I have always been good with languages and could pick up a new tongue fairly quickly, read some Ukrainian here – Продать Монеты and here - Купить Монеты. But, Chinese is a different story… I went to university for 5 five years of advanced classes and I nailed it. How do you think is my chinese now? It’s awfull. I went to travel China for 6 month. And for first 3 months I couldn’t understand people speaking. It’s good that my proffestion – coin collecting has a universal language, so overall I had a terrific experience! Thank for you time and happy adventure hunting to you! Adios, Ciao, Bye, poka, paka dovidzenia arividerci…
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I’ve been using “Writer’s Block” as an excuse for not posting anything these past few days, but I just haven’t felt like I’ve had any material. My blog topics always hover in or around food, wine and the restaurant business; and while I have certainly had no shortage of food (as my scale can attest) or drink, I haven’t been “in” the restaurant business for over three months now. Ninety-eighty days and counting, that I’ve been an unwilling part of our country’s unemployment statistics. I guess I’d have to reduce that total by 6 if I was to count the week-long tryout up in New England with a restaurant group looking to open an outpost here in Atlanta. I mean, they did pay me, as well as cover all my expenses.
It’s not that I haven’t been looking, or even had an offer or two. If you counted them all up (which I have, since I’ve had the time) I’ve been on 22 interviews for 11 different positions. I hope I’m not putting the curse on things by saying so (like I do by washing the car to make it rain), but I may be nearing the end of my long drought. I have had five interviews now with a very high-quality company that’s in an expansion mode, even in this economy. It is run by real pros that have their act together, and they can actually afford me. This could be The One that could actually turns into a bona fide career move. I’ll know more after an excursion up North again (different state this time) to meet the big bosses. My fingers are almost disjointed, they are crossed so tight.
This last one has so far included three hour-long phone conversations, as well as two in-person meetings. They also had me go undercover to their place here in town and have dinner. All they asked was that I write up a synopsis of my experience and submit it, along with a receipt, and they’d take care of everything. Well, the dining experience was less than stellar, which is good news for me as they obviously need some help there; but bad news for them as things are a tad bit worse than they had thought.
After over 25 years in “the biz”, no matter where I dine I can’t help but notice service faux pas and over analyze the food and beverage. I always notice the busboy that puts his elbow in my face when clearing, or the server that needs to stand closer to his razor and maybe go out and buy a steam iron. Friends that dine with me know that if I suddenly drop out of the dinner table conversation and start looking around, I’m “seeing” the place through the restaurant version of what John Madden called “Linebacker Eyes”: always on the lookout for a problem, taking everything in, always seeing the big picture. My wife or our friends will stop in mid-sentence, and say stuff like “Uh-oh, what’s wrong?” or “Oh no, he’s not happy…” I can’t help myself. I turn into Dexter, and my Dark Passenger just takes over, until all I can see are the cobwebs in the corners and the complete lack of ice in that Iced Tea refill; and it’s not even my Iced Tea! It can be truly maddening.
So, it was no real struggle to commit my insights on this covert dinner to paper (keyboard), and my review was no less than five pages and 2500 words. I told the whole truth and nothing but, God help me, hoping that doing so wouldn’t kick me out of the running. I mean, don’t ask if you don’t want to know, right? Well, shit-howdy if the exact opposite didn’t happen. I submitted the receipt and my laundry list of their defects and screw-ups, along with just enough insights and suggestions on how to correct some of them. I held back on the rest. You don’t get to drink this milk until you buy the cow, baby. The next day, I got a call back to meet with the Director of Operations, in person this time. When he arrived for the interview, he pulled out a hard copy of my review notes and went through it point by point. He had shared it with the other Mucky-Mucks, and they loved it. He even commented very favorably on my writing skills.
I’ve always had a nagging bit of a self-esteem problem when it comes to job hunting, especially when it involves a step up the ladder. No matter how many successes I can count in my professional life, and there have been many, whenever I am interviewing and trying to sell myself to prospective employers, I always seem to mentally fall back to the Groucho Marx philosophy of “I will belong to no club that would have me as a member.” Even though I’ve always gotten every job I’ve ever really wanted, I find myself wondering why the hell would someone hire me to run a business. Then I look at people who have positions and careers I want to have (and could easily do), compare their skills and experience to mine, and wonder who in the hell it was that they had to blow to get their jobs.
I can’t speak to “real job” situations (outside of the hospitality and restaurant industry), but looking for work and interviewing in my business is all smoke and mirrors. You are never closer to perfection than when you are filling out a job application. Most restaurant mangers know that, with all the drunks, dope fiends, and sex addicts in line for a job in our industry, going strictly by the resume can get you in a heap of trouble. Anyone can write, or pay someone else to write, a resume that will make them look like Mother Theresa. No matter how many times they got drunk, stole, or sexually harassed an employee, and got their ass fired, they can still manage to look good on paper. And I can’t believe that HR people are surprised when they call references and get nothing but glowing reviews; you’d have to be a moron to put anyone on your references that wouldn’t recommend you as Citizen of The Year or want you to marry their daughter. The best and surest method in our business is to bring someone in for a tryout.
Since most tryouts are not paid, and prospective employees are not covered by Worker’s Comp if they get injured, having people tryout is not in the strictest sense, legal. For that reason, and the fact that they’ve probably had a labor lawsuit or two to lighten their pockets, corporations mostly eschew the tryout. Not being able to take advantage of this much more accurate barometer of someone’s abilities, corporate restaurant companies rely heavily on their resumes, interviews, pumped-up references, and the recommendations of their favorite Resume Pimp, the recruiter. And so they may end up hiring someone who looked good on paper; but then they wake up the next day with their picture-perfect first date lying next to them under the covers, Prom Dress thrown over the nightstand, with hair looking like Albert Einstein and make-up that looks like a tropical fish with a hangover.
This is where my crisis of confidence can get a little confusing, and starts to do a sort of “Studio Fade”. At first glance, seeing the title of Chief Operating Officer after a name on a business card can be intimidating. But I buoy my confidence with the idea that this person may have ever only done one or two impressive things in their entire professional lives to get that acronym of C.O.O.; and one of them may have been writing a resume. I can tell myself that, in all probability, the only real difference between them and me is the fact that they have the job and I don’t.
So my ability with words to clean and gut a restaurant like it was a large trout, may end up separating the wool (me) from the chaff (the rest of the field), and actually land me the job. That, and the fact that I’ve got more semi-colons and animal analogies at my disposal. Shit, John Starks made an NBA career off of one dunk over Jordan and Scottie Pippen, a feat he never came close to repeating; so I am really OK with getting a job I really want, just because I wrote an essay.
I mentioned that one of the basic facts of running a restaurant is that people eventually move on. One of my best servers and her line-cook boyfriend are leaving to go back home to Louisiana. I am saddened by their departure not only because Chef and I are losing two of the best workers either of us has seen, but I am also really jealous that they are moving to New Orleans. Ah, the South…
The fact that they were a couple was known when they were hired. Unlike some, our company has no strict policy against hiring people in relationships but perhaps one should be considered; because when you have two staff members involved in a relationship and one decides to move on, so does the other. Conversely, when you have to fire one, the other one usually goes soon after. Actually, first their good attitude goes; they don’t physically leave until after what he/she has deemed an appropriate period of making everyone’s life miserable.
The good news is that when couples work together and they are getting along, they can work with a great synergy. My wife and I did it in Atlanta and it was amazing. But when the personal relationship becomes strained, it can play havoc on the one at work. Fortunately for me, my two are Rock Stars and always did a great job. They left their personal relationship in the car with a window rolled down to wait for their return.
I was never much of a ladies man in my youth. I’ve already told you what a big dork I am, and that’s pretty much a fail-safe method of birth control until you find The One who appreciates the trait. And I am certainly not one now as I am happily married to The One (no, not Keanu Reeves, you wake-and-bake stoners).
Even during my younger days when I commanded “The Position of Power” I didn’t do too much Hound-Doggin’ (play-yuhs is what they call them now, I believe). Working in the day and age of the Tom Cruise-generated perception of bartenders as demi-gods, I was a young, semi-good looking, semi-eligible bachelor; but I was just too big of a nerdy romantic to play a lot of capture the flag games. I was determined to fall in love and that was a four-letter word for women in the early 80’s. Plus, chicks were a lot of work and I am lazy.
Oh, sure, I had my share of go-to, sure things to get me through dry patches (pun intended) between bad relationships, but I was never a big One Night Stand kind of guy. Add to that the hours that I kept, working from 6 till 2am, partying until dawn, sleeping until noon and then doing it all again, and my only pond to fish was the one at work. So that narrowed it down to two groups: barflies and co-workers. Barflies don’t want to fall in love, and falling in love with co-workers is almost always a recipe for trouble.
Over the years I have found these Postulates on Personal Relationships at Work to be mostly true:
• Rarely, if ever, do two great employees get together. It’s always one really good worker, and the one that you most want to quit and get hit by a bus.
o Corollary: When the relationship goes South, it’s always the good one who quits and the irritating one who stays. Kind of like if your neighbors, who have a pool and throw great parties, move out but leave their yapping Chihuahua behind.
• The relationship is most always between people in different departments so maximum damage can be realized when arguments occur.
• And most often the relationship is one of those “He’s dating HER?!” shockers.
o Corollary: Sometimes you get lucky and the two people involved are deserving of each other; and you can be grateful that they are not out there ruining two other lives.
I had a relationship with a waitress once when I was a Sous Chef (I was really the only cook besides the Chef, so I felt I was Sous Chef by default). We had a fairly hot and steamy start, then it cooled; and because we worked together and practically lived together, we got tired of each other real fast. Actually, I got real tired of her but she was still really into the whole idea. And did I mention we worked together? I cherished the two hours of prep time I had at work before she arrived at 4:30 or 5:00 for the start of her shift. Outside of using the toilet, it was literally the only time we were apart. “Did you hear about what so-and-so did on table 32?” Oh, yeah, you were there. “Did you hear that joke that so-and-so told?” Oh, yeah, you were there then, too. And did I mention we lived together? Thankfully, she eventually quit and moved away. I faked the heartfelt goodbye, and did my best to remind my penis that dating co-workers is not how we roll.
I used to work with this guy named Biff. No shit, that was really his name. Biff. And the guy was a machine when it came to getting laid by women at work. He became known as the “Hose-tess Monster” due to his penchant for conquest of the young, vapid ones at the door. Now, if ever there was a valid argument for not fishing off the company pier, dipping your pen in the company ink, whatever, you’d think screwing, and then screwing over, a person who can control your financial destiny would be it. With the spurned hostesses conspiring, Biff’s station would often be empty on many a night, except for old ladies and people with kids, until 15 minutes before closing when he would be triple sat as all the other servers were doing side-work and mentally chilling their after-work Heinekens. Hell hath no fury indeed.
Well, hello. It’s been a while; how’ve y’all been? Me? Oh, fine, just fine. Why yes, I have been working a lot…
After coming to the realization (duh!) that I make my own schedule, and that I really need to take two entire days off each week, my work routine has settled down a bit. I still have split days off as the restaurant is closed on Mondays, and the other manager has a commitment that makes Tuesdays off impossible for me; but I’ve kind of gotten used to it. It’s almost like a 3-day weekend every week, if you don’t count the 10 hours of work right smack in the middle of it. Such a rude interruption…
Really, though, the only aspect of my job that I even mildly dislike is the schedule; and that only because it involves working Sundays. No, not the dreaded brunch as I would have opened an artery long ago if Sunday Brunch were required. Just like Jeff Golblum’s line in Jurassic Park, that “life finds a way…”, brunch also finds a way, every week, to suck. We are open for brunch and dinner on Sundays, the only day we open the doors during daylight hours; but my “keyholder” manager is there on Sunday mornings, and God bless her for it. That, and HBO On Demand are the only things that make working on Sundays tolerable, barely. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the bosses at my two previous jobs for giving me almost four years of Sunday-free work schedules. As Joni Mitchell sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”
Sundays, and the people who dine out on the 7th Day, are a different breed of cat altogether. You see people out to dinner on Sunday nights that you never, ever see any other night of the week. They say in the Bible that God rested on the 7th day, and the leper colony we get in each Sunday is your proof. My theory is that all the people who dine on Sunday nights crawled out of the primordial ooze when God took His one day off because He, too, just couldn’t deal. God was at home, in His sweats and wife-beater with His feet up and Sports Center on the tube when these people snuck their way into the evolutionary cycle.
And just to add salt to the gaping wound of working Sunday nights, and simultaneously drive a dagger into the heart of our check average, we offer a three-course “supper” for $20. This is just to make sure that we not only get the weirdos, but also the cheap weirdos. We have people who ask if they can split the $20 meal. Really? Look, if you don’t have enough money to eat out, just stay home…
Last Sunday night was a classic. Knowing the check average is always down, and often cover counts as well, I was sympathetic to my staff’s need to make a little coin even on Sundays; so I went with a lean crew. Three waiters, one bartender, one food runner, one hostess and I did over 120 people; and all of them came in at once. The parties of 8 and 9 started coming in around 7:15, so we were all sufficiently lulled into complacency by then. And they kept coming through the door, like extras from The Walking Dead. We have an alarm system that makes a “beep-beep” in the back kitchen when the front door opens and, as I am back there madly buffing glassware and silver to keep us afloat, it was going off to the beat of Funkytown. Let me take you down, beep-buh-beep, to Funkytown, beep-buh-beep… as more and more piled in.
In the midst of all this fun and good times, my bartender decided now would be a grand time to cut his hand, taking me off the floor and him out of a very busy bar while I triaged his wound. I found our sparsely stocked First Aid Kit, (and someone please tell me why it is that restaurant First Aid Kits are either stocked to the hilt with eye cups, defibrillators, and enough stuff to treat the victims of the Haiti earthquake, or they have just three band-aids and some dull scissors?) and got his hand wrapped; but the bleeding just wouldn’t stop and the kitchen had run out of latex gloves. Perfect. Now wouldn’t this be an excellent time for the Health Department to stop in? I got on my cell, called in a “Stunt Bartender” who, thankfully, was both nearby and willing to come in: go figure. She arrived about 20 minutes later and jumped into the fray.
I had just barely hung up the phone when my hostess, who was still doing restroom checks despite being drafted into service running food and bussing tables, informed me that the toilet in the Men’s Room had backed up. Dealing with the shitty situation in the bathroom brought new meaning to the term “Manager’s Log”.
As I was pushing the mop bucket from the restroom back into the scullery, I noticed that there was no one on the Sautee Station in the kitchen. The sous-chef informed me that he’d had to send one of the cooks home because he had been caught drinking the cooking wine in the back, and was drunk. Perfect. He told me this as I was helping one of my weeded servers process the nine separate checks from a party of really snotty Nelly Queens who had decided they needed to leave, now. All I needed was a good, old-fashioned computer crash to really make my night complete.
So then, another server comes up to tell me that the four-top on 72 wants to “speak to The Manager.” All restaurant mangers know that these are words that are generally never followed by anything good; and a big Shit Sandwich is most likely coming your way. As a manager, I like to remain in the background, offering support to the staff. I am like an Offensive Lineman in the NFL. The only time my number is called out over the PA system is when something bad has happened; but instead of “Holding, number 72, offense…” and the touchdown is called back, it’s “Overcooked Veal Chop, table 72…”
The tidal wave of business is beginning to withdraw from the beach, and the crew is starting to pick through the rubble, straightening out the beach chairs and umbrellas; so I cinch up my tie, shoot my cuffs, and head on over to 72. The gent at Position 3 who, as I was seating them, had made an off-color joke about the “diverse” crew and the “war zone” of the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant, had appointed himself spokesperson. They are four very old, very Jewish people. Oy.
“Lizzen, I just vant to tell you some-zing, here…”
Okay, here we go. Open wide for the Shitburger, and make it a double.
“Our soiver, fen-tehs-tic! And the Duck, to die for. We loved it all. Job vell done…”
I was speechless, as an ear-to-ear, decidedly non-shit eating grin had commandeered my face. A perfectly mashugana end to Sunday, Bloody Sunday…
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