Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Terrorism is No Good for Tips

It's official; I passed the training sessions and have been hired at the bar. The training sessions went fairly well. I basically just waitressed which I already know how to do. Bring this plate to that table without dropping it on your feet, spilling beer on the customers, or falling down the stairs. Bring table number 5 the check. Give recommendations on food you've never tasted while sounding like you know what you're talking about. I am particularly good at this. For some reason people often listen to me, I suppose because I sound like I know what I'm talking about. I've convinced some people of some crazy things. Usually by accident. I give directions and then 2 minutes after the people have driven off I realize that I just sent them to Metula. Oops. I remember giving a car full of soldiers directions and sending them in circles. My Hebrew was not very good at this point and I didn't quite understand what they wanted. I worked it out a few minutes later and then realized that there was a very good chance that they'd pass me again in a minute. I had an escape plan all ready; I knew which bush I was going to dive into if I saw them approaching. Not because I thought they'd shoot me or anything. Mostly because I was embarrassed. Call it karma for all the bad directions I've gotten from Israelis. “The dumpster is at the end of the hall.” Yeah, I found it after twenty minutes at the end of the hall, out the door on the left, down the path, down the stairs on the right, to the left through the parking lot, and on the left at the corner past the construction zone.
In any case, I get there a few minutes early for my first “real” shift (the kind you get paid for) to get a worker number and a shirt. The shirt they rustled up for me was not quite large enough (apparently they don't have fat waitresses) but it was all they had so I took it. I'm sure it will stretch out anyway when I inhale. At 7:00 I clocked in and started setting up. I didn't really know what I was doing but no one said anything so I just continued wiping stuff down (that seems to be a big part of waitressing). Then I stood around waiting. And waiting. Not a single table came in during that first hour. The second waitress clocked in then but it seems that having two waitresses stand around staring at their nails was too much for them to handle so they sent us outside to “flyer.” They already had two younger guys outside handing out flyers and doing a hell of a better job at getting customers to come in than I would have. I'm like, wait a second, I didn't sign up for this. This was not in the job description. If it had been I would have thought twice about accepting the job. This is not the ideal situation for a person who dislikes talking to strangers and has a fear of rejection. So I wandered down the street a bit so the flyerers wouldn't all be standing in the same place. The other waitress came to bring me back so the management wouldn't get mad that I was wandering off. I'm like, what am I, five? I can't even do my job because they don't trust me not to run off to eat a felafel? So then I pretty much just stood around wishing I could go back inside and wondering when this torture would end. At some point the manager decided I could come back in and made me wash the glass panels on the stairs (I'm convinced that it was in punishment for my less than stellar flyering). How was he to know that I would prefer to clean anything than stand outside being studiously ignored by people who are tired of being inundated by flyers and besieged by street people.
I assume that it was due to the threat of terrorist activities that I ended up with only one table the whole night. The bar was practically empty as were the neighboring restaurants and even the street. They clocked me out at midnight and sent me home (I'm obviously the most expendable waitress). It's incredible; the terrorists don't have to actually carry out any of their threats. The threat itself is enough to scare people enough to stay home and damage the economy and injure Israeli society through more subtle methods. I'm convinced that the only place safe from rockets and bombs is Tel Aviv. However you're more likely to get stabbed in a club or run over by a moped there. Plus I don't like the weather. So I'll just stay in Jerusalem and worry instead about getting hit by the new light rail (or having it fall off the tracks and crush me as I innocently walk down the sidewalk).
My second shift was slightly more successful than the first. I ended up filling in for the other new waitress who wasn't feeling well. It started off as quiet as the previous day but luckily the manager asked me to re-organize the cupboard in the waitress station instead of handing out flyers. I'm like, you asked the right person. It was completely organized within 5 minutes. I now actually know what's down there. Why we need so many small sauce/dressing containers I don't know and where the pair of women's shoes and men's socks came from is beyond me but some things are not worth puzzling over. People kept walking by while I was standing around and going, “smile!” What kind of weirdo stands around smiling for no reason? Only people with mental handicaps and the waitresses at this particular bar are happy and smile without any stimulus. I'm like, either leave me alone or entertain me. I'm not going to walk around smiling like an idiot for no reason.
It did at some point start getting busy. Apparently there was a soccer game on at 10:00 and quite a few people came out to see it. There were a bunch of obnoxious Israelis who complained about everything (the 16 chicken wings were really 8 cut into two, they didn't finish the olives so they should only have to pay half, they wanted to watch the Maccabi-Haifa game instead of the Tottenham-whoever game that everyone else had come to watch, etc.). There were a couple of religious guys, probably yeshiva bochers who were obviously not aware of accepted tipping practice because they didn't leave a shekel even though they got good service. A British guy and his daughter were quite pleasant until he asked me to add the tip to the credit card and became convinced that I had swiped it twice since I had to print out an extra copy to give to the manager. Then there were a bunch of people who just sat there forever and wouldn't leave.
I ended up working with one of the managers (the easy going one, not the one who made clean and organize stuff so as to earn my wages) because one of the waitresses left early. I don't know why or where she went but the manager was obviously not used to serving people which I gathered because he kept forgetting stuff and asking me questions. I had to tell him a few times what to do, and I'm like, wait a second, there's something wrong with this picture. I just learned to do this yesterday and now I'm explaining to the manager how the tables are set up and how to put in orders? He complimented me on my waitressing skills and I'm like, well they're certainly good in comparison.
At the end of the night, I had to square away the money with the less pleasant manager. Sitting there in the office while he counts the money and goes over the receipts makes you feel like you're in the hot seat. After he counted the tips, he said to me, “this isn't so great.” Which of course made me feel inadequate and like he was going to criticize me at the end of every night. He started to tell me what I should be doing but thankfully was interrupted by his cell phone and lost his train of thought. Unfortunately, my wages are made up of tips but I am assured 25 shekels an hour which means that if I don't make 25 shekels an hour in tips, then the bar must pay me out of their own pockets. This does not make management happy. They are cheap and don't want to have to actually pay their staff. And yes, in case you're wondering, that is the norm in this country. I don't know of one restaurant that pays its staff fair and/or legal wages. No one complains and the government doesn't take this kind of thing seriously. There's also no good reason why I should work harder to make 150 shekels in tips as opposed to 50 if my wages come out to 175 shekels that night. Either way, I get 175 shekels. And if I do miraculously make over 25 shekels an hour in tips then why should I clean the floors at 3:00 in the morning when I just want to go home? They aren't paying me squat. Obviously, management did not think this through all the way, and have convinced themselves that they're doing us a favor by letting us work for them. How generous. I fantasize that one day I'll be rich, and I'll buy them out. I will then turn the place into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall.

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