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."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

NYC By Way of Seoul. Underemployed is Underemployed.

One of my great good friends from Ivy League, Class of '09, double major in Public Policy and Critical Theory, has been living and working in Seoul basically since she graduated. She was teaching ESL there and now that the school year is over is balancing some paid internship opportunities and some fully-paying opportunities and trying to figure out how to do something she wants instead of something that will be horrible.

Below is a gchat:

12:00 AM you know what i dont understand
is some of the most unqualified people i know in the class of 2010 got jobs
i guess that can be explained by connections or something though
me: that's what i was about to suggest
UnderemployedinSeoul: ah, connections
12:01 AM me: i also wonder if any of these so-called jobs are thinly veiled free labor spots gotten from said connections
but i have gotten to a bitter enough spot where i tend to assume most employed peers have had some sort of boost
UnderemployedinSeoul: yeah right?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Oh, The Places You'll Actually Go! A Fucking Masterpiece by the CollegeHumor Crew.

These are two pages of the amazing collaboration of Susana Wolff, Jeff Rubin, and Caldwell Tanner. You can see the whole UNBLURRY piece at

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Don't Touch My Tail When I'm Cocktailing!

Through a series of scheduling mishaps that came my way, I got evening cocktailing shifts Saturday and Sunday night. I worked my lil' patootie off. Speaking of posteriority, I have a general rule that all customers, particularly male customers should adhere to which is, namely, don't touch the merchandise.

When cocktailing, I keep the drink menus in my back-pocket. The menus are tall and narrow so they fit nicely and I hate wearing those little cocktail aprons. While talking with a table of middle-aged women that had been drinking for a couple hours Saturday afternoon and thus deserved my attention when they wanted to chat, I felt a menu disappear from my back-pocket. Out of the corner of my eye I see an athletic late 20-something hulk of a man walk away with a menu. The women looked at me scandalized, and I just stood there slack-jawed. "I wouldn't mind if he touched my back-pocket," one of the drunk ladies said to me. Before I could stop myself I blurted, "I'm uncomfortable."

Maybe I should have said something to him when I went to take his order. I mean, he didn't cop a feel, but he definitely didn't respect my bubble (butt? Lame joke). Something like, Now that you violated my personal space, what else can I do for you. But I didn't say anything. I just took his order and avoided him as much as possible.

What's funny is that much later at night as things were really busy, a male supervisor snuck a menu too, since he had cranky guests he needed to appease. Kind of bugged me, but if I were in a pinch and he had menus in his back-pocket I might consider...

Need to get some ass? Put menus in your pants.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

If You Have To Ask, You Don't Want To Know. True Story.

Saturday, 1:41 AM

I just got home from working at the restaurant where my co-workers and I are pretty sure there were 2 hookers circulating.

CocktailCoWorker: Look at the way they float together, man to man, never buying, never staying to chat past one drink
Underemployed: They look like the well-fed, un-beaten kind.
CocktailCoWorker: Classy almost.

I believe that women have the right to dress how they feel, and if how you feel includes shorts revealing a hint of cheek and spike heels who am I to say you're a hooker? Unless, of course, you are wandering around in a busy hotel lobby hunting for Johns.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

One Step Closer To Another Restaurant Job. Or, Kinko's Is My Necessary Evil.

Today, after seeing an ad on Craigslist yesterday, I went to an open call at a popular East Village restaurant. What that means is that for a 2 hour window, anyone with a resume in hand could walk into the restaurant and get an interview to be a server. I normally don't like going to open calls since I feel like they're usually a waste of time- way too many people interviewing with way too few employers for one spot. But I really like this restaurant family and I figured since I had nothing better to do today it was worth a go.

Step 1: What to wear.

I know what the servers look like at this restaurant group, so I dressed in character. Nice flats, tight dark jeans, black collared shirt, floral scarf. Put together but not trying to hard with a touch of "If you need me to start tonight I'm already dressed" charm.

Step 2: Print resumes.

I made a pit stop to a Kinko's in Chelsea. With only an hour before the open call ended, I was worried. Coming into the store, I saw the line and felt my fists clench and my jaw tighten. Why is it that any trip to Kinko's always has a glitch. Question, readers. Have any of you ever left Kinko's in a better mood than you entered? No. It's a service industry outpost in which the service is consistently infuriating. And pricey. But I don't have a printer, so to Kinko's I will inevitably return.

After a barely comprehensible yet entirely aggravating interaction with a man who, not wearing that ugly polo, I assume was a manager I decided to forgo nice paper for sanity and made a bee-line for the self-service computers. I printed 20 copies of my most up-to-date restaurant resume so I could put off visiting for a good long time.

Step 3: Interview

When I got out of the subway on 2nd Ave, it was raining. I figured this was in my favor. It takes a certain kind of underemployed to go to an open call in the rain. I saw three pretty young women waiting outside the restaurant, not even under the awning, just getting rained on holding plastic file folders. I asked them if we had to wait outside, at which point I realized they were native Russian speakers who were too scared to ask if they could go in.

I walked in and, in Spanish, politely asked a busser to find me a manager for the interview. Standing at the bar, the prickly Manager and I talked only briefly.

ManagerMan: My first impulse is to say no. I mean, cocktailing is totally different than serving.
Underemployed: I understand, but I'm a quick study. You want me to know ingredients? I'll memorize the menu by the next day. I can learn this. I'm food knowledgeable. And I also sell food when I work on the floor, not just alcohol. Look, I don't want to be pushy...
ManagerMan: It's good to be pushy. I'm going to have you come in and trail. I'm going to tell them you're green. Be proactive during service and we'll see from there. If you don't try to help out, it's not going to happen.
Underemployed: Great. Thanks for the opportunity. I know I can do this.

In reality, this will be serving food at a volume I have never worked. My trail is Tuesday, but I'm not too nervous. I don't know how not to try hard at work. And if my best isn't good enough, whatever.

Check out this amazing anti-kinko's image from

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Get Paid To Drink And Do Drugs? Umm....

Check out this ad from the etc. section of Craigslist titled: "Do you drink several times a week?"

Female moderate drinkers (ages 21-45) needed for a research study testing the effects of common medications and alcohol on mood and performance. 7 sessions (8:30 am-3:30 pm). Cannot be on hormonal contraceptives. Call (212) 543-6623, -5707, -5126. Confidential.

Earn $800-1,100

That's a lot of money! I imagine tiki cups with umbrellas, cocktail waitresses in little lab coats and tapas plates of advil. Bummer I don't qualify. Fellow underemployed ladies of NYC, getting paid to engage in potentially risky behavior seems like a fun way to make a buck, huh?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm Not Cynical, I'm A Realist. I Don't Believe Things Are Bad, I Know They Are.

As an energetic young adult with a fancy schmancy pedigree, I take some people by surprise when I say things like:

"I know that I'm not a special snowflake"
"I don't deserve anything, if I get some great job yay for me"
"I don't assume that my work life will be distinguished. I think I've got a good shot, but its not a given"
"I'm no better than the people getting hired"

I have been called cynical. I think that's an unfair charge, world. I am confident of my abilities, proud of my accomplishments and hopeful for future fulfillment. Am I optimistic? Not in the short-term. And, according to this fascinating video released by Associated Press, I have no reason to be. After all, there are a lot of other snowflakes in the shit storm. I mean snow storm.

The glass is above is more than half empty, not because I'm a pessimist but because there is more water on the table than in the glass. Sometimes glasses are empty because liquid spilled out of them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Other Things To Do Include : Reading.

A friend of mine asked me to write a post discussing my underemployed reading habits. Since I have free time and I live in Brooklyn so I also have a lot of commuting time, I read a lot. And no kindles or ipads either- straight up books. When looking for an NYC read, I try to find page-turners with short-ish chapters so I always have good stopping points.

Not including re-reads (which I do frequently enjoy) books I've read and haven't forgotten I've read since I entered unemployment in May '09, roughly categorized by theme are:

Toast, Nigel Slater
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain
My Life In France, Julia Child
Something From the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950's America, Laura Shapiro

Dracula, Bram Stoker
The Vampire Chronicles (Though I couldn't bring myself to finish Queen Of The Damned), Anne Rice

Snow Falling On Cedars, David Guterson

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

Hell, Henri Barbusse
Under A Glass Bell, Anais Nin
The Tears of Eros, Georges Bataille

The Remembered Film, Victor Burgin
Hitchcock on Hitchcock, ed. Sidney Gottlieb

Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton

When You Are Engulfed In Flames, David Sedaris
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggars

Starting on the subway tomorrow: The Bonfire Of The Vanities, Tom Wolffe

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Doubles Are Bigger Than Yours.

Well, I'm not technically working a double today but still. Most restaurants have 6 hour shifts, making a double 12 hours. Our shifts are 8-10 hours, making our doubles monstrous. Today I am working Sunday brunch as a barista 9 AM - 5 PM, and then heading into the downstairs prep kitchen to work till 10 PM doing room service. 9 AM- 10 PM is not a double where I work, but it's a long double for normal dining establishments.

Why did I do it? I did it because the room service shift will be pretty easy, and I will make at least $60 bucks doing it. Jealous yet?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I Do It For Truth.

As always on the hunt for a quick buck, this weekend marks my first foray into being a scientific test subject aka paid guinea pig. Lured by its name dropping of the Magic Eye pictures, which I have loved since elementary school, I responded to this ad on Craigslist.

The participation contract I signed called the experiment a "Pavlovian visual perception experiment," so I was deeply relieved that no electrodes were taped to my head nor were there any bells in the room. Basically over the course of three hours spread over two days, I sat with paper red/green glasses and hit buttons on a small keypad. I had to respond to the computer-rendered 3-d spheres and cubes and not what direction they were spinning by tracking a moving dot across the screen. The kicker was that I was siting only 1 ft. away from a giant film screen in a pitch-black lab with no clock. There were 4 blocks of 120 images to be evaluated, and the testee was in control of the pacing. My first effort took 2 hours- twice as long as the average participant. I was taking a long time between eyes were dry, achey and throbbing. I was actually so bored I was singing to myself to pass the time. (However, when asked if I ever lost focus I said "Not really.") When the woman running the test came in to check on me and told me I had been in there for 2 hours I was stunned. I was completely unaware of time passing. I was surprised to be invited back the next day seeing as I was such an eye sloth. Day 2 was basically day one repeated, but my eyes held up better and I finished the sequence in about an hour.

The PhD running the test eventually told me that it was not about my eyesight at all, but rather about the snap judgements the brain makes about optical illusions. Glad to do my part. May it get her published. Total earned : $60 including the re-imbursed commutes. Not to shabby- I don't normally bill out at $20/hour.

PS- the Magic Eye website is so poorly designed but there is some fun content.

For those of you who are having trouble with the image above- try to unfocus your eyes. And know that the above image is host to a 3-D slice of pizza. See it yet?

Friday, June 4, 2010

If You Can't Handle Time With Your Kids, Chances Are Your Nanny Needs a Break Too.

I am not ashamed to admit that I have not only read The Nanny Diaries but I have seen the mediocre film adaptation more than once. To justify it from aesthetics grounds, I cite the awesomeness that is watching Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti doing satire. But really, the heart of the story for me is about a girl doing a difficult job for mind-blowingly heinous employers.

According to an article published on June 2nd in the New York Times, there is a bill (stalled though it might be) being negotiated to guarantee and codify basic work-place rights for domestic workers. Under the terms of the bill, workers would be entitled to paid holidays, sick days and vacation days, overtime wages, and 14 days notice or termination pay. Gee, those sound like the same allowances rich people who have domestic workers get from their office jobs.

I have friends from Ivy League who are nannying and babysitting. These basic provisions will clearly make their lives better. Although the article brings up the murkier pluses and minuses the bill will have for the domestic workers who are in the country illegally, my gut tells me that everyone will benefit from stricter laws regarding domestic working conditions. Nannies of the world, unite!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Come On Baby Light My Fire. Ode to the TV Host of My Dreams.

I am so in love.Check out this interview published on Eater- Anthony Bourdain has maintained his voice despite pimping it out to television, and has retained his edge despite the fact that his life is awesome. That takes an authentic chip on his shoulder, the likes of which I find deeply attractive.

Quotable quotes from this interview:

In my life, the smartest decisions and most important decisions I've made are made when there are no other options available when I've shut every other door.

You'll see on my show more and more I just look at the camera and say, "Boy, that's really good."

I talk the way I talk. I write the way I talk. If you don't like it, don't invite me to your party.

He is a rockstar in chef's clothing, who took off that clothing to pursue his life as a rockstar. Take me with you Tony!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

RE: Food Trucks Near McCarren Park?

Posted in Williamsburg by artist (collective) Trustocorp. Spectacular.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Only Job I've Quit. A Story of Jazz, Booze, and Pizza.

In January of this year, bright with hopes for a year better than the one that came before, I walked into a small jazz club on the east side. A co-worker at the restaurant worked there, and he said they needed another server. He raved about working there. As a jazz lover and a live music junkie, I figured it would be awesome to get paid to listen to music while slinging cocktails. I imagined fat paychecks and after-parties with hot piano players and brooding guitarists. My life was about to be so much awesome.

My first evening of work was a Tuesday and there was no other server on the floor. I hadn't seen a single item on the menu, nor had I tasted any of the specialty cocktails but I didn't worry- I could talk my way out of any customer question. The bartender working was a kind of trash girl from Queens who seemed comfortable and knowledgeable with how things were done. She told me the manager got the start-up money from her father, who owned a family-style pizza restaurant chain.

Working alone for the night, I served, ran food, bussed tables and portered, bringing clean glassware to the bar as they needed it. The manager of the club had a novel concept you don't really hear of in the music scene- no cover, no minimum. I had hoped that the evening's "Battle of the Bands" would mean big earning, but alas, most people listened to their friends, maybe had a beer and left a one dollar tip. Dollars earned for a 6 hour shift: $60. That's pathetic, but not so pathetic as to be alarming, and I actually enjoyed listening to some of these bands. This is a music club, I thought, I have to wait for a weekend shift to make up my mind.

Next was a lunch shift. Since there was an office crowd in the area, I thought maybe we had a shot of getting an in-quick out-quick lunch crowd eating the 3-Course lunch special for $12. I sat around at the bar pounding diet cokes and polishing the same 20 forks over and over again, I think I served 4 tables the entire service. But I did get a chance to examine the menu. Expensive, and ludicrously small portions. Using my Spanish skills, I chatted with the two cooks- they told me our manager/owner had asked them to make the servings even smaller so we could earn more profit. It was embarrassing they said.

I walked into the club at 5:30 PM that Saturday night. I told myself this was the test. Either I make legit money (as in absolutely no less than $120) or I quit. For the first time I had a co-server. He was a nice looking actor who had just wrapped his first "Law and Order" episode. I asked him if my paltry earnings were normal. He said they were. He also said that Pizza-Dad often came in the club to give DumbManager more money and occasionally criticize her management skills. Strike One, bases totally loaded.

There was actually a decent crowd. People were drinking, few were eating, but I was feeling good. The music was awesome dance-worthy latin jazz. Then a party of 12 sat. They ordered drink after drink, and my feelings about the club were turning around. A quiet young couple was sitting drinking soda. I walked by checking in as much as I could without being awful, hoping to convince them to buy food or drink. They decided to share a mojito and an appetizer.

A couple hours later.
DumbManager: You have to tell them if they want to stay they need to order more.
Underemployed: No, I don't. It says on their menu "No cover, no minimum." I've done my best, I got them to order a drink and a snack. They have spent more than they have to.
DumbManager: Fine but keep checking in with them.

See, not having a cover or a minimum means that the club is paying the band off of what it earns from the bar and restaurant. You would have to sell HUGE volume for this to be a model even worth thinking about implementing. PS-When the table left, they apologized to me for not ordering more. That is a managerial fail. Strike 1 1/2.

But the night took a turn to the weird. Despite putting the glassware securely on the shelf, several glasses fell down after I walked away. I brought my tray into the back to clean off the glass- I spotted a good excuse for a bathroom break. Good thing I didn't need to actually use said facilities, because the door (locked as it was) fell off its hinges and I literally stood with arms above my head holding it up. Now I had never signed any contract- I wasn't on the books- if that door had hit me with its full force I would have gotten really banged up and it wouldv'e been a chore to collect on my worker's comp. I attracted the attention of the kitchen staff who propped the door with a broom. Strike 2.

Remember that boozy party of 12? Although I didn't ask the manager, I had taken a credit card as a precautionary measure- pretty standard operating procedure in cocktail land. As the night was winding down, the card holder wanted to leave although her friends wanted to stay. Then others wanted to leave. They wanted to pay for their drinks individually; forgetting the fact there's an 18% gratuity for parties over 10 and the fact that we were looking at a $400+ bill split amongst 12 DRUNK people = I'm gonna get stiffed. I asked the manager what she wanted me to do. She asked me what the policy is at the other restaurant I worked at. Nauseating. Me and the other server had to use a table calculator and divvy up the bill as best we could (oh PS- this is an old fashioned club with hand-written tickets, server-calculated bills, and a slide machine for the credit card). It took forever and yet the tip earnings seemed really low. Basically we got screwed. "Estoy aqui para que?? No es caridad!!" I screamed to my friends in the kitchen. Strike 2 1/2.

Fast-forward to 2:30 AM. Music is bumping, the crowd is dancing but all my checks are closed. I ask the manager if I can do my close-out paperwork. No, she says, I have to stay on the floor. (Standard operating procedure is that servers beat it and bartenders stick around, but don't cut the servers in on the tips they make after we go home. You don't keep servers around doing nothing, making everyone earn less). An hour goes by, I start doing my paperwork alone, and realize how little I made. Strike 3. I walked up to the manager right then and there and told her I'll finish this service, but won't be coming back to work.

At 4:00 AM, having opened no new checks in about 4 hours, I finished up my paperwork. After a grueling 10 hour (!) shift, I left with a measley $80.

Below is the email I sent to DumbManager the next morning:

As we discussed last night, I need to be off the schedule. I am not available to work monday night anyway. If you are in a huge bind thursday, call me to let me know on wednesday, otherwise I won't be there.

Below is my adress. Having worked XX hours at $4.60 an hour, I will be expecting a paycheck for $XXX.00.
I'm bummed it didn't work out- you have an awesome venue and a beautiful vision. Unfortunately, I just can't afford to be working there.