Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Transitions pt. 2

I got to the bagel shop a little before 8 on Monday (obviously no one had informed the counter guy that I'd be coming and that he'd be training me because when I got there he told me we were closed and wouldn't let me in). Aforementioned counter guy sent me in the back to get a shirt but didn't expand on that and of course I picked the wrong color and was informed a few times that day that I was supposed to wear the white shirt. The black shirts are for managers only.
My only job that day was to watch everything. Which was difficult when the twice aforementioned counter guy was moving at light speed without explaining anything. Obviously he had never trained a person before and didn't realize that to me it looked like he was deciphering algorithmic codes in Greek.
Luckily the manager (easily identifiable by her black shirt) arrived a bit later and pitched in. Mostly what I learned that day was how to organize the bagels in the display baskets and that the salad bar area must always be clean. At some point I realized that the now well-known-to-all-of-us counter guy wasn't using the cream cheese from the bar but was taking out scoops from the drawers underneath. I asked him about this and he said, “there's no point messing up the cream cheese on top.” Does that mean that the salad bar is for display purposes only? Does that cream cheese ever actually get used? What is its purpose? Why not have a plastic display which looks real but never has to be cleaned up? Honestly, if I were a customer I'd be a little concerned if the salad bar looked like it was never touched. Does no one else order cream cheese? Do the other customers know something I don't know?
The job posting had explicitly stated that it was 99% American clientele and that no Hebrew was needed but it seemed like quite a few Israelis wandered in. You could tell who was who by what they ordered without even listening to them speak. The Americans ordered complicated ice blends and lattes with skim milk (which doesn't actually exist in Israel. There's only 1% and 3%). One guy ordered a bagel with the dough inside scooped out. The Israelis ordered their coffees hafuch (my personal favorite) and got salads with Bulgarian or yellow cheeses.
I was thinking that they had a much more normal crowd than the restaurant until an Israeli woman walked in, came up to me and asked me where her carrots were. I think I just stared at her for a few moments until the manager gave her a bag with what I presume was more than just carrots in it. Then she asked the counter guy for zucchini. He stared at her for a few moments than handed her a piece. She popped it into her mouth and then told us that if her children would have seen this zucchini they would have thrown it on the floor. She proceeds to tell us that zucchini is an Ashkenazi food and Sephardi people don't eat it. Really? Because I've seen an awful lot of Sephardi looking people buying and eating zucchini. At this point I'm pretty sure she's somewhat unhinged. Then she asks me for a cup of water with ice. I don't want to make a fool of myself trying to remember where I saw the plastic cups and trying to use the ice machine (which will probably end up with me standing in a pool of ice) so I point to the counter guy and say, “One second and he'll help you.” Instead of waiting patiently she decides that she must explain slowly to the mentally challenged bagel shop worker (i.e. me) what a cup of ice water is. With hand motions. “A cup (picture the appropriate gesture here)... with water (more gestures)... and then you put ice in it (you get the picture). I repeated more firmly this time, “one second and he'll help you.” I guess they have nutters everywhere.
The next training session was much of the same. This time there was another trainee (I figured this out after about 30 seconds of him bumbling around). This was his third training session. They were slowly letting him start doing things like making a salad and arranging the bagels. Lucky bastard. I eagerly await the day when the honor of bagel arranging and vegetable gathering will be bestowed upon me. And praise shall be heaped on me for successful ice blends and omelet sandwiches. Yes, that is what I was thinking to myself. Because I have no ambition outside of one day getting to wear... the black shirt.
I think by now we all now that I'm slightly neurotic. If not then you haven't been paying attention. This was the first time I had encountered neurosis that makes me look like a normal, functioning member of society. Every five minutes they were cleaning up the bar, re-piling the corn or refilling the lettuce container. I think they spent more time organizing the bar than they did serving customers. This is coming from the person who went down to the kitchen of the restaurant to bring up some ketchup and ending up spending the next ten minutes reorganizing the paper goods closet instead. The closet does look good though. But they were actually starting to drive me nuts. They're like, must refill the tomatoes! I'm like, but we haven't even used any yet. Doesn't matter! Refill! Refill!
In any case, they sent me home about an hour and fifty minutes after I started. It didn't seem like a very long training session but I just shrugged and went home. With a free cup of bagel shop coffee.
Meanwhile, I've still been working my last two weeks at the restaurant. It's been as ridiculous as usual. We've been trying to get used to the new kashrut supervisors who actually do their jobs. It's kind of annoying though because they hover. Our previous mashgiach (supervisor) didn't do a whole lot. Actually I had no idea who he was for a week after I started working there. He was just the guy who sat eating oranges and chatting with the manager all afternoon about where they bought socks and the price of vegetables at the shuk. No one introduced me and he didn't introduce himself. Someone finally told me who he was and I was like, ohhhhhh that's who he is. He never actually went down to the kitchen except to make the liver (still haven't figured that one out) and when he did, he went down reluctantly (probably since the kitchen is like the pit of hell temperature-wise). The thing is, he's still there. At the restaurant. Doing whatever it is he does. Or doesn't do. It seems like the owner is keeping him on just in case this new hashgacha doesn't work out. Which it obviously is considering that the number of tables a night has quadrupled and is now too much for the two waiters on staff. So he's basically paying for window dressing. Window dressing with nine kids, but still fairly useless.
As for the customers themselves, they're just as clueless as ever only with more small children. Who run around screaming, making huge messes and demanding their hot dogs immediately. I don't understand why first of all anyone would want to eat steak at 10:30 at night, and second of all why they would bring young kids with them. They always ask us to bring up the kids' food as soon as possible, and I'm like, yeah, sure, I'll just stick it directly inside the grill to cook it faster, don't mind the burnt bits. Or perhaps I'll just microwave it. Plus they bring their huge strollers which I have to weave my way through. Sometimes I feel I'm trying to balance huge trays of food in a mine field. It's only a matter of time til some poor sucker ends up with a plate of spaghetti on his black hat.
I can usually keep my cool with people, no matter how bizarre or annoying their order. But, one table just got to me and I think I may have been a bit terse and impatient. The first thing the guy asks me is, “do the sandwiches come with bread?” I repeated, “the sandwiches?” just to make sure we're on the same page. So he repeats it in Hebrew. I'm like, no, I'm sorry that doesn't make anymore sense in Hebrew. So I go, yeeees, while most likely making my you're-an-idiot face. He asks me what kind of bread and I tell him they're served on baguettes. He then asks me if the sandwiches are appetizers or if they're a main course. I'm like, yes the steak sandwiches served on baguettes are an appetizer. For the main course we serve you the entire cow on a platter with an apple in its mouth. Luckily I had enough self control not to actually say that out loud. I'm thinking to myself, I hope his wife has a bit more sense than he does. Alas, my hopes were dashed when she asked me what the difference was between the chicken vegetable dish and the stroganoff. I'm like, well besides the fact that they're both edible, there's nothing even remotely similar between the two, which you would have known if you had read the descriptions on the menu. Or would you like me to read you the whole menu out loud? I also did not say this although I very much wanted to. She then asks me which one is a more typical dish. Lady, I don't even know what that means. So I just snap, “I don't know” and wait for the inevitable next question. The guy then asks me what the most ordered dish on the menu is. Which is a ridiculous question because that doesn't take into account his personal taste. I could go to a place where the most popular dish is chopped liver and I would be horrified and appalled if someone served it to me. I tell him that that would probably be the steaks seeing as we're a steak house and pray for the love of G-d that they'll just order already and stop wasting my time.
The other waiter had a table where the woman looked at the list of salads and somehow missed and tried to order the list of dressings.
I will miss the stories but hopefully my faith in man's ability to progress scientifically and socially will return when not presented with people who make me think they should be eating peanuts and picking bugs off each other.

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