My previous post on “Worst Jobs Ever” got me thinking about the hotel coffee shop where I worked. We were set up with a nice restaurant on one side (read: dark with big gratuity) and our coffee shop on the other (read: bright with small tips). Same kitchen, same cooks but on one side you ordered from menus in leather covers and couldn’t see your food and on our side the menu was plastic with pictures of the food in case you couldn’t read so you could just point. On the restaurant side you could order the “New York” for $20 and on our side you could order the same stake, minus the name, for $12. The waitresses on the restaurant side were old, mean and constantly arguing with each other. On our side we got along great, one nerd, one speed addict and one cranky, biker chick. You can guess which one I was.
I worked first as a bus boy but became a waiter, which worked out well for the busboys I worked with because I always gave them a better share of the tips than I got when I was bussing. I wasn’t being a nice guy, I just understood from experience that the best tipper was most likely to get their dirty tables cleaned first and fastest creating new space for people to order, eat and tip.
Our head cook was an alcoholic. He started drinking at the start of his shift and by the end of the shift he was toasted enough that you had to check your order to make sure it was cooked and not raw on the plate. You knew it was going to be a bumpy night when he cooked up 50 hamburgers at the start of his shift then stuffed them into the plate warmer with one plate on top. That way he could get plastered and just keep dishing patties out for the 20 sandwiches on the menu that were all a variation on the hamburger. By the end of the night he was either crying or screaming at you to get the #@*% out of his kitchen.
The manager of the coffee shop’s primary job was to seat people and make up our schedule. Beyond that, I’m not sure they did much else except count the till and make the deposit at the front desk at the end of the shift. The manager of the shop when I started was the kind of guy who would drop silverware on the floor so he could watch the waitresses bend over to pick it up. Pretty sure he lived in his mother’s basement and didn’t have any friends, at least none that people could see. If a woman came in with a top cut low enough to see cleavage he’s seat her and whoever she was with and then hover there beside her staring down her top until she tried to place her order and then he’d say, “Oh, I’m not your waitress, I’ll get one for you…” and then walk away and motion for one of us to come take the order. In other words, he was classy.
He finally lost his job one night when I wasn’t on. I heard about it the next day. He had this habit, a very bad habit. When we weren’t busy he would just stand beside a table staring off toward the lobby, watching people. Then, almost always, he’d absentmindedly reach down (and no, I’m not making this up) pick up a fork from the table and scratch his head with it. Sometimes he’d scratch so hard you’d swear he had to be bleeding. And then he’d neatly set the fork back in place on the table. We’d come by after he walked away and replace the fork and toss the other one in the garbage, we wouldn’t even send it back to the dishwashers.
On the night he lost his job he happened to go through this routine, completely unaware that the hotel manager was looking right at him while he scratched and put the fork back. The firing, I was told, was instant and spectacular and the waitresses I worked with felt like the Israelites set free from Pharaoh.
The speed addict I worked with was the nicest, prettiest, thinnest and fastest person I’ve ever met. I’ve met nice people, pretty people, thin people and fast people but not one who possessed all those qualities the way she did. She’d just take a little at the start of every shift and away she went. I loved working with her because I only had to do about a third of my regular cleaning duties because she was constantly looking for something to do. She made amazing tips, I think twice as much as the rest of us, and she always had hilarious stories to tell. She also had a boyfriend who occasionally liked to use his fists to make his point as clear as possible with her. Whenever that happened she would come in with a pile of make-up on trying to hide a bruise or black eye. I never met him but I often hoped he’d be hit by a large truck and land in a pile of broken glass.
The biker chick girl was awesome. She taught me to push back when our alcoholic cook tried to push us around. She didn’t take crap from anybody and if anybody from the restaurant staff tried to mess with me or speedy about something they wanted to get pissy about (and that happened whenever they were tired of beating the crap out of each other with words) she got up in their face and the confrontation was over. They were meaner but we were younger.
One night biker chick got sent on mandatory vacation. She’d been working a big table with a huge order with a thousand extra requests. We hated and loved tables like those because you knew that while the whole thing was a pain in the butt if you could endure and perform you would be rewarded with a good tip as the bill went higher and higher. After waiting on this extremely large family and doing everything and then some to make them happy and do the extra bit they got their bill and headed to the manager at the cashier. Biker chick went to the table to collect her tip and when she got there she put her hand down, picked something up, looked over the table and then back at us. She walked slowly towards us and opened her hand to show us about 10 pennies.
Biker chick’s face went red. My eyes got big and Speedy said, “Oh crap!” as Biker chick ran, RAN I’m saying, toward the Chub family as they had just finished paying and were walking away from the cash register. “You forgot this!” BC yelled, as she threw the pennies at the family. She had a good arm. At least one penny struck ever member of the Chubs and ricocheted into the lobby. She stood there seething, they stood there in shock, and Speedy and I laughed our heads off – very discreetly. In the end the Chub family got their night’s accommodation comped, their meal price refunded and a discount on their next stay at the lovely Vacation Inn East. And BC, she got the mandatory 1 week vacation package. Thank God she didn’t bring her gun to work that night.