Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The End of a Steak Chapter, the Beginning of a Bagel Story?

Well that's that I guess. The end of an era. Or at least the end of me working at the steakhouse. I knew for a while I was going to have to leave, seeing as I can barely pay my bills on the peanuts they were paying me. As my new boss says, “Only monkeys work for peanuts.” This is correct. Also elephants from what I understand. But the point is, I don't understand why the owner of the restaurant would be surprised that anyone would want to quit. He likes to think of the restaurant as a classy, many star kind of joint but it will never be that kind of place unless the staff is experienced and knows what they're doing. Also it helps to have actual equipment (cups, forks, food etc.), a paint job that isn't peeling onto your Filet Mignon, air conditioning that works, and tablecloths devoid of ketchup stains. His turnover rate could be compared to that of a pancake or a revolving door. I had already started looking for a new job but didn't want to quit until I'd found one.
The restaurant has been going through many changes over the last month or so. They lost a waitress, the dishwasher, and most importantly the chef. Aside from the staff changes, the owner also decided that upgrading the kashrut supervision would dramatically improve business. Whether or not this will prove to be true remains to be seen but it will certainly attract a different crowd. The black hat, bearded, black and white suit wearing crowd.
This might not bother me so much if not for an incident that happened a few months ago. The owner of the restaurant called up the restaurant to check up on everything and told me as an aside that one of the customers had complained to him that my sleeves were too short and asked me if I could please wear slightly longer sleeves. I basically lost it and was pissed off for the next week or so that someone had the chutzpah to come into a restaurant in the center of Jerusalem (what I consider neutral territory for all factions) and tell a person that she's not dressed properly. Sure I may be judgmental, but at least I don't bother anyone about how dressing like 19th century Polish aristocracy is stupid if they don't bother me. What was even worse was that the owner had listened to this nutter and wanted me to change my manner of dress because of some guy who got lost on the way home to Mea Shearim and thought he was the modesty police.
The last stage of the switch was completed a few Sundays ago. I get into work and run into the owner outside. He tells me we're not in fact opening the restaurant; instead they're cleaning and re-kashering everything. I'm now wondering to myself what exactly I'm doing there and why he couldn't have given me any advance warning. I know he knows how to use the phone because he calls the restaurant every 5 seconds to ask if the lights are on outside, if the music is playing and for updates on exactly how many reservations we have, how many customers there are, what those customers ordered, if I offered them bread, laughed at their jokes, polished their shoes, groveled at their feet, etc.
In any case I ended up helping them carry down the not kosher enough wine, wiping down the tables and chairs, refilling the salt shakers and just in general waiting for my paycheck which the owner kept telling me was in his pocket and then not actually giving me. If in actuality it was in his pocket then I don't understand why he couldn't just take it out and hand it to me. Why is this a difficult thing? And why must I chase you around for the next day? At some point he left “for a minute” but did not in fact come back after that minute or 20 was up. So I got tired of sitting around watching the pepper shakers dry and went home. The good news is that he gave it to me the next night 5 seconds before I had to leave after being reminded more than once to take the check out of his damn pocket.
The next evening was a rough one for everyone. For the kitchen because they didn't have half the menu or the pieces for the grill, for the waitstaff because many customers did not seem to be familiar with the axiom “hey, I'm just the messenger,” for the manager because he too had to keep apologizing to customers on behalf of the owner and for the owner himself because he lost out on quite a bit of business. We had a reservation for 8 people at 5 o'clock which he had to have known because it had been made a few days previously. I get the news at about a quarter to 5 that we don't have a grill and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do about this party of 8. One person's already waiting outside (she walked inside, declared it was like a furnace, and decided it was cooler outside in the Middle Eastern summer heat, which of course it was). It turns out that the owner's got the grill pieces with him which he'd taken to Rechovot (don't ask me why) and says he'll be back around 5:30. So I have to stall for the 30 minutes or so while he gets back, assuming of course that he actually gets back when he says he will (which he never does). I explain to them that we're changing the supervision, it's a bit crazy, everything should be fine soon, bla bla bla. They seem to be buying it too until the manager comes up to them after speaking with the owner and says it will be a while before we're ready. Of course they get up and leave after hearing this and I have to wonder which part of the owner's brain isn't working, his memory or his planning ability. In the end I decided that it was his ability to connect cause and effect. Cause: no grill. Effect: no customers. Cause: no customers. Effect: no money. Cause: no money. Effect: dumpster diving. We did eventually get the pieces back so we could at least prepare half the menu. We were still missing maybe a quarter of the food and some items had been permanently removed from the menu but at least we could pretend it was a commercial establishment.
As I mentioned, I'd been planning on quitting in the near future but just hadn't gotten around to it yet. The last straw came a few days after the switch when the owner came up to me and told me that from now on I'd need to wear long sleeves and a long skirt. So I told him I quit. He tried to soften the blow by explaining that it was just what the new supervisors require so that the customers don't complain to them, and he's not trying to be mean but they asked him to do it etc. I'm like, “I'm not trying to be mean by quitting but I'm just not going to do that.” The last thing I need is to get myself caught up in this madness (which I have denominated “Jerusalem insanity”). He tried to convince me to stay by telling me the salary would go up because we'd get more customers, therefore more tips but you couldn't pay me enough to dress like a Bais Yaakov girl in an un-airconditioned building that becomes an oven behind the bar. Even better would be me trying not to trip on the skirt going up and down the steps from the kitchen. I already did that wearing pants and the customers are smart enough not to trust a waiter dripping chicken soup from his head and torso. Me wearing a long skirt would be a DISASTER. It would just be me rolling down the stairs a few times a day bowling people over as I go. But mostly, I just hate being told what to wear. If he had told me when he offered me the job that this is how I'd have to dress I would not have taken it. I would have turned him down without blinking. So really, why would I stay now when I know the salary is crap anyway? Answer: What would you like on your bagel?

1 comment:

  1. Seriously, I think you should sue the guy from the restaurant. Him telling you to wear a long skirt equals to him telling you "be religious". This is a serious offense, especially seeing that this was not stated when you started the job. It should not be tolerated in Israel at all! I think a lot of organizations would love to take it as a class prosecution.