it’s not normal
Allow me to place a little perspective on this for you::::
I actually, am not, a server. Never have been. Now stay focused here, I’m talking about the Restaurant Industry. There are several reasons I never agreed to work in the restaurant industry. I have friends that have done it, I’ve heard their horror stories and warnings and they know me well enough to be able to look at me and go “yah, you wouldn’t like it.” I’m too impatient, I WILL let people know “what is up” and contrary to popular belief, “no” I do not know how to describe food, just because I like it. But again, lets seek out the perspective.
I’d like to first say that I’m writing this without anger.
First day of training was very easy. This is the restaurant, this is a table, this the computer, this is the menu, this the kitchen, this is the kitchen staff, these are bowls, this is where dished get washed, these are stairs. Stairs lead us down to the locker rooms, dessert baking…area, dry food storage and office area.
Day two of training, watch. No I’m totally serious. It was a friday night. “salsa night” actually so the tables were cleared from the center, people were EVERYWHERE, no one was under 45, the music was loud and constant, the servers took food drinks and beverage and cocktail drinks and some times the runners even found the table it was supposed to go to. I was told “this isn’t normal” because the tables weren’t set up right, most of the people weren’t there for “normal” dinner they were there to drink a little and dance. But I stood, none the less – and watched. For 7 hours.
Day One, on the floor. Saturday. A fraternity and their moms, or something like that bought out the place. Tickets were pre sold, and food was included. They had a limited menu of appetizers, entrees and a desserts. Each person got one of each. Drinks were not included, so in the event someone wanted to order something to drink, I would take their order, put it in the computer, then go to the bartender and get it from them. As a server, I am in charge of the beverages for my table(s). We have “water” guys, we have “food runners” to take the food to the table, and “bussers” to clear the table. However, I was told this, also, was not “normal” It was a limited menu, the tables were not in the normal places and all servers helped run food with runners and helped buss and fill water and get drinks. I had 3 tables of 8 people each. I didn’t do that great, not gonna lie. If I took a drink order from a table I needed to go put all the drinks in to the computer then get them, before heading to another table. I just didn’t have the rhythm or organization skills yet for this particular line of work so I was slow and careful. This also marked the first day in my life I’d ever carried a tray. . . Now, the drink trays are one thing. The size of dinner plates with a 4 glasses of ice tea is not NEARLY as intimidating as a large, brown, oval shaped stray that has 5-7 plates on it. And I’m right handed so i thought I’d do better holding it with my right hand – but then…how do I grab the little tray stand thing that I put the tray on?? Help?? After a couple tries i learned I’m better holding the tray with my left hand and using my shoulder to balance it and grab the tray holder thing with my right hand. Now once I get out to the table, I have to open the tray holder and set…the..tray…down – pause. I can do this. I used to do balancing kicks, I can put the make up on the left side of my face, with my left hand all I have to do is carry this tray, not hit anyone, not drop it on anyones head then set it down on the stand. Again – I worked slow and carefully and no..I didn’t drop it once. Thank you. But now that I’ve set it down at the table that isn’t mine – because, again, we are all helping “run” food I have to read the ticket that states the table number and seat number of the person and take them their food. But, I’ve never seen this food – so I don’t know what I’m looking for or at. Eventually though I did learn that the salad was the vegetable leafy thing, the chicken was in the round bowl, and the short ribs had the BBQ sauce on them. It didn’t mean in the dark, over heated restaurant with 150 people hungry and looking for a person with a black apron to help them…that I was able to read it and successfully deliver. Well, eventually I did.
Day two, on the Floor. It’s Sunday, Happy Mothers Day. We have three (3) “rounds” of Buffets coming in. Heh?? So…we have a buffet (points to tables with all the food on it), and we have people that made reservations during the three slots of time we were offering. So they could either come in..like…12-2, or 2-4 or 4-6. Something like that. This should be easy. Because I don’t need to take food orders. I just need to take drink orders and help clear. “This is not normal” the tables are not in the normal spots because we had to move them for the buffet tables. Sigh and wonder if I’ll ever “see” normal. But I have a “section” now. “that” section. with tables 6,7,8,9, 10, 25a, 25b, 25 c (Yah…you read that correctly, we’ll get to that) and those tables over THERE 23, 24, 34. Just make sure they have drinks. Buffet came with one complimentary soft drink, each additional drink would be charged, and of course – there IS the bar so they can drink-drink (you know by now that writing the word twice makes it a bigger deal). However! I also, NOW get to enter food into the computer. Granted it is a “buffet brunch” button, but I get to hit it with the drinks. Oh good. Which means NOW i’m also giving people their tickets, or bills, or checks – whatever you want to call them, take their money and send them on their way. If they pay in cash, the bartender has to close the ticket – she is the only one with a drawer. If they use a card I can swipe it. weeeee, and print it, weeee, and put it in a cute black soft cushy holder thingy and “present” it to them.
Now lets visit “table 25.” The system has no other numbered tables on that side. They are literally somewhere else, and someone else is ringing on them. ok, so I have to have 3 tabs for one table and make sure i close them to the right people and charge the right drinks. I can’t tell you how fun it was to learn that, after all “it’s not normal” to have 1 table actually be 3 tables. That’s just silly.
Sunday Night – Ha Haaaa!. You thought I was DONE with sunday. You are wrong!! I survive all three “rounds” of the buffet and we clear the buffet table, and move the tables a bit to their “normal” areas for tonight. Mothers day, was my first double. Member when i said there were things about the restaurant industry that made me know I didn’t want to work in it? Yes, working a “double” is one of them. Oh, and I didn’t take a break. We don’t get those. We can “break” during our “downtime”, which of course would only happen…during …”normal days.”
SO, sunday night. Let me see if I can draw this picture for you. The entertainment is live singers. They are loud and powerful. We are down 1 or perhaps 2 servers, so I have taken on more tables than anyone would like. I have 10 tables. Mostly 4-6 people at them, a few with 3 or 4. All of them want food and drinks. And THIS is my FIRST time using the menu, and actually punching food into the computer while getting drinks. Some people waited 45 minutes to see me. That’s just not okay. I tried, I really really REALLY did. I just couldn’t go fast enough. And people wanted me to explain the menu and quite frankly I don’t know what it tastes like “i’m new” which to some people was forgivable and to others was a mortal sin.
I’d like to take this time to tell you that this particular night was when the Gospel Uptown Singers were performing and the majority, if not all of the people there were yellin’ their praises to Jesus and Halleluiah’s.
I’d like to also take this time to say a customer followed me into the kitchen and grabbed my shoulder, startling me and proceeded to attempt to rip-me-a-new-one. “you said you were going to come RIGHT BACK that was FIFTEEN minutes ago. ALL I wanted was a dessert menu!” Sir, lets go out of the kitchen first of all. (then I said) I placed the dessert menu in front of you on the table. “But you didn’t TELL ME it was there, I’d been WAITING” Sir, you were watching the show so I set it down on the table for you, I’m sorry if you wanted me to hand it to you directly. “I don’t need your attitude, I need your manager” Just then a short petite woman in a satiny short red dress and matching heels came “to help”….? She asked him what was wrong, and she completely ignored me as a person or server at the restaurant. He asked who she was and she said “I’m one of the producers for the entertainment tonight”…to which the disgruntled and very pissed off gentleman replied with…well – repeating everything he just told me. Once he got to the dessert menu bit again, I reached in front of her, pretty much making her move and saying “you’re not helping, go away” with my body language – which she did, and I handed him another dessert menu and said “sir. The only thing I can do is tell you I’m sorry I didn’t hand the menu directly to you, and take your order NOW and put it into the computer NOW” He snatches the dessert menu from me and looks up at what I’m talking about. “I’m gonna tell you what I want and your’e gonna put it in THAT (points to it) computer?! Right?” Correct, sir (and no, not once with sarcasm…can you believe it?) He tells me what he wants and because I have little faith in myself that I will make it through the night I tap him in his shoulder as he turned it from me and I said ….”and in my defense sir, this is my first night working with the menu, and the computer, and actually having tables” He smiled, politely. Nodded and said “ok” and went to his seat. He was very pleasant the rest of the night.
Other people, however, were not. I don’t know what was worse. Having him follow me into the kitchen yelling for my manager, or feeling my pants being pulled when someone I walked by “needed me” And I’d like to take this time to say the pants I bought are too big, but i NEEDED black pants, so them tugging, nearly pants’d me, and not once or twice – but thrice. Eventually everyone got their appetizers, and drinks, and entrees and desserts and just then Ro turned the corner and asked me how I was doing. I said nothing as I lifted my glass with a shaky hand and drank my water. I said nothing for three glasses of water. She apologized over and over. Telling me “it’s not normally like this” we are short a server, they don’t normally order this much food sunday nights, so I thought it would be easier and it’s just…not” She also said I could leave and she would take over my tables to which I tilted my head back and smiled in defeat and walked to the bathroom, to cry. It was such…a long…weekend….I came back after a few minutes and she appeared again later and asked what she could do and I told her she was not allowed to send me home. That I knew I was being defeated but all I had to do was give people their checks and get them to pay, then I’d be done. I will have survived.
So I did. And when they left, I did my closing with Ro and came home.
Two days later Ro came home and told me the entire kitchen staff was let go and she made cookies and I began to look for another job. They were not let go because they were bad, they apparently were let go because they were too expensive. Yikes.
So then we have a new chef. And I go into work a couple days later and a assigned to help with one of the private parties. All the ladies are happy, and peppy and I’m able to get their drinks in the computer to them. They have a limited menu – I’VE DONE THIS BEFORE. So I do what I know and we wait. We all freagin’ waited. The kitchen staff that used to be of 6, was a)new and b) only two of them. Salads went out after 30 minutes. SALADS. Entrees another 30-40 minutes after that AND…they were cold. Swear. Word. And some of them, never come out – why you ask because apparently…they had run out and didn’t tell me until it was too late. So I take me dominant behavior hat and put it on even though it clashes with my apron and walk into the kitchen. “I need two roasted chickens” We don’t have it ready, give them fried chicken. He says. To which I reply “It’s on the limited menu YOU put out, they ordered an hour and half ago, I’m going to the bar to get more drinks from them I need 2 ROASTED CHICKENS when I come back, please and thank you.” And the answer I got? “ok”. The irony is about to come into play. I go get their drinks and bring them back. I’m heading back to the kitchen and am stopped with a sentence that went something like this (hand holding on to my arm) we’ll take whatever is ready, we’re just hungry! I heard they have fried chicken – we’ll take it!” ( I laugh, and cry on the inside) and head back to the kitchen I tell them they are in luck because the ladies are fine with fried chicken “well I’m roasting this now, so they’ll have to wait” A sharp stare leaves my eyes like darts. No words. He just gets a plate, puts the sides on, and the fried chicken he had just made. I take it both plates and say thank you. I continue to let them know everything I know and do what I can. In the end, they talked to the manager a few times, got a discount and said *I* was the only thing that saved their luncheon. Awwww
Then it was sunday night again.
But it was easier. I had my tables. The food and drinks went into the computer. The runners took the food, I took the drinks, I closed the checks and I survived.
And today, today I had another double. I don’t recommend it. And today we had (another) new chef. We’ll see where everything goes.
And I still don’t think I’m designed for the Restaurant Industry, to which my roommate Matt has said “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” and I say…hahaha oh Matt, we love that song and stops and goes “no, if you can make it at this restaurant, you can work anywhere in New York.” We both laugh. I still have prrreeeetttyyy set feelings and opinions of this line of work and ME. But I guess we’ll see. I’m trying to make sure I allow myself the opportunity to learn something new, even if its carrying a tray, and I don’t do just what I know. It’s good to step out of my comfort zone – but seriously if I get followed into the kitchen again I’m escorting that person out, and the next person who tugs on my pants gets stuff “spilled” on them. Even if it means going to the bar, getting water, and coming back to say “don’t tug on my pants cause then I spill like this”…..
well, you know – maybe. We’ll see how I do when it’s um….”normal.”