Curiouser & Curiouser

Life’s short. Get curious.

On Joining the Darkside October 18, 2009

Attempting to look cute to divert attention from the fact that I am stealing the Shock Top beatle.

Attempting to look cute to divert attention from the fact that I am stealing the Shock Top beetle.

Dropping roots in North Carolina, I was skeptical of the idea that we might still experience seasons here. Even more skeptical when it was still swimming weather just a week ago.

I’m happy to report: no mas.

Temperatures have made a sharp, downward turn, and although it’s a little late, Fall is most certainly here. We’re finally breaking out the sweaters (never mind everyone back home is breaking out the parkas), burning leaves and shopping for pumpkins.

Admittedly, I’ve been MIA for a couple of weeks, trying to get settled into my new position as the server manager at the hibachi restaurant while simultaneously tackling my grad school application. My workplace is decidedly nutty, at times just plain surreal. But having stuck it out for a couple of weeks, I’m finding it has its endearing moments as well.

It’s the slow season for Wilmington restaurants, the tourists long gone, the patio season winding down. You’ll find this clearly evidenced when you walk into our kitchen to find a hibachi chef with his face submerged in a pot of water attempting to best his own breath-holding record. So the money doesn’t flow as freely as it did just months ago, and the staff is having a hard time staying motivated.

I arrived at this location after just a month at a different one. The server manager at the time was about to bust out to go to South America for a couple of months, and I was the only one with the availability to fill the position. They offered me a raise. Did I mention it’s the slow season? I had to take it.

At first I thought I’d just sold my soul and was paying the price. The staff at the hibachi location are largely young and apathetic, lazy and irresponsible. I fired the first of that breed tonight, and I had imagined it feeling better than it did. I won’t lose sleep over it or anything, but I suppose you hope for one of those shiny movie moments where the heroine finally gets to put her spoiled, self-absorbed counterpart in her place. Instead, I got to leave some meandering message on her voicemail that ended simply in, “…. we have to let you go, please don’t come in tomorrow.”

And I have to cover her shift on my day off.

Where’s the justice in that? (Don’t start looking, it’s not there). Well, my boss was happy about it, so there’s that. He’s been telling me to fire someone (anyone) from day 1, the idea (his idea) being that this makes me look powerful and will gain the respect (read: fear) of my servers. In the meantime, I can only hope this is the first big step in cleaning up the staff here. I’ve hired two older servers who actually need the work, and not just on weekends. But I’ve never done this before, and I certainly don’t have a manual or anyone sitting on my shoulder telling me how it’s done.

I’ve seen management done well, and I’ve seen it done poorly. And that’s all I’ve got to go on.

In the meantime, I’m cool with being nicknamed “OCD” (something to do with my obsession with the napkins being rolled tightly – thank you, Philip, whom I also used to make fun of for this), and with “Grandma” cooking in the kitchen even on busy nights, and with the lone computer at the server station (actually, wait – no, I’m not cool with that, and I’m pushing for another). And I’m starting to really like the chefs and their crazy performances and the busboys and their tejano singing and the weekend hostess who is typically sweet and demure, but can be a lion when she fires up her Chinese to argue with the kitchen manager (and who tells me that from behind I look just like an Asian girl).

It’s not so bad.

One night during my first week, I came home from a particularly busy night and cried. And cried some more. I was convinced I’d made a huge mistake, and that I was going to have to find yet another job and continue to struggle.

I don’t want to wait tables forever. I don’t even want to wait them for another year. But the situation certainly is not as bad as I initially surmised, and it looks like I’m there to stay. For now.

In the meantime, all of this gives me the impetus to work harder than ever on my grad school application. Not only do I need to be accepted, I need scholarship money, and I need a job.  I’ll be wrapping up the first part of my manuscript this week, so it’s just a matter of coming up with another brilliant, cohesive and deeply meaningful 15 pages or so.

Yep.

No problem.

~a

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