Monday, June 24, 2013

A Method to the Madness

One thing I've learned about managers is that they are very often completely neurotic. And if I'm calling someone neurotic then they should probably seek professional help. The shift manager the second day of working at the restaurant was a neurotic French woman. I had a feeling she wouldn't be easy to work with but I just hoped that I wouldn't have to work with her too often.
There were two trainees that day, including myself and she must have been so excited to have 4 more hands that she asked me to organize the wine cellar and the other guy to organize the closet with the tablecloths. Poor guy was in the closet upstairs for almost an hour. Instead of us doing something like going over the menu (I had a few questions about the food) or teaching us something we might actually need to know like how to take orders, I was separating the empty boxes from the boxes with stuff in them and the other guy was refolding every spare tablecloth in the restaurant. To his credit though, the closet upstairs did look really nice when he was done with it.
The first table that actually came in were Russian tourists. I was excited to finally see how the orders were taken and to listen to the questions they asked and see how the waitress I was following answered them, but alas it turns out that that particular waitress speaks Russian. The manager (the Arab one, not the new shift manager) jokingly asked me if I had any idea what was going on. I was like, oh the irony! They hired me because I speak English and the first chance I get to see how tables are taken, the entire conversation is conducted in Russian! Admittedly Russian is not my forte. The only Russian I know I learned in basic training and can not be repeated in polite society.
I guess I should just point out now that considering the restaurant is a “biblical, Israeli” type restaurant, the staff is actually pretty diverse. Most of the kitchen staff is Arab-Israeli, as is the manager, one of the shift-managers is French, and at least 3 of the waiters are American (including myself). A few of the Israeli waiters speak Russian and one speaks Spanish. It must be nice to be bilingual. I'm just lingual and a half.
It was a little bit frustrating to be followed around by the shift-manager all night, because every time I tried to set the table, she was like, “no, this is not good! The napkin needs to be in front of the chairs, not on the side where you keep putting them!” My mistake was in putting them to the right of the seat where one could conceivably reach it with his right hand instead of putting them slightly to the right of the center where the plate is supposed to go, thereby preventing possible accidents. I have never seen someone so neurotic about setting tables. The plate must sit at the edge of the table, the napkin should also touch the edge of the table an inch to the right of the plate, the silverware must be perfectly straight and centered on the napkin unless it's the uber-fancy “double setting” where everyone gets two forks and two knives. Then the fork on the left must be an inch higher than the fork on the right and ditto with the knives. The wine glass must be touching the plate next to the knives with the regular glass touching the wine glass above the knives and the appetizer plates must be centered on the big plates. This is all annoying, but fine, unless everyone is setting it differently in which case you keep changing the settings every five seconds to match someone else's settings. And then you get blamed for every “wrong” setting on the table because as usual in this world, nobody knows what the hell they're doing! Ok, note to self, do not attempt to set tables. It will undoubtedly be wrong!
I was quite happy when it was finally time to go home. The kitchen wrapped us all up some food which turned out to be ceremonyless maqluba. Turns out it tastes just as good without being whacked out of the pot. Upon leaving, we realized that 4 out of 5 of the waiters live in Ma'ale Adumim. What are the odds?
The first few weeks of a new job are always stressful. You have to learn everything as quickly as possible while trying not to mess anything up too much. There are two managerial types, the first one is the kind that shows you how to do everything, from answering the phone to tying your shoe, in the hopes that you'll remember at least some of it. The second one tells you to do things without first showing you how and then corrects or criticizes you afterwards.
One thing I've learned from waitressing, is that in restaurants there is a method for everything. When people ask you to do things without showing you all the tricks that make it “upscale,” you just do it like a normal person. This is almost always WRONG. Never ever do things like a normal person! There is a reason people don't pay to come to your house and eat! You should be ashamed of yourself! You low-class, blue collar, barbarian! Serve a bottle of water with the cap still on?! And then not even pour it?! So what if it's just tap water, how could you even consider making our esteemed guests use their own hands!

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