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."