Friday, April 25, 2008

Clarification, or "Enough of the Drama"

So Not Gonna Happen
(Taken from PostSecret)

I wrote in my 100th post that I may get back in the restaurant biz. Maybe I was just having a nostalgic flashback. Maybe I had a few cocktails before writing that post. Maybe I'm just deluding myself. I'm probably too picky now to take another restaurant job. I don't know if the perfect restaurant job even exists, but I'm not too jaded to not look. All I know is that my current job is not a 'forever job'.

I think I knew it at the beginning, during my initial interview. The owner arrived late, and wasn't the most personable person I've met in my life. He was from Louisiana, a bad sign from the get-go. I had a stepfather who was a "CoonAss", and he was loud, hard-headed, and did not take to confrontation well. What an understatement! He abused my mother physically and was an alcoholic, and a mean alcoholic when he drank.

My boss runs the place with his wife and sons, two in this store, an older one at another location. Having your immediate boss be the owner's son doesn't invite constructive criticism. How do you tell the owner that his son is in way over his head. When a son throws you 'under the bus', all you can do is stare blankly ahead and bite your tongue. Saying otherwise would only make things worse.

For example, in the eleven months I've worked there, four employees have given their two-weeks notice. All four led to shouting matches with the symbolic walking of the employee to the door and to forget about the f-ing notice, "We don't need you after all we've done for you" rhetoric. When I leave, I think I'll call in my notice, saving everyone the drama.

Anyway, I'm tired of everyone but the 'family' taking the heat for mistakes, and I'm ready to move on. I just wish the economy were better, along with my finances. I NEED a raise, but I'm afraid the request will lead to sturm und drang. I'll leave the drama to The young and the Restless and find something else. And that something else will probably be a restaurant job. In this area, there's not a whole lot other than that. And I'm tired of moving. WAY tired of moving.

In the mean time, I'll bite my tongue, work as hard as I ever have, and keep my eyes peeled and ears open to anything that will offer some respite. And decent benefits. And child-less owners.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Just So You Know

Now that I'm posting my past history, I will put a time-line or something at the beginning of each post. Some new readers don't know that I served tables eons ago. I was in a progression of all my experiences to show what not to do.

To all new viewers, start at the beginning! Or maybe not. I was pretty pathetic back then. I've learned a lot since then. I think.

The Majic 100

This post will not be on a certain subject, but a hurly-burly, herky-jerky, all over the place type of post to commemorate the century mark. Yay, me. And only a week from my birthday. Yay, me, again.

I used to think that I was a horrible housekeeper. Then I saw the inside of two of my neighbors' apartments. I'm Sally-Housekeeper compared to them. I no longer will be ashamed for people to stop over. Not to mention they all have pets, which I do not have, yet. But, come on, if your carpet is the same color as your pets, something is wrong. (You would not believe)

I will never again (and I thought I learned my lesson at the Country Club) work for ONE PRIVATE OWNER. When you work for a corporation, at least you know that you will not be working for that person forever, and there is always someone above your boss to go to, or their boss's boss. Working for the owner means that if he/she has a problem with you, it will never be solved. And if that owner is a hot-headed Coon-Ass, confrontation will not ever, ever work. Especially if his spawn is the subject of said confrontation. Definately a no-win situation. "Hey, your son sucks pond water, and never asks for help!" "Well, you should do more, he's stressed!" "Excuse me, he just got back from a week in Arizona being courted by every manufacturer with excess PR money to spend. Y0u flew 1st class and stayed in a 4-star hotel suite. He's back one day, and he's stressed? We were short 3 people and opened 3 huge restaurants and nothing was ordered for any of them. I had to beg, borrow, and steal smallwares to get them open while you were sipping Martinis because your spawn didn't order anything that was needed." (This last said in my mind)

Customer service, per se, no longer exists. No matter where you go, you will be treated like shit. Be it Wally-world, or Nordstrom, or Tiffany's, they couldn't care less is you bought something or not. The exception is the exception. Anytime that I'm treated as a coveted customer is the exception, not the rule. And my attitude has adjusted accordingly.

I hit 4 out of 6 in last week's lottery for a pay-out of $92.50. Since I've shelled out around $20 in the last six months, I'm ahead. Yeah, me!

I've decided that my job sucks. No big surprise, all jobs suck. But, how do you complain to the owner when it's his kid that is not pulling his weight? Quite the no-win situation there. Especially when the owner doesn't take confrontation well. And the spawn blames you for their short-comings. Who do you think will be believed?

Only seven months for this God-forsaken election to be over. I'm so OVER it!

I think everyone should go through a driver's test again. Forget parallel parking. Teach everyone to get the fuck out of the left lane if they're not passing anyone!

Lastly, I think I'm ready to get back in the Restaurant Biz again. God help me, I miss it. There is no family like restaurant family. I feel no ties to my co-workers here, even after 11 months. They couldn't give a rat's ass for what I feel, or what I need. Everyone for themselves. Bastards. Team-play is another language they have not even considered. Their loss.


Saturday, April 12, 2008


There actually wasn't one episode that led to my leaving Capital Grille, there were two. I can usually take one act of stupidity and blow it off as an abomination. All the little stuff can be shrugged off, one big blow to the head (figuratively) can be explained away, but when the pile of excuses gets ass-deep, it's time to move on.

The first incident happened late one night when business was on that slow, downward spiral towards the end. Most of the floor had been cut and there was about 4 of us servers left. I got sat with a 3-top, two men and a woman, and I approached them ready to go through my special spiel. They interrupted several times and were very loud and patronizing, not a great start. They ordered drinks, but I knew that they were already 2-1/2 sheets to the wind, so I went to get a Manager to decline alcohol as we were taught. Now, finding a manager is tough enough at this place, and I was at a time-disadvantage, since people expect their drinks to arrive fast. I ended up finding them sitting at a table eating lobster and drinking champagne and explained what was needed. They assured me that they would be right there. Five minutes passed and neither appeared at the table. Wanting to save my tip, I went to the table to let them know that I had to get a manager to OK the drink order.

You would have thought that I had insulted their ugly child. They vociferously let me know that I didn't know what I was talking about. It was one of the guys' birthday and they were out in a limo, so they could drink all they wanted to. I had to explain that the law stated no one could be served if they appeared intoxicated, whether they came by limo, ox-cart, or teleporter. The discussion was, how shall we say, lively. A manager finally showed up, apologized about me, and sent over a bottle of wine on the house. At this point, I asked to be excused from waiting on this table and was refused. I would have to soldier on.

I went back to the table, apologized, and tried to explain that I was just doing my job. They said that I was forgiven, as long as the rest of the night went smoother. I went into ass-kissing mode. When their food was ordered, I went to the Kitchen Manager who I got along well with, explained the situation, and asked him to please make sure extra attention was given their meals. All went well, they left happy. Drunk as shit, but complimentary, anyway. All was forgotten until two days later when a three page letter arrived at the restaurant.

I knew nothing about it until I was called to the side after pre-shift. The GM grabbed the Kitchen Manager and we went for a short walk to a bench in the mall. The GM had me read the letter, which was filled with false-hoods and embellishments. In short, I was called inept and rude and should be fired, poste haste. Luckily, the Kitchen Manager was the one asked to be the witness to my tar-and-feathering and he stuck up for me big time. He told the GM how I had to search for the managers on duty and how I took extra care with the rest of the dinner. It ended up that I was now on probation, and needed to prove that I still warranted a job there. I WAS PISSED, but went along with it, because I needed the job, and actually liked the place. Little did I know, but I had made an enemy with one of the managers from that night. Evidently, I was not the only one now on probation.

Incident #2

A few days later, things appeared back to normal. We set up for dinner, and I was really looking forward to it as I was in a primo section at the back where the booths were. Seating was starting to take place around me as I waited for my first table. The sections on either side of me each had one table sat and were now receiving their second table. Okay, I thought, probably just an inept host at the stand, so I went up to the front to see what was going on. There, one of those lazy bastard managers had taken up position behind the host stand. I tactfully reminded him that my section was empty and the others were receiving their second. He assured me that I would be sat soon, real soon.

I went back and re-polished the wine glasses and silverware and waited for my first table. It was now an hour into dinner service. And the other sections were receiving their third table, while I waited for my first. This was now appearing to be deliberate. I headed to the GM's office and explained what was going on. He got on the intercom to the host desk and asked what was going on, and to seat me next. On the way back through the kitchen to get to my section, I was met by a red-faced manager who proceeded to yell at me at the top of his lungs. Everything had come to a stop in the kitchen, with me getting a lungful in front of everyone. I looked to the side and caught sight of the Kitchen Manager standing there shaking his head back and forth, silently telling me not to yell back. I took the abuse and headed back to my section, where I finally got my first table. A two-top in a booth that would sit eight. My section was sporadically sat while around me the other sections were full.

At the end of the night, I probably had half the sales of those around me. And, I now had a chip on my shoulder the size of a boulder. I continued on for a few days after that working long hours and starting to absolutely hate my job. It took every effort to show up, but I did. Until I could no longer look in the mirror and be proud of what I was doing. I had left a job that I really liked to come here where there was career-advancement opportunities and prestige. I put in my notice, and got other servers to cover all my shifts. I would work no more shifts at Capital Grille. And I would have to see just how badly burned that bridge was at the Country Club.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I've only erased one of my posts before and it was only a couple of weeks ago. The new John Adams series debuted on HBO and I was feeling patriotic, political, and pissed. 24 hours later, I re-considered what I had written. It was also a teeny, tiny bit judgemental against a certain party. I realized that this was not the forum for that. A touch deep for what is, and I hope will remain, fairly light-hearted entertainment for those who choose to waste their time reading this :)

What I will do instead, is to praise the HBO series "John Adams". I confess to being a bit prejudiced. John Adams was my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandfather. A relative decades ago went to the trouble to get the family tree researched. Who'da thunk my family could be traced to so noble a name. We were all average, middle-class, hard-working, non-remarkable people. I think we would have gotten along.

I spent over two years in Massachusetts while travelling for Macaroni Grill. The area I was in was very close to Boston, so once when I had two days off in a row, I travelled down to Quincy and Braintree. Not a big deal, they were only 40 minutes away. My first stop was to Quincy, where John was born. I had only seen drawings from his day, so I had a hard time finding it. Silly me, it wasn't on a small road in the country anymore, but on a major street. His birthplace and his later home were right next to each other 20 feet off the street, but remarkably looking the same as the drawings. I signed up for the next tour and followed the guide from room to room gawking at everything. I was chided for dawdling behind the others, but I was just standing and absorbing and reveling being in the same space where my ancestor lived and breathed. I had read the book by David McCullough when it was released, but I was not prepared for the awe I felt that day.

Later, I travelled to Braintree where John Adams lived after returning from Europe and until his death. A beautiful and tasteful home called "Peacefield". Certainly nice for it's time, it showed his and Abigail's restraint for their position. It's certainly no Monticello, but is a stunning house, especially with the stone library across the garden. During the tour, I wanted to shout that I was a relative. I wanted to grab ahold of the celebrity that should incur. But I remained silent and solemn. How like my ancestor. He toiled for his country for a long, long time with little pay and was dumb-founded when he got little appreciation for it.

I'm so proud to be descended from him and John Quincy, and glad that he is now getting the respect that he deserves. He was not a pretty man, but he deserves to be on some currency more than some others who are. Read the book, and you'll agree.

And Abigail Adams would have eaten Hillary for lunch. Which is funny, because I voted for Hillary.

Did you know that John Adams was the only 'founding father' who never, ever owned a slave?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

High-falutin' eatin'

I was taking a big chance moving on to a new restaurant in town, no matter how swanky it was. I had been at the Country Club for 5-1/2 years and was ready to move one. Onward and upward as they all say. Life and my career were stagnant. I was ready to move on and see how far I could go.

Showing up the first day was interesting, to say the least. The majority of new hires were young, pretty, model types. Some had good experience, some were the best that Denny's could spit out. I felt old, and I was only 35. Oh, my God, I was 35 and competing against kids almost young enough to be my kid. What was I thinking?

Despite my obvious 'maturity', I was not the only one. There was one other trainee that I bonded with, and his name was Thor. He was one year younger than me, and we commiserated about the relative youth of our fellow waitstaff. We ended up becoming best friends, but that's another story, and another post in the future.

We were given two study books that first day. One was around 2 inches thick, the other about half that. The thick one was what they expected of their servers, the smaller a wine seminar on paper. And to think I thought that I knew it all. We spent eight hour days studying and practicing our 'spiel' until we were well versed on everything beef and vino.

The Capital Grille is a fancy schmancy steak house on the order of Morton's or Ruth's Chris, and there were many things I was unfamiliar with. I learned what a table crumber was. I learned what a 'spiel' was. I learned what side-work was. I learned what grapes were in Champagne and Bordeaux, and what 'Appellation' and 'terroir' meant. I learned what snooty Managers were.

After nearly a month of 40-hour-a-week training, we were ready to open. Little did we know what we were in for. We were trained in 2-week dry aging for the steaks. The proper way to serve Champagne (Don't pop it, you'll save the bubbles). How to be perky, but sophisticated at the same time. How to use those alligator clips on chains that dentists use to make an adult bib for the lobster eaters.

When we opened the doors, we were inundated with the pent-up demand for upscale dining in this up-and-coming suburb of Detroit. A lot of us were scheduled for four or five doubles a week, since they didn't get the amount of trainees they wanted, and quite a few flunked out of training. Some trainees couldn't put up all that was asked of them. Some had run-ins with the previously mentioned snooty managers. The GM was alright, but he was not a 'people person'. He mostly stayed in his cubby hole and used the intercom to deal with staff. Every day, we were packed from the time we opened the doors until the time we closed, which made getting a break all but impossible. If I had five minutes to grab a cigarette (illegally) by the dumpster, I was lucky. Money was great, more than I had ever made as a server, but I was soon becoming a non-fan of the management.

You can imagine in a high-class place, you have your share of people who are, shall we say, 'picky'. After all, an 8 oz Filet was around $28 dollars (12 years ago, even). Baked potato was $8 extra. Vegetable was extra. All Ala carte. Re-cooks on anything required you to ring it in again and find a manager to void or comp the item. And these managers were expert at being not found. I still think they had super-secret hidey holes made to remain inaccessible.

Then, head-waiters were appointed to collect money and sign off on side work. I was not chosen for this honor. The ones who were chosen turned out to be the most inept, but most brown-nosed. We closed at 10 on week-nights and 11 on Friday and Saturday, but by the time we got cashed out, it was usually 2 or 3am. 10am to 3am with no breaks was getting to me.

Things came to a head after a particularly difficult table one night. But that will be the next post.