How Depressing…

September 9, 2009

Working at a restaurant that primarily serves the elderly can be extremely depressing at times. Solo diners sit at counters and tables, their posture and behavior belying the fact that eating alone is something they’re not quite used to doing. A few bring books, but the majority bring newspapers. With pens in their withered hands, they scan the obituaries, looking for friends and acquaintances who have joined the choir invisible. The resultant circles and x’s are reminiscent of a macabre lottery ticket. What strikes me is that none of these people seem at all fazed, and I can’t help but wonder, at what point in their lives did they gain this seeming indifference to death? At what point in my life will I behave the same way?

Many of these apparently grief-immune people are regulars. Many of them have been coming to The Restaurant for years. As a result, we often get to know them very well. When a regular stops coming in, the first thought that comes to mind isn’t of how I might have driven them away. Rather, I wonder if they’re all right. Sometimes they are–the elderly are prone to health issues. Sometimes, they never come back.

I had one, a sweet old man, who came in every Friday and ordered two swiss steak dinners with mashed potatoes and gravy and side salads. He always called them “two of ’em li’l lettuce salads,” which I found extremely endearing. He was always friendly, cheerful, and tipped well. He hasn’t been in in months. I hope he and his wife just got tired of swiss steak every week.

The Friday before last, a man came up to the register to pay. “How are you doing?” I asked him.

“I’m okay…” he mumbled. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Don’t ever get old.”

“Excuse me?”

“Don’t ever get old. It’s not worth it. I just got back from the doctor. I spend more time there than anywhere else.”

Once again, I felt like a jerk wishing him a nice weekend.

One of Those Days…

September 6, 2009

Do you ever have one of those days, where you go to work and it feels like your first day all over again? Not in the good “I’m starting a new job and I’m nervous but cautiously optimistic” way, I mean in the “Wow, I seem to be fucking up every single thing I do” way.

Friday was like that for me. I worked 11am-2pm and 3:30pm-close, and I was in retard mode about 90% of the time. Over-ring the register? Check. Forget how to deal with gift certificates? Check. Snap at a retarded cook? Jump at small noises? Fuck up a bunch of people’s orders, at least one of which was a pretty goddamn big mistake? Check, check, check.

Part of it was working the day shift, again. Yeah, I know I said I like it, and I do, but it’s very…different from the evening. It’s busier, for one, but the real difference is that we have a pretty regular day staff. Antediluvian (so named because she’s been at The Restaurant forever), Ex-Junkie, and Snitch work almost every day, and Antediluvian in particular is one of those people who has to have things a certain way. Furthermore, we have a ridiculous number of both carryout and in-store regulars, and they also like to have things just so. In short, there’s an established order, and I don’t have a place in it. I felt like an intruder the whole time, and it made me pretty gun-shy.

That uneasiness carried over into my second shift, and that combined with a brand-new and not very competent fry cook meant I was about ready to tear my hair out by the end of the night.

In happier news, I found out that I have been accepted by the university I applied to. This means I’ll be graduating from the community college this quarter and starting in the winter. For once in my life, my hard work actually paid off. Perhaps with the spectre of rejection no longer looming over me, I might become a little less on-edge. I wouldn’t count on it, though.

Morning Shift

August 5, 2009

Ah, I’m tired. Had to get up at 6:30 AM so I could be at work by 7:30 to basically be Owner’s helper, i.e. a prep cook/cashier/carryout girl.

The morning staff is so different from the evening staff. Almost everyone is an adult well out of college. Everyone seems more tired, more burnt out. I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s early or because they’ve been in foodservice so long that it’s worn them out.

Helping in the kitchen was surprisingly fun; maybe just because I was doing different things. Except dicing onions. That wasn’t fun, and having Owner laugh at me the whole time was also not so fun.

The rest of the shift was boring; I had a lot of regulars ask who the hell I was, and very little to do besides take people’s money.  A side note: saying things like “I guess I have to give you money now” is not original or particularly funny. Acting put out because you have to pay for your food just makes you seem like an asshole. Maybe I lack a sense of humor–or maybe I’m just tired of hearing it every goddamn shift–but if you make those kinds of jokes, you should stop. Before I start seriously considering creative uses for a chef knife.

By the way, Owner said I handled the Ring Pop lady situation correctly. Go figure.

People are Jerks

July 22, 2009

Last night was refreshingly busy. Unfortunately, my side of the increased business included almost nothing but rude and impatient people. Most of my customers were merely brusque, but two stick out: Fry Lady and Condescending Father.

Fry Lady seemed all right to begin with. She came in about mid-shift and asked to look at a menu, made a smallish order, and proceeded to sit at the counter to wait. Unfortunately for her, the rest of the restaurant was busy, and we had most inept (least ept?) grill cook working tonight.

For some reason, Teenage Cook cannot handle more than two orders at a time. Or he can’t handle making carryout orders at the same time as in-house orders. I’m not sure what his problem is, really, except that he always does carryout orders last.

Teenage Cook was coupled with New Cook, who was working the fryer. New Cook is pretty fast, at least as a fry cook, so the fries the lady ordered were done well before the Signature Burgers. This meant they were sitting out, getting cold, while Teenage Cook was making every order but mine.

Now, from the counter area, customers are able to see into the kitchen. Fry Lady could see those fries sitting there and was understandably perturbed. She came to the register to speak to me.

“Are those fries still hot? They’ve been sitting there a long time.” More like three or four minutes, but at this point, I was still on her side. It does not take 15 minutes to make 2 burgers and an order of fries. I went to check and see if they were still hot—thankfully, they were, and I informed her as such.

“Are you sure? Because I don’t want them if they’re not hot.”

“I assure you ma’am, I just checked them, and they’re definitely still hot.”

“If you’re sure…I don’t want them if they’re not hot!” Yes, you just told me that.

About a minute or two later, my food finally came out. I boxed it up as quickly as possible and rushed it out to her. Despite apologizing for the wait, needless to say, I was met with more bitchery about the fries. She snapped at me, practically threw her money at me, and stormed out.

Worse than Fry Lady, however, was Condescending Father. This “gentleman” is one of my least favorite regulars. He always pulls up to the window in his black SUV with his four bratty children in tow. Said children like to hang their heads out the windows like dogs and scream at me.

Despite having ordered from us repeatedly, CF doesn’t know our menu (though he thinks he does), apparently thinks we’re McDonald’s, and always speaks to me in the most condescending tone imaginable. Imagine a typical Midwestern upper-middle class WASP speaking to a mentally challenged five-year-old and you’ve got his inflection.

“I want four kids chicken nuggets…” Chicken fingers. “All with fries, and those come with drinks, right?” Wrong. “Fine, I want four…no, five vanilla cokes…”

“LARGE vanilla cokes!” one of his children screams from the back window.

“Yeah, LARGE! We want LARGE vanilla cokes!” the others begin chanting, as I’m trying to take this order. CF does nothing to quiet them. “And then I want a kids cheeseburger meal…”

“I’m sorry, we don’t have a kids cheeseburger meal.”

“Fine, then just give me a cheeseburger and another two fries. And put my ketchup in a container instead of packets, will you? Thanks.” His “thanks” is as condescending as the rest of his speech. But the condescension isn’t the worst part. The worst part about this guy is he’s a Starer.

Starers are a subspecies of Campers who, as the name suggests, sit and stare at me the whole time they’re there. This is understandably annoying and unnerving at times, and is the biggest contributor to my anxiety at work. I’m not sure why they do it, other than the ones whose stares turn to glares whenever I stop moving or go to help another customer. Weren’t these people ever taught it’s rude to stare?

While these two were the worst, almost all of my customers today were rude, as I said. I don’t understand it at all. As long as you’re polite, I am 100% on your side. I will see to it that your order is perfect. I will yell at the cooks for taking too long. I will do all sorts of stupid things, like I did last night for the guy who wanted a single milkshake split into 3 small cups ten minutes before close. It was annoying, but he was friendly—almost apologetic—and he tipped me for it. Condescending Father? I hope his kids enjoyed their butter-less rolls.

The only good part of last night came at closing time. A couple guys pulled up right after we locked the doors. I opened the window and told them we were closed.

“Awwwwww…really?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.”

“We just wanted two milkshakes.” HA! No, sorry, Sister A (one of three sisters who waitress at The Restaurant) had already cleaned the milkshake machine three times because I kept getting milkshake orders. Still, they persisted.

“You close at 8:00, right?”

“That’s right.”

“It’s not 8:00 yet! We want milkshakes!” Oh no, don’t try to pull that one on me.

“I’m sorry, it’s 8:00 in here. Come back tomorrow.” And I closed the window. I love saying “no” to people like that.

Sorry for the long post. I’m sure Thursday’s will be shorter, though it’s N’s last day, so there may be some shenanigans. Be sure to check and see!