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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Drowning Dignity Like An Unwanted Kitten

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A brand new car was ushered before my greedy eyes, accompanied by trumpeted fanfare and glittering sunlight. My flash new ride was painted in cherry red, adorned with a ridiculous spoiler, and cranked up with an obnoxiously powerful sound system.

I enjoyed the little car for two weeks. On a Tuesday morning, I parked it in the back lot at work. The edge of the lot borders a small dirty creek lined with dense unkempt foliage. On that overcast morning, one of the trees, long dead and weakened by dry rot, cracked and fell. The main trunk landed on the gold 94 Saturn parked next to me. A thick protruding branch assaulted the rear end of my new car, removing the spoiler, the bumper, and part of the trunk lid.


It took two weeks for the insurance and repair process, a long two weeks I spent in the suburbs under my mother’s wing. She drove me around, fed me, and provided unlimited access to her cable TV subscription. I watched Countdown, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report every night. I ate cold Chef Boyardee from the can. I stayed sober. I felt sorry for myself as frequently as possible.

With the financial deficits incurred by the insurance deductible and the previous month’s impound fiasco, the hard truth that I needed a second job arrived like an ulcer for Christmas.

A needed a tip job. Easy money, I figured, and mostly under the table. I applied at twelve restaurants, citing my lack of experience and limited availability as key selling points. Surprisingly, I failed to attract any enthusiasm from the mustachioed managers. I was shot down time after time. I became concerned.

Two weeks ago, right before I regained my wheels, I spied a series of trailers in the middle of a parking lot, surrounded by buildings under construction. I had Mommy pull in and let me out. One of the trailers was staffed by two mildly hostile grunts wielding the authority to hire new employees for a fast growing grill and bar chain. I applied.

“No experience as a waiter? Since this is a new restaurant, we need people who’ve been servers before. You can start as a cashier and work your way up, though.”

“Hmm. Okay.” I was desperate. Maybe I should’ve lied. One week later, I was decked out in a tacky uniform, ready to smile and eat shit.

So here I am. The place opens on Sunday. I’ve spent all week being taught degrading and menial things like mopping techniques, suggestive selling, and grooming habits. Yes, my dignity has been tested. Most of the others training for cashier are high school students. Kids. I’m 27. The next oldest below me is 22, a guy named John with a chip on his shoulder. He’s five years younger than me, and even he thinks the position is below him. He’s moped through the entire education, mumbling and refusing to make eye contact with anyone. I hate him.

The training courses are brisk and dense, leaving very little time to poo or smoke. I haven’t had any overwhelming cigarette cravings, which surprises me. Still, when given a break, I don’t hesitate. I go for my smokes. As befitting of this day and age, smokers are relegated to the dumpster enclosure to indulge our addiction. Last night, as I stood there smoking, a jittery guy with a bad haircut started a conversation with me.

“So, you must be a bartender. I didn’t see you in our server group. I want to bartend. Got any advice for moving up?”

“Actually, I’m a cashier.”

“No shit! You look a little bit old for that.”

“I am. I have a regular job, you see, so this is my night work. Being a new place and all, they wouldn’t let me be a server with no past experience. So I have to work my way up. I’m gonna pester the management relentlessly until they promote me. I’m here for the good money, the tip money, not for minimum wage grunt slave pay. I don’t suppose you have any advice for me?”

“No, I uh… wow. I work over at Uno’s right now, it sucks. I want to… I need to be a bartender. Bartenders have all the power, right? I’m not saying to be an asshole to the customers or anything, but you gotta put people in their place sometimes. When you control the booze, you get to do that. And there’s other perks. Not that I want to get drunk at work, that’s not what I mean. Shit. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. This is weird. But yeah, this place should be better than Uno’s. Good luck getting to server, man.”

“Good luck to you too.”

Are they all crazy like him? Are their thought patterns all that scattered and frantic? Do these people abuse drugs while working? Further research is required.

The crack training teams have been teaching us menu items and procedures with stunningly simple brainwashing methods. A trainer will yell out a menu item and have the crowd yell it back. Louder, louder, louder, they implore, scream it like you mean it! Show us how much you love this place with every shout!

It’s an uphill battle for them. They’re coaching a crowd of nervous, unsure people who are all surrounded by strangers. Timidity is their enemy. They need to transform us from ignorant rubes to expert purveyors of joyous sunshine. Not easy. To yank trainees from their nervous shells, from their anemic whispered responses to easy questions, and from their stage fright, these leaders must behave like sugar addled performers on children’s shows. This can be quite a horrifying spectacle.

More on this later.

Will this website become a boring, subpar service industry whine page, bereft of its charm, its uniqueness subsumed as the writer’s life descends into misanthropy? Will it be jammed full of mundane, obvious complaints and trite caterwauling? Should I even bother?

I don’t know. What I can say is this: the disconnect between the Mexican kitchen staff and the caucasian floor staff is pretty damn interesting and worthy of dissection. I may even get a few chuckles out of my perceptions of it. I intend to befriend each of the Mexicans. Hopefully, this will result in free food and a cocaine connection.

Until then, sorry for this sucky report.

12:31 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm


October 11, 2006 6:05 PM, Blogger Nobody special said...

Good luck! Hang in there, get your cash and let your imagination run wild when real life sucks.

You are working with the public. You should have tons of morbid influence for your blog.

October 11, 2006 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time to dust off those knee pads and to invest in chap stick. Or you can have a coke, a smile, and shut the fuck up.

October 12, 2006 10:24 AM, Blogger Trix said...

The only thing I can tell you about the Mexican guys is good to them, and they'll take even better care of you. Ususally the caucasian staff treats them like shit, which, of course, is disgusting. All these guys want is to be respected, and they give it back one hundred-fold when they receive it.

Oh, but don't get too familiar with their'll just have to re-learn them every time they buy a new social security card.

October 12, 2006 10:47 AM, Blogger Windjammer said...

I feel your shame. I used to work at Chili's for a few months, and the tips weren't enough for the crap customers I had to put up with. Not to mention working with the Mexican kitchen staff, Angel and Jesus, and the dishwasher who always said, "Awww, no mas, no mas!" when we piled up the dishes for him. And being nice for the assholes who treated the wait staff like slaves. Fuckers. I'm glad I quit.

October 12, 2006 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck with the gig. It sucks what we have to do sometimes to make ends meet. I know you are busy, but MY GOD I need more posts! This is the only blog I read. Keep up the entertaining writings!


October 13, 2006 9:38 AM, Anonymous andy said...

OOOH! Trite Caterwauling! My favourite!

Amen to what trix said, my friend...the Mexicans are your key to success. Anyone who's served before will tell you that. You NEED them on your side, mi amigo.

You'll make it eventually. I had to be a bus boy for 2 months when I was at least 7 years older than all the other bus boys. You pays your dues I guess. Carry on, my wayward son.


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