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!