Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Easy Come, Easy Go

Day 3 of my new job saw me standing on the sidewalk across the street from the restaurant trying to cross. For an hour. Yes, that was the day of the Formula 1 race around the Old City. They had blocked off a few streets and thousands of people had come out to watch the race cars and motorcycles fly by. The race started at 14:00, (2 pm for my non European/army time friends out there) and I was due to start my shift at 5 o'clock. I knew that this was a bad idea but no one ever listens to the new girl. They had checked with the city a few times and supposedly they would be letting people cross the street every hour on the hour. 'Supposedly' being the operative word here.
I had been hanging around the area for half an hour or so just to lessen the chances of encountering problems getting to work. I bought a cup of coffee and studied the menu some more while sitting in the shade and relaxing. At a quarter to 5, I wandered down to the crossing where they would supposedly let us cross and watched the occasional race car whoosh past. I wandered down a bit more where I ran into the other trainee waiter and the manager. It was really annoying to be able to see your workplace but not be able to get there. It turned out that the roof of the restaurant was the perfect place to watch the race because all of the kitchen staff had somehow climbed up there. The new shift-manager and the manager for the soon to open dairy restaurant had managed to drag plastic chairs up there too and everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves. This of course irritated the manager who was stuck on the other side of the street with us so he decided to call them up to tell them to get back to work (of which I'm pretty sure there was none). The conversation went something like this:
“Hey, it's me, what are you guys doing?”
“Um, we're busy. Very busy working on... stuff.”
“I can see you up there! I know you're on the roof! Get back to work!”
“Grumble grumble,” click.
He was very frustrated by our inability to get across the street and kept asking the cops when we could cross. Meanwhile, the other waiter and I were both sitting under a tree reading the paper. Sometime after 6, they finally let the 5 of us through (our ranks had swollen to include 2 additional workers). We were like superstars being let through the police blockades. Or not.
There were no customers when we finally got there. Unsurprisingly. It was possible to get to the restaurant from the other direction but that involved meandering through alleys down the side of a hill into a valley and up another hill. If I had known (although admittedly I strongly suspected) that the police had absolutely no intention whatsoever of opening the roads at any point, I'd have come that way. There's no chance that the tourists would have been able to find the restaurant that way without a compass and the correct coordinates. I don't know if a GPS would even be able to point out the way through the artists' quarter. Take a left at the house with the petunias, a right at the tree stump past the funny bird statue, through the parking lot, down the stairs on the right, walk diagonally through the grassy area, slip through the chain on the metal fence due southwest of the field, leap over the garbage cans, go through the alleyway covered over by thorny branches and up the stairs. The restaurant's on the left side. Unless you took a wrong turn and ended up in the Sultan's pool. Warning: wear life jacket when attempting this journey.
Unfortunately the crazy French shift manager was back that day. She kept giving me a task and then giving me another task before I could do the first task, and then giving me another task before I could even start the previous two tasks. In short, managers with ADD rarely get anything done.
Finally, two women wandered in (we kept getting calls from people canceling their reservations because they weren't able to get to the restaurant) and were seated at a table for two. I happened to walk by and heard them talking about leaving although so I asked them what the problem was and they answered that it was too cold. I realized that they were sitting in front of the air-conditioner vent, so I told them that they could find a more comfortable place. The shift-manager walked by and got all upset that they had moved to another table, especially because it was a table for 4 and there were only 2 of them. I whispered to her that they were going to leave if they had to sit where they had been before and she was like, “excuse me, you are sitting at a table for 4, and we might need that later so could you please sit by the door where there's another table for two?” Then she told me off for letting people move to another table and that it was her job to seat people. I'm like, you are aware that there's not a single other customer at the moment and most people canceled any reservations made before 8:30? If we'd had other customers I would have moved them to another two person table but if the place is empty, what's the big deal? They were done by 8 o'clock or so anyway and we only had a few tables at that point.
She also asked me to iron the tablecloth on the large table, so I did and then asked if she wanted me to iron the tablecloths in the lower dining room (what they call the VIP room because it's down a few steps which I guess makes it more “private”) which also needed to be ironed. She was like, “no, you can't iron them while we have customers!” What was I doing 5 seconds ago then?! Did the customers only become real when I was done ironing the large tablecloth? I was just trying to be helpful, but in her mind I had said something incredibly stupid.
At some point the restaurant if not filled up, then at least had some customers. I was following around some waiter who was coincidentally from the town where I was born in NJ. When something needed to be done though, they still asked me to help out. For example bringing out food, or clearing off a table, etc.
Madame Fou (as I shall now refer to her) asked me to bring the food to a French couple in the “VIP room” and then followed me down a minute later to explain to them what everything was. I handed over the food and went to find the waiter I was following so I could, you know, follow him. A few minutes later Madame Fou came up to me and angrily told me that she had been calling my name. I was like, “sorry, I didn't hear you.”
“That's because you walked away! When I'm standing there talking to the table you stand there and wait!”
Wait, she wanted me to stand there during a 5 minute French conversation instead of helping my waiter buddy? Why? What possible reason could I have for doing that? Let me ask all of you readers, when your waiter serves you your food, does he stand there and stare at you for the next 5 minutes? Would you not be really weirded out if he did that? After a minute, I personally would ask him for the check and get the hell out of there before he pulled a machete on me or something.
Another time she asked me to clear the table in the corner. So I did. The waitress whose table it was came over to me afterward and irritably asked me why I had cleared off the whole table. I was like, because I was asked to. No, apparently that's not what the manager meant. She meant could I clear off the one plate in the middle because they ordered the tasting menu. I was like, “I didn't know what they ordered. She asked me to clear the table, so I did.” End of story. So of course the manager comes up to me afterward to tell me that I'd screwed up, and why did I clear off the whole table? She tells me that if I have a question about what they ordered I should check the computer. Really? So every time you ask me to clear the table I should check what the table ordered just to understand what you want me to do? Does that sound reasonable? Just use your words and communicate to me what it is you want me to do. Obviously this woman had failed kindergarten.
A few times when I wasn't doing anything, she caught me standing next the bar resting my arms on it. Apparently this is bad form. I tried to remember not to do that or to stand with my back to the customers (one of the waitresses informed me that the owner of the restaurant would get upset if he saw me doing that). At some point though I'd had enough and decided that one crazy French boss is enough. I told the waiter whom I'd been following around that I couldn't work with this woman and that she was driving me crazy.
When I finally gathered up enough nerve, I told her that I needed to speak to her and that I decided I didn't want to work there. She asked me why and instead of telling her she was a nutjob, I told her that I'd remembered why I didn't want to be a waitress, and that it wasn't for me. She told me she'd have to call up the manager to tell him and I was like, “fine, go ahead.” She called him up to tell him that I'd quit, and then started complaining that I was just standing at the bar all the time anyway and obviously I didn't want to work. She came back to me and told me that he wanted to speak to me so I reached out to take her phone, and she was like, “no this is my phone. You can't use it.” At this point I was obviously pretty pissed off, so when she did finally relinquish her cell phone to me, I told the manager that I couldn't work with her. His answer was that I couldn't continue like this because I couldn't choose whom I wanted to work with. I responded that I had no intention of continuing and that I was going home.
With that, I put my apron on the bar, went upstairs to get my things and walked out without saying goodbye.

And that, my friends is the story of how I quit my job and stalked out in the middle of a shift. I will obviously not be receiving compensation for the work I did for them but frankly, they can take their money and shove it. 

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