Finding a new job is a real pain in the ass. Back in the day, at least in my imagination, you’d go into a place and they’d do a trial by fire. If you didn’t cry or quit or ruin anything, you were in. Now, you have some bullshit week of training, during which you do everything and make nothing while listening to someone who’s worse at the job than you are talk in a really patronizing tone about breakage. Then you have an elaborate test on the food, which you’ll never receive a grade for, only to realize that none of the current employees know anything you just stayed up till 3 am learning.
Like most people who work in industries that involve copious amounts of human interaction, I have slowly but surely grown to loathe people. Before you comment on the paradox inherent in this statement, consider the fact that most of us start to loathe something when they’re overloaded with it. Buy a bag of 10 avocados on sale and then talk to me a week later when you’re ready to eradicate all guacamole. I bet Marie Curie absolutely despised radium by the end of that whole discovery period.
Unfortunately for me, while my last job involved hilarious work associates with whom I could commiserate about the dreadful customers, my current “job” (I use quotes because a job generally begets money, whereas this one does not do that as frequently and with as much abundance as I require) has guests that range from merely innocuous to downright forgettable, but is tainted with some dreadful coworkers.
First of all, as far as I can tell, NYU funnels its overpaying, underachieving students directly into the underbelly of TriBeCa, where they slime into restaurants, put on a button-down shirt and generally do nothing else after that. I’ve long since accepted that the female staff either cannot or will not carry more than two plates at a time, that most of guys are really good at making beards but not at making tips. My favorite thing that happened was when one girl, who feels the need to come in every day and state whether or not she’s going commando for this particular shift, arrived looking particularly dismal.
“I can’t concentrate. I’m reading a really dark book by Colum McCann and it’s affecting me. I’m just going to, like, hang out over here.” She proceeded to read the newspaper for the entirety of the shift.
Second of all, most people are not from New York. They’re from other states who have moved here to Do Whatever They Think They’re Good At. (Obviously, restaurant work is NOT that.) As a result, a large portion of any shift is spent listening to people who have lived here for tiny periods of time wax on about how, based on their extensive research, everyone in New York does a certain thing a certain way.
Also, in case you haven’t heard, Harlem is in the Bronx.
Then there’s this weird reverence for VIPs. VIP tables are tricky. Restaurants need VIP customers because they act as unpaid advertisements for the restaurant. They bring in large parties, and often tip well; while they have irksome idiosyncrasies and occasionally outrageous demands, they’re generally fine bordering on nice. As a server or busboy, though, it’s customary and necessary to complain about them. If you don’t have that sanctity, what do you have?But if you’re here from afar trying to break into an industry, you have this deranged misconception that putting a side of fries on the table of a famous director is going to get you an audition for his next blockbuster. Here was a particularly glorious interaction I had with a hostess.
Hostess: Table 13 is SUPER SUPER VIP. Like, seriously important.
Me: How important can he be? Has he SAVED any LIVES recently?
Hostess: Um, Broadway.
No. No, no, no.
What is mind boggling to me, though, is that every single restaurant in New York City requires years of experience in restaurants in New York City. But that’s like saying having a huge penis guarantees a guy will be good at sex. You can have worked somewhere in the middle of Maine for three months one summer, where it was ridiculously busy from 11 am to 11 pm, and be a far better server than someone who has stood in a three table section doing Sudoku and punching in burger orders for 15 years. Seriously, when was the last time you went out in the city and had really good service? Last Wednesday, if you were in my section. Otherwise, I honestly couldn’t tell you.