A Waiter Gets Divorced

Okay, waiternotes.com blog-ites, here’s some big non-restaurant news in my life. I am getting divorced from the Wife of 8 years.

First general thought is it’s a sad thing. I didn’t marry until the age of 40. By that point I had seen my parents and half of my good friends marry and divorce. I believed I was the one who was going to do it right. I thought I had the right partner with the right values to do it for the long haul. There might be tough times, problems to work out, but we would make it through those things and have an ultimately happy life together. You know, ‘. . . richer/poor, sickness/health,’ all that stuff.

Despite my initial and ongoing perception, our marriage bond wasn’t as strong as all that. It did not make it. Tough times were encountered, and we were not able to weather them.

The sadness I speak of is contained in that failure. But also in the remembrance of the really good times, the special bond we did once have, and to a much smaller degree the time lost in an ultimately fruitless undertaking.

That is the first general thought.

To be more specific and timely, however, I am happy and optimistic right now.

As I have told the various important and marginal people in my life the news, I’ve mostly met condolence. Virtually everyone shakes their head, says some things about how difficult it is, what a shame, etc. They say they are sorry.

It’s not their fault, but it’s the wrong tack on me at this time. If it were 1.5-2.0 years ago, they’d be dead-on. That was when I was head-over-heels, but not in love – more in complete chaos and confusion. My world was completely spun off its axis: the toilet water was swirling the wrong direction, the sun was setting on the wrong horizon, and time was a snarled mess of yarn. I was annotating cell phone records, staking out her friends’ houses, triangulating time/distance/tasks to see if things added up, cruising local watering holes where she might possibly be hanging out, etc. I was in a frenzy.

And then nothing happened. The wife and I did not get divorced. We had the sporadic blow-out yelling match; we didn’t share the affection and understanding we had before things fell apart; we spent more time separate. Essentially, there was no further deterioration, but also certainly no forward movement in repairing or rebuilding a marriage.

As months passed I had two basic modes: 1) numbed and willingly staring off in the metaphorical opposite direction to avoid confronting the situation; and 2) laborious introspection into every aspect of her behavior, trying to determine what it meant and where it was going.

As more months passed, Mode 1 came to rule. As long as the surface status quo (we still lived together, shared meals, contributed to the household, and generally kept maintaining the shell of our marriage) remained in place, I was comfortable enough with it. In fact, it was kind of a welcome relief, and something of a much-needed correction in the balance of our marriage.

That might sound confusing, so let me explain. The wife is that person who is always striving for the next thing, the next rung, the achievement. This is a good thing. Forward progress is what life is about. Through our marriage, she had many such striving projects. Buying the house I live in was a very good one. She pursued and attained her teaching credential. She took teaching jobs hoping to change her/our life. She started her own restaurant.

Meantime, I had my own set of striving goals when I met her. I wanted to become a capable musician and songwriter. I was already a writer and I wanted to bridge into professional writer territory – be it novels, short stories, screenplays. I wanted also to have a family and happy marriage.

Because of a character flaw in myself and the nature of the Wife’s personality, something else developed. Gradually, I came to espouse and support her causes and goals, to the vast detriment of my own personal goals and dreams. By the time the shit hit the fan, I no longer played in my blues band, and my writing was something I was able to get fired up for about twice a year for 3-4 week periods, essentially accomplishing nothing.

Our ghost-like occupation of what once was our marriage allowed me freedom from her demands on my time and psychic energy. And I gradually started writing regularly again (this blog is a product of that). I have not joined another band, but I’ve written and recorded more than a handful of original songs. (Update: Actually, since first drafting this a few days ago, my old drummer contacted me again. He’s got a bass player, and he’s invited me to be the guitarist/singer. Not bad.)

Then one day at the end of last summer, she said she had to move out – a trial separation. It’s hard for me to believe now, but I was surprised at the time. I urged her not to do it. For some reason, I saw our growing comfort with our bad situation as progress. Which it wasn’t. I begged and argued that I didn’t think it would solve anything, when we obviously needed to communicate more, not less. But she said she already had a place lined up and she was going to go ahead with it. Try it for a month. Maybe she’d be back in two weeks, missing me too much . . .

So she moved out. And I was surprised again. I found that my missing her was more than balanced by the relief and ‘lightness of being’ from not having her around.

She moved back home a few months later, just before Thanksgiving, in order to keep up the façade for visiting family. (The separation was a secret from everyone except one of her friends. We still worked together at Carney’s, still sometimes hung out on our off days.) Things seemed a bit better. To reiterate however, there was no forward progress. It just wasn’t being a problem.

We did the holidays. If you’ve read the blog, you know she quit Carney’s in January. Then in February, she suddenly said she had to move out again. I was again taken by surprise. I guess I’m not the smartest guy in the room, as long as there’s at least two people.

This time, things changed for me. It didn’t happen precisely right away, but a switch flipped in my head. I’d long marveled, during my dating days, how women could be in love with me one day and the next they really didn’t care if they ever talked to me again. Women have that switch they can flip. Well, apparently I have one too.

I was basically over it. I felt fantastic. My luck improved. I gained a certain mojo.

One day, a little over a month ago, a beautiful young woman came into Carney’s with 7 octogenarian women. We connected. She put one of the old women up to ask me if I was single? I said yes. This gave me the confidence to ask her out. She texted me that night, we had a drink together when I got off work, and we were quickly having a romance.

This was all I needed to make the big change in my life permanent. I had to tell this lovely new woman my exact situation. Which was, frankly, not nearly settled enough for her. I didn’t blame her.

It was this that spurred me to make an appointment for the wife to come over so I could break her the news that I was finally done and wanted a divorce. I did not finally take this step so I could be with the new girl, because who knows where that will lead? But she did provide the needed motivation. She was the catalyst.

It was not easy or fun having this sit-down with the wife. She knew something was up. She came in the front door and her eyes were already welling with tears. I made my point concisely: A long time had passed. I had observed that there was no forward progress on fixing our fucked up marriage. This led me to understand that it was time to get divorced.

I put my personal spin on it. That it would be better for both of us from this very day forward, though it might not seem like it immediately, because we have taken a deliberate action. And that was so far better than just sitting stuck in the mud as we had been. I said that we could also end the charade of lying to our friends and loved ones.

She said a very nice thing to me. ‘You’re going to be hard to replace.’

That got me, and I started crying.

In all, though she cried and was sad, she seemed to take it well.

The next couple days yielded some awfully bitter and contentious phone calls from the wife. Then by the weekend, she seemed to be in a much better place. She had already found a permanent place to live, somewhat close by, and was excited doing that.

I feel relieved. It appears this will be orderly.

Thanks for reading.

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Blackie Redux – Part Two

(This is Part Two of a long post about my arch-enemy, Blackie. Part One mostly covered an incident where Blackie f’d up a big table we shared, in the process soiling my psyche because I had to deal with her. Check it out you like bloody descriptions of waiter shifts, and if you want to know what leads up to this post, which is a more general discussion of why Blackie sucks and some other smaller anecdotes that put her in a black light.)

. . . But that’s precisely the problem. Blackie sucks. She approaches food serving just as a mechanic might approach disassembling a transmission: here’s the required wrench, there’s the bolt, here’s how many turns . . . Well, that’s what the manual says, so I guess I’m fine.

Of course, a good mechanic would understand if the prescribed wrench didn’t fit he would have to try another. And if 4 turns didn’t loosen it enough, he’d try 5, 6, or whatever it took.

Blackie, being an incompetent (or worse, because I regard her as actually malignant in the restaurant), believes that if she can ‘master’ the details in the employee manual, she will be able to keep her job.

Unfortunately, in 99.9% of corporate restaurants, she’s right.

Meantime, another day about a week after the scene I just recounted, Eric the day manager pulls me aside for a private quiet sit-down. We all know this usually means you’re about to get in some sort of trouble.

‘Totally no problems with you, Waiter,’ says Eric. ‘None of this is performance-related in any way.’

That was nice to hear, but what’s up?

‘Well you know Blackie’s been drilling me about getting some closing shifts.’

(I did know this, from Eric. A few months previous I had ascended into the role of go-to lunch closer, getting 3-4 such shifts a week. After a couple months, she got jealous and started rattling his cage about why I got the shifts and not her.)

Eric continued, ‘She keeps pointing out how you and she have the exact same tenure here, and she would really like the opportunity.’

(More background: In a vacuum, fair enough. Of course, I have a different philosophical bent regarding the rewarding of superior performance – check again the great Red Lobster Blog post I’ve referred to in the past. But more important, in the full five years both Blackie and I have toiled at Michael’s, I have continuously maintained the public stance with management that I wanted to have more closing shifts. While Blackie has never voiced such a desire. In fact, she did the opposite, wielding her night job at Claim Jumper in all manner to help her avoid undesirable shifts, skip mandatory meetings, and frequently get front-loaded with covers at lunch so she could leave early to make it to Claim Jumper on time. Only now that she has seen me killing it, getting great tables and making new, high-quality call parties, does she try to horn in on that action.)

Eric went on to explain that he stalled her off as long as he could, hoping she’d give up the quest, but she finally wore him down, and he couldn’t tell her no on any logical basis . . . So she was getting my Thursday closing shift. He continued that I’d still be making the same money because of all my good call parties, etc.

It was actually a little uncomfortable. I told him that although I appreciated it, he didn’t need to make explanations to me; I respected that he had a job to do as manager, and that was enough for me. At the same time, I said I was flattered that he was making the effort.

Then, I said, regardless, I wanted to say my piece about Blackie. She was dangerous, manipulative snake. He hadn’t had the dubious benefit of 5 years history with her, but I could testify that she had been a continuously selfish, malicious person. I dropped a couple of choice Blackie anecdotes on him. I pointed out it’s not so much losing the shift, it was losing the shift to her – as her effort to steal it was obviously the result of jealousy and a destructive will towards me (of course, she’d be destructive to anyone else in her path as well . . .) It galled me that, yet again, she was gaining something based on wile and cunning, instead of simple performance and team play. Blah-blah.

And anyway, I have the attitude that she’s getting herself enough rope to hang herself. Lunch closing shifts are not an easy animal to ride. Your responsibilities are greater, as you must do the full 7-10 minute dinner menu spiel. There is virtually no team-type help around. The waiters are gone. The manager is doing office-type manager things. The bartender is doing closing sidework and handling his bank, etc. Even the day busser is gone and the night bussers don’t get in until 4:30. You’re really on an island. It’s you who has to serve and clear every plate and drink. If you’ve got a four-top, that means at least two trips to serve, two trips to clear.

Then there’s the cook situation. There’s a 90-minute stretch when there’s almost no one around to make your food. At the start of that period, you have only the lunch executive chef. His guys at the pantry and dessert stations, and his sautee guy on the line, have all gone home, and the exec chef is scurrying around trying to finish his own sidework (do cooks/chefs call it sidework?) so he can leave too. Somewhat later, you have plenty of dinner guys roaming around, doing dinner prep, but they have this attitude that their job is making dinners, not finishing up late lunches. As such, they don’t check their printers. When they do find a ticket, they ignore it, assuming it’s leftover from much earlier in the day.

What happens is you physically have to find a live body to make your food. It is definitely not enough to order and fire a ticket for a Chef Salad. You have to locate the exact person who has that responsibility and ask them if they’ll please make it for you. If you get the wrong person, he will shake his head, saying nothing, look away, and not return to the issue again. Fire the entrees, and the ticket will just sit there on the printer – even though there are a couple of guys behind the line, doing prep. Here, you grab the ticket yourself, hold it up to the dinner broiler guy, and say, ‘Hey, uh, I got a couple rib eyes here.’

So Blackie is going to run into this situation, and she’s gonna melt down. There will be complaints and comped dinners, and she will be relieved of her closing shifts permanently.

Of course, I must have forgotten who I was talking about. This is Blackie! The cockroach of the restaurant world. She will do nothing if not survive. What will actually happen is that Blackie will first run up against a milder version of this closing shift challenge, and realize she’s completely overmatched. She will at that point withdraw from the closing shifts, lest risk write-ups and possible termination.

One addendum here. Two weeks in, and Blackie hasn’t had her Chernobyl scare. My petty side has taken quite a bit of satisfaction that she has made absolutely shitty money (like $30-40) in her two Thursday closing shifts – each day I incidentally made over $100 and left at 2:30. But that’s not what I wanted to say. The other day, she was prattling on to me about her closing shift (who knows what she was saying? It’s so hard to listen to her.) and she said that Eric had asked her if she wanted to start picking up closing shifts?

What?

He asked you?’ I verified.

‘Yes. He asked me.’

‘That’s not what he told me. He said that you asked him to start doing them.’

‘Oh no. He asked me.’

‘Well then you’re saying he’s lying. Because both those things can’t be true.’

I said nothing more, and neither did Blackie.

Blackie Redux – Part One

Bear with me. A couple of reasons.

Number One, I’m going to do a two-parter based on the new effective star of the blog, Blackie. (Grrrr.)

Number Two, I’ve got about half a martini and two glasses of wine in me.

It all started when I got to work (lunch job, Michael’s) Tuesday and the new boss, Eric, said there were two 9-tops on the books and not much else. I was to get one and Blackie was to get the other. Because servers at Michael’s aren’t allowed to take more than an 8-top by themselves, it was mandatory we share. Therefore, Eric decided the solution was for us to share both of them.

‘Are you okay working with her?’ he asked somewhat conspiratorially. Recall, Eric is new; he likes what I do; I’ve earned his trust as ‘his kind of waiter.’

‘Honestly, I’d rather not,’ I told him. ‘But I don’t care enough to make an issue out of it. It’s fine.’

So here’s the inevitable link to my other dark escapades with Blackie. If you haven’t read them, at least click here or here, for another one, and give a quick scan over a bit of our history.

This day I actually felt much more confident because I had already thoroughly identified what hell I could expect. Also, it promised to be a much more manageable day – only three on the floor and a helpful manager and not much danger of getting overwhelmed with surprise traffic.

The first table was billed as a grudge lunch wherein the host had lost a bet and now his compadres were going to take him to the cleaners (while he took them to Michael’s). We were excited, visions of dinner steaks, appetizer symphonies, and $100 bottles of wine dancing in our heads.

Blackie suggested I do the full dinner spiel (a great sales technique, normally omitted at lunch because of time constraints) because I was so much better at it. I couldn’t disagree. I also liked it because it put me in control of the table. I do not like the manner Blackie uses with her tables. Her other job is at the Claim Jumper . . .

Okay, so a tangent is in order here. I do not disdain Claim Jumper or similar ‘echelon’ restaurants (TGI Friday’s, Chiles, Outback, Coco’s, etc.). Ironically, I actually place Claim Jumper as my favorite restaurant for when I choose that ‘level’ of dining. Their quality is excellent. The service is generally spot-on. The restaurants (locations I’ve visited) are always spotless and well-kept. You get the feeling the hierarchy is working well and doing its job. I love the Claim Jumper. I always suggest it when the wife says, ‘Where do you want to eat?’ Of course, whenever I suggest a solution for a problem the wife can’t figure out herself, I always get shot down. <click-click … ‘PULL!’ Blam!> But that’s another sub-tangent . . .

Anyway, back on tangent . . . I actually regard Claim Jumper as first class. The problem here with the Claim Jumper is that you take the worst prejudices about Claim Jumper and combine them with what you already know about Blackie, and you find the worst stereotypes are true.

Think about a highly-corporate place with a lot of rules and behavior codes and what kind of virulent bacteria could breed in that Petri dish (Blackie). Think further about what that dangerous burgeoning organism (remember: Blackie) would turn into after a dozen years of incubation (as opposed to the usual 6–24 month tenure of Claim Jumper waiters).

Minus the expected gum-popping and cigarette-breath, there you have Blackie. She does not communicate with guests. She dispenses information (no, not even that – she dispenses words) just the same way as she slings a plate of hash: ‘You’re not supposed to understand this, much less enjoy it. Just take it. ‘Cause here it is.’

So to wrap the tangent up, take your worst bigoted preconception of a mid -level chain restaurant waiter, and, even though the restaurant chain itself doesn’t deserve that branding, you have exactly that in this person Blackie.

End tangent. For now . . .

Yes, I was excited to be doing the spiel because I could handle this table which might well be our ‘meal ticket’ (there are just sooo many restaurant/food metaphors out there!). So I made contact with the table. Introduced myself and mentioned my partner Blackie. I pitched the idea of wine (remember, these guys were potentially taking their friend to the cleaners) and cocktails. They were happy to have the wine list at the table because it was a maybe (remember, this is lunch). I sussed it out that pressure was not the correct tack. I thought that common peer pressure, or else inertia (i.e., the body in motion being the idea of having a drink) would eventually prevail.

Of course, just after I leave the table after my spiel for the dinner steaks, etc, Blackie charges at them with her typical tactless hard line about ordering wine. No surprise, we were removing the wine glasses from the table about five seconds later.

So much for my managing this table into a moneymaker.

It came time to take the order. Michael’s requires multiple servers take orders on large parties. Blackie started at position 1. I started at position 9 and worked back.

We met in the side station to place the order. Turned out, I had the host – who authorized a round of appetizers. But there were also four salads ordered for the table. Naturally, you want the apps to go out before salads, followed by entrees. So we placed the order that way. However, at Michael’s this particular appetizer symphony is not that quick to prepare. Another factor to consider before you read what follows: some guests acknowledged they wouldn’t have any of the shrimp appetizer on order.

After about 10 minutes, I fired the salads for the table. By now, I’m expecting the appetizer symphony to be ready or nearly ready. Further, I know the salads might take a 4-5 minutes (in a normal world not, but at lunch when the pantry guys are doing multiple jobs, it can easily take this long), so this will allow the shrimp appetizer to be delivered and perhaps consumed (it’s only about a piece per person, after all).

Well, the shrimp app is just about ready to go out. But the salads are now ready. Blackie, ever ‘helpful,’ is standing by the pantry, ready to grab the salads (shrimp app comes up on the front line). She asks me if she should take the salads, since they are ready, or wait till the appetizer is served and removed? I weigh it all . . . and tell her . . .

Go! Serve the salads!

After all, some of the guests are not having shrimp. Next, these people are at lunch, so time is always a factor. Next, eating a single shrimp (for those six eating them) doesn’t take more than a minute or so. Next, some have ordered dessert in advance as well. And, remember, we’re still at lunch.

Now, I have not gotten the idea that these folks are in a hurry. But I can tell they are at lunch. They are going back to work. So I am using fuzzy logic, just as I mentioned here (fuzzy logic part towards end of post).

A good waiter knows how to properly time courses. A better waiter knows how to judge when guests don’t give a shit and are silently placing a premium on continuous, expedited service. Admittedly, it’s mostly a lunch thing, but that’s what I’m working at here. Same with Blackie. For the last 5 years.

So I make the judgment that it will be okay if those having salads are eating them, and those eating shrimp appetizers are eating them, and those eating both combine the experience.

I have other tables of course, so since Blackie has implicitly agreed to deliver the salads that were practically right in her hands when we had our exchange, I took care of some other business.

I finish my business and double check on our 9-top and see them happily eating their shrimp appetizer. Wait, what happened to the salads?

Despite her asking me what I wanted her to do – as she was right there about to do it – and my telling her to do just that, she had somehow not done it.

Blackie strikes again!

Okay, okay, don’t get too worked up. The timing still worked out fine. It was just classic Blackie.

So as a team we deliver the entrees. I have positions 1-3. Position 2 has a small New York steak. Oops!

He says he ordered the New York sandwich. Naturally, staff immediately goes into emergency mode to prepare a NY Sandwich for him.

Meanwhile, Blackie explains he ordered the ‘small New York’ and she repeated it to him and he said yes, she was right . . .

Well, she was wrong.

Yet more meanwhile, Position 1 has a question about why she didn’t get prime rib instead of the Rib Eye like she asked for . . .

Again, Blackie explains that she told her just what she was ordering.

Maybe Blackie should explain more to her guests rather than her managers and fellow waiters?

(This is Part One. Part Two is Right Here.)

Blackie And The Pretense Of Competence

If you’ve been reading, you know my nemesis at Michael’s is Blackie. Is it fair to say you hate someone?

NO, I LOVE KEITH RICHARDS. BUT THIS IS A FAIR APPROXIMATION OF WHAT BLACKIE LOOKS LIKE

Hell, why don’t I digress right out of the chute?

I say it’s okay to hate someone. It’s all semantics anyway, but here’s what I think.

Real hate is not productive. It consumes the hater. And in fact, that’s probably a primary tactical objective for the ‘hated.’ If you’re worthy of hate, it’s because you’re a despicable person, trying to destroy other peoples’ live for your own benefit. So if, as a ‘hated’ person, you can generate the kind of all-consuming obsession of hatred in someone, then you’ve won. Because the person who hates you is severely diminished, spending vast precious psychic resources on the activity of hating you. That person is definitely not functioning well. And it’s all because of you. Nice job.

But I hate Blackie. Because she is this person. She’s completely selfish. And, as stated above, she thrives by creating disturbances in her rivals (who are everyone), thus backhandedly kicking her up a notch because everyone she touches becomes less effectual. Because whenever Blackie touches you, there is something wrong with it.

‘Hi, Blackie. How’s it going?’

‘Fine. But I’ve about had it. When I left home this morning, Larry said he wasn’t coming back unless I apologized to him about going to the Raiders game without him . . .’ and on and on.

Another typical one. Blackie: ‘I made these brownies because I just couldn’t sleep last night so I figured I might as well do something. And then I didn’t have enough flour, so they were sitting there, half-made and I didn’t know what to do. But then Larry was being a bastard and I woke up and couldn’t sleep so I just decided, I might as well go and get some flour at 6 a.m. and finish those brownies. I mean, right? Why not?’

Is it just me, or do you also feel the need to take a shower?

So to get back to the digression, I say it’s fine to hate someone when you just realize they f’n’ suck. Give the devil his due, right? These are people who obviously don’t want to be loved or even tolerated. Or else why would they be the way they are?

Okay, so anyway. On to the topic of this post. I made this note awhile back: ‘Just saying something doesn’t necessarily get the job done.’

Naturally, Blackie spurred this thought, causing me to scribble it on a chit-sized piece of thermal printer paper.

Here’s Blackie telling the specials: ‘. . . freshalaskanhalibutcomeswithcucumberrelishandgarliccroutons . . .’ And no, that’s not some unwieldy URL. That’s the way she talks to her guests.

A guest will order the steak salad. There are two official steak salads on the menu at Michael’s, not to mention that you can add steak to any other salad (or for that matter substitute it for the meat on a chicken- or seafood-themed salad). Instead of clearly and politely explaining the differences between the two steak salads, and asking which the guest is ordering – or even instead of pointing physically to the two menu items to get clarification – Blackie does this: ‘Hotsteaksaladismedallionsonasiangreenswithsoygingerdressing. Newyorksteaksaladisoverchoppedlettuceandvegetableswithredwinevinaigrette.’

It’s practically asking the guest to order the wrong thing. Please order the wrong thing! If there’s any way I can help make this complicated enough so you order the wrong thing, let me know.

I truly believe that on some level, this is because of what I wrote above: she wants to create disturbance and chaos in others.

Then, when there is a problem and the kitchen is scrambling to get the right dish in front of the guest, and the manager is called into action to deliver the corrected entrée, Blackie explains to the irritated manager, ‘I told her the Hot Steak Salad had medallions and asian greens, and she said yes, that’s what she wanted.’

Just saying something doesn’t get the job done. No more than an insincere ‘Thank you,’ or a sarcastic apology, firing off technically proper verbiage at the guest without taking care to connect is a waste of time, offensive, or both.

The waiter has to take full responsibility for the delivery and receipt of his communication. Hell, just the waiter? Everybody in life.

This classic Blackie move exhibits what I mean by the title of this post. The Pretense of Competence.

I suppose I could define true competence as the ability to get the job done. Easy enough to agree on, isn’t it?

Well, for those masters in the performance art of the Pretense of Competence, there are lots of great moves. Like watching Andrew McCarthy furrow his brow, clench his jaw and look hard to the left, in the Pretense of Internal Frustration.

Here are the ways Blackie (and your own personal Blackie), mounts her façade:

  • Ask A Lot Of Questions
    • Have you ever noticed the fakers at the Saturday employee meetings who have to ask a question after every managerial proclamation? And not necessarily only at employee meetings – any time someone in authority gives information to her, this server (hell, why not call her Blackie?) comes back with 2, 3, or more ‘clarification’ questions. She is pretending to be competent. In other words, I know my job so well, I need to know from you exactly how this is going to fit in with everything else I’ve learned perfectly. More to the point, however, this is my chance to show you how much I already know about my job.
    • Ironically, this same server becomes a close-minded know-it-all when a peer says something similar to what the Big Wig would say. If I said to Blackie, ‘Hey, you know, from now on, let’s just keep the dessert tray in the walk-in during lunch instead of out on the floor. There’s only three or four of us, and it’s not losing us any steps, and it saves a whole tray of desserts from being ditched between shifts,’ she would respond, ‘Well maybe, but I really need it to be out on the display table next to #147. It’s always been there and I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t there.’
  • Talk A Lot
    • Of course, all kinds of people talk a lot. And many of them are perfectly competent. I’m speaking of Blackie dealing with her tables. Words, torrents of words, cascading streams of uninterrupted words. Verbal waterboarding. From the Tommy Gun delivery of the specials, to responses to questions, to any other stock verbalization required during the meal.
    • Then there’s the ‘personality’ aspect of the job, wherein talking a lot makes up for being interesting (such is the subconscious computation in Blackie’s head). Ever see a guests with a fork mid-air, loaded with a delicious steaming bite, and that fork stuck in a holding pattern above Airport Pie-Hole? All the while Blackie bludgeons them with the details of her vacation to Rancho Cucamonga?
    • Yes, the job description unofficially includes making the guests like you. Blackie is operating under two misunderstandings: 1) the guest will automatically like anything he/she hears about you; 2) the only way to get them to like you is to get them to know you.
      • Of course, getting to know Blackie will inevitably lead to hating her. More interesting, however, is that for a restaurant guest, they can come to like you plenty if you just stay out of their way and give them great service.
    • Click the above heading for my full post on this.
    • Maybe a finer point I can put on it for purposes of this topic, though: Maybe call it activity for its own sake. A busy person is generally perceived as a good worker. Blackie mines this concept like thar’s gold in them thar hills!
      • First, she pretends to be busy when she’s not, by doing things like fine-tuning table maintenance at the exact time when real work (like delivering entrees) needs to be done.
      • She even engages in Fake Anti-Hustle! She will ask for help doing things she could easily do herself – just to prove that she’s in tune with the teamwork aspect of the restaurant. (Now you may think I’m going overboard here, but it actually happened to me today, with Blackie. She had three tables. Two were eating entrees, and she was seated her third. I had no tables so I was able to understand what was going on in her station. She had only one current task on her ledger: get initial beverages for the new table – the other tables were completely contented and serviced. I happened to be standing in the waiter station when she was getting iced teas . . . ‘Can you get me a 7up for postion 1 on #36?’ I dutifully get her 7up and bring it to her as she is preparing her tray of iced teas [we get sodas from the bar, iced teas in the server station]. ‘Oh, can you drop that? I said position 1.’ So I drop on position 1, moments before she arrives behind me with her tray of iced teas for everyone else. Sheesh. Did she just invent Fake Anti-Hustle?
  • Over-Refinement
    • I invented this term initially as Over-Courtesy, specifically for driving situations when car drivers are too courteous and thus gum-up the expected workings of gears and driving.
      • A pedestrian is standing on the sidewalk, at a crosswalk (this is California where drivers legally have to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians whenever demanded by said pedestrians). A motorist will see this guy standing there and screech to a stop inches before the crosswalk, and motion the totally-surprised pedestrian to cross. Meanwhile, there might be other lanes unaware that this jackass driver has set this deathtrap in motion. Other lanes of traffic might not be aware of this over-courtesy and that pedestrian might well get his clock cleaned once he clears that first car. But more practically, the problem is that the pedestrian was not actively soliciting traffic be stopped. He’s happy merely (and properly, I believe) to wait till traffic has cleared enough for him to cross. Now he’s forced into a maelstrom of steaming, grinding metal, hoping ‘the law’ will provide enough for him to live through the experience. I’m a pedestrian quite frequently. I understand my place: I’m trying to survive. I will not insist on my ‘right of way’ at the expense of my life. So, that said, motorist fools who practice over-courtesy are actually endangering the lives of those pedestrians.
      • Much more common are the jackasses who defer turns at stop signs and lights where they are the ones entitled to the right of way. Come on, people! Just do your job. Understand, I’m the one who’s deferring to them when I say this. I approach a stop sign and another guy is just settling to a stop. Two beats and I stop. Jackass looks at me, I look at him, he motions to me to go ahead . . . Jesus! You were there first. Just go when you’re supposed to, and we’ll both be where we want to be sooner!
    • It’s the same in restaurant work. Same as the Ask A Lot Of Questions waiter. There are no instructions simple enough that won’t be met with over-refinement questions. Teamwork things like, ‘Run plates 1, 2, and 3’ get hammered with a retort like ‘Who’s #1?’ (even though positions are standardized). Or, ‘I didn’t clear the side plates because someone was still chewing something.’ Or, ‘Do you have the dessert silverware down already?’ Look, dude, if I ask you to run desserts, just run the desserts.
    • In Rules and Regulations, Blackie will figure out ways to gum up the works because of perceived incongruities. Like, ‘Chicken dishes always come with lemon and parsley, just like seafood, but now seafood is only coming with lemon . . . what am I supposed to do?’ Or, worse, the guests’ meals are coming out late, but Blackie will make them later still because she refuses to deliver the entrees without the table first being ‘marked’ with fresh silverware . . . Argh!
  • Narrating Aloud What They Are Doing
    • ‘Table 7 is just killing me. I’m getting this guy his fifth Diet Coke refill right now, and it’s not like I have the time ’cause 15 is have four courses and I have to keep resetting silverware. Are you having trouble with the kitchen today? I just had a French Dip that took 20 minutes, and this was the table that told me straight off they were in a hurry . . .’
    • Besides the probable explanation that Blackie is just doing this because she knows it’s annoying, there’s also an Implication that by saying everything she’s doing, she is proving herself in control and competent.
    • Here’s what I think of this: Shut up.
  • Too Organized To Participate In Teamwork
    • Every time you ask Blackie for a teamwork-type favor, you get this: ‘Okay. I have to make two cappys for 12, and then run salads for 13, then I can refill your coffees for you.’
    • Similar to Narrating Aloud, she’s feigning competence while accomplishing the parallel goal of avoiding work. Actually, Not bad; this is the most efficient you’ll ever see Blackie.