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Waitress on Sea



This is a blog about waitressing. It is about waitressing in a tourist town at the height of the busy season.



Updated: 2015-12-17T07:26:12.327+11:00

 



Return

2006-08-01T14:55:08.720+10:00

I am back at home in Town on Sea. I love my town. I love my home. A city girl I am not.

My dream career has crumbled around me but I believe that a new opportunity awaits around the corner. One door closes, another opens. I just have no idea where that door is or what it looks like right now.

I have enjoyed writing this blog about waitressing and I would like to keep it on topic. It is highly likely that I will return to the Pizza Palace or another local restaurant in the summer season. In the mean time this blog may not be very active. I may start another, separate, blog on another topic. If so I will post a link here.

Thanks to everyone who has read my blog - I have enjoyed having you here.



Graduation

2006-04-03T01:50:05.443+10:00

I've graduated. I have my own tables and my own section. I'm not shadowing anyone and no-one is shadowing me. I'm cool, I'm calm, I'm confident. Then it all goes to hell. I have about six tables, we're not expecting a busy night. It doesn't seem like there are a lot of other waitstaff on. Suddenly my section is full and I have a thousand things to do. The Hotel is a machine. There is a procedure for everything. Now I am trying to remember them all while doing my basic service routine. The ladies on 21 are unhappy because I told them there was bread on the tasting plate, but it is only a bread twist, not fresh or toasted bread. I take wine from the reserve list to a VIP table along with the decanter and then forget to decant the wine, pouring the wine straight into the glasses. All the menu items have to be written the same way on the kitchen dockets. No individual interpretation allowed. Every item has a shorthand name and some of them aren't logical. It's a big menu and I mess up a few. I am constantly checking the sheet in the kitchen to make sure I've got it right. Unbooked tables aren't set and in one case I forget to take the cutlery to the table before the meal arrives (not being used to an un-set table). All of these things are relatively minor in the scheme of things but an unhappy customer is an unhappy customer. Mine seem fine - the ladies on 21 are happy when I give them fresh sourdough bread. I end up feeling like I've made a thousand mistakes. Everyone else is busy too. I ack up the other staff in their sections. There definitely aren't enough runners. Suddenly, it's over. By law we have to close early on Sunday nights. The customers are leaving and we're all busy cleaning. Everyone works together - I help out one girl with her extra large section - later she tells me she often works Sunday night and no-one helps her. I don't like that. We're all busy. We're all tired. If we all work together for half an hour, we'll all go home early. Aside from that, this is the first time in three weeks I have actually had a chance to speak to someone I have worked with on several shifts, other than a work related instruction. The place really is busy and the pace is frenetic. We all sign off at 10.30pm. This is the earliest I have left The Hotel - ever. Before I leave the duty manager tells me I did a great job. It didn't feel like it to me. I felt like I made so many mistakes. 'Just your dockets,' he says, 'I know it's hard, but learning the menu is one of the most important things. Every time I went to your section, it was perfect. That's what we look for. So keep working on memorising the menu names. Good job.' This makes me feel instantly better. I know my mistakes were of a minor nature but I have high standards. On the floor a lot of small mistakes can turn into chaos.I appreciate the fact that the duty manager bothered to tell me I did well. I've been feeling a bit out of place in the new environment. Now it seems I am a city waitress after all. [...]



Once More Into the Fray

2006-03-12T01:53:30.256+11:00

Well, it's official! I am now the newest staff member of The Hotel. I have just returned from my trial shift - unpaid. My first paid shift will be on Monday. It's been six weeks and five days since my last waitressing shift.

So, what's it like? It's an upmarket cafe/restaurant attached to a hip inner city pub in a hip inner city suburb. Old heritage building, renovation, wood floors, you know the deal. Very classy. There are SO many staff. Nice menu - a mix of asian, mediterranean, the usual Australian thing. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as functions. Nice people. Very professional - in fact, I feel that some of my skills are inferior in comparison. I'm going to improve myself here, people!

I worked about two and a half hours, before being asked into the manager's office. The floor manager had already told me I had done been a big help, done an 'excellent' job and that I was hired! That was a relief. All I did all night was run food and drinks - no tables for me tonight.No table numbers on the tables means confusion for the new staff! I fielded a couple of customer requests and managed to find the right waiter or waitress to report it to. Cleared tables. This place is so big they even have a manager in the kitchen co-ordinating the orders. Usually when I have experienced this I have been on the kitchen side, sometimes it has been me. There were so many staff and everyone was friendly - every one said thank you whenever I did anything.

The pace is fast and furious. No time to talk. Caught a few people's names - but that's it. Also, no-one wants to get to know the newbie too well, in case they don't come back. The manager told me that out of eight trials this week they've hired me and one other person. That's why they don't want to pay people for trial. I can understand it. My personal opinion is that if you then go on and hire the person, you should pay them for that shift. It's only fair.

So, here I go. I've been given three shifts next week - two during the week and one on the weekend - plus there is an 'orientation' on Wednesday night, when we learn all the hotel's specific procedures.

Waitress on Sea - now a hip urban waitress.





Hiatus

2006-02-27T20:20:50.143+11:00

I do apologise to everyone for the delay in posting this announcement. The blog will be on hiatus until I am once again gainfully employed.



Standards

2006-02-10T15:44:37.370+11:00

As I resigned from my job over a week ago, this week I have spent some time relaxing, running errands, and visiting local cafes. Town on Sea is very small. It is by no means sophisticated. However, it is a very popular tourist destination and every holiday period we get hordes of tourists from every major city, and it has gone somewhat more upmarket in recent years. This might be a small town. There might be way too many cafes. But there are standards, people!

1. Most of the coffee in this town is undrinkable. I have had one, one, decent coffee in seven days, and that was made by the guy that owns the store, who has obviously trained as a barista. If you are going to work in a cafe and be required to make and serve coffee, please learn how to use the espresso machine - properly. A flat white is not hot milk with coffee flavouring in it.

2. What ever happened to table service? Order and pay at the counter service makes me feel like I am at McDonalds. I don't want to come to the counter. I want to sit down and read the paper. I am paying $4 for coffee. Please send a waitress out here to take my order.

Secondly, while on this point, what is the point in paying in advance for food you don't have yet? If I don't get my order (which has happened) I have to come back to the counter and ask for a refund. Service, people?

3. Attention, waitresses! When you bring the food to the table, and I say, "Thank you", which I always do, because I am a waitress and it is also polite, don't say "That's okay" as if you are doing me some huge favour. It's not okay. It's your job to bring the food out. If you must say something, say "You're welcome". Or say nothing and smile.

This happened to me twice at two different places last week. It's not okay. It's annoying.

4. Pay attention! If I happen to have come into your cafe to kill thirty minutes, placed my order at the counter, explained to you how I would like my drink, and then refused your spiel, because it is fine as it is, just use soy milk please, make the order that way! Don't come up to me at the table after I have already waited fifteen minutes (and only fifteen minutes left to catch the bus) and discuss with me how you could make my drink. Just make it and bring it!!!! We had this discussion ten minutes ago! Oh, wait, I'm late now, thanks.

It's not rocket science people, but there are standards.




It's a Love-Hate Relationship

2006-02-09T17:26:55.056+11:00

It was a hard decision to get back into the hospitality biz. I have been in and out of it my entire working life, on both sides of the fence - in the kitchen and on the floor. It is, however, a skill set you can always fall back on. It also offers the benefit of flexible hours, allowing you to pursue your other interests!

So far I have booked my flight, leased an apartment on a short-term basis,
arranged temporary accommodation until I can get into the apartment, and found out how to get to the campus on the first day.

It is costing me a fortune to move myself cross country. I will need money straight away. With a recent waitressing stint under my belt, I am confident that I will be able to find work quickly and easily.

Waitressing. The job that that travels.You can hate it, but you gotta love it.



Moving

2006-02-09T17:23:11.466+11:00

Waitress on Sea is moving! That is, I am moving, the blog is not. I am going to leave my beloved Town on Sea, and head across the continent to the city (blech!). I am going to start a new life there, doing what I have always loved. I took a chance on my dream, auditioned for a performing arts course in music, and was accepted. I have to be there ready to start on February 13th!

I have already resigned from my job at the Pizza Palace.




Know Not The Name of Thy Waitress

2006-02-05T17:33:59.176+11:00

Two men approach the counter and ask for a table of two. I am out the back refilling the ice, so I don't see them. I hear the Owner saying, "Oh yes, Waitress (insert my name) will help you, she'll be right there.""Oh great," the American Guy replies, "Waitress was my 'server' once before". This is true. Six weeks ago, outside table, American guy in his fifties, boating and fishing type, long white hair - bread, water, (asked for in the American fashion), lasagne, discussion about the movie King Kong and, believe it or not, Waiter Rant. No tip.Now, in my opinion Owner has just committed a mortal sin. He told the customer my name. At the Palace we don't have name badges (it might be pizza and pasta but it ain't McDonald's) and we don't say "Hello, my name is X and I'll be your waitress tonight." I like that. IfI am standing at your table in the restaurant uniform or standard black and whites with an order pad and a pen in my hand, then obviously, I am going to be your waitress.I never tell people my name. The only reason American Guy knows it is because he asked me directly once before. Confronted with this situation, I could not tell a lie. And now, here he is again, and I shall be punished for all eternity.It begins immediately. I emerge from the kitchen with the menus and seat American Guy and his Australian Friend at an outside table. "Oh, thank you, Waitress. Could we have some water please, Waitress. Also we'd like to order some bread please, Waitress. One or maybe two (five minute discussion)...Waitress, we'll have two."I am instantly irritated. Not only is this gratuitous overuse of my name, it implies an intimacy which simply does not exist. In some cases it's just downright sleazy. The only relationship that exists between you and I is one of patron and waitress.I deliver the water, and then the bread, to the table. Every time I do, it's "Thank you SO MUCH Waitress." It absolutely drives me crazy. If it isn't a case of false intimacy, then surely this behaviour is an attempt by the customer to exploit his position in some kind of power relationship over the lowly waitress, whose job it is to SERVE him. This continues all night. It's endless. I can't wait till they leave. I treat them like any other customer - I look after them. I don't get the same crap from the other tables.You know what? Tipping is not big in Australia. If you do a good job, you might get a few bucks. We all know Americans are supposed to tip. Tonight I get a tip from every single table (ten dollars from table 23, thank you kindly) except American Guy, who pays the bill on his credit card.Don't use my name. If you are a local who comes to my restaurant on a regular basis, and I know your name, and you know mine, then I can accept that. If I've never seen you before, it's not okay. If someone tells you my name or I am forced to tell you in the course of my work, fine, okay, but don't be gratuitous about it. If you do know my name and want to thank me at the end of the night, then that would be a situation that constitutes acceptable use. Otherwise, I don't know you, and you don't know me. I will do my best to ensure that you have a good experience while dining in the restaurant. I will work my butt off to make sure that happens. That is the sum total of our relationship. I'm not here because I want to get to know you better. I'm here because I'm working.[...]



Ice - Cream

2006-01-25T15:40:34.893+11:00

I approach the table to offer coffee and dessert. It’s a party of five, parents and three kids. They are immediately distinguished by the husband being extraordinarily tall. The three kids are spread out in age, the youngest girl about seven or eight, a real cutie, with dark hair, a broad face, and a nose covered in freckles. There is boy a few years older, and then a teenage girl, about fifteen. There’s a clear resemblance between her and her sister. The table seems to be having a good time. I’m carrying the leftover pizza and pasta in takeaway boxes. “Excuse me,” I say, smiling and placing the boxes on the table, “would you like any coffee this evening, dessert perhaps?” The youngest child is bouncing around in her chair. “Do you have a tranquiliser?” Mr Tall asks me, laughing. “Yes sir, we do, it’s called ice cream.” The parents smile. The youngest girl starts bouncing even more. “Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!” she calls out. I smile. The older children are smiling too, as though they are well aware of their younger sibling’s oddity. The parents have shared a bottle of wine and are obviously in a good humour. Mrs Tall turns to me. “What toppings do you have?” The standard. “Chocolate, caramel, or strawberry,” I reply, trying to engage the little girl, who is giving me a wide-eyed stare. She turns to her mother. Meanwhile Mr Tall attempts to find out if the older kids want ice cream. Mr Tall is ready to order. He turns to his wife. The girl is whispering to her mother. “She said, chocolate caramel chocolate caramel!” Mrs Tall informs us. She turns back to her daughter, they engage in conspiratorial whispers. “Well?” Mr Tall enquires, rather patiently. “She said, can I mush it up, can I mush it up, can I mush it up,” Mrs Tall informs us earnestly. “Of course,” I say, seriously. “However, first I am going to need to know what flavour topping you would like to mush.” Mr Tall laughs. It is eventually decided that it will be one caramel and two chocolate for the older kids, with affogatos for the parents, just so they can enjoy the ice cream too. I leave to prepare the desserts. I can’t help smiling. The family is clearly enjoying themselves, and being together on the holiday, engaging with their children. They seem really comfortable together. Not all families are like that. We see all types in the restaurant. Some of the kids are uncontrollable, some of the parents seem unhappy, some argue in public. The Talls, however, seem perfectly happy and it’s infectious. So what is the moral of this story? Maybe there’s something to be said for good old-fashioned family fun with ice-cream.[...]



Thieving

2006-01-16T09:14:41.590+11:00

Erica approaches me with two bills in her hands. "I've made a bit of a big mistake," she says."OK", tell me what happened, I reply."Well, I took this bill to Table 4, see it looks like a 4 (pointing at the docket), and they've paid it on the credit card, but this is actually Table 7's bill."Straight away I can see what is wrong. Table was a table of eight people, with six teenage kids. They ordered a lot of food. Two items each on average. Table 7 has three people sitting on it. Their order consisted of one entree, two mains, and a salad. Fuck."OK. Yes, that is a problem. Are they still here?" I quickly look around. Table 4 has split. Table 7 is happily enjoying their meal."No, they left," Erica replies. "And it was weird.""Weird how?" I ask, removing the credit charge slip from Table 7's bill so we can still charge them later."When I took the bill to the table to do the credit charge she signed the bill, and said, 'that's cheap'. She showed it to me, and I said,"Yeah, that is cheap'. You know, there were so many people on the table. I said, 'I think there's a mistake, I'll go and check if this is the correct bill.' She said, 'No, I'm happy with this one'. She paid it. 'I said, no, it really can't be right,' and went back to the kitchen to check. When I came out with the right bill the table was gone." She knew. The lady knew the bill was wrong, and knowingly paid it anyway. Under the law, that is theft. Jesus. Some customers will pull anything.The restaurant is out $103. Erica is upset. She thinks she is going to be in big trouble. I go into the kitchen and speak to the owner. He is disappointed but he expects these things to happen as part of the business. I try everything I can think of to retrieve the card number from the sale system and process it manually, but it won't go. When I ask the Manager about it later, she says there is no way to recover the money. Erica is not punished, although she does get a talking to. The money is not taken out of her wages. A joke circulates that she will have to be sold into slavery to make it up.Actual stealing. I shouldn't be that surprised I suppose. What gets me is that the customer just seems to think it is acceptable - oh well, the restuarant made a mistake, therefore I don't have to pay. Whatever happened to honesty? Recently my partner and I went out to dinner and when the waitress brought the bill, my partner though it was cheap. I looked at it. The waitress had forgotten to put the wine on the bill. We told them about it. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. If that lady from Table 4 makes a repeat visit to the restaurant, then Waitress Karma will be paying her a little visit of its own.[...]



Commander - In - Chief

2006-01-14T00:11:33.396+11:00

Waitress on Sea: Alright troops, it's going to be a long, hard, dirty battle tonight. Are you ready, Floor Squadron One?
FS1: Yes ma'am, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: I need a volunteer to go Topside. Someone who can take the brunt of the attack. When the battle is in full swing, the Topside soldier must maintain his position at all costs. Topsider will be required to man the phones and the register. He is to stay Topside and rack the drinks, which the remaining members of the Squadron will run. He is to maintain his position throughout the night to undertake coffee and dessert service, Floor Squadron will deposit the incoming and remove the outgoing. Topsider is not to relinquish his position until the end of of the battle, after cutlery and glassware are polished. Is that understood?
FS1: Yes ma'am, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: Alright then, who is willing to volunteer for this duty? (Surveys squadron...)...How about you, James? (Vague look of fear appears on young James' face).
James: Reporting for duty, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: You're a brave lad, son. Remaining members of Floor Squadron, you are to man your sections and maintain positions as usual. Orders are to be run through Topside. Any problems, report to me. Is that understood?
FS1: Yes ma'am, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: In the event the unthinkable happens, remember the golden rule. What's the golden rule, Floor Squadron One?
FS1: No-one gets left behind, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: Good work, Floor Squadron One. Remember, should the battle be won, you will be duly rewarded. Good luck and God Bless. Assume positions!
FS1: Yes ma'am, Waitress, ma'am!

.....in my dreams!




Inappropriate Comment #1

2006-01-12T15:29:59.170+11:00

"Beeeepppp," says the cash register, as I bump it with my ribcage while leaning over it to write a takeaway order.

"Oh," says the customer, smiling. A guy in his thirties. "You hit the register with your boob."

Even if this statement was correct, which it wasn't, never, EVER, under ANY circumstances, comment on the anatomy of your waitress.



Farewell, Marco

2006-01-08T14:02:11.173+11:00

It's Saturday night. It's busy. NW 2 is working out now and everything runs smoothly. It's Marco's last night. He's worked on and off at the restaurant for the last three years. Now he's moving away as his wife received a great job offer in another city. His wife and children left two weeks ago.

When the restaurant closes and we have cleaned up all the kitchen and wait staff gather around a table in the restaurant. We close the windows and only leave on one light. We start open drinks, joke around. A small farewell, but it's nice. We give him a recipe book, signed by all of us. Delivered in a pizza box, of course!

I'm really going to miss him. He was a great waiter, easy to work with, he has a good sense of humour. Most of all I am going to miss him because we would have made great friends.It's hard to find people like that. I've only known him a short time, but I'll miss him. At the end of the night we hug. We exchange email addresses. I wish him good luck, all the best, and all the other things one says in this situation, that are completely inadequate to express how I feel.

So, farewell, my friend, take care, and I hope your life's journey is full of wonderful times, many blessings, and much happiness.



Low

2006-01-07T14:00:37.443+11:00

I am on an extreme low. It feels like a huge wave has washed over and crushed me. Exhaustion. I struggled through last night and now it's my day off. I am so tired I can't do anything. I read the paper. I drink tea. I curl up on the couch. I watch taped episodes of Desperate Housewives. There's a lot of stuff I should be doing...or would like to do...but I am so bone-crushingly exhausted the day passes in a blur of any non-activity that can be described as "rest". I know I shouldn't have a glass of wine in this state but I do anyway. Marco is leaving on Sunday and there won't any time for another day off until...I don't know when.



The Absence of Pizza

2006-01-02T15:01:21.850+11:00

New Year's Day. I get to work at 5pm and tables are already seated. They keep coming. I barely have time to finish setting up. It doesn't seem quite as busy as last night, but still stead-busy. Takeaway orders go ballistic. Pizza section has a full docket rack for most of the night. We get a late rush of walk-ins. A rumour emerges that most other restaurants in town are closed. It's a public holiday. This is a tourist town! When do they think people are going to take their holidays?!

The rush comes too late. The kitchen is insufficiently prepared. We run out of pizza. There's no pizza dough left. People are still coming in. I don't seat any, but when I enter the dining room they are there. I have to go on the floor and tell people that we are a pizza restaurant with no pizza. They can only order pasta. Some stay, some leave. Now pasta section is overwhelmed and some of these tables wait ninety minutes or more for their food. We're told to start turning people away - but it's too late.I pacify three tables and keep them in the restaurant. I offer complimentary garlic breads and desserts. One table takes their food home as takeout and I give them a gift voucher for the inconvenience. They say they will come back for pizza. They thank me for looking after them, regardless. Another table gets pissed off and demands a 20% discount. I understand why. The whole situation is a bit ridiculous.

Suddenly everyone has gone and there are four waiters left with not much work to do. I want to send people home. Marco and I go outside, where the pasta chef is drinking wine. The Owner is asking me about one of the new waitresses, is she okay, there's been too many mistakes. I started early so Marco and I are allowed to go while the other waitresses finish up - less than half an hour. Suddenly I see The Owner approaching the new waitress, and they get in an argument.

Marco offers me a ride home and we gleefully flee the scene. In exchange I offer him a drink, so we sit outside in the summer night air, split a bottle of red wine, and he smokes cigarettes with The Man.



Excuse Me, I Think You Forgot Something

2006-01-01T13:54:57.596+11:00

It’s New Year’s Eve. It starts out badly and gets worse. We’re fully booked, starting with a table of ten at 5.30pm. The place fills up. There are kids and prams everywhere. Table 14 has a high chair and then thinks the most appropriate place for their SUV pram is right next to it, thus blocking off the main access route through the restaurant. Do you take orders? someone asks me. By 6.30pm I am ready to kill someone. I can’t wait for it to be over. Table 10 comes in. Ten people, including a couple of kids, and yet another SUV pram. I manage to avoid this table until the food comes out. They order a couple of pizzas early on, and then order another round of food. When the second round comes out I deliver all the food, some of which is from the entree menu. They start to complain. These entrees were supposed to come first, they say. It wasn’t written that way on the docket. I’ll check, I tell them. I check with the waitress who took the order. No, she says, and remember that they had those three pizzas before? Right. Later the guy admits that it wasn’t true. They complain about the caesar salads. A table near them asks to be moved somewhere else. They order dessert. And coffee. They’re still drinking. They’re still sitting there when we begin the final clean up. We’re all desperate to get out. The Manager has decreed that no-one is going home early, everyone is to pitch in and help. We might actually get out of here by 11pm. Joe has defected from the kitchen to help Marco and I clean and reset the dining room. There are two other tables left, besides table 10, both just about finished. Table 10 are clearly drunk. Suddenly they start singing Tainted Love and drumming on the table with their spoons. Note to T 10 – the only people that find this amusing is you. They do this three times. The other tables leave. The male members of the party attempt Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The music is off, the lights are up, the waitstaff are in the middle of the final cleanup. Get it? It’s time to go! Finally, they get up to leave. Their table looks like a wasteland. I approach the far end (about three or four people remain at the top) and start to clear the table. I see something I didn’t notice before. The pram is gone, but at the far end of the table, two chairs have been laid facing each other, upon which is a sleeping child. He looks about five years old. At the table, two drunk men are all that remain, packing up their esky and cooler bags. I look at them. I look at the child. Surely they know that their kid is there? They must. They have to. Joe comes over and sees the kid. We look at each other. They know he’s there right? We turn towards the men. They are halfway across the restaurant and out the door. I start to chase them. “Don’t forget your kid!” Joe yells out. The guys turn around, shocked. They walk about to the table. They look at the kid. Their jaws drop. They look at each other. “We forgot Pat,” one of them says, and then, they start to laugh. “Fuck.” Yeah, it’s hilarious. You’re in a restaurant, you’re drunk, and you nearly went home without your own child![...]



The Broken Record

2006-01-02T11:47:50.210+11:00

It's the night before New Year's Eve. We don't have too many bookings, but we get slammed with walk-ins. Everyone wants to sit outside. As soon as a table is seated inside and an outside table opens up, even though it's covered in debris of the last customers, the inevtiable question comes, can we sit out there? So, clear, re-set, pick everything up and move it. It's one of those nights where everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Lost dockets. Moving tables. Wrong food delivered to the table. Extra pizzas. It's a landslide that can't be stopped, a force of nature with an energy all it's own.We're getting slammed on the floor - the pasta section doesn't seem too busy. The pizza docket rack is full to overflowing with dine-in orders and take-aways.

Eventually people leave and we are left with the mess. I send one waitress home. Marco and I clean up. There are endless trays of glasses and buckets of cutlery to polish. At the end of the night I pop the top of a pre-mixed vodka drink. The Owner and Manager pour a glass of wine. We consider the night - a mess all round. We're all exhausted. The Owner thanks me for tonight, saying that I did well. I give a sardonic laugh. But I appreciate the thought. It was a mess out there. But we managed.

While I wait to be picked up, the Manager, Marco and I are talking near the front door. The Owner calls The Manager back. Next minute they re-appear, surprised and happy. I sip my drink.

"We broke our record," The Owner says.
"We did 120 people last night, it didn't seem as busy tonight?"
"No, no, I mean money-wise - it was our best night ever. An increase of 15% on the previous record. And best of all, no customer was left waiting for longer than twenty minutes." He smiles.
"That's great," I say.

And I mean it. I'm happy for them. We have a good core team at the Palace. I like the place. I'll miss Marco when he leaves - he's a great waiter and a nice guy.

My lift pulls up. "OK, bye everyone!"
"Bye - go home and have a few drinks!"
"Cheers! See you tomorrow."
"See you tomorrow," they call back.

Same time, same place, we'll all be back to do the whole thing over again.



Summer Begins

2005-12-28T13:54:11.273+11:00

We head to the beach. The Man is on holidays now and will be home for five weeks. Bliss. We drive through town. There are people everywhere. Groups of teenagers outside the surf shop. Others linger on benches at the fish and chip shops. The cafes are overflowing. It's really here - the summer holiday season in full swing. Bay Beach is packed with families with young children. There are many other open ocean beaches - but with limited time (I'm working tonight) we choose Bay Beach so that I can swim in the ocean pool.

We find an elevated flat space of grass above the rocks that is mainly empty, and claim it for our own. It's hot. We head straight for the water. It's a shimmering turquoise colour and so clear I can see the rocks below the surface. I sit on on a rock wall near the pool for a few moments getting warm and enjoying the view. I watch a father and help his young son into the ocean pool, where they float and paddle. An uninterrupted strip of beach umbrellas creates a colourful arc across the bay. Families play frisbee and teenagers play football. Young children paddle in the surf under the watchful eyes of their parents. Teenagers try to surf on the flat water, using their body boards to catch the few waves that head towards shore. The lighthouse stands sentry over us all.

I slip into the water, swimming laps. It's cool and refreshing, not at all cold. I swim laps, slowly, enjoying the feeling of stretching my body. I know when I get to the restaurant tonight I will be glad that I took the time out and had the chance to cool off. While swimming I think of ideas for the restaurant - I don't know why. It has so much potential to do more than it does now.

Driving home, again I look at the traffic, the sudden flood of holiday-makers. The restaurant has been closed fo four days over Christmas. It's going to be busy tonight. Absolutely, wall-to-wall, no time to think, crazily busy. I know it. I can feel it in my bones.



The Answer is No

2005-12-28T13:57:05.036+11:00

Leaving early. At the Palace we have staggered start times. We also have a rule. The person who comes in early is the first one to leave.The person that comes in first generally does the most work - vacuuming and mopping the floor, setting up the stations, preparing for service. The person who starts later walks in, puts on an apron and starts working the floor. On busy nights, everyone stays until the end. Being able to leave early on occasion is a blessing. Sometimes, whatever the reason, all you want is to get the hell out.We have two new waitresses. I am the only experienced member of staff left that is available this week. I am the early starter. I've worked fourteen shifts in sixteen days.I'm tired. It's getting busier. Holiday madness is about to ensue. It's hot and entering the kitchen is like walking into a furnace. I have new waitressing shoes and my feet are covered in blisters, with nasty flesh wounds on my heels. It hurts like hell.Wednesday night, NW 1 starts late and wants to leave early. Reason? She has to start work at her day cafe at 7.30. I have to work back. Thursday night, NW 2 is supposed to start at 6.30 (quite late). She arrives late. It's dead in the restaurant. Not one customer before 7pm, and then only the ones with reservations. We get a few customers later, nothing one person can't handle. My feet are killing me. I am actually finding it hard to work. I can't move as fast as I normally do. I can take a lot. But this hurts. I want out.I'm putting some polished cutlery away when NW 2 approaches me at the station."You know how you said you were going home early?""Yes?""What time are you leaving, I thought you were leaving at eight?""It's really up to The Manager, I just thought that if it was quiet they'd send me home then.""Well, as you're still here, I thought I'd ask if I could go home early."The look on my face must say it all. I can't believe what I'm hearing."It's my husband's birthday?" NW 2 pulls her shoulders up and tilts her head, in what I assume is a bid to elicit sympathy.I keep working as the disbelieving stare penetrates her consciousness. The silence hangs between us. Finally it dawns on her she isn't going to get the response she wants."Unless you would prefer to be the one to leave early?" she says.NW 2 has been on shift for approximately 90 minutes. It's only her third night here. She has already had one cigarette break. Now she wants to go home. I don't care whose fucking birthday it is. I don't care if you have to get up at 7am to go to your other job. That's your choice. It's not my problem. When you took this shift you committed to completing it. If you can't work for some reason or other, just say no. Then we'll call someone who does want the shift.[...]



Toxic Shock

2005-12-28T13:55:51.776+11:00

Caroline comes into the kitchen with an order. "I need to talk to you about this one," she says to the pizza chef. "It's a large half marinara and half vegetarian, but the wife is allergic to seafood, so when you cut it, you need to use a separate knife, and make sure no seafood gets onto the vege side at all."

"Err, okay," Nora replies.

I interrupt. "Did you suggest that it would be easier to order two small pizzas, one of each?"

"Yeah, I did," Caroline says. "But they don't want to."

"Why not?"

"Because it was going to cost them an extra dollar."

So, your wife is allergic to seafood, any trace of which could cause her to go into anaphylactic shock resulting in death, you go to all the trouble of instructing what the kitchen how to avoid contaminating her food, but you won't spend one lousy dollar to ensure your wife is safe? JERK!

Wine of the day: 2004 AH72 Cleanskin Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir
Oh, yes. Pinot is my favourite variety. And thanks to cleanskins, you can now buy it for only $10 a bottle! I might add that this particular bottle is as good as any pinot (and better than some) currently on the shelves for $20 - $30. This is smooth, elegant, clean, with a slight plum and berry flavour. Serve chilled.



The Temperamental Chef

2005-12-28T13:56:17.876+11:00

Oh, yes. How tiresome. How familiar. Every kitchen has one. At the Palace, it is the Pasta Chef. Get the fuck over it.

This person is the type who will huff and puff about every tiny mistake, because it is such an inconvenience to them to revisit the order. They will yell and scream abuse over the tiniest mistake, regardless of who is to blame - needless to say it is never the fault of the chef. Then comes the throwing and slamming of things in the kitchen, including throwing the meals at you as they are delivered for service. This is followed by the stage of bearing a grudge all night.

I have no time for this attitude. It is the emotional and intellectual equivalent of a two year old. I'm a professional. I know how how to do my job. Sometimes I make mistakes. It's bound to happen when there are one hundred customers and two staff. And when it does I accept it, apologise, and get on with my job. There is no need to yell and abuse staff over a simple mistake - thereby ruining the night for everyone else. The Owner wasn't uspset. The customer wasn't upset. So why the hell should you be so upset?

Oh, I forgot. You are God. You never made a mistake in your life. Everything you do is perfect. What would I know? I am only the waitress after all. There'd be no customers, no food, no restaurant, no tips, without you. Never mind that I am the one who has to cover for you when there is a problem in the kitchen. That I am a professional who has worked both sides of a restaurant, and I know how hard it is. It's busy. It's stressful. We all have to work together. So ditch the yelling, the attitude, the snatching, the throwing, the silence, the tantrums, the grudges, and treat your fellow co-workers with dignity and respect. You might just find that your job just got a whole lot easier.



Shifting

2005-12-28T13:57:32.853+11:00

By some fluke I get Saturday off, but am on call just in case. At 5.30 the phone rings. Damn! But it is just Marco calling to find out whether I can cover his shifts on Monday and Tuesday next week, as he has to go to a funeral. Monday and Tuesday were formerly the domain of Junior Waitress. I do not like working these nights, as it tends to be quieter, which drives me nuts."I'll trade you," he says. I am not sure about this, as there is only person rostered on the weekend (still!) and it is extremely likely that by week's end we will both be working the weekend shifts together.A quick mental calculation tells me if I take Marco's shifts I will be working six shifts in a row and therefore to get a night off would be an extremely desirable object."I can cover your shifts," I say. "And I'll definitely trade you for Friday." My prospects of seeing The Man at least once this week have just greatly improved. Might we actually be able to go out on a date?"What's the rest of the week look like?" I ask."Well, only one person on, but that could change...""I know. Want to call in when you get back?""Yep. The New Girl is on Sunday..." Marco was scheduled to work with her last night as her trial and training."How did it go last night?""Well, The New Girl came in and she asked if she could have the night off to go to a Christmas party.""What?! To leave early?""No, at the start of her shift.""What??!! You're not serious!""Yeah," he says, with a disbelieving laugh. "She wanted the night off on her first shift! So I let her go early." He doesn't tell me how she worked out on shift."This is not looking good," I reply. The New Girl is supposed to be Marco's replacement. And we're an extra man down since JW was fired."No," he agrees.I am suddenly confronted with the horrifying vision of being the only staff member on during peak season - working seven nights a week, every week for six weeks, getting swamped every time. Argh! If The New Girl doesn't work out, it is only Marco and me until Christmas, and then...only me.It seems that despite the many applicants and walk-ins looking for work, it is nearly impossible to get experienced and reliable staff in this town. The New Girl already works day shift in another local cafe. So, experience she has, but reliability is essential. Who on earth asks for the night off when they haven't even officially been hired yet?In the interest of training and retaining new staff, I have compiled a short list of what new applicants at the Palace should do on your first night.1. Arrive on time (if not a few minutes early)2. Look presentable3. Be friendly and open to towards your potential fellow co-workers - listen when they tell you something, they are trying to help you learn4. Waitressing is not rocket science. It's the same everywhere. However, you will still need to learn our systems, where things are, etc. You do not know everything about our restaurant yet.5. Be friendly, polite, efficient, and do the best you can. No-one will mind if you make a few mistakes. If you do this, you will probably get offered the job.6. If you do get offered the job, or another shift, you should accept it with thanks.In the event that you have some prior pressing commitment, then please advise. A social engagement will not necessarily fit into this category.We are seeking to establish the fact that you are reliable. You need to be available when we need you, we expect you to turn up when rostered and to come in at short notice if it is exceptionally busy or someo[...]



The Day Off of a Waitress

2005-12-28T13:55:04.513+11:00

It’s my day off. The only one I am going to get this week, as I covered Junior Waitress’s shift last night. It’s HOT. After a week of storms, summer has arrived with full force. For the past two days, I wake to the sensation that a wall of heat has developed outside my window, bright light seeping through the blinds. Venturing outside I discover cloudless bright blue skies and shimmering heat.What’s a waitress to do on her day off, with no pressing commitments, and such glorious weather? There is only one option – hit the beach. I pack my bag. Towel, sunscreen, hat, book, water, keys, money. I intend to spend the whole afternoon there, maybe visit a local cafe. I arrive at Bay Beach to find it fairly empty. The water is a glorious turquoise colour, the ocean pool is fresh and clear. I find a fairly isolated spot in the shade under a giant palm tree.It’s so beautiful here. It is immediately cooler with the breeze from the ocean. For a while I just absorb the beauty of my surroundings. Bay Beach is set in a small inlet, at the base of a hill. It’s the smallest beach in Town on Sea, but also the most sheltered, so a lot of families come here. To the left, the bay curves around into a rock wall, I can see the lighthouse just over the other side. The hillside is covered with grass and palm trees. There are a few old fisherman’s shacks clinging to the side of the cliff. Somehow they have avoided development – they’d be worth a fortune now. The fact that they are there at all seems incredible – wooden shacks, cut into the hillside. The local pub also sits atop this hill. I can see a good lunchtime crowd through the windows. The whole rear of the pub is built of glass windows and doors to take advantage of the view below.To the right the hill is more rocky, but as the rocks extend out into the ocean, it has created the little bay. The ocean pool has been cut into the bottom of the rocks and sits flat at the edge of the bay as the surf floods into it. As the outcrop sweeps higher, there are a few trees and grass – out of sight on the other side there is another beach, a carpark, holiday apartments and ocean view houses.It astounds me still that I can come to this beautiful place on a weekday and find peace and quiet. It is not crowded. Of course, most locals would be working and school holidays have not yet started, although Town is noticeably busier. Today it is mostly young families at the beach. I watch as the parents help their children swim in the pool, I hear their squeals of delight as the cold waves wash over them as they paddle on the shore.I lie down and close my eyes. All I can hear is the sound of the waves and the wind, feel the cool air washing over me. This is why I love it here. The ability to enjoy the natural environment, the clean air, not living in a city. I relax.When I am warm enough, I get up and approach the ocean pool. I slowly walk down the stairs, getting used to the temperature. I love the feel of the ocean water on my skin, cold, refreshing, cleansing. I dive off the lower step into the water. I feel the shock of the cold water, but after a few fast strokes towards the ocean end of the pool, I can’t restrain a smile of joy as my body adjusts to the temperature. The cool water feels divine. I swim a few laps, slowly, enjoying it. Afterwards, I turn and float on my back. All I can see is the sky and all I can feel is the water. I close my eyes. There is just me in the water, and silence. [...]



Industrial Relations

2005-12-03T16:11:33.696+11:00

I could write about last night's table of 33 in a t-shape in the centre of the restaurant, day-care Christmas party complete with red and green balloons, chocolate Santas and at least three SUV prams, but all I can think about is industrial relations.They passed the bill! I can't believe it. Of course, that is probably being naive. I just really thought at least one of those fucking senators would have the guts to vote against the bill. For anyone reading this outside Australia, the industrial relations "reform" won't mean much to you. I don't have the energy to explain the whole thing right now - visit www.actu.asn.au or www.workchoices.gov.au (for the government spin in on it). Suffice to say that this piece of legislation will affect every worker in Australia, and strip back all their current conditions to just five basic conditions - and will be placed on individual contracts with the employer. Sure, doesn't sound so bad, does it. But in Australia we have these things called "awards". An award is what governs the conditions of employment. It contains the minimum pay rates, leave entitlements, etc etc etc. The new minimum wage as set by the government will be $12.75. The problem with this is that a lot of awards are above this wage.Awards will cease to apply. Secondly, penalty rates have been abolished. Penalty rates are overtime rates for nights and weekends, which people like nurses, retail workers, and of course, hospitality workers, depend on. Well, that's a very superficial description of some of the concepts. There are more. It gets worse. The right to bargain collectively - abolished, in breach of international law obligations. The government doesn't even have the ability (technically speaking) to do this. It has to use a constitutional power relating to corporations to do this. Bring on the High Court challenge.Suffice to say it's a heinous piece of legislation designed by our loving prime minister to do two things : 1. limit the power of unions, and 2. cut wages. Welcome to the Americanisation of Australia. As if John Howard hadn't taken us far enough down this path already. The Australian Labour Party is a disgrace. Where was the opposition? Congratulations ACTU, you ran a fine campaign - I wish you could have done more.The worst thing is that while it is stating the obvious to say that this legislation won't affect any of our precious politicians on their huge salaries, guaranteed super, and perks, it is quite clear that the majority of the people who voted for this bill do not understand it at all. When asked to explain technical aspects by journalists, not one could give a sufficient answer. And Barnaby Joyce my friend, you have missed the point. You can kiss your National Party ggodbye - they won't survive the next election. Unfair dismissal - great. We should have safeguards against that. But the opposition among the Australian public to these changes is about money. We're not idiots. The average is worried sick that their boss will reduce their pay to $12.75 an hour. And then how will they feed their kids/pay their mortgage/have time for the family? Most people in a service profession depend on the extra money we get for a Sunday shift to allow us to spend time at home on another day. There are so many social implications that will flow from this legislation, and that is what concerns me the most. People will be forced to take a second job or work more hours just to meet the obligation[...]



Oh, Blog Addiction

2005-12-02T15:40:02.510+11:00

Two weeks ago, I had never read a blog in my life. Now, I spend quite some time every morning catching up with my favourite blogs and the adventures of their authors. Thank you very much, Waiter from Waiter Rant - if it weren't for you and your fellow bloggers, I am sure I would have at least one more productive hour in the day. Or...maybe I'd just be enjoying my coffee and reading the paper! The point is, there are some great blogs out there.

Recently I read a story in the paper about how media companies in Australia are planning to release at least five new celebrity magazines next year. Five? Surely we have enough of these already, without five more?
The managing director of News Magazines stated that celebrity mags are "a growing segment around the world. People can't get enough celebrity, and the more incarnations there are, the happier they are." Can't get enough celebrity? Oh, yes we can.

Personally I find readiing the real-life stories and adventures of ordinary people in some of the great blogs infinitely more interesting and entertaining, and certainly more life-affirming, than some made-up story based on the photo of of a C-list celebrity, or a half-naked rich American heiress and her dog.