion, refers to me as a bitch and/or a ho, I just tell myself that it’s urban poetry and leave it at that — because my food is out in timely manner. Oh, and it’s correct. So, yeah, I don’t care what he calls me. Life is full of trade-offs.

On Mondays, instead of dealing with our regular lunch cook’s passive-aggressive behavior and unrefined taste in music, I have the pleasure of working with “The Snarler”. This guy is, hands down, the most miserable piece of garbage I have ever had the misfortune to work with. For the record, I’ve worked with lots of angry, misogynistic cooks over the years, so that’s saying a lot.

Learning to simply ignore the insanity of your average line cook is a skill that all servers must cultivate. It just is. Most of the time, as long as we get our food, we don’t care what he’s carrying on about behind the line. Really, we don’t. But, this guy, in addition to his horrible personality, isn’t even remotely competent. And that, my friends, is a bad combination.

After dealing with his nonsense all weekend, I am really in no mood to work with him on a Monday. I’m certain the feeling is mutual.

To complete the Monday Special that I have come to think of as the “Idiot Sandwich”, I must also endure a woman who works, and I use the term loosely, at the host stand. She and I “work” together every Friday, so I am more than familiar with her shenanigans. To say that she has begun to grate on my last nerve would be an understatement.

She’s not miserable, I’ll give her that. She not even a piece of garbage. That’s the good news. The bad news, mostly for me, but also for the folks who would like to order take-out, are in need of directions, or have any other issues that cannot be solved by being handed menus and shown to a table, is that she lacks the basic communication skills necessary to do her job. This deficiency would, no doubt, create a challenge in any workplace, but is more apparent in the time-sensitive, fast-paced environment that is our workplace. It’s not just that she doesn’t listen, which she doesn’t, it is primarily because she has another, far more obvious issue from which every other element of her incompetence stems — she doesn’t speak much English.

Unfortunately, command of our language is something that we cannot require of our kitchen staff. If we did, we wouldn’t have a kitchen staff. To compensate for our language barrier, we have all learned some combination of Spanglish. We make it work. It adds a degree of difficulty (and sometimes surprise) to an already difficult job, but, we’re troopers.

It’s one thing to require your staff to attempt to communicate in a made-up language, it’s another thing to require this of your clientele. As much as it’s funny for us to get rice when we asked for fries (if you want rice, you must ask for “arroz”, if you want fries, you must ask for “papas frites” — it’s pretty simple, but sometimes we forget to use their language and, well, we get what we get), it is decidedly unprofessional, however, for a customer who is attempting to place a lunch order to speak with a person who a) cannot understand you b) cannot make herself understood c) doesn’t know the menu and d) would be unable to guide you through it, even if she did.

The worst part of dealing with her is that she’s always wrong, but adamantly refuses to admit it. I love people who are strident in their wrongheadedness, don’t you? Just the other day she handed me an order — I used to work for doctors, so I can read just about anything, which is a good thing because her handwriting is as abominable as her English — an order that looked like it said “ribeye sandwich”. (I wish I’d kept it or taken a photograph, I think you’d be impressed by my cryptographic skills!) Do I even need to tell you that we don’t have a ribeye sandwich on the menu?

I made the mistake of asking her whether she meant the ribeye lunch or the prime rib sandwich. By way of an answer, she just repeated to me over and over that “da lady says ribeye (pronounced to rhyme with bye-bye) sanweech”. She then chuckled — CHUCKLED! — as she threw her hands up and rolled her eyes, as if to say, “I know. People are idiots”. (I know THAT feeling all too well!)

And so, there I stood, trying to determine what in the world this person actually ordered for lunch. Of course she never takes a phone number — it’s a requirement, but she, the person who should do it most of all, dispenses with that sort of silliness. I don’t get excited about it, though. Because I know, FOR A FACT, that while it might be A phone number, the likelihood of it being the CORRECT phone number is very, very slim.

I’m pretty sure that if you asked any of my co-workers to name one of my few good qualities, my helpfulness would surely be mentioned. I’m a team player. Really, I am. I’m more than willing to help someone out of a jam. I don’t mind bringing bread to someone else’s table, refilling a few drinks, or covering their area while they take a bathroom break. There’s a world of difference between doing someone a solid and doing someone’s job for them, though — a world of difference.

I’ve also been known to show a newbie the ropes, teach them a few tricks of the trade, if you will. It’s the right thing, not to mention the nice thing, to do. Most folks are appreciative of my willingness to impart the wisdom that I have gained over the course of my thirty-year career in the restaurant business.

I think the most frustrating part of working with this woman is that while she expects me to do her job, she is both unable to benefit from my advice and unwilling to take it. She suffers from what I like to call “Ted Baxter Syndrome”. Remember him? He was the newscaster on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” — the one who could not only NOT read the news, but had no interest in understanding it, either. What Ted Baxter didn’t know, but may have suspected, is that Lou Grant would have loved to fire him, but, Poor Lou, he never could find a replacement for dear, old Ted. What this woman knows she has is job security — she was thrust upon us because she has some relationship with our manager.

She is, in other words, untouchable. Early in her tenure, I had a conversation with her manager friend in which I suggested that, perhaps, our language-challenged host would feel more at home in the back of the house. I recognize that she is reliable — a quality that is much sought after for members of our staff in general, of our kitchen staff in particular — and, really, who would want to do a job that they are so clearly unqualified for? Also, I don’t like to campaign for people to be fired. Not only does it feel wrong to do so, it’s just bad karma.

The manager, surprisingly, agreed. She thought it was a great idea. She even had an opening that might suit this woman. I thought, “Great! Problem solved! Bad karma averted!” The plan we hatched didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped. Why? Because this woman LIKES “working with the peoples”. Yup.

It seems we’re stuck with her. As for the miserable cook, I have no idea how he still has his job. What I do know for sure, what I’m certain of, in fact, is that I’m better off keeping my mouth shut. While it seems that we’ve lowered the bar to accommodate ineptitude and surliness at the host stand and behind the line, I know that I will have to suck it up, be the meat in the “Idiot Sandwich”, because servers are a dime a dozen. Zipping my lip is hard for me, though — next to impossible, in fact. The best I can do is try to avoid working Mondays altogether.

photo credit: sandwich

2 thoughts on “The “Idiot Sandwich”!

  1. susan558 says:

    I’m always impressed with how you put the occasional log in the road to the side so you can be on your way. Your ability to observe difficult situations and people rather than becoming entangled will add years to your life.


    • javaj240 says:

      Why thank you, Susan. I’m not always as calm “in the moment”, but, I’m working on it. I really have learned over the years that sometimes the best way to deal with a situation is to avoid it altogether!


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