Saturday, October 16, 2010

Taking A Bow and Bowing Out.

In April of 2009, almost one year after I had graduated from Ivy League, I began a pretty hardcore job search. I finished up an internship that had brought me through my first (non)academic year after college, the world was totally not my oyster. So after a month of living on the west coast without a job, I moved back east. And in with my Dad.

By September, I had my first job in the restaurant industry serving room service at 6 a.m. at a trendy hotel in a kitchen run by a star chef. I moved out, went to work, and doggedly applied for any jobs I could find. I also busted my ass at the restaurant, and clawed my way up from room service to being a barista, a busser, and then a breakfast server. And unlike most of my coworkers, I was really into it. I had long followed our chef on blogs like Eater, I was friendly with the cooking team who enjoyed my supreme foodie geekdom, and it turned out I was a good seller. But those mornings were brutal. For months, I worked as a server and a barista, arriving to work weekdays and weekend brunches at 7 a.m.

When New Years Eve rolled around, my typical bahumbuggery for the holiday was replaced by an intense euphoria. "2009 fucking sucked, 2010 has got to be better" was my quote of the week and not surprisingly, several of my peers felt the same way. The economic crash had not only pulverized our dreamy career expectations, but many of us spent 2009, our first year out of college, living with our folks. We didn't have jobs (let alone cool jobs), we didn't have prospects. 2009 really blew. But 2010 was going to be better. I started writing in April of 2010, one year after my earnest job search began.

Although I kept looking for other work, I consistently worked hard at the restaurant, and got myself another promotion. In part due to the fact that I never turned down the opportunity to cover another server's shift, I became the sub. Someone doesn't show up? I'd be there. And I was outselling them. I worked hard and fast to get my tray skills up to par and began getting regular cocktailing shifts. I enjoyed my shifts for the most part, didn't mind the grunt work, and loved having stories to write when I got home. I would get comped at restaurants across the city, and I was part of the industry in-crowd by virtue of how cool the restaurant I worked at was. Life was good.

But it wasn't great. I often felt frustrated, one of the managers hated me, and I had a small gnawing voice inside telling me I should do something to move forward. The months slipped by, I still was regularly reading job boards, and on a whim applied to be an office manager of an extremely prestigious restaurant group. I took a gamble by accepting the position even though it was only offered as a month temp gig, but on September 30, 2010 I was offered a full time job there. Two weeks later, the Chef sat me down to tell me that he wants me to take over for her his personal assistant, whom he wants to promote after 2 years of doing his PA work. And my benefits kick in in December.

My job is delightfully all-consuming. (Is it weird that it feels good to be stressed?) I'm learning what it takes not just to run a successful restaurant, but a successful business. And the industry clout I thought I had will soon be paling in comparison to the fact that television production companies and food magazines will soon be filing away my contact information since I will be a gatekeeper to this organization and the Chef at its helm. Yes, I spend an unfathomable percentage of my work life on the phone with hotels and airlines, and yes I do an insane amount of filing every day, but I am now fully employed and well on my way to A Career. During my evaluation, the higher ups discussed my long term goals, asking me in earnest if I was planning on sticking around for years. I am. And I'm kind of loving this newfound stability. My job is crazy, but my life is no longer.

Part of the original subtitle of my blog was in reference to "my journey to find full time employment." Just over 2 years after graduating, the journey has ended and the mission has been accomplished. And if I may say so myself, it's been accomplished in a big way. The site's not going anywhere, but I am. Chef's calling on the blackberry!

The assistant/office manager/gal friday formerly known as Underemployed

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Everything Old Is New Again.

This is a short post, since I need to make it into bed early. I'll put it this way: This time last year I was waking up monstrously early to be at work in room service at 6 AM. I have come full circle, setting my alarm to wake up tomorrow in time to give my boss the Chef a wake up call at 6 AM for his early morning flight. This is going to suck real bad. And my 30-day performance review / evaluation / what the fuck is going on with my employment status is going to be happening tomorrow. Big day tomorrow.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In Which I Revert To Old Habits.

Since I still don't know whether this temporary full time job is going to stick or not, I've gone back to spending my free time on the computer surfing the food/bev/hosp section of the nyc Craigslist. Check out this incredibly insulting post. Before you read this headline, please remember that serving can in and of itself be a lucrative career. That servers at places like Per Se and Le Bernardin are at the top of the game, and have worked long and hard to get there. That they are, to use a recently coined Bourdainism, gatekeepers. Gatekeepers and ushers for truly special experiences for people. Their job is no more or less important than anyone who works towards the production of art, entertainment, or luxury items. (I also have trouble with their fundamental assumption that work has varying degrees of meaning. What's their basis for judgment anyway?)

Sick of Waiting Tables? Do Something Meaningful Instead!

....When you work for the WFP you will be starting a career. Part of your job will include fundraising – but that is not the be all end all of your work with us. You will work on all different types of campaigns, learn the ins and outs of campaign management and improve the lives of millions of people along the way.....

HOURS: Monday- Friday
1:30 -9:30 HOURS: Monday- Friday
  • Compensation: Starting pay: $21k starting salary + Full Health Benefits, sick days, room for growth
  • This is at a non-profit organization.

That's right. Instead of earning money in the service industry, start a career by asking other people who deign to earn money doing jobs that might not be politically inclined to give that money so you can fund your organization so they can pay you. Whatever the political aspirations of the WFP are, they could use some help on their tact. And for 21K a year, you'd definitely be better off waiting tables. Oh wait- you'll only be able to work opening breakfast shifts at cafe that do a changeover at noon! Or get some late night cocktailing gig at a club that has a changeover at 10...since those are your only shot at supplementing your income with those hours.

These people are assholes, and I'm proud of my industry. Now someone get me a cocktail tray! I feel a whole lot of meaning about to come my way.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's A Girl Have To Do To Get A Little Service Around Here?

Apparently, the answer is "Call me."

This was my first weekend where I did substantial work on day off. And in the middle of what was a really great day off. I spent three hours calling customers, emailing the restaurant, and rearranging car services for Chef. I set up shop at the bar of a mom & pop chinese food restaurant, nursing a single can of diet coke working from my "virtual office."

Now, the first series of interruptions and phone calls caught me on a 30-block walk with a cute guy I had just had lunch with...but never one to try to impress, I of course took the call, wrote the emails and allowed myself to be interrupted. Fortunately for me, he later told me that he found the whole experience "fun." Score 1 for me.

In The Devil Wears Prada, the friends and lovers in Andy's (Anne Hathaway's) life resent her being on-call, give her grief for interrupting meals to take a phone call, ditching plans to do work for the boss. But to my mind, that's what she was paid for. And if they don't like it, they should offer to pay her rent for her.

And for the three remaining weeks I'm definitely working for this restaurant group, that's what I'm being paid for too. If they call me and I'm physically able to answer the phone, I will take it. I mean, I'm making more than twice what I was a cocktail server for the month, and I appreciate that the money is in exchange for my services. My services these days are no longer a smile and a drink menu, but rather my ability to have time to do things people more important than me don't. And props to my friends who have handled my frazzled interruptions with the same sense of humor I try to bring too.

I was feeling sort of stressed out by the time my phone calls and emails ended. It was sort of a wake-up call that my second attempt to socialize this weekend was thwarted by the blackberry. Friday night there was a big event that Chef was at, along with his first assistant. I had been instructed to be "on call," meaning reachable for the evening. When I finally joined up with my friends for a quiet evening of insobriety and Paul Newman flicks around 10:30, I was still theoretically on the clock. When the berry went off with an email from Chef thanking everyone for a successful evening, a great sigh of relief was exhaled. That was around 11:30 pm.

For the lawyers, paralegals and med students reading this, my plight seems small. Because it is. It's just that I haven't been asked to be so available to my work maybe since my last major collaborative art project in college. I'm getting used to it. Slowly but surely, my new life is making more and more sense to me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Figuring Out Who Likes Me. Like, At Work, I Mean.

Well, this week was my first week flying solo.

At the end of my first day of work, two of the higher ups sat me down.

SkinnySuperior: How do you think it's going so far?"
Underemployed: Good. There hasn't been any yelling so I think that's a good sign.
Awkward laughter since nobody ever makes jokes at this office.
SkinnySuperior: Well, this is the smoothest transition we've ever had, and HipsterSuperior and I are both going to be out of the office after tomorrow so we're just kind of paranoid.
Underemployed (knocking on wood) : Well, let's see what happens tomorrow.

Each day sort of went like this, and by the end of the week I ended up having down time. The thing is, and I don't want to sound like an ass, but the girl who trained me was sort of a moron. That doesn't mean she wasn't good at this job. But maybe this job is totally her speed. I mean, I just haven't found it that challenging to file, to be a receptionist, be an office manager (aka office supply orderer) and to do reservations in one workday. But after the scary Cutrone-esque speeches I was given, I too am waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I was warned ahead of time that Chef is a diva, and likely to yell at me. He depends on HipsterSuperior to do his travel arrangements and personal assistant stuff. I was told that I will be assisting with the personal assisting later in the month, once Chef gets to know me more. Well, HipsterSuperior was on vacation this week, and Chef was in Europe doing food-related work. And he had plans in need of changing. So I took care of it. It just didn't strike me as that big of a deal, and my superior was out of town, out of the office.

So yes, I spent time at the office investigating airfares at the last minute. And yes, I spent hours over this long weekend on the phone trying to get hotel rates in foreign places and figuring out how to minimize last minute cancellation costs. And you know what? Chef apologized for asking me to work over the weekend. He thanked me for my work almost every email. I know that he's supposed to be so scary, but so far, so good. And this I feel is a small victory.

But my real victory of the week has been developing a friendship with the business partner, the most senior person in our office, Mr.Money. My predecessor described Mr.Money as a jerk, one in front of whom you had to use only the precisest words. "Just think about what you want to tell him before you open your mouth, he'll hang on your every word."

Yet, in the office he and I get on great. He laughs at my jokes. He likes to taste test coffee blends with me around the office coffee machine. He sent me a huge list of restaurant recommendations when I went out of town this weekend. And when he pontificates about the restaurant industry, not only do I hang on every word, I seem to be the only one asking follow up questions. HELLO PEOPLE. The information and ideas he waxes about are why this job is worth taking, why it's best to work for the best people, even if you're at the bottom of the totem pole.

I've only had one project from him directly. As I went into his office to collect waste paper (it was my cleaning day) he looked up from his computer.

Mr.Money : Thanks....Shit!
Underemployed: What?
Mr.Money: I didn't read the email you sent me.
He finds Underemployed email amongst several in his inbox. Reads her findings.
Mr.Money: This is great. This is fascinating. Thank you so much. This is just what I was looking for.
Underemployed: Great. Let me know what my next step is whenever it's time to move forward.

My thinking is to do 110% on any and every project/task/favor asked of me by Chef and by Mr. Money. If I keep them lovin' it, it will be a lot harder for the Superiors to get rid of me when the month is over, even if the girl who trained me does return from Cali and resumes working.

I've been stressed out this week, figuring out what my role in the office is, who I can trust, and how important any given task is. But in spite of all of that, I think I'm kind of hitting it out of the park.

Stay tuned for week 2!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oh, You Really Do Need To Check That Blackberry. Or, An Apology to Those I've Judged.

I get it. I didn't used to get it. Now I do.

I've never had a job where I needed to be available when I wasn't on the clock. It never made sense to me why I would need to be. What could I do from home anyway, I'd think to myself back when I was working in an arts administration office, I'll be back in the office on Monday morning and if it was really important they'd call me. And every once in a while my boss would call and I'd go to the office or do something time sensitive. I didn't have or need internet on my phone.

At the new (restaurant) office job, they gave me a blackberry. This blackberry is synced to the 5 email accounts I manage: my own, the 2 reservation email accounts and the 2 general questions accounts. I also get voicemails delivered into my email inbox. Awesome. Although the front of house managers deal with them during the weekend hours, I learned last night (saturday) at cocktail hour why I need to check the fucking blackberry, even though its supposedly my day off. The reason is- it's a restaurant! Weekends = busy time!

In my inbox was a time sensitive email request- someone wanted us to call her so she could buy someone else some appetizers as an apology for not being able to make it to the dinner. The recipient was to dine at 5. She emailed at 4. I checked the blackberry at 5:30. I immediately forwarded the request to the foh manager with a quick "I just read this. I'm out of the office thought you should take a look." I also bccd the PR director/chef's p.a. because they want to monitor all my emails to see if I'm up to par. I got a prompt response saying that the manager had spoken with the customer earlier- it must have been one of the million voicemails I haven't listened to yet.

I did absolutely nothing wrong. I was told foh monitors this stuff when I'm out of the office. It's not my responsibility to do this stuff over the weekend. But, this is so confusing to me. I didn't look bad for missing the email, did I? If so, really?

Question: If you have a work blackberry, how often do you have to check it over the weekend? I say every 3-4 hours should do. NYC Big Law Firm Quinn Emanuel has a once an hour and always before bed policy.

Readers, tell me what to do!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ode To Kelly Cutrone. Part 1.

OSure, I bought her book hoping for advice about working in a fast paced, diva driven office environment but instead got her general musings about how to learn who I am. Although her description of fashion pr as her yogic ashram falls on deaf ears, Kelly Cutrone has wisdom to offer me. Below are some amazing clips from Bravo's "Kell on Earth." After a busy second day at the office, I have a new found zeal in watching these.

Legit, I have been given speeches at the new office like the one Kelly gives at the end of this clip. Except the part about crying. And her book-title-worthy advice is one I plan on following for the rest of my life.

On why I should be busy and stressed out:

Why it's bad to commit legitimate crimes. Particularly crimes related to or benefiting from my job:

How not to answer phones (this clip takes place at Kelly's company)

The restaurant office I now work in only has 2 male permanent staffers, but is run by a male chef/owner. One of the two men in the office is the only person in the office to not be on the main floor in a semi-private workspace. He's a big deal. But of the worker bees, only one man's in the trenches. I think Kelly would have lots to say about it, including that maybe the reason the women in my office are such type-A stone-faced crazies is because they are fighting a little harder than the men to be taken as seriously in their careers. Plus she mocks Ryan Seacrest to his face. Twice.

Kelly, teach me how to toughen up and work in a legit for profit office environment. And how to look great while doing it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back To Schoolish. Day 1 At The New Place.

It was fitting that first my first day at my new gig the weather was gray and crisp and back-to-school like. I definitely felt like I started a new chapter today.

Readers, forgive my lack of motivation but I am exhausted and can't write too much about my day. My dad emailed me to see how it went, below is our word for word email exchange.

Dad, to Underemployed

How was work?

Underemployed, to Dad

Fine- considering the disparate information needed to do this job has been presented to me completely haphazardly, I think I did fine. Honestly, in a way its a blessing that there's a grace period- takes the edge off. And they hired someone off the street to enter the office only 5 days before the replacement leaves. They could have hired an actual admin temp if they wanted someone who already knows how to be a secretary.

Learned more: The girl I'm replacing is 26 years old, and her husband of 1 year has filed for divorce. She's going home to stay with her mom in California...although no higher-ups have said it let alone even intimated, I wonder if there really will be a position for her when (if) she comes back to NYC. One doesn't just take a month off of full-time, salaried benefits work. And I think the hiring schedule suggests that she let them know at the last minute. She's literally getting on a plane friday night. I also don't think divorce is like a protected thing the way a spouse dying is (i.e. if her husband died i think it would be illegal for them to fire her for taking time off)

At the end of the day, the job is quick paced admin, and I am out of practice at office life which, given that i haven't sat at a desk since over a year, makes sense. This position is in no way a dream job, and there were definite times today i missed being on the floor, slinging cocktails and shooting the breeze with my coworkers. But i feel closer to living like the adult I actually am having normal hours and a decently sized paycheck.

we'll see.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Worth Waiting For. A Tale of Good Luck In A Bad Economy.

Dear readers (if I even have readers after this horrific pause) my life is about to change in a big way. A lot has happened since my last post.

-I got my evaluation from the restaurant. Super positive.
-I applied to be an office manager for one of the most succesful restaurant groups in New York.
-I interviewed with said group.

Yesterday I did a trail in their offices. Only an office run by former waiters would think to "trail" an administrator. I can't say I learned a ton yesterday, but I definitely got the feel for the personalities in the office. An added bonus was around lunch time the office ordered delicious pizzas. Just as we each pick up a slice, in walks the head chef of this organization: A frequently photographed, notoriously assholic and unequivocally gifted chef. And I ate lunch with him, an experience that the average food writer would kill a puppy for.

I've referenced "Kell on Earth" on this blog before. I'll soon be living it. Or The Devil Wears Prada. Whichever seems scarier. The position I accepted is to be their office manager. Part personal assistant, part reservationist, part secretary/receptionist, part Girl Friday, I'll be busy and won't have the same day twice. It's a full time job. And I got it. Almost.

Employers who are growing or can afford new hires are really holding the cards. They offered me the position through Sept. 30th, at which point they will evaluate my relationship in their company. Only in a time of epic underemployment can an employer make a position like this a temporary try-out thingee.

I know I took a risk giving notice at the restaurant that I've been working at for a year. My managers have all been supportive, however, and they know that I have nothing but gratitude for the opportunity they gave me when they took a chance on a newbie. Hopefully, the risk will pay off and I'll land a full time job with a salary and benefits. If not, at least I will have great war stories about working for one of the hardest core chefs in the country. And you'll all get to read 'em.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How's Your Backhand? Good? Good.

Oh, summer time, how I love your promises of lushery, concerts, hanging out on balconies and fire escapes, cute dresses and new haircuts. I have grown accustomed to the fact that I am a mosquito magnet and weirdly proud of being an SPF 55+ wearing body double for any of the pale folks of Twilight.

New Yorkers are weirdly forward, I think because there the odds of seeing some random schmo you had words with in line or on the subway are so damn slim. Still, I've been surprised by the apparent city-wide reaction to my alabastery.

Drugged out man on subway last night, after I had sneezed twice: You must have allergies. Are you allergic to the sun?

Italian man in the East Village: Wow. You're so white. What's your name?

I could go on. But my all time favorite this summer came from a middle aged, leather-skinned customer. She was the gaudy type, who has probably been tanning regularly since the tanning bed was invented in 1978. I was serving her something appalling like virgin cosmos in the mid afternoon while she was with two men having some sort of casual meeting. I was wearing a cute, short, black skirt so I guess she saw this as an invitation to talk about the skin I had exposed.

"I just want to let you know I think it's great that you haven't caved into the pressure to tan. You look fine."

I smiled, holding my tray. "Thanks" I replied, but before my backhand could help itself from continuing the volley I added cheerily, "Getting skin cancer would really suck, you know, and for what, vanity?"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Serving Breakfast Makes Me Whiny.

Several people I work with at the restaurant have noticed that I have "good attention to detail," but its really hard to be detailed oriented while doing side work at 6:45 AM. Seriously.

See, the thing is, I'll forget to do something, and then my manager will be like- "You didn't fully set up the ice machine," and I'll just shrug and tell the truth, "Sorry I forgot." I don't like having to say that multiple times a shift because it's just not like me, but the thing is I have trouble using the entire 10% of my brain that I'm physically capable of at 7 AM. I've got the remembering to smile and remembering people's orders down cold at any hour, but remembering that the red bucket goes to the sink, the silver one under the ice machine and the glass container gets 7 bags of granola all before I've even been awake long enough to want a coffee???

The bitter irony is, when I get corrected I only remember about half of the instructions- only during breakfast shifts do I ask the same questions and/or make the same mistakes twice. You want me to get something done right, tell me how to do it after 9 AM. Or hey, I heard of these things called spreadsheets that can make for good checklisting! I never thought I'd ever see the day when I would kill for a checklist, readers, but that day came. Yesterday.

Other annoying things about breakfast:
-You can't wear headphones while you're in the prep kitchen pouring fresh squeezed juices into pitchers for service because "it's too dangerous." I get it, but the side station is far away from knives and ovens, and its so freaking early that if I need a little Paul Simon to help me ease into the day, I should be allowed.
-You get really hungry around 11 AM and there's absolutely nothing you can do about since you're the only server on the floor so your "breaks" are basically stepping into the kitchen for a glass of water, handful of potato chips or bite of toast some friendly cook made for you.
-Customers are prickly since they're decaffeinated and everybody has a specific way they like their toast or their muffin or their whatever they want.

On the plus side, the breakfast menu is really expensive, so if there is enough activity you can make great money. A family of four can easily hit $75 for their meal and lattes and orange juices and chocolate milks. And its a chilled out service. You're never hustling like you are at happy hour, and sometimes the money rivals it. My schedule is going to get finalized in the next few weeks, should I take any breakfasts?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How Much Would This Best Man Have To Pay You?

This morning's daily Craigslist fix had a job posting that makes me hate affianced American men:

Need Cute Topless Female Poker Dealer and Bartender Friday Night (Chelsea)

We are a group of laid back young professionals who are getting together to celebrate an upcoming marriage of one of our closest friends. We are looking for two girls who are willing to be our dealer for our poker game and our bartender while we play. No poker/bartending experience is necessary. The one stipulation is that you are willing to be topless and wear boy shorts or something similar. We are a group of guys in our twenties who are just looking to have fun - nothing creepy. We are willing to pay $70 per hour plus tips from 10:30 - 1:00 on Friday Night. The rate is negotiable. Please send pics or email back if interested and we can talk on the phone.

  • Compensation: $70 per hour plus tips, rate is negotiable
  • This is a part-time job.

Ugh, everything about this irks me. Don't worry, chickaboo, we're professionals! C'mon pleeeeaaaasse, this is not just a friend but one of our closest!!!!! See- it's just for fun, nothing creepy. But the kicker is for $210 base plus tips you could work a good night shift at a restaurant where you're allowed to keep your clothes on. Funny how that works.

What a bunch of assholes. And without any bartending experience those drinks will taste like crap.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Literally Going Ballistic. A Frightening Workplace Tragedy.

Manchester, Connecticut

So there's this truck driver Omar S. Thornton (fans of "The Wire" note this) who had been stealing beer from the distribution company he worked for. He hated working there, he even suggested to his girlfriend that he had been the victim of racist harrasment. Walking into the office at 7 AM, Omar knew he was in for a doozy, seeing as it was a disciplinary meeting to talk about the video tapes which document his booze burgling.

Upon being presented with the decision to resign or be fired, Omar pulled out a gun and open fired, moving through the warehouse. The New York Times reports that Omar killed 8 employees- 6 truck drivers, a drivers' union rep and one company executive- and then himself. I wish I could be flippant about it, but when you think that these truck drivers Omar shot were just there at that early morning hour to do there job and go home, it's really nauseating.

There are so many terrible workplaces out there. I can't help but wonder what small changes every employer and employee could make tomorrow to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again. I'm a major advocate for thanking co-workers (even if they are just doing their job), but I think my small change will be using people's names.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Time I Left Work Grinning.

The time is 1:15 AM. I am almost done with an unremarkable Sunday night cocktailing shift.

Tall Irishman: Is it too late for a pot of tea?
Underemployed: Nope.
Tall Irishman: Great! Can I get two pots of English breakfast tea with some milk?
Underemployed: Sure. Hey you look really familiar to me.
Tall Irishman: Oh?
Underemployed: Yeah. You know, you look just like the guy from The Frames.
Tall Irishman (smiling) : I am.

We introduced ourselves shaking hands, and I told him about how I'm a fan of his band and about how much I loved Once. When I brought him and his friend their teas, I told them it was on the house. He looked so surprised. "It's just hot water and two bags of tea, right? My pleasure."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Things Underemployed People Shouldn't Do Include: International Drug Smuggling.

I have just started reading a fascinating book by Sandra Gregory, who at age 27 got arrested for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Thailand into Japan. This book, along with overdosing (bad pun intended) on the National Geographic tv show "Locked Up: Abroad" has taught me one valuable lesson about underemployment. It is far better to be underemployed than locked up in a prison, particularly if that prison is in: Venezuela, Peru, or Thailand. No matter what the drug dealer tells you, you will never have a pleasant all-expenses paid holiday. No matter how many times he tells you he's done this, they will try to make you carry more than you intended and do something really stupid like sew kilo upon kilo into your suitcase. And going to jail will be horrible.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Job Is An Exit To Eternal Summer Slacking.

Remember those dumb jobs of high school summers past? For me my quintessential high school job experience was being a day camp counselor. You worked a long day, sometimes enjoyable and sometimes excruciating, and if you brought it home with you, you carried it only long enough to complain about it to your parents before going to someone's house (party).

Sometimes, and I mean this in the best of ways, I feel that way about my job in the restaurant industry. In some broad way, I am potentially working towards a career of some sorts, but the reality of my life right now is that I have a job where people regularly show up hung over, under slept, totally disinterested, and/or on autopilot.

Yesterday I worked an early morning serving shift, arriving at work at 6:40, clocked out at 2:30. Headed to the bar for my shift drink and was joined by a coworker (remember that 2:30, though early, had been the end of a full 8 hour work day for me). Took myself to solo dinner at one of my favorite East Village spots where I have an unlikely rapport with this line cook whose name I don't even know. We somehow end up chatting every time I go make our strange connection realer, he told me he will be trailing to work at the restaurant I'm at. Only in New York. Following, I joined some friends in Williamsburg for drinks and trivia night. I came close to pulling the elusive, rare breed of summer abandonment: the all-dayer. Sure I'll be a little tired at work today- but I'm working in hotel room service from 3pm - 11 pm. It's not like I'll really need to bring my A game. The only thing I'm definitely bringing is a book and a sensible dinner.

And while having a summer-style job is great over the summer, I know come September (and my one year anniversary at the restaurant) I'll miss sensing that with the crisp weather comes a return to trying hard.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

That Chocolate Sprinkle Is Moving: Oh God, It's Not An Ice Cream Shop, And That's Not A Sprinkle!

A reader forwarded me the following email chain, with the simple question: "If this had happened while you were working, what would you have told me?" To which I replied, "I would have apologized and sent a manager to talk to you, on the hope that they would comp. your meal."

Below are the emails, with names changed to protect the innocent.

FrequentFalafelEater, to BigFalafelInfo

I am a frequent BigFalafel customer, but I'd like to report a problem at the Upper West Side location. While I was eating there today, July 25, 2010, at about noon, several of the customers spotted a large cockroach on the ceiling. The roach then ran around the walls of the restaurant in plain sight of everyone, including several employees. When I reported the cockroach to the employees, they laughed and said they'd handle it later. 15 minutes later, the roach was still running around in the restaurant and the employees had done nothing. Before I report this obvious health code violation, I thought I would alert you so that you can improve employee training on dealing with pests in the restaurant.


BigFalafel, to FFE

Dear FrequentFalafelEater,

Thank you for your email, My name is MisterManager and I'm the director of operations of BigFalafel.

First, I would like you to know that since this morning I was on the phone with both my employees and our pest control company trying to resolve this situation asap. My pest control company that has been servicing us as well as other tenants in the building (the travel agency, ect...) has brought to my attention that due to a major extermination of the residential building's basement and garage many of the retail tenants have spotted water bugs in their establishments, it is very important to note that the water bug did not come from within our store.

That being said, I'm absolutely shocked of how my employees took action when it accrued and I'm on my way to the uws location as I'm writing this email.

FFE, I wish I can convince you that this is not a typical BigFalafel situation and would like to mail you a gift card so you can give us a second chance.
I promise we won't disappoint you.

If you're interested please reply with your address, I really look forward to your response.


Sent from my iPhone

FFE, to MisterManager

Dear MisterManager,

Thanks very much for your response. I'm glad the cockroach situation is being dealt with. My address is:

[omitted for reader privacy, lest you want to stalk him]

I love BigFalafel, so I was especially disappointed with my experience today. I'll give the restaurant another chance though; it sounds like you're on top things.


MisterManager, to FFE


I am very happy to hear that. You should expect your gift card by the end of this week.

Thank you,

Sent from my iPhone

The story is gross. But I think the director of operations handled the situation well. My reader says his faith in this falafel organization has been shaken to its leguminous core, but he is willing to give another shot. In this case, however, I have to imagine that 2 strikes and he's out faster than you can say "RAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And now I present you with the cutest video clip about living bug free ever created by the human species.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'd Apply But I Have Karaokephobia.

To all underemployed actors-

Do you like being in front of people? Do you like being at bars? Do you like watching people sing?

Then you should be a karaoke host. According to this job posting, you earn $25 per hour ($100-$200) per shift plus performance bonuses. I assume this bonus means you perform and do good?

And the best part? It can be your full-time gig.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Did You Say Van Gogh? Oh Nevermind You're Choking On Cake.

My birthday is just less than seven months away, which means my loved ones have more than enough time to figure out how to score me a cake like this and make it taste good.

Found on My Food Looks Funny.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's An Upcharge? Look Down At Your Itemized Receipt Next Time You Drink.

Well, all my cocktail studying really paid off today. I had a party of 10 middle aged men and women in the fashion industry celebrating a birthday party. The terms of their reservation included a $250 minimum before tax and tip, with a 20% gratuity included. Awesome.

The party went well. And I asked follow ups for every drink order. Shot of tequila? I upsold the most expensive tequila we had when asked for my recommend. When I listed the vodkas that could go in their bloody marys, they picked Grey Goose, plus a $3 up charge per drink to make it a bloody mary. Upselling = finding ways to upcharge.

The following is their itemized receipt, but with certain items vagued for my protection.

5 Ketel One $55
1 Ketel One $11
As Cosmo $2
2 Best Tequilas $32
1 Patron $13
As Margaritia $2
1 Bottle Chardonnay $52
5 Glass Chardonnay $65
3 Hendricks $36
6 Tanqueray $66
3 As Doubles w Tonic
2 Grey Goose $26
2 As Bloody $6
2 Glass Rose $22
4 Snacks $16
1 Appetizer $15

Subtotal $419.00
Tax $37.19
20 % Included Gratuity $83.80

Total Due $539.99

The birthday boy left an additional $20, making his final total $559.99. Percentage tipped? 25.

And all before 7 PM.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When Customers Flirt I Feel Sorry For Them.

I mean, not always. But I can't say that potential relationships are why I waitress. According to teen shopping catalogue and website mecca Alloy, that's exactly why they rank waitressing as one of the best summer jobs.

Why It Rocks: Tips, tips, tips! Not only is the money good, this is a great job to meet people! Who knows? Maybe you'll nab something more than just extra cash, like a yummy new BF!
Why It Sucks: If a customer wants a burger with everything on separate plates, you've gotta do it. And you gotta do it with a smile on your face. Annoying? Yes. But it's your job to make your customers happy.

HELLO. Separating things onto individual plates is so not the suckiest part of waitressing. How about standing for 8 hours at a time without a real meal? Or, getting cat calls from the dishwashers (fyi, enough women complained so now our dishwashers are on serious probation). Or how about customers who are trolling for something to be angry about? And the money is only good if you are working prime shifts at busy restaurants. And I've yet to meet a male customer I'd want to see outside of work.

But yeah, if all the romanticized notions of waitressing are true, I guess its just like totally the best summer job ever!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Rare Apology. Or, The Nicest Moment of My Yesterday.

Yesterday I worked a brisque cocktailing shift. The entire day was mildly stressful and I just wasn't feeling like myself. But there was one stand out nice moment.

ChubbyCustomer: Hey, I just wanted to apologize. You served me and a couple of my friends last week. My friend was really rude to you.
Underemployed (with the light of recognition) : Oh yeah, he didn't like his martini.
ChubbyCustomer: I know. I was mortified, he was so rude and condescending to you. And other people have told me he's a prick and I saw it come out then.
Underemployed: I mean, it really wasn't a big deal- but that's why I made sure to tell him that I put the order in correctly. I just wanted him to understand that I don't shake the martinis myself.
ChubbyCustomer: Totally. Yeah, I just wanted to apologize.
Underemployed: Well, thank you.

It was a touching moment. For those of you who are curious, below is my memory of what his priggish friend said about his martini:

First of all this tastes like gin, not vodka. Second of all, it tastes like an entire bottle of vermouth was poured into this glass. I wanted it dry. It's just not what I ordered. (Repeat these 4 sentences in different order three times)

To my mind, the friend wasn't rude initially. What was rude was that he kept at it over and over again instead of letting me take his drink back to the bar and get him a new one and be done with it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Holy Boogers! This Is Horrible.

Check out this video from Fox Reality channel. I cannot speak to the validity of this video.

There is no excuse. For those who have wondered about where I work, I just want you to know that I have NEVER seen anything half as disgusting at work. What a creeper.

Monday, July 12, 2010

And Then I Dreamed Neo-Nazis Invaded. Or, My Supervisor Can Suck It.

Last night went reasonably well. Almost every table tipped over 18%, several tables had multiple rounds, and yet I was off by 12:30 AM. It started rocky.

GermanSupervisor: You don't work that often and you'll be alone on the floor tonight so just ask for help when you need it. That's what I'm here for.
Underemployed: Ok.

First of all, I've been cocktailing 3 days a week for a month. Often alone for significant portions of my shift. Second of all, when she said that to me there were only 2 open checks. SLOW. Thirdly, I've been working at this restaurant since before she was even hired- yes, she's been here a long time, but I've been here longer. Yes, she got hired as a supervisor, but I get how things work around this place. I've been working at the same damned restaurant since September of '09, and have picked up serving shifts since December (pre-German). That makes me an old timer. My last comment. Although I don't take it personally since she is a raging bitch to almost everyone, I do read it as a pathetic attempt at asserting authority, à la I'm going to insult you and then tell you its because you need schooling since I'm in charge, got it? If you know your conversation partner isn't really allowed to respond, any insinuation of insult is pitiable. And my response is my coping strategy at work. Get yelled at? "Ok." Hard to keep escalating with someone who responds calmly.

Fast forward to later in the night. Much much later. The drink rush has ended. I did great- not a single misprinted receipt, not a complaint about an order, and earlier a table with 2 bottles of pinot noir tipped 30%. My customers were happy, I was happy. Still, every time my supervisor showed up on the floor she had something to nitpick. Whatever, that's her job, but if I find it faster to get to checks on the computer by pushing which table they are at vs. listing the open checks and searching for their name, what does it matter? It doesn't, but you aren't an authority if you aren't criticizing someone, right?

But she got her time to shine. I had just sold a bottle of rose to two friendly gay guys who I'd been serving by the glass for about an hour. They had their girlfriends from college joining them. They wanted to have the bottle waiting, but close it out. "These girls will drink us under the table if we don't set limits." I really liked these guys. We had such a great rapport by this point.

Enter my supervisor. It turns out, we had 86'd the standard rose (we sold out a couple days ago and are waiting for the new supply. Rose is hot right now) The bottle I gave them was a bottle of a different rose that was from the restaurant (as opposed to the cocktail bar) and it cost $4 more. Now, the check was already closed. And the gents had left me a generous 30% tip on the $44 bottle that they were enjoying so much. My supervisor was angry, stressed, and making little sense.

Underemployed: This was the bottle I was given by the bar. I had been selling them rose by the glass, and nobody behind the bar or otherwise told me we were 86'd rose and serving a different bottle.
GermanSupervisor: Well, its your fault that you didn't look closely at the bottle and aren't familiar enough with the wine list to notice it was different. I'm going to have to go talk to your table and let them know you brought them the wrong bottle. And that we need to readjust their closed check so we don't lose the difference from what we sold.
Underemployed: Ok. They're really nice. I'm sure they don't care.
GermanSupervisor: We'll see.

Seeing that she wasn't going directly to my gents right away, I swung by to "clear" some of their snack plates away. I said quickly, "Guys, I brought you the wrong bottle. The bottle I brought you is $4 more expensive than the bottle we normally serve. I didn't know. My manager is going to come over here and talk to you, I don't really know why, but I'm sorry in advance."

While taking care of my other customers, I saw her approach the table and talk with them. I'm nervous, but not really since these guys are in my pocket, they love me, I know they wouldn't let my supervisor get away without saying I'm great. After a little time goes by, I bring drinks to a nearby table, and swing by my men.

"She had the nerve to interrupt our evening to tell us that there was a disconnect between the waitstaff and the bar," one of the gentlemen said. "Before she could even finish I told her, 'Isn't it your job to make sure that your staff knows what's going on? We asked our lovely server for a bottle of rose, she brought us one, we're happy.' I want her fired. You know he [the other gentlemen] lives at this hotel 3 months a year?" I was stunned, they stood up for me and insulted her to boot! "I don't like he face, what's her name? I want her fired." I whispered her name to him. A customer asked me a question and I answered it. They ordered another bottle after their girlfriends arrived and some more munchies. I comped them a $4 snack, considering that's the price difference between the bottle they ordered and the more expensive bottles they kept ordering.

As I opened the bottle for them and poured, I heard a phone ringing behind me. I picked up the blackberry and put it on their table, since they had rearranged slightly once the ladies arrived. "It's not mine," said my new gaymanfriend. "It must be your bitchy manager's. I'm going to answer it." I ran away. My supervisor was rummaging through the drawers of the service station looking for her phone. I helped her look. I went back to the awesome people, "She's freaking out!" I told them. "What if I drop her blackberry in the toilet?" We laughed, knowing he wouldn't. I walked away. As I arrived again to give them their munchies I saw a blackberry still on the table. Blackberries in the toilet was sort of a motif for the rest of the night. We had a great time. Again, a seriously generous tip on the bottle.

When I was doing my closeout paperwork, my manager didn't speak to me. Whatever. I don't get paid enough to stroke her ego too. Not my job. In my dream last night the cocktail bar was being invaded by neo-nazis. I guess my subconscious too was feeling neither generous nor subtle to this fucking woman.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Knowledge Is Power. Or, Why I Studied Before Work.

Tonight is my first late night cocktail shift. I will clock in at 6 PM, and clockout when we shut the bar down between 2 AM and 4 AM. I want to step up my game, not only to ensure that I keep getting these lucrative shifts, but also so I can make the most I can. So I'm studying up.

I've spent the afternoon looking over classic cocktail recipes. Why? So I can upsell. For example: Lady orders a Negroni. Before I did my studying, I would have said, "Ok," walked to the computer and hit the "Negroni" button. However, what I will do tonight, is ask, "Do you have a gin preference." Hopefully she will pick a gin that is more expensive than the well gin. Say Tanqueray. I would then walk over to the computer and push the "Tanqueray" button, and then hit the "as Negroni" button, which adds a $2 upcharge (for the Campari). Thus, instead of a $12 Negroni from the well, I've opened up the possibility for a $12-15 dollar Negroni depending on which gin the Lady picks.

And this, folks, is why it pays to know. I'm a long way away from knowing the right questions to follow up on every order, but I'm a little closer every day. And when I'm not sure what liquor actually is in the cocktail they order, I ask "Do you have a liquor preference?" That usually does the trick.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

When Work Gets You Down, Watch Cartoons.

Pinky And The Brain, "Am I the only one who makes coffee around here?"

Rocko's Modern Life, "I could do that!"

Family Guy, "I get involved?"

Hey Arnold!, "Ok, if you insist."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A New Low For Me Is Pandering To Children. Or, If I Bring It You Buy It.

My shifts that are from 2 pm - 8 pm are challenging. My day starts horrifically slow, but come 5:30/6, I haul ass delivering cocktails to their rightful drinkers. I make good money on these weekday shifts, it's just really back loaded.

Around 4:30, a couple sat down with a toddler. The two adults ordered cocktails. Since I was totally not busy yet, I played with their little girl and chitchatted with the guests for a minute. I saw that they were drinking slowly. Also, since they were with their baby girl, I didn't think they planned on having another round. So I threw my shame out the window.

Underemployed (referring to toddler) : Does she need some juice?
EuroDad: Maybe.
Underemployed: We have a fresh squeezed orange juice, so there's no added sugar or anything.
Eurodad: Great.
Underemployed: Should I bring her a straw?
Eurodad: Perfect.

That orange juice cost $5 before tax. I have no shame, and you better believe I know how to raise my check averages.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

iRelevant. Or, How Apple Will Make Good On The Myth Of The Waitron.

Sydney, Australia

They came first for the Australians, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an Australian.

The iPad has replaced paper menus at a tapas joint in Sydney. According to Eater's coverage, the app not only allows for the restaurant to more quickly and accurately change menu items, but it also communicates directly with the kitchen, reducing server error. Of course, if this iPad is communicating with the kitchen, what's the server for?

Restaurateurs, beware. Next Apple will create a manager app so you're no longer needed to void things or transfer checks.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Went The Extra Mile And All I Got Was 18% Back.

I am a good server. I keep track of when your glass is empty, I remove empty plates the moment you're done with them, and I can suggest things you don't even know you want. You're unhappy? I'll actually do what I can to remedy the situation.

Like today at cocktail hour. 2 30-something women were doing drinks and a cheese plate appetizer. Drinks: 1 glass of white, 1 iced coffee, 1 grapefruit juice. Their total bill was looking something like 35-40 bucks. Not a huge tab, but today was really slow so that made them one of my high priority checks.

Before the food arrives, the lady drinking the wine asked me if she could order olives. "We don't have olives as a menu item," I told her, "but I can bring you some of the olives from the bar like we use for martinis." I put several skewers of olives (probably 12 total olives) into a small bowl and brought them to her.

Then their food arrives. They were totally underwhelmed by the scope of the cheese plate. They thought it would come with more stuff. The teetotaler (whom I'd served last week), told me she'd order it before and it had more on it. I told them them I'd check with the kitchen to see if they forgot to send up an accessory. I did. They didn't. I came back to give the ladies more water and told them that's all. Disappointment.

As I was walking away from their table, I had the genius idea to give them one of our $4 dollar snack sized items. I picked one that would go with their cheese, and brought it over, thinking it would up the likelihood of these ladies staying longer and leaving happy. "I bought these for you," I told them, "just don't tell my manager." I might have winked. They thanked me profusely, told me how sweet I was and, after refusing a second glass of wine or juice, asked me for more (free) olives. I brought them. More compliments on my awesomeness.

And yet, when it was time to look at their bill, they left the standard 18%. Not a penny more. I really felt like I gave them A+ service. Was expecting 20%, particularly because I comped them a snack and kept bringing those damn olives.

What do you think readers? Am I rightfully indignant or should I quit whining? Post your answers in the comment section. I'm really curious.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday America!

An excerpt from President Calvin Coolidge's July 5, 1926 speech in honor of the 150th celebration of the Declaration of Independence.

"About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers."

Happy Independence Day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

MY Generation Is Not The NY Times Generation.

Three days ago I read this article in the NY Times that cites a university researcher's (aka PhD candidate?) study as definitive proof that Gen-Y, referred to by the Times writer as the "Me-Me-Me My-Space Generation," is indeed self-important and uncaring. Really?

It seems to me a study about the empathy of college students, particularly college students born of helicopter parents, forced into SAT tutoring from the age of 14 and often still calling mom a gajillion times a week on their cell phones is more a study of the values that were practiced in their upbringing than about the awfulness of my peers.

...the authors speculate a millennial mixture of video games, social media, reality TV and hyper-competition have left young people self-involved, shallow and unfettered in their individualism and ambition.

Universities are more competitive and more expensive than ever. It is neither a surprise nor a fault that current students look out for themselves more than the students of years passed- it's what they had to do to get in in the first place, and now it's what it takes to get employed upon graduating. Criticizing Gen-Y students for self-aggrandizing and self-involvement is punishing them for the skill set (self-promotion) they needed to make their application stand out among thousands. And why should you criticize college students for ambition, when old people always seem to criticize college students for being stoned, lazy slobs?

Really, I'm just sick of the trash talk. It's hard enough for people to take new graduates seriously enough to hire them, and this bullshit will only make it worse.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cultural Consumption. Literally.

British food artist Prudence Emma Staite offers up famous images recreated at her studio in chocolate candies. The pointillism of Seurat is a natural fit for the medium, and there is something about the artist's project itself that I think works well with Warhol's own aims. Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

No Matter What City You're In, A Shift is A Shift.

This picture of a Philadelphia restaurant's server manual is worth looking at.

Point by point:

1. This is pretty normal. People don't want to think about the fact that the service staff is working while they have a fun evening. For this reason, a lot of restaurateurs encourage service staff to also avoid the phrase "Are you still working on that?" since the guest isn't working, we are.

2. It makes me sad that management doesn't believe two employees can talk to each other about a problem in service without a manager intervening. Obviously harassing coworkers is bad.

3. I love this one. "If you must go to the bathroom..." Hello. Shifts are between 6-8 hours long, front of house staff will need to go to the bathroom. It's ridiculous that management has phrased it like it's some nuisance and that you should really know better. This is my least part of being a server. I hate asking permission of multiple people to pee. I'm sorry but it's kind of degrading. Remember Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption at the grocery store? Yeah, it's like that.

4. It's a pretty rare thing to have some rando walk into the kitchen. At restaurants with open kitchens it seems to be more of a problem. The reason having strangers in the kitchen is a real problem is beyond just the annoyance and weirdness. Restaurant kitchens are potentially very dangerous- open flame, hot exposed grills, scalding hot pans, knives and boiling liquids demand an awareness and a knowledge of how to move and communicate these dangers. No way a customer would know that if I say "Behind, pan" that means "I'm behind you with a hot pan so don't move backwards or turn around or you'll get burned by this heat conducting hunk of metal."

5. Also pretty normal. But sometimes when things are really busy you start tables that aren't in your section because somebody needs to f*ing serve these people. Where I work you aren't allowed to enter the computer system with someone else's sign-in number. Most places allow you to do that so you can take a table's order without starting a check in another server's section.

6. Yup.

7. Yup. No wilty salads. However, our kitchen does all our plating, so I don't really ever have to think about this.

8. Yup. We have several people looking the glasses over before they hit a table.

9. I know, I know, but seeing a server take a sip of water is really not the end of the world. C'mon.

10. I mean, yeah. Don't smell bad and don't look like you have a cud.

11. Also normal.

What do you think?

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Rock! But Not At Basic Arithmetic and Algebra.

Serving from 2 pm - 9:30 pm, I sold over $1200 today. ON A MONDAY!!!!!!!

Sure paperwork that should have had me out the door no later than 10 kept me till 10:45, but hey, at least I had real numbers to crunch.

What many people are surprised by is that servers are responsible for reconciling what their computer generated sales report tells them they owe with what they have. Sitting in the itty bitty un-windowed office in the basement of the restaurant, we count every credit card receipt to make sure we have the right number of Visa, Amex and Mastercard charges (we take Diner's Club but I've yet to see one come out). The report also tells us how much cash is owed- this figure represents not the total paid to servers in cash, but the cumulative total of cash bills. The hope is that there is left-over. The difference between cash owed and cash had is cash tips. Put those is a seperate envelope. On this envelope, also write the number written on the report as "total service charges." That number represents the charged tips earned. Separate receipts for any comps or voids and put those in the comps and voids file in the office. Wrap the cash owed and all the credit card receipts with the report and put them in a bank envelope for the controller. Ok, the easy part is done.

What I find difficult is the endless arithmetic and calculation to determine the tips. When you work the 2-10 shift, which I often do, it is your responsibility to figure out total tip earning for the daytime staff, daytime staff being defined as all tipped employees who worked between 7 am-5 pm. Today, that meant : 1 Bartender, 1 barback, 2 bussers, 2 servers, 1 food runner, and 1 barista. We are a pooled house which means everyone get a percentage of the tip pool. The way we figure out who get what is by a point system. A server's hour is worth 4 points, a bussers 2 and so on. Dividing the total tips earned in the day by the total points earned gives you the value of a point. Then you just multiply across-

HyperActiveBusser worked 4 hours at 2 pts/hr = 8 total points. 8 X pt. value = daytime tips earned.

You think this should be easy but its not. The totals don't always add up, after the end of a shift its hard to push all the right buttons on the calculator, and I'm pretty sure that I skipped a step in my description seeing as I seem to often have to re-do my math for having skipped or over-looked something. Thankfully, there's usually a supervisor- theoretically there is always a supervisor, but sometimes they leave you alone and just initial your work.

Watching me struggle with figuring out what numbers go in what column, what times what divided by what equals a point, and why my numbers kept not working I shared with my flabbergasted supervisor that this is the part of serving euphemistically "doesn't come naturally."

"Ivy League?" he said. "Proud Arts and Literature double major," I replied.

For those of you who know me, and for those who don't, understand my majors have been generalized to protect my anonymity...from Them. They're Watching.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Little Pathetic Can Go A Long Way.

Like so many people, m4m is not used to having free time on his hands. And he's looking to fill it commiserating, I mean networking, with other people who no longer work since that's the way to get a new job right?

Check out this ad on the Boston Craigslist Strictly Platonic Board:

Lunch group for unemployed/underemployed - m4m (North shore)

A significant decrease in the demand for my work has left me with a depressingly amount of free time, and I thought that an unemployed/underemployed lunch group would provide a chance to get out of the house and maybe network a little.

My idea is that we would meet at a Chilis/Applebees style place on the northshore every couple of weeks to socialize and network. Folks who are fortunate enough to be working full time but still want to get out of the office would be welcome to join as well.

I additionally would enjoy a STRICTLY PLATONIC buddy or two to visit with on the weekend; I enjoy eating out, movies, long walks, etc.

Please let me know your thoughts and good luck with your job searches.

Aside from his terrible taste in food and ambience, I actually think this man is onto something. I just don't understand why underemployed women can't go eat the shitty food too. I also don't understand why another m would be attracted to a long walk with this obviously fun-hating downer of a guy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I Want A Promotion But Don't Know If I'm Getting One. A Managerial Query.

So, for the past month I've been picking up serving/cocktailing shifts with more regularity. I haven't been given a set schedule of shifts, nor am I put on the weekly schedule emails. However, one of my server buddies told me I'm on the contact list, aka if you need a shift covered you can call me. Two weekends ago I worked on Saturday and Sunday night. This week I did a surprisingly busy Wednesday night shift.

Via text message, I am confirmed for working the dinner shift on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. A manager told me these are good opportunities to get my "high-volume skills up." I'm looking forward to the busier and more lucrative shifts, but as of yet I have no indication that those will be a regularly occurring phenomenon in my life. I've emailed and talked with management enough times to be 100% sure they know I want to be on the regular schedule. Do I have any recourse to make that happen? Other than taking whatever shifts I can get, I don't think so.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Working As A Waitress In A Cocktail Bar Has Yet To Make Me Famous. I Clearly Need Philip Oakey.

So many fantasies at once, some more realistic than others, some more noble than others:

-Getting discovered on the job.
-Discovering some chick on the job.
-Having an acting career
-Facilitating acting careers
-Walking away from a 5-year relationship obviously built on inequality
-Being the Galatea to his Pygmalion
-Being the Higgins to her Doolittle.

For the record, I haven't been discovered on the job. Yet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"There Goes Your Social Life." -Dionne

I'm really hoping to see a couple friends today for afternoon coffee, another couple for dinner, and another couple for after-dinner drinks. I gave my friends an 8-hour window that I'd be able to see them at one of the hottest places to grab a bite and a beverage in New York.

The catch is that I'll be working. It's my only hope of seeing friends today. Since it's Wednesday, nobody's going to want to hang out when I leave at 10:00pm and I can't relax over drinks before work because: 1) I don't always love drinking at 1:00 unless I'm eating a great brunch, 2) Most of my friends don't have the luxury of drinking at 1:00, since most of their (albeit crappy) jobs take place in the daylight and, and this is the kicker, 3) I don't want to carouse before heading into an 8-hour shift because I need to conserve my energy for the floor.

Restaurant work, while social by nature, can wreak havoc on a healthy social life unless your coterie is also in the industry. I work while others play- in fact, my work facilitates that play. Think about it- the times you want to go out are precisely the times I hope to be working, since I'll make more money off people who think exactly like you. On Sundays, when I work brunch, I try not to see friends afterwards since I'm often exhausted, a little dirty and a lotta cranky. I often end up seeing music on Sunday nights, but when people ask me why I look so tired I just tell them "I've been awake a really long time."

Some weeks are harder than others. This week my time has been totally booked, so today's my best shot at seeing the friends I care about for the rest of the week. It's tough, but my friends understand. And they come visit me at quieter times in my shift so I can actually see and talk to them, and so they can see where I work (and what I write about).

See you at work, friends!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

If You Name It, It (aka Disaster) Won't Come. A Breakfast Prayer.

Brunches can be treacherous. As I've previously written, it's hard to deal with high volume before noon. But 2 Sunday brunches ago, real disaster befell the Keith McNally brunch empire when the truck carrying the breads for Balthazar and Pastis and his other restaurants got stolen as the driver stepped out to make his first delicious delivery. What would one do with stolen Balthazar croissants? Re-sell them as your own at a farmer's market? Donate them to the poor masses before they go stale? Use them as leverage when you tell McNally he will hire Furio the cheese-maker? Give them to that woman trying to be the fattest person EVER as a charitable donation to her cause?

It wasn't headline news- but do an internet search for "brunch disaster" and brief articles about the theft from the New York Post and from The Village Voice will pop up. I can only hope that nothing close to this happens to me today. (As a side note, since this weekend was a balmy one driving many to the Hamptons or to air-conditioned hibernation, I'm hoping brunch will be a quiet one.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Little Sifton Bashing Is Good For The (Restaurant Workers') Soul.

Since I now have a blackberry, I can tweet and email and do lots of things when I'm not doing anything, and if I'm discreet, I can do such things on the job.

Below is an email exchange between me, Underemployed, and an Ivy League '06 who is in the part of his culinary school training where he is doing legit dinner services. Keep in mind I was (still) at work when I wrote.


They sat a 10-top 7 minutes before kitchen closes. If/when I'm in charge somewhere large groups will not be seated within half hour of kitchen closing unless they are reserved or vip. This is bs.


shit! that is brutal. i got out by 1045 even though it was a pretty rough service... sorry 'bout that; that is bs. like a raymond chandler novel narrated by angelina jolie, sultry yet off-putting. (that was my best off the cuff sifton impression)


One could say its like tripping on cough syrup- it could do you good but more likely it will leave face-down buck-naked on a bathroom floor you can only hope will be yours.


wow. that is good. you should write for the times.

If only, if only.

Check out this amazing Sifton poem from The Village Voice and these disturbingly accurate Sifton Mad Libs on Eater.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Everyone Loves An Alpha Male in Uniform.

At Penn Station today, I heard one of my favorite public service announcements, and one of the few whose words of wisdom I sometimes need a reminder to heed. Do Not Pet The Homeland Security Dogs. They are trained, they are not your friends : The Onion ran an amazing piece about these dogs back in '03. Even though the novelty of these hard-working four-legged civil servants has worn off, there is still no getting used to the unbelievable adorableness of a beagle in a windbreaker

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hot On The Trial. I Mean Trail. I Mean...

Last night I trailed at that popular East Village eatery I wrote about last week. Trailing is a restaurant industry mainstay. A trail is shadowing a server, and being as helpful as you can without really talking to guests or getting in the way.

I arrived at the restaurant, introduced myself to the manager and she promptly told me there would be another would-be server trailing. That made me anxious. The thing is, by its very nature, to be trailing is to be in the way on the floor and to be annoying to the server you're shadowing by asking questions and slowing them down. To have two extra bodies who are basically not capable of contributing meaningfully to service sounded horrible. But I figured having someone around who also didn't know what was going on would be a net positive, since I wouldn't be the only one looking like a deer in the headlights.

The East Village restaurant (EVR for short) did a solid dinner service, but nothing compared to the restaurant I work at. That's ok with me- cocktail serving isn't the same thing as dining service, so it's good to get my sea legs at a place where the pace is reasonable but I'll still make money. The server I trained with was damn good at his job- never once did he look stressed out, he was elegant and efficient with his movements on the floor, and he had a nice way with the customers. I helped with bussing tables, filling water glasses, topping off wine glasses, running food and cocktails.

The spirit among the front of house staff wasn't as lively or camaraderie-driven as the restaurant I work at. I missed the sense of being in the trenches with friends instead of fellow waitrons. Still, the customers were kind, the food at EVR is delicious, and I would fit in nicely there. I felt like working there a couple nights a week would be a positive addition to my finances and my work life.

As the server I was trailing approached the end of his shift he told me I was done and to find the manager. She told me I'd hear from them on Thursday, and if we were going forward they would set up the training then. She told me that the EVR was trailing three candidates for one spot. My enthusiasm for the restaurant fell. When I asked her if there was anything I could do in the meanwhile to secure this job she said to study the menu. "Just in case I get it," I said smiling.

Seeking counsel from the restaurant savvy Daphne Dusquesne at Gastronomista, I told her I felt like my time and free labor had been wasted. "Most restaurants trail more than one person," she told me, "they just don't tell you about it."