Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: There Are Rules, People! Rules!

TheABGtherearerules


It is shocking to me how many customers get it into their pea brains that the best way to get an employee’s attention is to wander into the kitchen, throw up their hands, and ask “Is anyone working here?” I am uncertain as to what it is they expect to find us doing in the kitchen. Do they think we are getting up a game of gin rummy? Practicing our dance moves? Napping?

This behavior should not shock me — nothing should, given my thirty-plus years of experience dealing with the dining public. Still, it almost always renders me semi-speechless. The only answer I can usually muster, following playing my meld, taking off my tap shoes, or rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, to the very insulting question, “Is anyone working here?” is “Yes. Someone will be right with you.”

What I would like to say, but don’t — because I need my job — is “Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with you? Get out of the goddamn kitchen and take a seat. Wait your turn.”

A disproportionate number of these types of humans — and I use the term “human” loosely here, as it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that they were raised by wolves — are bar guests. And, they’re in a hurry. Or in need of a fix. Or both.

I had two guests do this to me yesterday. Two. Let me just say this: their behavior during our initial encounter did nothing to endear them to me. If they had been diabetics in need of some juice, I may have been more understanding of their predicament. Neither of these “gentlemen”, as it would turn out, were suffering from low blood sugar. What they both needed were alcoholic beverages at noontime. This cemented my opinion that they were jackasses of the highest order.

One required a couple of straight vodkas to deal with the ex-wife and her attorney; the other had decided that he would need more than half a bottle of wine to fortify himself for his upcoming trip across the George Washington Bridge. Yeah. There’s nothing like a couple of boozy blowhards on a Wednesday afternoon. Nothing like it.

I wish they had been there at the same time. Perhaps they would have found in each other something they did not get from me. That something? A sympathetic ear.

Instead they got me — a woman not known to possess a high threshold for bullshit, a soft  heart, or the wherewithal to suffer fools.

After listening to vodka guy for all of thirty seconds I said, “I’m sure there’s nothing a divorce attorney likes to see more than someone who comes in half in the bag to sign important documents — particularly when it’s the party he or she is NOT representing. You’re every lawyer’s dream! Good luck to you!”

To our wine aficionado I said, “Well, if you have any more wine, it’s likely you’ll get a quick trip over the bridge — either via the railing or in a police car. I cannot imagine that either of those scenarios would be preferable to a little traffic.”

They both took in my retorts, eyed me suspiciously, and paid their checks. I was not sad to see either of them go. I hope they enjoyed a lovely day busting someone else’s chops.

Every situation has rules, written and unwritten. DO NOT ENTER A RESTAURANT KITCHEN UNLESS YOUR ASS IS ON FIRE is rule number one while dining out. DO NOT INSULT THE PEOPLE WHO WORK IN A RESTAURANT AND THEN EXPECT EXEMPLARY SERVICE (OR THAT SYMPATHETIC EAR) is rule number two.

I hold out very little hope that my “liquid lunchers” were catching what I was throwing to them — so absorbed were they in their own little dramas. Still, I had to try. After all, I had a hot game of gin rummy to return to. If only.

And “The Idiot of the Night” Award goes to…

abgidiotofthenight


It was busy last night down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” — and about to become even busier — Friday night busy for a Wednesday night staff; that kind of busy. I was keeping pace, though, and taking no small amount of pride in myself for doing so. I knew it wouldn’t last long, my ability to keep up with all of my duties.

I had just about reached the physical and mental limits of what one bartender can handle — a nearly full bar, high-top tables clamoring for my attention, and service bar tickets spewing out of the printer more rapidly than one woman could possibly clear them, filled as they were with orders for umpteen frozen drinks and specialty margaritas (and don’t even get me started on the number of foolish mojitos that were in the mix) when “The Idiot of the Night” plopped his ass at the far end of the bar.

“The Idiot of the Night”, the guest who requires the most maintenance, ALWAYS, geographically-speaking, chooses to “live” in the worst possible location — the most difficult seat for me to attend to. It’s just what they do. Sitting there is how they meet the first requirement for “The Idiot of the Night” award.

Seat choice is merely Level One. It takes a few more annoying behaviors over the course of his or her visit for a person to reach the point where the confetti falls and the music plays, signaling that we have a winner in “The Idiot of the Night” contest. Some nights the competition is fierce. Not last night, though. Even the judges — my embattled co-workers, who all had idiots of their own to contend with — had to agree that although we were in the early stages of the balloting, my guy was going to emerge victorious.

Barring a naked meltdown later in the evening over a tartar sauce shortage — or some other such nonsense — it was clear to everyone involved that the clear winner last night would be, “Storytime Guy”, a name I had assigned to him for very good reason. I think that, like my co-workers, you’ll agree.

Me: Hi! Can I get you something to drink?

Him: I don’t drink.

Me: Anything? Water, soda, iced tea?

Him: Yeah. I drink those.

Me: Would you like to choose one of those?

Him: Yeah. Sure.

Precious time elapsing as I spy a table squatting at one of the high-tops

Me: Shall I bring you a menu while you think about that drink?

Him: I don’t drink.

… Back to square one…

Me: Okay. [… Really, what do I care? …]

Him (holding menu as if he has never seen one before): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir? Have you made a drink selection?

Him: Yeah. Bring me a diet something or other. With cherries!

Me (making moves toward the beverage area to fetch his “diet something or other… with cherries (!)”): Okey-Dokey!

Him (loud enough to wake the dead): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir?

Him (motioning toward the menu): I can’t read this!

Me (stunned that a grown man would admit to this in a stage whisper at a crowded bar): [ …speechless …]

Him: I forgot my glasses. Can I borrow yours?

Me (dumbfounded): I suppose so, but they’re progressives. I don’t know if they’ll work for you. (I hand him my $500 prescription glasses, which he proceeds to bend to fit his big, fat head.)

Him: Miss?!?

Me (depositing his “diet something or other” with cherries (!) in front of him): Yes, sir?

Him (as he is removing — and throwing — the cherries (!) that he had so desperately wanted, on the bar in front of him): These aren’t working.

Me: The cherries?

Him: No. The glasses.

Me: Ah, yes. They do take some getting used to, sir.

Him (pulling my expensive glasses off of his massive head and depositing them, lenses down (!), on the cherry juice-laden bar top): You’re just going to have to read the menu to me.

Me (wondering how such a large head could hold such a small brain): Let me just clean up my lenses first, okay? They’re a little sticky, you know, from all that cherry juice. In the meantime, why don’t you decide on which portion of the menu you would like me to read to you this evening. Because I don’t have time to read the entire thing to you. Perhaps we can just hit the highlights, okay? Like I used to tell my kid, “Mommy only has time for the one story tonight, dear.”

I left him, alone with his thoughts, as I scurried to attend to the various other guests who, presumably, could read and were now ready to order. And, yeah, there were also plenty of servers, awaiting their drinks, who were bordering on becoming an unruly mob.

It had now become rather busy down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill”. Still, I needed to deal with “Storytime Guy”. With a heavy heart and all the patience I could muster, I made the long journey to the far end of the bar. It felt a little like the last walk of the doomed death row inmate. I knew I was headed for disaster.

Me: How ya doin’, sir? Have you nailed down a category of food that you’d like me to help you with yet?

Him: How am I doing? I’m hungry, that’s how I’m doing. What the hell took you so long?

Me: Oh, I don’t know, just the usual stuff. Coffee with a few of the gals, the tossing of several double entendres with some of the waiters, and, of course, I had to wait for my nail polish to dry.

Him: Very funny. You’re a very funny person, aren’t you?

Me: I suppose that all depends upon how you define “funny”.

Him: Do you have onion soup?

Me: We do, indeed.

Him: Does it have cheese melted on the top?

Me: It does.

Him: Well, I want one of those, but I want the cheese burned. Like black. Really burnt. You know what I mean?

Me: I do.

Him: Can they do that?

Me: I can say with some fair amount of certainty that I have borne witness to burnt cheese atop of our onion soup, so the answer to your question would, in short, be “Yes. Yes, they can do it.”

Him: I want it really burned, charred, black.

Me: Yes, sir. I think we all know the definition of burnt.

Him: Well, we’ll just see about that.

It is in this moment that I know, for an absolute fact, that no matter how black, how charred, how burnt his cheese is, it will not be burnt enough for him. He will be returning the soup.

Him: I want a steak. What kind of steak do you have?

Me: We have all sorts of varieties of steaks at different price points and degrees of tenderness. Were you looking for something very tender, very juicy, very flavorful? Something on the bone, off the bone?

Him: I want a steak that’s good.

Me: Well, don’t we all?

Him: Do you have a porterhouse?

Me: We do.

Him: How much is it?

Me (consulting the menu, as I don’t have the prices memorized): It’s…..dollars.

Him: Is it tender?

Me: The filet portion is tender, the strip side not as much. It’s kind of one of those combination steaks, know what I mean?

Him: Well, I want something really juicy.

Me: I would recommend the bone-in ribeye. I think that steak will meet all of your criteria.

Him: How much is that one?

Me: It’s … dollars.

Him: What does it come with?

Me: All of our steaks come with a side dish and a salad, or you can substitute the French onion soup — with the burnt cheese — for a couple of dollars more if you don’t want the salad.

Him: Fine. Give me that.

After what felt like an eternity, we came to an agreement on a side dish and a degree of doneness for his steak. At long last, the ordering portion of the festivities had, gratefully, come to an end. I would estimate that “Storytime Guy” had now been in the building for about twenty-five minutes. I fetch him — and a few of my other more self-sufficient guests — some bread. While in the kitchen I speak to the psycho cook working the salad window and explain to him about “Storytime Guy” and his need for very, very, very well done cheese on his French onion soup. I look this cook — our resident psychopath — right in his Manson lamps, an act that requires no small amount of chutzpah, and iterate that there is very little chance that the soup won’t come back one way or another, but request that we do our darndest to please “Storytime Guy”. I practically beg. I get the distinct impression that Norman Bates does not give a rat’s ass about my needs or the needs of “Storytime Guy”, but am satisfied that I have done my due diligence. The chips will fall where they may.

I then return to “Storytime Guy” with bread and assurances that I have communicated his cheese needs to the kitchen. I don’t mention how little faith I have that the lunatic in charge of soup was even listening to me, so preoccupied had I become with the attitude “Storytime Guy” exhibited toward the bread that I had placed in front of him — bread that took me time and energy to procure — time that I did not have, energy that could have been better spent doing more important things for other guests. “Storytime Guy”, upon receiving his bread, shoved it back at me, declaring that “I don’t eat bread”. This revelation concerned me and forced me to remind him that French onion soup, by definition, contains bread. My fear was that I was going to have to head back to the kitchen and tell Boy Wonder that the croutons would have to be removed from the soup that was currently being charred beneath the broiler. Luckily, “Storytime Guy” said that the bread in his soup would be “fine”. Okay.

A few minutes elapse, as it takes time to char cheese, and he asks me where his soup is. I explain that it is being burnt, as he requested. He asks me for a loaf of bread. And this, my friends, is how one becomes “The Idiot of the Day”.

I go into the kitchen to get the damn bread. While there, I ask Looney Tunes if my burnt soup is ready. He moves his eyes and points, very dramatically — his gesture would put one in mind of “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” in the beloved Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” — at a bowl of soup that is now occupying the service window — a bowl of soup that in no way, shape, or form is topped with cheese that even a rookie restaurant worker would consider to be “well done”. I am not a rookie restaurant worker. It was at this point that I toyed with the idea of breaking into tears.

I put the idea of hysterics on the back burner, as it was still early yet and, judging by the way the night was going, I might have to save such an unprecedented lack of character for later. Who knew what might happen later? I may have been faced with something that would require actual hysteria. I hoped not, but I wasn’t going to bank on it.

My manager, having been clued in to the goings-on with “Storytime Guy”, delivered the charred soup. Guess what? It wasn’t charred enough! Who saw that one coming?

Finally, a soup that met with his approval was placed in front of “Storytime Guy”. I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was, as it turned out, a short-lived sigh of relief.

Him (loudly and in an exasperated tone): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir. Oh, I see you got your soup. How is it?

Him: The cheese is fine now, but you know I had to send it back the first time, right?

Me: Yes, sir. I got that memo.

Him: Well, now the cheese is fine, but there’s no broth left in my soup. It’s not like soup at all now, is it? It’s just basically cheese and bread. I wanted soup.

Me: Well, that’s just kind of how science works, isn’t it?

Him: What?

Me: I’m not sure if it would be considered chemistry or thermodynamics, I’ll have to think on that. Is thermodynamics part of chemistry? I can’t recall. The way I remember it is that when you heat up a liquid, as it reaches a certain temperature and given enough time, said liquid evaporates or, to use the vernacular, “disappears”. (I helpfully make ‘air quotes’ with my fingers here!) Maybe “dissipates” (again with the ‘air quotes’ — I just love a good ‘air quote’, don’t you?) would be the more correct term. Well, whatever you call it, the science behind it is the same.

Him: What?

Me (speaking very slowly now): When you heat up a liquid….

Him (understandably interrupting me): I understood you. I just want to know what you’re going to do about it?

Me: What would you like me to do?

Him: Bring me some broth.

Me: Okay

Another trip to the kitchen is required. Another conversation with Psycho Killer ensues. It turns out we have run out of onion soup. Oh, happy day!

Me: Sir, I have some good news and some bad news. I’ll give you the bad news first: we’ve run out of onion soup.

Him: Well, what’s the good news?

Me: The soup is free.

Him: Fine.

It is at this point in our journey that “Storytime Guy” receives his bone-in ribeye.

Me: Would you like some steak sauce?

Him: I thought you said the steak was good?

Me: It is good.

Him: Then it shouldn’t need steak sauce.

Me: Agreed. Still, some folks like steak sauce.

Him: I hope I don’t need it.

Me: Me, too. Enjoy!

… An unsuspecting patron takes the seat next to “Storytime Guy”. He orders a Heineken, thus he will be referred to, where necessary, as “Heineken Guy”…

Him (about thirty seconds after digging into his steak): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir, I was just about to check on you. I just wanted to get this gentleman his Heineken. How is your steak?

Him: It’s fine, but I’m full. Can you wrap it up for me?

Me (handing him a box and a bag, as is our policy): Here you go. Will the one box be enough or would you like another?

Him: I’d like for you to wrap it up for me. If I wanted to wrap up food I’d do your job.

Me: Oh, sir, I don’t think you could do my job. Ha-ha-ha!

Him: I don’t want to wrap my own food.

Me: I don’t particularly want to engage in this conversation and, yet, here we are. Our policy and the Board of Health rules in this city require us to give customers what they need to take their food home with them.

Him: That’s stupid.

Me: There seems to be a great deal of that going around tonight. I hope it’s not catchy. (I give “Heineken Guy” the eye, just in case he’s considering getting up to any shenanigans.)

Him: You’re very funny, you know that?

Me: I’ve been told that on more than one occasion.

Him: What kind of dessert do I get with my meal?

Me (taking his steak off the plate and wrapping it for him because, really, I want him out of my life already): Excuse me?

Him: You said I got dessert with my meal.

Me: No, sir, I never mentioned dessert. Dessert is not included in your meal.

Him: I’m sure that you said that it was.

Me: Well, we could roll back the videotape, but I assure you that of the several categories covered in our many verbal exchanges this evening, the subject of dessert never came up. It’s not included. Do you want to see a dessert menu?

Him: No. I don’t have my glasses, remember? You’ll just have to tell me what’s on it.

Me: Guess what?

Him: What?

Me: It’s a picture menu!

Him: Are the pictures big enough?

Me (handing him the dessert menu): I don’t know. Here. Take a look.

Him: You know what would be a good thing here?

Me: What?

Him: An audio menu.

Me: Yeah. I wonder if we could get Sam Jackson to narrate it.

Him (eyeing me suspiciously): Umm, I guess. Why him?

Me: Because I think it would be amusing if it started out like this: “Listen up, motherfucker, cuz I’m only gonna say this once….” BA-HA-HA-HA-HA!

Him: You’re a funny woman.

Me: I know.

Heineken Guy: She sure is. I think I chose the right restaurant tonight.

Me (turning to “Heineken Guy”): Thank you, sir. Would you like to see a menu?

… And the cycle begins again …

Thankfully, “Heineken Guy” turned out to be a lovely man. He was literate, too. He was playing expert-level Scrabble on his iPad against the computer and, get this, he was winning! “Heineken Guy” can come back any time. As for “The Idiot of the Night”, I hope to never see him again. Given my luck, though, he’ll probably be back tomorrow.

IF I HAD GIVEN IN TO THE MADNESS

NaBloPoMo14DayFourteen Did your children read those adorable Laura Numeroff books when they were little? There was a whole series of them. One was “If You Give a Moose a Muffin”. I think there was one about giving a mouse a cookie. Do you know the ones I mean? Fangette’s favorite was “If You Give a Pig A Pancake” — I, too, was partial to that one. We always laughed and laughed at the dancing, tutu-wearing pig. She was very cute!

Not as cute, but hopefully just as funny, is the adult version that I was inspired to write following a horrendous couple of shifts over at “The Annoying Bar & Grill”. It is my sincere hope that should Laura Numeroff get wind of this that she, too, will laugh and laugh. Truly, that is my hope. It is not my intention to piss her off, as I am certain she is a very nice woman.

It seemed, over the past few days, that it was the intention of almost every one of our “guests” — none of whom could be classified as “nice” — to piss me off, to annoy the ever-loving crap out of me, to drive me round the bend. Luckily, I have more fortitude than to have let them. Plus, there would be far too many negative consequences to my losing my job — none of which would have included a delightful little pig pirouetting on top of a couch covered in maple syrup.


IF I HAD GIVEN IN TO THE MADNESS

To the guy who condescendingly tells me each and every time that he enters the building that he is “in a rush”, but then proceeds to sit for almost an hour texting and watching videos on his phone or yukking it up with his equally idiotic co-worker, I would have like to have said:

YOU, SIR, ARE FULL OF SHIT. Yes, you heard me correctly. SHIT! Do you think I don’t remember you and your antics? Have I given you some indication that I am senile or in some way addle-brained? Or is it just that you think, because you are wearing a shirt and tie and have a “real” job, that servers are stupid? My money is on the latter.

If I had said that, if I had allowed myself to be angered by his treatment of me, I would have lost my job. If I had lost my job, my kid would have to drop out of college.

To the hoodie-clad bar patrons who fancied themselves some type of gangsta rap stars, I would have liked to have said this:

YOU NEED TO LEARN SOME MANNERS AND, WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, YOU OUGHT TO BRUSH UP ON YOUR MATH SKILLS, TOO. THREE AMERICAN DOLLARS ON $130 CHECK IS NOT JUST INSULTING, BUT SHOULD RESULT IN A GOOD BITCH-SLAPPING. WOULD YOU SHORT YOUR DRUG DEALER 12.5%? NOT IF YOU WANTED TO STAY ALIVE, YOU WOULDN’T.

If I had said that, I would have lost my job. If I had lost my job, my kid would have to drop out of college, and, as a result, might become a drug dealer herself or, worse, a bartender.

To the woman who got loaded and weepy on two drinks and who fancied herself my new best friend, I would have like to have said this:

GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, HONEY. YOU’RE NOT FOOLING ANYONE. YOU EITHER CAN’T HOLD YOUR LIQUOR OR THAT TRIP TO THE BATHROOM WASN’T JUST TO EMPTY YOUR BLADDER. YOU ARE TOO OLD FOR THIS STUPIDITY. IF YOU WANT TO LIVE TO SEE 60, I KNOW OF A GOOD REHAB FACILITY. THEY’RE ALWAYS OPEN. I CAN CALL THEM RIGHT NOW. I WILL ACTUALLY BE YOUR FRIEND IF YOU GET SOBER. HOW’S THAT FOR AN OFFER?

If I had said that, I would have lost my job. If I had lost my job, my kid would have to drop out of college, and, as a result, might become a drug dealer herself or, worse, a bartender. If she were to become a bartender, she might become as bitter and crusty as her mother.

To the several customers who thought that I was enjoying their company nearly an hour after we had closed our doors, I would like to have said this:

I SPEND ENOUGH TIME HERE. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT “WORTH MY WHILE” TO REMAIN HERE FOR ANOTHER MINUTE. THAT CARROT YOU ARE DANGLING IN THE FORM OF HOW WELL YOU ARE GOING TO “TAKE CARE OF ME” WHILE YOU’VE BEEN NURSING YOUR DRINKS AND TELLING ME STUPID STORIES FOR THE LAST FORTY-FIVE MINUTES IS NOTHING BUT BULLSHIT. I’LL TELL YOU WHAT — I’LL GIVE YOU TEN BUCKS TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. I THINK THAT’S VERY GENEROUS OF ME. DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE ASS!

If I had said that, I would have lost my job. If I had lost my job, my kid would have to drop out of college, and, as a result, might become a drug dealer herself or, worse, a bartender. If she were to become a bartender, she might become as bitter and crusty as her mother. If she were to become as bitter and crusty as her old mother, she might take up blog writing.

To the nincompoop who claimed to “own a restaurant” and, therefore, “knew” that he was being “hoodwinked” by our cuts of steak, I would have liked to have said this:

YOU DON’T OWN A RESTAURANT. IF YOU DO, EVER DID, OR HOPE TO, IT IS FAILING, HAS FAILED, OR WILL FAIL. BECAUSE YOU ARE AN IDIOT. YOU WOULDN’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FILET AND A SIRLOIN IF IT HIT YOU IN THE FACE. A PORTERHOUSE IS A T-BONE. IT SIMPLY HAS A LARGER FILET THAN A T-BONE. THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE. A PRIME RIB AND A RIBEYE ARE ALSO THE SAME CUT OF MEAT. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS IN THEIR PREPARATION. ONE IS SLOWLY ROASTED, THE OTHER IS GRILLED. I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU WHICH IS WHICH, AS A RESTAURANT OWNER, YOU SHOULD KNOW.

YOU HAVE NOT BEEN BAMBOOZLED. YOU ORDERED INCORRECTLY. IT HAPPENS. YOU WERE SIMPLY MISTAKEN. GET USED TO IT. I’M CERTAIN A PERSON SUCH AS YOURSELF WILL BE WRONG AGAIN IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE. EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES. THE PROOF OF THIS CAN BE HAD BY TAKING A LOOK AROUND AT YOUR TABLEMATES. THEY ARE, RIGHT NOW, THINKING HOW MISTAKEN THEY WERE WHEN THEY MADE THE FATEFUL DECISION TO DINE WITH THE LIKES OF YOU.

If I had said that, I would have lost my job. If I had lost my job, my kid would have to drop out of college, and, as a result, might become a drug dealer herself or, worse, a bartender. If she were to become a bartender, she might become as bitter and crusty as her mother. If she were to become as bitter and crusty as her old mother, she might take up blog writing. If she takes up blog writing she might get some “big ideas” about herself — ideas that may lead her to believe that there is something better out there for her.

To everyone everywhere who has never done this job, but who thinks they can make helpful suggestions as to how those of us who do it might improve our performance, I’d like to say is this:

THANKS! NOW, HOW’S ABOUT YOU GIVE ME ACCESS TO YOUR PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT AND I WILL COME THERE ON MY DAY OFF WITH PAD AND PENCIL IN HAND AND PROCEED TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AN INDUSTRY THAT I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT. I HOPE IT’S SOMEWHERE EXCITING, LIKE AN OPERATING THEATER. I’VE ALWAYS FANCIED MYSELF A SURGEON. HELL, I CAN TRUSS A CHICKEN LIKE NOBODY’S BUSINESS! OR MAYBE AN AIRPORT. YEAH. I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY TO DIRECT PLANES THAN HAVING A GUY STAND ON THE TARMAC WITH A COUPLE OF GLOW STICKS.

I’LL BET THERE ARE REASONS THAT THINGS ARE DONE IN A CERTAIN WAY IN AN OPERATING ROOM OR AT AN AIRPORT, THOUGH. I’M CERTAIN I WOULD BE TOLD WHAT THOSE REASONS ARE AS I WAS ACTING AS AN EFFICIENCY EXPERT IN YOUR CHOSEN FIELD. WELL, GUESS WHAT? THERE ARE REASONS THAT WE DO CERTAIN THINGS A CERTAIN WAY HERE, TOO. I KNOW IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE ROCKET SCIENCE OR BRAIN SURGERY AND, TRUTHFULLY, IT ISN’T, BUT WE DO ACTUALLY HAVE A SYSTEM. WHERE OUR SYSTEM IS FLAWED, THOUGH, IS THAT IT IS PREDICATED UPON HUMANS ACTING RATIONALLY. THIS IS, SADLY, A FATAL FLAW. I MEAN THE CONSEQUENCES AREN’T FATAL HERE, AS THEY WOULD BE IN A MEDICAL OR AEROSPACE ENVIRONMENT, ALTHOUGH YOU’D THINK THEY WERE CONSIDERING HOW WORKED UP PEOPLE GET ABOUT AN IMPROPERLY COOKED STEAK OR AN OVERSEASONED PORK CHOP.

FURTHER, I AM NOT ALLOWED TO TELL YOU HOW YOU HAVE MUCKED UP THE WORKS WITH YOUR DEMANDS TO SIT IN A CLOSED SECTION, YOUR PROPENSITY FOR TAKING YOUR SERVER HOSTAGE WITH THE PROMISE THAT “WE’RE READY TO ORDER NOW” WHEN IT IS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR TO ANYONE WITHIN EARSHOT THAT YOU ARE FAR FROM READY TO ORDER. THE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATION OF BOTH YOU AND OUR EMPLOYERS THAT WE MUST MAKE YOU HAPPY AS IF WE ARE CIRCUS PERFORMERS IS NOTHING SHORT OF MADDENING. WE ARE NOT CIRCUS PERFORMERS. WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS. ALL OF US FLAWED, MOST OF US JUST DOING THE BEST WE CAN TO MUDDLE THROUGH OUR DAYS WITH THE LEAST POSSIBLE AMOUNT OF DRAMA. PLEASE KEEP YOUR “SUGGESTIONS” TO YOURSELF. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, WE TAKE THEM PERSONALLY.

If I had said that, I would have lost my job. If I had lost my job, my kid would have to drop out of college, and, as a result, might become a drug dealer herself or, worse, a bartender. If she were to become a bartender, she might become as bitter and crusty as her mother. If she were to become as bitter and crusty as her old mother, she might take up blog writing. If she takes up blog writing she might get some “big ideas” about herself — ideas that may lead her to believe that there is something better out there for her. If she began operating under the delusion that there was something more worthwhile that she could do, but just couldn’t figure out a way to do it, she might become even more bitter and crusty than her mother. That’s a lot of bitter and crusty. And, really, no one would wish that on her own child. Even someone as bitter and crusty as me.


Admittedly, it’s still a work in progress. I am, though, right now imagining it illustrated in a cute way, with badgers or wolves or, dragons, even! I don’t know. I think I might be on to something here. Maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally had that “big idea” I’ve been searching for.

Take Your Belongings With You!

paperbagwithwordsSimply by virtue of the fact that I am a restaurant worker, I have, on any number of occasions over the years, found myself in the unenviable position of being called  a thief. People leave all sorts of things in restaurants. I could open up my own optical shop with all of the eyeglasses folks have left behind. I’m surprised I’ve never found some forgetful parent’s sleeping toddler curled up in a booth at the end of a busy night. It’s shocking the valuable things people leave behind at restaurants — cash, jewelry, wallets, purses, and all sorts of computer-y things — in what I can only assume is their haste to make it home for the latest episode of “Dancing With the Stars”.

My all-time favorite boneheaded move occurred many years ago at a different place of employment. Still, I sincerely doubt that it will ever be matched. A Secret Service agent left his gun and his credentials at one of my tables. I’ve always been relieved that he wasn’t assigned to guard me! Ask me if he was happy that we called the police to report our findings? He was not. I’m sure there was no end to the hot water he found himself in following that lapse in judgment.

Having had that particular experience — and it was an experience — all of the other things folks have subsequently left behind pale in comparison. That’s why I didn’t get all worked up when I received a message from a coworker while I was enjoying a day off asking me to call the restaurant because management wanted to ask me a few questions regarding some guy’s missing iPad — an iPad that had, apparently, been left at one of my bar tables. He was so attached to it that it took him three days to notice it was missing and, of course, jump to the conclusion that the bartender swiped it. I was excited to discover that not only did he think me a thief, but that he also had the idea that I was a technologically ignorant one, too. The iPad he supposedly left at my table? It was an iPad 1.

Even I have a newer iPad than that.

Just in case his assault upon my character and my honest nature were not enough, he also managed to insult me further by stating that I was “old and tired”. That’s how he described me to one of my managers. (To be fair, I’m not the only Jackie at my job — to further confuse the issue,  on the night in question we were both working the bar. Still, I think he could have used descriptors other than “old” and “tired”.) Frankly, I thought I looked alright that night. Clearly, I was mistaken in my assessment of my own appearance. Alas, there’s only so much an old, tired woman can do to make herself presentable.

His attack on my appearance notwithstanding, I was not too pleased to discover that he told the manager that “she”, meaning me, “had to have taken it”. Really? In the three days that had elapsed since his antiquated gadget disappeared, had he no occasion to miss his beloved iPad 1? Was he stricken with a weekend case of Ebola virus from which he experienced a miraculous recovery? Was he reenacting a Civil War battle where anachronistic toys, including his flip phone and his Atari, were prohibited? Perhaps he was just holed up in his house all weekend using his Tandy computer to catch up on the latest Apple products. I think he’s about five years behind. I hope that’s how he used his leisure time.

I hope he had our phone number saved on his Rolodex. I hope he didn’t have to dial “411” or search his Yellow Pages to obtain it.

Maybe he set this weekend aside to organize his VHS tapes or to make mix tapes for his Walkman.

When he ventures out to upgrade his iPad 1, I’ll bet that he will be pleasantly surprised at the turn technology has taken since he last had a reason to upgrade his tablet. Or, perhaps he found it underneath the seat of his Yugo or beneath his Members Only jacket in his entryway where he carelessly tossed it.

Hopefully this information will make those of you whose behavior resembles that of Hansel and Gretel — leaving trails of belongings in your wake — to think twice before you race toward home to enjoy the season premier of “Duck Dynasty”. Double check your area. Take your belongings with you. And don’t assume, if something goes missing, that the waitress took it. Chances are, she didn’t.

antoinedodsonipad1meme

My coworkers enjoy poking fun at me — I decided to beat them to it by commemorating this, the latest in what I like to think of as “Adventures in the Food Service Industry”, with an appropriate graphic. They got a kick out of it. I hope you do, too.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Princess Persnickity

This reminded me of my co-worker, let’s just call him Princess Persnickity. For the record, no one, and I mean NO ONE, enjoys a queen more than I do. He is a recent addition to our staff, a transplant from, of all places, Georgia (where I am assuming he stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb). One of the first things he revealed to me was that he transferred to this area so that he could pursue his dream of performing in drag. I figured I would LOVE this guy.

Sadly, I do not. He is an absolute workplace horror. He is condescending, passive-aggressive, venomously mean, and downright miserable. And, because I want his ass gone so badly I am spending an inordinate amount of time trying to help him succeed at other endeavors just so that he will GO AWAY.

So, if anyone hears of any openings in the drag industry, please let me know.