Sunday, March 18, 2007

In the weeds

During a previous incarnation as the manager of a bar and a restaurant, I was told to hire the singer for this group, who was about 20 at the time, and – by sheer coincidence – the niece of one of the owners. She was a musician even then. Since about 80% of the staff were already musicians, actors, and painters, and our real need was for flexible, very available people who could fill in for others who were on tour, or on a leave of absence, or on a film set. Therefore, I suggested that hiring another working musician was not the best plan.

She got hired. And within a week, she was dropping shifts and telling me not to schedule her to work any weekends, the very thing she'd been hired for.

I have lots of similarly fond memories from that time when I was managing two separate places for around $1400 a month, with a newborn baby at home, and having to bus tables on Saturday nights just to bring in some extra money. Dealing with coked-up primadonna waiters of both sexes, two owners who had stopped talking to each other and were in the process of severing their partnership, and a restaurant that was empty most of the week while its sister bar thrived two doors down. And me all of about 24 years old. I think it was during that period that I first really took to punching walls and doors. It's become kind of a hobby during particularly stressful times.

My wife has some truly insane stories about her days as a waitress; my stories are mostly pathetic. One I'm still fond of is about the busboy who managed to get wildly drunk and stoned on his training shift. About halfway through the evening, I found him sitting at the bar drinking a pint he'd apparently poured himself while the place fell into chaos around him. "You can't sit there and drink when it's busy," I told him, and watched with amazement as he nodded, then stood up to continue drinking. (I'd told him he couldn't sit there, right?) He also managed to go home with the bartender's keys (but not the bartender).

As I fired him the next day (something I had to do a lot, and which, I will admit, didn't always make me feel bad), he tearfully pleaded with me to tell him what he'd done wrong.

"Well, I would suggest that at the next place you work, you don't get shitface on your training shift."

"But the cook and the waiters were out there smoking up, too!"

"Ok, another thing I would suggest is that you don't start ratting on your fellow employees before they're even, you know, your fellow employees."

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