Tuesday Night in the City.

Do you want the good news first?  Or the bad news?

I’ll start with the bad news.

It’s not really bad news, it’s just what a fucking night.  Allan and Bryan were nowhere in sight so I didn’t have to deal with that.  The managers that were present were out of the minds.  And not in the good way.  They started the shift by reminding us that the economy sucks so make sure we make the best of the busy season.  They also reminded us that people are spending their money carefully, so they’ll be much less likely to tip if they don’t get a great experience while we are waiting on them.

And then our shift started.

I immediately went on the floor and filled some of my empty chairs.  I sat everyone and told them I’d be right back with menus.  I get their butts in the chairs and then I run get menus for everyone.  It saves me a trip and I know exactly how many I need.  Except when I got to the host desk there were no menus.  So I went looking.  And looking.  And looking.  By then it’s been 4 or 5 minutes and I’ve only found four.  For 10 people.  So I explain that we are short menus and ask if they can share and that I’ll be back in a minute.  And then I fill the rest of my chairs.  And I tell those people that I’ll be back in a minute with menus.  And I look.  And I look.  And I look.  And by now all the first round of tables is getting antsy because they are ready to order and I’m not there.  And the second round of people doesn’t understand why they don’t have menus.

And so the night went.  For some reason we don’t have enough menus to seat the restaurant.  And because the menu is changing the first week of January, they aren’t getting new ones.  So tonight, they were seating people without menus and leaving it up to the servers to scrounge around and find enough for people to share.

My first round of tables was such a disaster that I got stiffed on four of the first five tables.  And I don’t blame them at all.  The experience sucked and the service was worse.

Oh, but that’s not the good part.

The good part?

The kitchen crashed and burned tonight.  In a Towering Inferno kind of way.

The fastest ticket time I had during the evening was about 25 minutes.  And that’s about 10 minutes longer than it’s supposed to be.  Food was running anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.  And then it was anybody’s guess as to whether it was cooked right or even what the person ordered.  I was already so perplexed by the menu situation that I didn’t even have the energy to deal with the food problems.  And there are only two approaches you can take.  You can ignore your guests and their questions and hope they understand.  Or you can explain that things are a mess and you’ll do the best that you can.

I tried both approaches tonight.  Neither seemed better than the other.  By the end I was just telling them that the food was going to take a while.  A long while.  A VERY long while.  So not to be upset or to be surprised.  This way no one can be angry with me.  My favorite tonight was the guy who called me over and said, “You know we ordered food?”  “Yes, I know.”  “So where is it?”  “In the kitchen”  “Can you go get it?”  “If it were ready, you’d already have it.”  “Do you think it will be ready soon?”  “Probably not.”  And I walked away.  Luckily it was a ten top so their tip was included.

I was talking to the kitchen manager tonight at the end of the shift.  His story was that they were staffed for the Tuesday nights we’ve been having not the Tuesday night that we have in the middle of the holidays.  In the kitchen we have a fancy computer system that is used for timing tickets.  When an order is placed, the computer knows what’s going to take the longest and sends that to the kitchen first.  And then after an appropriate amount of time, send the rest.  Broken down as it needs to be.  At one point tonight there were over 50 tickets on the computer that couldn’t be seen because of the backlog of tickets being cooked.

IT WAS A CLUSTERFUCK!

And so the manager’s way of dealing with that.

It’s what a friend of mine calls “Straightening the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.”

They immediately started focusing on the other things that were going wrong.  The little things.  Like someone using napkins to clean up a spill on their table.  Or someone not garnishing a drink right.  Or someone not having plates on the table when an appetizer was delivered.  Or for me…not closing my checks out after someone paid.  I was told at one point that I couldn’t seat myself any more until my checks were closed out.  As if that was going to fix the big problem of the evening.  The manager’s were complete asses to everyone after things started to fall apart.  And the staff was actually doing okay with it till the managers got out of hand.  Then suddenly the morale in the place plummeted.  No one was doing anything to help.

And my night really started off well with a host from our restaurant sitting in my section who left me two bucks on a 35 dollar tab.  What the fuck?  Really?  I went straight to her manager and said what the fuck is this?  I think he got the hint, because when I walked by two minutes later she handed me two more dollars.  Ugh.

And so enough bitching.

It’s Christmas Eve now.

I got my first two Christmas gifts tonight.

Chuck left me a gift under the tree.  I have to figure out when I’m going to open it.  I like to wait.  I like to postpone these things as long as possible.  When I was a kid, and it’s still true, I never peaked at my gifts.  To this day you could tell me not to look in the bag by the door and I’d never look.  I like the expectation.   As I was typing this I realized it might have something to do with the presents I received as a child.  They were not usually what I wanted because my parents couldn’t afford them.  After a while I started asking for things that were easier for them to get.  But I think that I postpone opening gifts because I’m not disappointed in the waiting.  And I don’t have to pretend to like it in the waiting.  But once the paper is off suddenly everything changes.  When I was a kid, I learned to plaster on the smile and make my parents think it was the perfect gift.  Even when I was eight or nine I knew they were doing the best that they could.  I also knew that I had to make up for my brothers total lack of appreciation.  I’ve seen him toss gifts aside saying, “This is NOT what I asked for!”  Or, “This is not the one I wanted!”  So I took the other route, smiled and told them thank you.  Long story short, I like to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  So I have to decide when to open my gift.

And my second gift.

The bartenders gave me back my tipout tonight.  They told me that I tipped them out so much the rest of the time that tonight I could keep it.  I tried arguing with them but they wouldn’t hear of it.  And they did not have a great night.  But I thought it was very sweet of them to offer and to thank me for the money that I give them.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in trying to make your own money that you forget the people around you.  It may very well the best gift I’ve been given in a long time.

So both good news.  And bad news.

But it’s Christmas Eve now, so the bad really doesn’t matter anymore.

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4 thoughts on “Tuesday Night in the City.

  1. Lemuel December 24, 2008 / 06:51

    I just want to hug you so!! Karma come ’round not only to bite but to bless. Your bartenders recognize your generous spirit, kudos to them for their gesture.

    But your description of your attitude toward your gifts and your parents vis-a-vis your brother got to me. Your brother reminded me of my nephews and nieces and you, of my sons (and myself). I recognized, too, that my parents did the best they could for me for C’mas. As a parent I could not always do what I wanted for my own sons, but they always seemed appreciative for what we were able to do.

  2. Lemuel December 24, 2008 / 06:51

    I just want to hug you so!! Karma come ’round not only to bite but to bless. Your bartenders recognize your generous spirit, kudos to them for their gesture.

    But your description of your attitude toward your gifts and your parents vis-a-vis your brother got to me. Your brother reminded me of my nephews and nieces and you, of my sons (and myself). I recognized, too, that my parents did the best they could for me for C’mas. As a parent I could not always do what I wanted for my own sons, but they always seemed appreciative for what we were able to do.

  3. Mike December 24, 2008 / 07:07

    Lem thought it REALLY important to get that message across. 😉

    I hate that I knew what you were talking about (the kitchen system) …

  4. Sarah December 24, 2008 / 12:56

    Did the managers even consider helping in the kitchen instead of worrying about drink garnish? Something tells me that you and the other waiters might have been wondering about that.

    Circumstances of my birth meant I did well every Xmas. I don’t remember being pissed off about getting exactly what I wanted because I got so damn much that it was hard not to be happy.

    The Canadian might argue that as an adult, I don’t have the same appreciation for gifts. In my defense, he did give me slippers one year. It’s hard not to say, “Are you kidding me?” when you open slippers.

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