Monday, October 27, 2008

My "Day" Job...

I'm running as fast as I can away from jobs in the "real" world.

Unfortunately, I still have a "day" job; I need it to pay the bills until my business can hold it's own.

And now I'm counting the minutes.

Oddly, I enjoy, even love, customer service. Seeing someone walk away satisfied with their experience gives me joy. There is enough disaster and heartache in everyone's life, their experience with me should not add to it. Working in the restaurant business can be trying. People come in grouchy from their work day, hassled by their kids, worrying about the economy, fill in the blank.

In the past, I've been pretty good about letting in roll off my back. I simply smile and give them the best dining experience I am able to, so that maybe, by the time they leave, their world looks a little brighter. Now, I'm not naive enough to think that setting their food in front of them and making small talk will be a catalyst for life change, but I hope for it to cause a moment of respite.

That was the past.

Oh, I still enjoy customer service, and am hopeful for that smile, but after yesterday, I think my tolerance for restaurant customers is at an all time low.

It wasn't a full moon, and tomorrow is the new moon, but boy oh boy, the crazies were about! Every table was so, well, so unique? And it all began with running into an old friend.

Many years ago I worked with children, occasionally alongside a wonderful man. I loved working with him, as his passion for helping kids through play was absolutely contagious, and his joy for life was unmistakeable. Sadly, I did not keep track of him. So when greeting one of my first tables yesterday, I was surprised to find that I recognized one of the ladies at the table, but absolutely could not place her. A little chit chat and I found out she recognized me as well; restaurants are great for reconnecting! This seemed like a great omen, I was going to have a good day!

I was wrong. Completely, utterly, terribly wrong.

First "The Pastor." He called himself "the pastor" repeatedly. A seemingly nice, jovial man, if slightly patronizing. Then it was time for me to drop off the check. Now throughout their dinner, "The Pastor" and the younger man at the table had been fighting over who would pay. The younger man would tell me to put it all on his tab, and then "The Pastor" would tell me to ignore him and to put it on separate checks. They went back and forth about this nearly everytime I stopped by the table. So I came out with the check printed both ways, all on one slip, and on two separate slips. As I was holding them in front of me and explaining what I had done so that they could choose, the younger man solved the disagreement by grabbing all three checks out of my hands and saying "I'll take care of that." Then the tables around me turned to look as "The Pastor" began to yell at me. I had made him "so angry" and he "couldn't believe" that I had "disobeyed" him. He went on for a bit, letting me know that he was going to talk to my supervisor. As he took a breath, I interjected, "please do, [my supervisor] will be happy to chat with you, but sir, this man wants to buy your dinner, you should graciously say thank you." And with that, it was off to the next table.

Picture if you will, a man in his late forties or early fifties, rather unassuming but well educated and well spoken, out to dinner with his much older and heavier parents. Greeting the three of them, I pointed out the specials, talked them through our menu and asked if they would like something from our bar. When the son asked about our wine list, the mother interrupted me to remind her son that he wasn't allowed to drink. So he ordered water and his parents ordered wine. Then I offered an appetizer, and she promptly reminded him that he shouldn't eat that many calories. When I brought out bread, she slapped his hand away when he reached for a slice. Ordering dinner, she told him he couldn't order the prime rib he'd asked for, it had too much fat and ordered him broccoli, telling him that he was going to eat it this time too. He ate all his broccoli and finished his steak, drank his water all while watching them drink the wine, eat the deep-fried appetizer, plow through four loaves of bread, and finish off their calorie and fat loaded entrees, only for his mother to pat his hand and tell him "good boy" for finishing his broccoli. Never have I seen someone put up with such verbal abuse; what mother treats her grown son this way? (Barring developmental disabilities.) The woman ended her time with me by asking me if I was single, referring to her son as "quite the catch." Maybe he was, but who could put up with her as a mother-in-law?

Then it was the table where no one said more than two words to each other throughout their dinner, the forty year old wife who dressed and talked like she was fourteen, the young lady who put all of the silverware and linens in her purse when she left, the older couple who asked if they could take a few of our coasters and then proceeded to take all the coasters from five other occupied tables, the man who switched tables every fifteen minutes or so, the bitchy woman who's first name was actually "bitch" (spelled slightly differently), and the list goes on...

I celebrate the diversity in our world, and love meeting and interacting with people from all cultures, backgrounds, social situations, etc. But really, some of the "social norms" are in place because they help us all function in society together. Flouting them gets you nowhere fast; maybe at least you'll be remembered for it?

Dreaming of the days when my customer service is only for the crafting industry I adore...


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