Sunday, May 8, 2011

Work, or: How my boss got me drunk on a Friday.

So the first thing you learn in a customer-service based job is that you no longer have a life. This is because normal human beings have things called "Weekends" and "Holidays", and they like to use these days to do things like shop and go to restaurants because when their free time is over, they will go home and die. So you are scheduled to work when all of your friends and family are doing the beach thing, or planning their celebratory dinner at the restaurant right next to yours. And on your days off, nothing is open, because you get the slow days off. The days when it is not cost effective to be open. The days when all your competition are also closed down and you have to stay at home and get caught up on your movies.

You can adapt around this. Obviously going to that hot new restaurant is out. But, as you have been hearing stories about this restaurant for months now, and your only reason for going would be to attend the train wreck in progress (As of right now, the disaster indicators are paying waitstaff in excess of $600 a week, plans to be open seven days a week from eight till late, HUGE, HUGE floor, owner with no plans of working kitchen/floor duties--as indicated by the presence of three kids under five--and total inability to get appetizers out during free appetizer night. Closing-Restaurant-gossip rocks) this is not a huge loss from your life. HOWEVER, this does leave you relatively unprepaired for the unmigitated fluster-cluck of holiday service.

Which brings us to mother's day. Originally created to celebrate the womb that birthed us and the very real human being in charge of said womb, and currently used to sell cards, flowers and very expensive dinners to justify ignoring Mom the rest of the year. Our restaurant has declined to be open tonight (THANK. GOD.) and did brunch instead.

The lunch crowd is not an improvement. Oh, we survived. Don't get me wrong. And aside from a long adrenaline rush and aching legs, there was nothing notable about it. No, it was the days leading up to it that sucked.

The fluster cluck began three days ago. Thursday. Our slow day. Not at all slow. The phone rings at four oh-two (we open at 5 pm. The idea time for the phone to ring IMHO is 4:30. This means tables. 4:02 means OH FUCK WHO IS ON CALL why are they not calling WE ARE GOING TO DIE). It is answered cautiously.

"Are you doing anything special for Mother's Day?"

This confuses me. First of all, my restaurant is not exactly Joe's Crab Shack. There are several dishes that are worth crawling over hot coals for, and if you like wine, we have some pretty incredible selections. We can also make sake do things that sake cannot normally do (this gets around our lack of liquor license). But I assume that Mother has already been here and would like something super extra to jump up her life.

"We're running brunch out of our (outdoor) stand."

Pause. "What about dinner?"

"We're going to be closed for dinner."

Pause. "Okay." Longer pause.

*Deep breath before customer can regroup* "We will be having Eggs Benedict (and trimmings) along with (lunchity items not normally served in outdoor stand) in addition to the outdoor stand menu." And I hope desperately that they have been to Stand and know the menu.

No such luck. "And that is?"

There are several jobs I need to be doing right now. Including getting both restaurant AND Stand ready for customers. "Several kinds of coffee, (Fancy fried doughnuts), (fancy french sandwich), (fancy bagel preparation) and adult beverages if you come after ten." Thank god for Texas blue laws. If I had to deal with mimosa orders at eight am I would probably start drinking them and throwing things at the customers.

"Can you give me more detail?"

I tried, twice, burning about five minutes each time. Now, normally you would think that five minutes on a customer call isn't bad. But that was ten minutes I needed, desperately, to do basic set up work, spent on people who would not show up on Sunday. You can always tell. The people who will show up start foaming at the mouth at the mention of the fancy doughnuts and the Eggs Benedict. The people who won't say "is that all you have?" and get you to  repeat yourself in the desperate hope that your litany will change.

Then a caller got our owner.

Our owner is one of those spectacular people that you underestimate on first meeting because she looks nice. And outside of the restaurant, she is nice. There is a whole shelf of books spread behind the celebrity booth (friends of Owner only. It doesn't matter if we are cramming two-tops into the bathroom seats, you have to ask her before anybody goes back there) and it is approximately 1/2 cookbooks, 1/2 Kurt Vonnegut. She also has a large collection of oil paintings of pills. There is a fascinating story attached and she will tell you the first chance she gets. But if you are inside the restaurant, god help you.

One of the more interesting floor shows is when one of Owner's friends shows up for dinner. Owner has special people who we are not allowed to take money from, ever. My mother is one of these people. I once poured a glass of Riesling that wasn't properly cooled, and gave it to Mom. She paid for it. Owner told me if I ever took money from my mother again, she'd fire me. She was only half joking. Unfortunately this particular friend is the kind of person who likes to give gifts and/or spend money on her friends. She delights in taking me and my mother out for pricey sushi and she popped my sake cherry long before I came to work for Owner. The last time she ate here I went back to Owner and said (wild eyed and a little desperately. This was not our first run-in) that Friend wanted to pay for her meal. After a few moments of deliberation, Owner told me to just charge for the alcohol, and only because she didn't know the third person Friend had brought with her (the second was, of course, my mother.)  I brought them their check, set it down gingerly, ran back to my post and waited for the invariable "Oh, HELL no."

Fortunately, Owner was right there. Force, meet object. I stayed out of the way.

So Owner is a little stubborn, and also a little volatile. Even more unfortunately for our "menu" caller, this has been a particularly bad day for her. Owner had the roof of our deck removed, no fuss, little mess, but the posts that are left still have old lumber stuck on them and don't look very nice. She wants a privacy fence added and the left over roof bits removed. Today the guy she hired for post removal has finished, four days over schedule (he charged by the day) and he added his broken chainsaw blades to the total because, in his words, "there were nails."

He also left the mess for her to clean up. Bad idea. I could hear her from the front desk.

At this point I am desperately running ice between our water cooler (AKA the Tin Can) and our ice machine. I'm not strong enough to carry the whole thing and I don't like getting Dishman to do it. He's got enough to do. Also, he's not here and if I wait for him, I will forget. So I miss the first part of this call. Then I hear her giving our hours and a brief summery of the menu.

And then I hear a pause. It is the kind of pause one feels when the tsunami crests and has begun to fall towards you. And then I hear "No. I am not going to read you the whole menu." Said very calmly.

I can hear just a little of the other caller.  Someone has shouted at Owner. I set down the ice and listen.

"I do not have the TIME to read you our whole menu. It is posted OUTSIDE, beside our door, and you can come by and read it anytime."

She can also make a wireless handset make noise when hung up. I was not entirely sure this was possible.

"The next time someone does this," She told me, "you say that we are busy." And she repeats the call, and her response, verbatim, to every regular she sees. Everyone laughs. All of our regulars know the Owner.

I have gotten very good at saying "we are busy". In the middle of Friday night I say this four or five times, juggling salad plates, lettuce and the handset. Number two says, "I know you are very busy, but," and continues to ask questions about our dress code. We've had millionaires come in flip flops. If you can pay for the food, there isn't one. 

Then I get the person who thinks we are an all you can eat buffet. And who refuses to be disabused of this, no matter how much I explain. "What do you mean you charge by the item?"

"You order at the shack. You pay at the shack. You sit at a free table and we call out your order."

Pause. " much is it a person?"

I think I have finally hit the nadir of stupidity (not counting Train Wreck: The Restaurant) but this happens twice more. Then the night is over, and I must race around to get the Shack ready for Saturday, which I expect to be particularly grinding.

Owner has other ideas. She sits down with my brother, my mother, a canister of strawberry puree, several kinds of syrup and a bottle of champagne. She calls me over and hands me something with a strawberry stuck on the rim. It is official Champagne Tasting Time. I discover that strawberry puree is good, rose syrup and sugar cubes are better, and that she used too much orange petal water and turned the champagne into perfume. "We won't do that on Sunday," she says.

I then discover that restocking food is difficult, when done on three glasses of champagne. Also, someone has hidden our ham. This is not good. I need the ham. It is when I begin tearing strips off the destined-for-soup bone left over from last week that I realize, my beans-and-rice binge at four wore off about five thirty, and I just drank three champagne cocktails on an empty stomach. The ham bone will begin talking to me any minute. I guestimate that I have enough ham for five fancy sandwiches, locate enough mint for twenty iced teas or two sake mohitos, and decide to leave before the ham and I have a stimulating conversation.

I still don't know why people choose to do that recreationally.

Next morning I wake bright eyed and bushy tailed. Being drunk agrees with me, which is sad. I have pledged never to do it again. And having valiantly survived Mother's Day with only one more glass of Sangria to alleviate the crushing pain, and no more notable morons (other than Train Wreck: The Restaurant's owner coming by for a pep talk from Owner. Floor show was particularly good this time around) I can now curl up with Hamburger Helper and a piece of chocolate pie.

God bless capitalism. It's a great show.


  1. Wow, you got drunk? I find that hard to believe. If it agreed with you,then you must of had your drink as you should of. Now, when are you going to drink with me? I bet I can get you to pass out and wake up the next day talking john porcelain.LOL, Just kidding, I would never do that to you. I may offer you a drink, but I will not want to get you drunk. Well, cheers! lol

  2. LOL. It was very ... strange. In reality I was depressed as hell that night (getting bad news on night when boss is handing out free drinks=BAD idea) and woke up feeling a whole lot better, so it was probably a good thing to do.

    I have consumed more alcohol at this job AT MY BOSS'S INVITATION than I have my whole life outside. And we only have a beer/wine licence.

  3. You're brother was telling me about that night....and about his experiment with the Guinness...