Demoted To Busser

Rachael wrote (edited):

I’m a server and without my consent our restaurant decided each server would have to be scheduled as a busboy. The woman making the schedule says she’s splitting the shifts but I have seen a ‘top’ waitress only have one bussing shift in one week and haven’t seen her do it since then. … this has been going on for a few months, and … I’ve only seen her do it once, while … I’ve been scheduled to do it 3 times, and this week I was not given any serving shifts. I feel that this is somehow not something I should have to deal with since I was hired as a server, not a bus boy. Please help!

Thanks for your question, Rachael.

I had a similar experience to yours (though yours is decidedly worse).

Then, I was being forced to work banquet parties (something I was not hired to do) vs. regular floor-serving. Admittedly more a lateral move than being demoted to busser.

It’s not comforting, but if you brainstorm for other professions where workers can be shuttled back and forth between positions, you will come up with lots of them. If your boss in the sales department of XYZ Widgets decides to move you to telemarketing, you kinda just have to do it. Likewise if she shifts you to a crappy territory. Regular companies do it all the time and it is framed this way:

‘We’re moving you to <blank> at a <blank> cut in pay. You can have the job if you like. If not, we’re going to have to part ways.’

You have three options:

  1. Do/say nothing and just suck it up, grateful for (or bitter about) the job you have.
  2. Get another job and then quit your current place. Very few restaurants practice the BS you are encountering.
  3. Sit down with someone high up in management and have a calm, reasoned, cooperative conversation about your objections. Including offering a suggestion to fix things.

I recommend #3. But be prepared to find another job. They won’t fire you as long as you continue to cover the busser shifts, yet if they don’t change the system you will be miserable and resentful.

What I didn’t know when I wrote my post, was the fallout from my confrontation with management. The rest of that holiday season – and in fact forevermore – I was not asked to work another banquet. I was lucky. Management took to heart my considerations and objections and apparently decided I was right.

I don’t expect you to have the same luck.

You could try making a stand based on the principle you were hired to be a server, and you chose the job because of that. You could, by all means, play the money card for sympathy – tell them the cut in income makes it impossible to pay your rent, child care, DUI fines, whatever.

As for possible solutions, the most obvious is hire (more?) bussers! Or what about eliminating the position and having all waiters bus their own tables, fill their own waters, bring their own bread, etc? That way no one gets preferential treatment like the ‘top’ server you mention. Or start a tip pooling arrangement where you do cycle through busboy shifts, but the busser position gets the same cut as the waiters?

I’m not hopeful about any of those solutions besides hiring bussers, and I’m guessing that’s not on the table (pardon the pun). So you should reconcile yourself to working at a different restaurant if nothing happens from your communication efforts.

However, before you take any steps, consider whether it will be wise to change jobs.

I don’t know what kind of money you make (i.e., how desirable your serving job is). It matters because if you are pulling $300 a server shift along with $100 on the busser shift, that would still add up to a great bank deposit at the end of a 5 shift week. Your pride might feel better in another job where you didn’t suffer the indignity of bussing tables, but it’d be a hollow victory at $150 a shift.

On the other hand, if you’re in an average-paying server job, then just get out and into another average one (or better!). Just don’t quit till you’re out of training at the new restaurant.

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Walking A Mile In The Manager’s Shoes

Even though I’m kind of an a-hole as far as criticizing/stereotyping restaurant managers and owners, I hardly get any hate mail from them. Or any mail at all.

Maybe that’s because writing a waiter blog is, ironically, like stripping down naked and walking a mile in the manager’s shoes.

Let me explain. There are so many similarities.

Bad predictions and bad solutions

Managers are notorious for overstaffing – predicting more business than materializes. Conversely, they will under-staff to save labor, and the restaurant will get buried. Managers decide Server A can handle being triple-seated, and Server B can’t take another table, with the result that A gets pounded with complaints while B pounds the manager with complaints that she’s bored and poor.

Managers also provide stupid solutions to problems. Like recently when Michael’s waiters complained that employee of the month awards weren’t fair. At the time, management nominated a handful and kicked them around during a manager’s meeting to decide as a group. The “solution” to this problem is that now the employees vote on it, with the managers getting an equal weighted vote. Stupid. Now it’s just a popularity contest. Not to mention that as a lunch server, I will never get the award again, as I am totally off the radar of the more populous dinner crew.

Another example? Michael’s instituted a Running Sidework list for dinners, wherein servers are responsible for ongoing, during-the-shift tasks, like stocking silverware on trays in service stations, making coffee, etc. Nice idea. Except the problem arose because servers were too busy during the shift to handle these things in the first place. Now, in addition to the tasks themselves, they are expected to be monitoring each other’s effectiveness on running sidework . . . like they have time to do that, in addition? So now there is a dry erase board on the wall, with the names of 3 servers assigned their running sidework . . . from a Sunday a few months back. Hasn’t been updated since.

Well, us bloggers aren’t much different. We make bold, provocative predictions – about business volume, cash flow, interoffice politics, even the direction of the nation (with regards to foodserving). And we’re constantly wrong.

Likewise, our blowhardy solutions to the problems we gleefully present are quite often stupid. Thankfully, nobody listens to us, or else we’d see our ideas backfire in the harsh world of reality, rather than blossom and flourish in the rose-tinted universe of our dreams.

No More Convenient Amnesia About Failures

Speaking of backfiring in the real world, of course us waiters are always there to remind the managers of how retarded they were when their appetizer sales contest got gamed and ended up discouraging everyone (except the cheating winner) from trying. Or that their new cover count system actually ended up making everyone more petty and self-absorbed, rather than freeing the staff from obsessing about their own money.

No, we would never allow that. No disgrace is big enough that it can’t be amplified just a bit more.

Same for waiter blog writers. People read and love to point out the folly of our ideas/solutions. When our house-of-cards “improved” systems collapse in the real world, there’s always someone out there to point out what idiots we are.

Limited Audience

Managers don’t have many people to speak to. A large restaurant will have 20 waiters. And of those, maybe only 10% will actually listen.

Waiter blogs do not have massive audiences – unless you’re willing to go public and tell all your friends and co-workers, notify on Facebook, and of course risk getting into deep shit or getting out of a job when you tell too much truth.

So it can be a little dispiriting for us both drop our pearls of wisdom (self-perceived) and have them lapped up only by the few swine who are even barely listening. Not that my readers are swine . . .

The Swine Don’t Know

As a manager you’ve got those two waiters who will actually hear you (listen, maybe not). But even those two are preoccupied with the chronic waiter affliction of not really caring beyond what it means to their tip revenue. They are more concerned with their child with the sniffles, or finals coming up, or that their other job won’t give them Sundays off. So they will gobble up your nuggets of management, swallow, and completely forget. Not important.

While I will compose a post over a couple of days – or in this case 6 or 7 months – it will be read by 30 to 50 people who respond with . . . silence. Next blog. Or next shift. Or, ‘What time does Happy Hour start in this one-bedroom apartment?’

People Are Happier When You Don’t Say Anything

For me, refer to the aforementioned silence after a laboriously-crafted post. My hits have actually climbed steadily in these months of total silence on the waiternotes.com blog. This leads me to believe readers are glad that I’m there when they need me, but are just as happy that I’m not continually bleating at them about cover counts and my arch-enemies.

Like when you need a problem smoothed out at a table – thank god for that manager! But otherwise, please, dude, just stay in your office in front of the computer monitor. Or at the end of the bar with your Johnny Walker Black on the rocks drinking friend.

Pander And You’ll Lose Their Respect

When a manager starts trying to be your friend, it’s great at first. It’s happened to all of us. It might start with your massive computer mistake that he secretly voids to protect you from a catastrophic disciplinary action (or even having to pay money for it, in the case of Mom and Pop restaurants who try to get away with that). Then there will be after hours drinks in the restaurant, followed that night or another time with drinks away from the restaurant. Then kibitzing privately about other waiters, managers, or confidential restaurant business. And later still you might play golf, or see a concert, or just more drinking together. Okay, it’s almost always just the drinking.

But the time comes when you take for granted that manager will always have your back, even when she shouldn’t. You lose respect for any of those pearls of instruction cast before your swinish self – she means everybody else, not you. And then the final domino falls when the rest of the staff susses up that the manager is toothless and their respect (what little existed in the first place) fails as well.

Writing a post that panders to my audience by taking an indefensible position regarding, say, being late to work, and it becomes immediately clear that the blogger is just a blowhard hack (in waiting and writing). Mind you, most of are anyway, but it’s not necessarily immediately clear.

I’ve read blogs like that, myself. When I read about the guy who thought the owner was an a-hole for not letting him off on Valentine’s Day because his ‘girlfriend’ of two weeks is expecting a date, I can’t help but complete the picture of this swine: wrinkled, untucked shirt, shoes that look like mud-cast fossils from Bigfoot, cell phone ringing in his pocket when standing at the table, and drinking a bar mat shot at the end of the shift.

This is the guy I’m reading for food serving enlightenment?

Advancing In The Industry – Quick Follow-Up

Waiterextraordinaire responded quickly to my last post. Based on his thoughts, it seems I’m probably off-base in the focus of my advice:

Great post waiternotes! Just as a follow up on the degree the girl is going for. Good for her and if she can learn a couple of languages work in Switzerland or better yet take some of her education overseas that would be even better. I am sure she has better plans than working with a corporate chain. Hey how about a spot in the Cayman Islands , Dubai , Australia , France. Get a degree and learn languages then the work permits will drop in your lap. Be pretty exciting.

Obviously, WaiterEx has a completely different concept of the breadth of opportunity in the hospitality business than I do!

And he’s right. The fact that our industry knows no boundaries allows us to potentially go anywhere in the world. Using some skill in ‘the business,’ we can transplant ourselves into a whole new life in nearly an instant. All it would take is some serious brass balls, a connection here or there, maybe a little money saved, and a plan for the future.

We get bogged down in our lives, feeling boxed in from all angles, seemingly fighting just not to lose ground . . . But who knows what any of us could make happen if we just pulled stakes and landed in, say, Australia (with a job, of course)?

WaiterEx emphasizes using multiple languages. That would no doubt make it easier to get taken on by an international resort (or resort town). Perhaps it’s common for ‘outsiders’ to have an edge over the locals in this scenario. The USA has a reputation as being the best of the best in a lot of areas. A hotshot, multi-lingual transplant might well be granted a sizeable ‘grace period’ in a new job ‘over there.’ He/she would ostensibly have a lot of knowledge to impart to the local staff.

I’m just guessing here, but it’s possible.

Thanks, WaiterEx for the perspective.

At the same time, I still believe my narrow take on this issue is fairly complete by its own standards. Still, if you haven’t read it yet, please do so and let me know if I missed something.

Drama In The Living Room

Apologies to anyone who has come here today expecting talk about waiting tables. This is going to be about personal life.

Also, apologies for retreading some information here, but I kind of want this to be the definitive Phineas and Adele saga for these pages.

The bulk of my last post (ouch! Nearly two weeks ago!) concerned the living arrangement that’s been going on here the last month and a half. We have both sets of parents (in-laws) living with us.

My parents have had a financial stake in the house since Day One, and they’ve also paid rent on their room to keep it reserved for when they visit/live here. Because of this, their presence is non-negotiable. Even so, they’ve been accommodating when others visit, offering their room if not using it themselves. They’ve also endeavored to be somewhere else on occasions when we’ve had house guests.

The Wife’s parents have zero financial stake here or with us in any other capacity. In fact, when the wife asked them for a $10,000 loan less than two years ago (she was opening a restaurant), they declined unless they could get a second mortgage on our house as security. They came here on vacation, and in advance decided they would stay for four months until winter was over (they live in Michigan).

This would not have been all right under any circumstances, but was especially egregious considering my parents were already here. But they forced/weaseled the issue, despite some diplomatic talk from the Wife.

Aside from petty resentment about their lack of contribution of any kind in the present and in the past, financial and otherwise – because as you will see, money is not the issue – all of us (me and the Wife, my parents) were most bent about their complete lack of sensitivity and consideration. Obviously, their objective was some desire to ‘winter in California,’ and that selfish desire was the only factor that entered their minds. Did I mention earlier that they also brought their dog?

When they first arrived, the best was made of it. My parents arranged to leave early, before Christmas, to stay in Northern California with my sister (our family Christmas would be at her place this year), and remain until the second week of January. That cleared out three or four weeks for them.

Just prior to my parents’ return after Christmas (Incidentally, they are in the midst of re-establishing themselves as permanent Southern California residents after living in Michigan – also – for the last several years. They are in the process of finding their own place to buy or rent. So it’s not like their living here is anything permanent.), the Wife had another sit down with her dad. The thrust and intention was for them to move on – or at least take up residence with the daughter now living in San Diego. She emphasized that the downstairs room (separate bath) was my parents’ room, they owned it . . . blahblahblah. Her dad’s reaction was, ‘Oh. Well then we’ll move to the upstairs room right now, if that’s what you want.’ Kind of hurt-like, kind of tip-toeing on eggshells. She said obliquely, ‘It’s just a lot of people in one place . . .’

He didn’t take, or refused to take, the obvious hint. So for the bulk of January we had both parties. And it wasn’t no party. The dad, Phineas, is kind of charming and seemingly innocuous, if time-consuming. The step-mom, Adele, is very hard to take. Just irritating. I talked about it before.

So allow me to temporarily set aside the fact that they are not super-likable people. Let’s even assume they are likable. What developed was a dynamic where they essentially controlled the common areas of the house. Because they don’t have anything going on –both retired, no apparent avocations, just ‘on vacation’ – they are just in wait for fresh meat to walk inside their perimeter. And they start talking. My parents are both quite engaged. My mom is a professional photographer who is studying web design and is currently dedicating herself to scouting for places to live. My step-dad is both a working professional musician and a working business sales consultant, and a dedicated writer in that capacity. They, like myself and the Wife, have stuff to do.

Even when we don’t have stuff to do, I can hide in my office. The Wife can ‘take naps.’

My parents don’t have the same luxury. They do a lot of work on their computers – something very uncomfortable or maybe impossible to do for long sitting on your bed. It’s necessary for them to use space in the common areas to work. But it’s nigh impossible when there is always someone lying in wait to suck the air out of the room. Frustration was smoldering. Especially when Phineas and Adele finally made good on going for a 10-day visit to daughter Dotty in San Diego, only to return after just five days. It wasn’t actually a Dotty visit; Dotty was on a short vacation herself, so they stayed at her place in her absence. When she returned, the first thing she said to them was, ‘I’m really tired. You guys have to go.’

So we got them back.

Believe it or not, even though they would have been back in a few days anyway, this was crushingly disappointing to us all. We discussed it. There was some hope Phineas and Adele would get down there, reflect on the situation in our house, and realize it was time to go home to Michigan – or stay in San Diego. Also, if nothing else, we had banked on four or five more days of calm and silence. And now it was all gone, including the slim hope of their ‘splitting time’ between us and Dotty – Dotty clearly wasn’t having any of that. Even more crushing was that they really seemed to hunker down upon returning. Not even a side-long glance of recognition of the imposition they were making on us. They were dead-set on just plowing through this four months, and everyone else be damned.

Come last Thursday it all broke open. My mom made a conscious decision not to confine herself to her room. It was rainy afternoon and she was reading a book on the couch in the living room, kind of like having your nose in a book on an airplane: ‘Do not disturb.’

The sign was not heeded. Phineas and Adele continually dragged her into conversation. The conversation turned to the recent film, Revolutionary Road. Adele maintained the film was about Women’s Lib, and went on to engage my mom with her own thoughts about Women’s Lib.

***Side note. This from Wikipedia.com from Richard Yates, the author of the book, about the book:

Theme

In the October 1999 issue of the Boston Review, Yates was quoted on his central theme: “If my work has a theme, I suspect it is a simple one: that most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies their tragedy.” The Wheelers’ frustrations and yearnings for something better represent the tattered remnants of the American Dream.


According to my mom, it wasn’t that she’s against Women’s Lib. It’s that Adele was drawing conclusions about it and about the two of them that my mom disagreed with. Irritated already that she wasn’t being allowed to read her book, she decided that she didn’t fundamentally have to allow this woman to cram her half-baked ideas down her throat. When my mom (her account here) tried to voice an differing opinion, Adele shut her down repeatedly, in the manner of, ‘Yes, but –’ and then ignoring what my mom had said.

Enough got to be enough and my mom tried to slink away to her room non-confrontationally. Along the way, she couldn’t get her dog to follow her into the room, which got her flustered. Meantime, Adele actually started to follow her to continue her diatribe. The Wife asked my mom what was wrong . . . and she blew up.

Mom started half-screaming/half-crying, saying that she couldn’t take it anymore. It was Adele. She was stupid. She wanted to trumpet her stupid Women’s Lib theories and pigeon-hole everyone else into the same thinking. She had fixed opinions and didn’t let anyone else have another viewpoint. She was just trying to quietly read her book, and they kept dragging her into conversation. And then when she finally engaged, Adele wouldn’t let her make a statement.

Phineas tried to calm things down, saying they were just having a conversation. Mom yelled back, ‘No we weren’t! She was the only one talking. And I don’t know why you’re defending her, Phineas. She was doing the exact same thing to you.’

Within a couple of minutes, my mom was out of the house. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, my step-dad was away on business.)

One can imagine the effect this would have on household dynamics. Right off, Adele sat down to confer with the Wife, Adele playing dumb – though that comes naturally. She claimed none of that happened. She wondered why my mom thought she was stupid. She defended herself. Phineas occupied himself with an unnecessary phone call to duck the turmoil. When he finished, he told her to try not to take it personally, that it was just an outburst, that it would blow over and things would be all right.

The Wife had to go to work earlier than I. Adele switched to me, trying to plead her innocence. I told her to try not to be upset, but I knew that was hard. I tried to stay neutral and not aggravate the situation. Additionally, I hadn’t actually heard anything except my mom’s outburst. I found out later about the general nature of the ‘conversation.’

I got ready for work. When I came downstairs, Phineas was talking quietly on the phone. I looked down at the bottom of the stairs, and Adele was lying on her side on the kitchen floor, one hand covering her eyes, the other clutching her rib cage. Turns out Phineas was calling 911. She had ‘fainted.’ Yes, two fire trucks, paramedics, a gurney, medical equipment, oxygen mask, the whole deal.

We’ve seen this act before. Last time she visited she ended up in the hospital for a week. That started with a ‘fainting’ spell, and was followed by exhaustive tests – all negative. Eventually, the doctor as much as accused her of faking, and sent her packing.

This time they discharged her the very next day. Recall she already spent a week in the hospital earlier this visit – again having no measurable symptoms despite for what she claimed to be feeling – and was sent home none the worse for wear.

Because of the situation, they finally were forced to make a move. Adele decided she couldn’t stay here under these conditions, so they started looking for a hotel that accepted dogs.

By Saturday, three days later, they were still here – to everyone’s discomfort. But they had found an Extended Stay Hotel that was acceptable for $93 a night. It appeared they would check in the next day. I don’t know why they couldn’t check in that day, but . . . whatever.

The previous night I’d slept poorly, going over in my head for the umpteenth time everything that was wrong with the situation they’d created here. I imagined having lunch with them and telling them these things in a calm, matter-of-fact way.

Back to Saturday, the wife called to invite me to lunch with the three of them. I normally wouldn’t accept, but figured this was destiny.

I rode with Phineas and Adele to the restaurant to meet the Wife. As soon as we got in the car Adele said she wanted to ask me a question, just to satisfy Phineas.

‘Rather than us moving into the hotel and paying $90 a night, would you rather we paid you the money and stayed here?’

‘I don’t think that’d be a good idea. It’s probably best to get the hotel,’ I said.

Phineas nodded and said, ‘Well, we’re just really sorry about what happened . . .’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘it really has hardly anything to do with what happened the other day. That was just a blow up, from some tension or something. The main thing is it’s just really hard having three separate families in this one house. It puts a big strain on everything.’

Phineas: ‘Well, we just really had no idea there would be a problem . . .’

I said, ‘I don’t know about that. I have a hard time believing that two intelligent adults couldn’t see how unusual it is to come live with someone for four months. When you first had this idea, it seemed like a really long time to me. I went around asking everyone I knew, and no one had ever had it happen to them. No one had even heard of it happening to someone they knew. Coming to visit for a week or two weeks, that’s great. But three or four months . . . that’s just not normal.’

I had said this to Phineas. He proceeded to say nothing at all. He was shaking more than his usual tremors, and he looked a little shocked. Perhaps he was silent just to control himself. Or perhaps it was his usual strategy of ignoring communication that conflicts with his agenda.

Finally, Adele said, ‘Well thank you for being honest. I really appreciate that.’

That made me feel better. I was even shaking a little.

Since I didn’t have a chance to brief the Wife, she didn’t know this had transpired. During lunch, Phineas and Adele said they were going to move out to the hotel tomorrow. Later the Wife told me she was so happy and excited, but had to try not to act that way.

Sunday, the Wife had been doing some work to maybe improve her parents’ situation. She had found a turnkey mobile home for rent (paid utilities, cable, furnished, etc.) for just $900 for one month. She went with them to look at it.

In the car, Adele turned on her, yelling that it wasn’t all about the Wife, that she had feelings too, and she wanted to be heard. The Wife said she didn’t want to talk about – couldn’t handle talking about it, please – several times. But Adele persisted and began to berate the Wife. Finally the Wife said she had to get out of the car.

‘Good!’ said Adele.

So they left her on the side of the street.

The rest of the day, her father’s phone was turned off (he never turns it off). The Wife was sure neither of them was going to talk to her again.

Next day, evening, the wife tries Dad’s phone again and gets him. He says he turned off his phone when they went to a movie and forgot to turn it on again.

The Wife wonders, of course, was he not going to call her? For her it brought back horrible memories of living with them for a year during high school. Adele a couple of times sent her a note at school telling her not to come home. The Wife called her dad and he just said, ‘Well, there’s nothing I can do . . .’ So she would have to beg a friend to stay the night – humiliating and degrading.

So as disgusted as we all were initially, we’re more so now. However, there is a massive feeling of relief as well. Coupled with several cathartic sessions bitching about how hopelessly selfish – amoral even – these people have been, we’re all feeling a bit better. And at least the house is quiet (normal) again.

Phineas and Adele are looking for places to stay in San Diego. I still don’t know why they don’t just impose themselves on Dotty the way they did us. But in any event, Dotty’s about to have her fair measure of pain till they finally go back to their hole in Michigan.

Reflections On President Obama’s Inauguration Speech

I woke up late (on-call at Michael’s and they didn’t need me). Logging onto the L.A. Times as usual, fresh cup of coffee at the ready, I learned the President Obama had already been inaugurated. For some reason, I thought it would happen later on, evening East Coast time. Several people in my currently overpopulated household had thought the same thing.

So I read his address. It was tremendous. I even welled up with emotion reading the few closing paragraphs about George Washington’s message to the People in the Revolution’s darkest hour.

Later, I watched a video of the address on ABC.com. I was moved slightly more by the video, perhaps because of the delivery.

I was struck by the underlying message of the speech: We’re in for some tough times. And it won’t be just a blip.

Obama exhorted us to buckle down for the long haul, to be ready to fight for principles, fight with courage, sacrifice for our ideals. Because those things are all we’ll have to sustain us through the hard times ahead.

As if we couldn’t read the forecast anyway, President Obama laid it out for us pretty clearly. As bad as things are now, they’re going to get worse.

I understand that although currently my income hasn’t suffered excessively, and I can still make my mortgage, it’s probably only a matter of time before it gets really hard. If I’m lucky, ‘really hard’ will mean I still have both my jobs but the money is down. It could mean, however, that I lose one or both jobs.

We read daily about plunges in retail sales, wholesale revenues, exports, real estate values, financial market values. And for now, it’s just news. We sit in our homes watching our televisions, warm during these winter months (maybe too warm lately in California), content with food in the cupboard and refrigerator.

But President Obama is trying to prepare us for the next wave. As the economy continues to falter, fewer people will have jobs. Those with jobs will have less income. Those with something to spend will save it to protect themselves against tomorrow. All of which will lead to more of the same. Actually, it’s not just a wave. It’s a set of waves that will come breaking one after the other.

Perhaps the existing stimulus programs and the President’s forthcoming programs will arrest the trend. But surely we’re in for at least a couple of those waves before something positive takes hold.

Of course it’s mostly confidence. If the banks had confidence, they’d lend more money. If the people had confidence, they’d spend more money (and borrow more). If the businessmen had more confidence, they’d start new ventures, invest more money. And things would be rolling again in some semblance of normality.

Or maybe (just thinking out loud here) it’s all a conspiracy for our country to maintain its world dominance. The U.S. government owes a lot of money – probably too much. Which we have to pay back in dollars. If only we could just print up those dollars for free and pay everyone back . . . Well, you normally can’t do that because it leads to runaway inflation.

Yet we are doing it and inflation is virtually nil. How can this happen?

Remember the Golden Rule: He who has the Gold makes the Rules.

The U.S. is still the dominant nation. When the world economy falls into a tailspin, we all suffer, but the weak suffer the most. Imagine a forest fire that ends with only the largest, most hardy trees still standing. Yes, they are severely damaged, but they are the only ones left.

When this fire is over, it’s possible that we with the Gold will be the only ones left to make the Rules.

Don’t listen to me. I’ve always entertained conspiracy theories. Don’t even ask what my first thoughts were after 9/11.

At any rate, even with my crackpot half-hearted conspiracy theory, we’re still in for a difficult stretch – and it could be a long one.

Meantime, let’s all do our best. Let’s be productive and generous. Let’s help the people having a harder time than ourselves. As President Obama said, be willing to take a cut in pay so a friend can keep his job. With nothing but hope and virtue . . let’s meet the challenge.

Back From Vegas (to reality)

Well, like a lot of investments these days, the ol’ Waiter’s 401k took a hit recently. All told, we were probably down about $500 for the 2.5 day visit. The gambling itself didn’t go too badly. I spent some time slightly up, a lot of time at about even, and finished about $200 in the red.

We stayed at the Golden Nugget, downtown. Upon arriving at 2:30 a.m. we visited the coffee shop for some food, and to redeem a buy-one-get-one-free coupon. Across the dining room I saw Jamie-Lynn Sigler, aka Meadow Soprano from the old HBO show, The Sopranos. She was stunning and young, having a late meal with what appeared to be some family and friends – about nine people. I always like seeing celebrities.

We had dinner at Hugo’s Cellar in the basement of the Four Queens hotel. People in the know are aware of Hugo’s. It’s an excellent restaurant of the steak and seafood variety. Their best features in my opinion: a red rose for each lady, non-a la carte menu, bundled build it yourself salad prepared tableside by your server, lemon sorbet intermezzo, and generous martinis that come with an additional side car buried in crushed ice to keep cold. The sommelier, John, is very gracious and helpful with wine selection. He also told us that business had been slower recently, as with all restaurants. I find it refreshing when someone tells the truth about such things. He also pointed out that several venerable restaurants had closed recently, with more coming every month.

The gambling highlight had to be when we decided to head for the Strip to party and get something to eat. We were on a tight budget, but we didn’t want to drive, as we would be drinking. Frankly, we hesitated a bit about the cost of the cab. As a solution we decided to make the money for the cab before we set out. We put down a $25 chip on an empty blackjack table. Shuffle. We got 11 to the dealer’s 6. Well, you have to double. We got a ten, then the dealer busted. Sweet! Once we got to Caesar’s we decided to do some more traipsing around, and thus repeated the cab fare endeavor a few times. We won every hand and made another $100.

The room at the Nugget was superb. They’ve really fixed up the place a lot. In fact, all of downtown has been fixed up. Although the casinos and hotels are definitely on the low end, every single one we visited was very clean, with new carpet, and often a recent general remodel job. In the old days, downtown was pretty damn funky, excluding the Nugget. I used to like that about the Horseshoe (which isn’t even called the Horseshoe anymore – Binion’s). It was old timey, dark and cozy, kind of dirty, and very genial. Now they’re all much more ‘corporate’ feeling.

First night we were up until 8:30 in the morning. The next night we were responsible, hitting the bed at 6:30 a.m. We got a fair amount of sleep, but the adrenaline and the drinking really burned us out. On returning home, it wasn’t until last night/this morning that I’ve felt normal and rested again.

Fairly slow at both jobs since returning. However, Wednesday at Michael’s I had my best call party, Kool. He’s been MIA mostly the last 3-4 months, and even when I have seen him, he hasn’t been drinking. Wednesday, though, he was back in every way. He ordered two bottles of 100 Acre Cab: $450 a bottle. His six-top had appetizers and ordered from the dinner menu, plus desserts all round. That was a $285 tip for me. So, though it was slow, I did very well and ended the week (today) with a $135 daily average for lunch.

Dinner shift last night, the BCS Championship Game (and economic doldrums) killed us. We made only $45 and were out the door at 8 p.m. Tonight will be better. Looking forward to $150+ and an icy martini at the end of the night to enjoy whilst watching the Lakers on Tivo.

Waiter’s IRA Account Program

We all know the main Waiter’s Retirement Program. Of course, only a fool would put all his eggs in one basket. One must diversify if he wants to be assured of a comfortable retirement. Hence, the Waiter’s Virtual IRA Account . . . Las Vegas winnings!

I’m going out there tonight. It’ll be the first time in years. Generally, I’ve eliminated Vegas from my entertainment diet over the last 7-8 years. I used to go three or four times annually all through the ’90s. In terms of Vegas, I was on fire those years. My unofficial reckoning had me about even for the entire decade, and that included airfare, food, and lodging – not just gambling. I would reconcile how much I had before I left with how much I had when I got home. Telling people you won $500 in Las Vegas while not accounting for the $200 hotel, the $200 fancy dinner, the multiple $40 lunches, more miscellaneous tips than you could shake a stick at, the $125 nightclub excursion, and another $100 at the strip club . . . that’s the same as my pet peeve about saying you made $300 before tipping out. Who cares? It’s the bottom line.

Anyway, I hit my Waterloo on a particular birthday trip to the town. Lost $10,000. That’s right. For a waiter, or most anybody, that’s a lot of money. And I was just one bet away from coming out close to even. I was down, way down. I’d switched to Stoli OJ’s at the Paris Casino. And I mounted a furious, hysterical comeback at the mini Baccarat table. In the space of about an hour I had built back up to about five grand, and I had it all out there on the Bank (I think). It was stacked up like a Tower Of Babel, not all neat, with fives and singles and hundreds all helter skelter in a single tilting tower. And I lost.

Totally trashed in every way, my buddy ran across a hooker walking into the lobby. He was down about five grand. Totally tapped out. The hooker did her hooker thing: acting like she was attracted to us and wanted to party. I wasn’t into it, but my buddy was. Brass tacks came out and she needed $200. Of course we had nothing. The hooker followed my buddy and me to the ATM where he kept putting the same defunct credit card into the machine. And getting it declined. Then she followed us to the pay phones where he called the number on the back of the card. She was leaning against the wall, examining her nails, probably thinking, These guys are a joke!

After he got stiff-armed by the credit card 800 line, my buddy turned to her and asked, ‘You wanna get a drink, anyway?’

‘I gotta go.’

But it’s a new day, and I’m a new man. I brought a book to read, in case I crap out early. Finances simply will not support losing $500, so I will stop short if things don’t go my way. In the past, I had only myself to worry about and no mortgage, so I could always talk myself into another $300 cash advance. Things are different now.

I’m due back Tuesday night so I can be ready to work lunch on Wednesday. Wish me luck, please.