(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?
‘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.