After scouring Manhattan for a button-down denim shirt (which took a grand total of three and a half hours and 12 stores), I arrived at my first day of training at Les Halles, a French Brasserie in the Financial District, only to discover that Les Halles had Les Problems avec Management.
First of all, the uniform is denim on denim, or, as my favorite waiter Abbott called it, "DoubleDen with a tie." Talk about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing! My first day of training was disorganized but harmless, and I am the only girl they've hired in a while, so I thought it might work out.
But then, yesterday, on my second day of training, they overbooked the entire restaurant and practically every item was 86'd. So, at every table, I took their order, then told them to order something else because we were out of what they wanted. Then, after I'd poured their second choice bottle of wine, I had to ease into the fact that we were actually also out of their third choice entree.
What weren't we out of? Pig's Feet Merlot, the cream of fennel soup and ice cream-no, wait, we ran out of vanilla at the end of my shift. We were also low on forks, knives, glasses and salt and pepper shakers."Welcome to Les Halles," the headwaiter told me.
The headwaiter was good-looking and a good waiter, which entitled him (at least in his mind) to be incredibly condescending while subtly hitting on me. "Sweetie, make sure you put a line between appetizers and entrees, you know, in the service industry, we have to make sure people don't get their salad with their steak." Thanks Captain in Charge, because I've never worked in a restaurant before, let alone eaten at one
"Just go over and give them your sweet smile for me and tell them their food is on it's way, will you darling?" Sure thing, because it's really easy to use sex appeal when you're in head-to-toe denim.
The climax of day two was when an entire tray of wine glasses (about 20 wine glasses fit in a tray) fell on top of a table of 25 guests. As I saw the glasses fall, I instinctively covered my face(my face actually matters in my real
job, and a scar isn't gonna go over well with my agents).
Oppositely, headwaiterman leapt in front of the customers and used his body to shield the customers from the flying glass. It was so very Keanu.
"Wow, going above and beyond the call of duty. " I called out.
"Just good instincts." He explained to me, brushing glass splinters off his DoubleDen.Apparently, great service means taking the bullet if you have to.
Miraculously, no one was hurt, even though all 20 glasses broke. We started serving wine in coffee mugs. I wasn't going to come back today, for my final day of training, but the denim shirt had cost me $40, and I figured I at least needed to make up the price, since they pay their trainees.
I showed up late, because the subway wasn't working, but got right to work. And the thing is, I enjoy being a waitress. There are rules to fine dining, and I sort of like the tradition and respect of serving a bottle of wine properly, and I like to see people enjoying themselves.
The problem is, there is way much testosterone coursing through les Halles, with all the Wall Street guests and all-male staff.
The computer broke, and we began writing orders out. Then, the computer started working again, and the waiters would shove me to get to it. I felt like I was back in 4th grade, desperately trying to play with the my older brother and his friends and being pushed aside.
And the really stupid part of all of it is that IM A GIRL. Waiting on BUSINESSMEN. My tips were considerably higher than any of the guys. I checked. And, since we all pool tips, they would have benefited from not alienating me. Instead, I somehow turned into "person who will run and do things the men are 'too important' to do."
One person said to tell the manager I needed an item taken off a bill, while Headwaiterman asked me if I wouldn't mind just running my sweet self downstairs to check on his Poulet. When I got back, the manager was angry with me because apparently, I'd somehow gotten into the computer (while I was in the kitchen-my magical talent for being in two different places at once knows no bounds) and done something that was "not the way we do it at Les Halles."
I looked at the manager and just thought I don't need this shit
. He was yelling at me about a $4.95 cup of soup, meanwhile, about three tables were waiting to order, and it wasn't that complicated. I quickly considered the pros and cons, and since I will make more money at the other restaurant I'm training at and it's more trendy and fun, I just figured the $40 for the denim shirt didn't matter nearly as much as my self respect.
A few months ago even, I would've just let him talk to me like that, and let everyone feel sorry for that poor sweet girl. Instead, I said, "I don't really care how you think
you do things here at Les Halles, everyone seems to have a different story."
"Don't cop an attitude with me, sweetheart," he replied, "I'm the best manager here."
"Don't call me sweetheart." I countered. "And being the best here is hardly a distinction."
Abbott, my favorite waiter smiled at me as I strutted off the floor, "keep your tips" he whispered. I threw my apron in the dirty clothes pile, and managed to forget to return the really cool wine key I borrowed from Headwaiterman.
After I had removed my denim, I came back to the floor. "This place is a clusterfuck" I said to the group at large, "and I don't think I'd like to work here." The hostess smiled at me and said "good for you" in broken English when she handed me my coat.
The guys all gave me one last look, and I marched out of that place head held high. I've never quit a job before in my life. It was kind of exhilarating.
I think every single person who works there (except maybe Headwaiterman) really wants to be able to just leave that place, but for some reason, they can't. Maybe they're afraid they won't find another job, even though it would be really easy to. Maybe they like being somewhere so disorganized, because there aren't really any rules, at least not any that get followed consistently.
But when I said "I'm not gonna take it," I felt this little surge of power coursing through me (maybe it was testosterone?) and I saw these guys perk up with a little bit of (dare I say it?) respect for me.
For a place so long on penises, they sure are short on balls at Les Halles. Now I just gotta figure out what to do with the denim shirt.