Saturday was one of those Trial-By-Fire hell nights that tend to happen in any restaurant from time to time. We were so short-handed we actually sent somebody out to kidnap a staff member from their home and make them work in a position they were not trained for. We had several reservations for the multiple graduations in town (despite the fact that any small town in the South is considered to be a ‘dumb hick’ town we have a university, a college, a technical school, one of the nations highest-rated prep schools, a couple of McDonald’s, and the regulation 7.3 Starbucks per capita). The chips were down that night, the mood was grim. We all knew we were going to get our asses handed to us.
While doing her opening sidework a server suggested we have a ‘Positive Mental Attitude Saturday’ and said that we would get through the shift with teamwork and a healthy attitude. It was the right suggestion. It was the right idea. At a corporate restaurant those words wouldn’t mean the same thing. If anybody said something like that in a corporate environment it would be instantly dismissed as the promotion-seeking, manager’s ass-kissing, still steaming mound of grass infused bullshit that it would be. But I work at the most indie of independent restaurants ever. And the server that made the suggestion is one of our most Ballin! servers and we respect her opinions. Instead of scoffing at her we got behind the idea. We were all charged up for the challenge ahead, convinced that we could make it through the night if we stuck together. It was a real bonding moment.
And it lasted for about 15 minutes after the door was flung open by a teeming crowd of zombie crawlers*.
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*A Zombie Crawler is the affectionate term we use at our restaurant to describe the customers that show up before we are open and gather outside. As far as I know there is no industry-wide term for this. If anybody knows of one please let me know. I like to think I’m hip to all the lingo.
And while I’m on the subject I’d really like to understand what goes through someone’s mind that shows up 20 to 45 minutes before a restaurant opens, notices the Closed sign on the door and the other people milling around, reads the operating hours, and then still (vigorously mind you) shakes the door handle. My theory is that their thought process is something along the lines of ‘I just tried to open the door and it’s locked! . . . What the fudge? . . . I know–I’ll look at their business hours . . . It says they’re not supposed to be open for another half hour . . . The chart must be wrong . . . I HATE business hour chart misprints! . . . I’ll shake the door handle again to see if I just didn’t do it right the first time . . . STILL locked! . . . Damn . . . I know–I’ll look in the window . . . Just like I thought! . . . There are PEOPLE in there! . . . People! . . . Why are they running around in there setting things up? They should be opening the doors . . . Can’t they see that I’m out here? . . . I know–I’ll bang on the window frantically . . . That didn’t work either! . . . That just made them take the chairs off the tables faster . . . Maybe I WAS trying to open the door the right way but I just wasn’t doing it hard enough . . . Damn! I am shaking the hell out of this door and beating this window like it owed me money and they STILL won’t open up for me! . . . What’s wrong with these people? . . . Okay that last banging fit got somebody to look at me . . . Now that I’ve got their attention (finally), what should I say? . . . ‘Hey in there!’ . . . ‘Help!’ . . . ‘HELP!’ . . . ‘Can’t you see I’m TRAPPED out here? Help!’
Anyway . . .
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So Saturday was one big long fusterclucked pot ‘o stress but we all survived it, though I can’t say that our positive attitudes fared as well. However, the idea of how helpful a good attitude can be in this business permeated my thoughts Monday morning. Well, that and ‘Oh god why didn’t I get more than three and a half hours of sleep before starting an eleven hour day?’ That was a thought that I had more than once that day.
But I kept pumping myself up with stupidly positive thoughts. Thoughts like:
‘This is going to be a great day. I live in America, the greatest nation EVER in the entire history of mankind. I got to eat yesterday. I’m going to get to eat today. That alone means I’m better off than a lot of people in the world. I have a job I don’t hate. I live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I drive a nice car. Okay it’s a piece of shit Buick but it gets me there . . . when it’s not breaking down or catching fire. Alright really that Buick is a fucking death trap but I’ve driven worse vehicles.’
‘We are going to do a great job today at the sushi joint. What we do will have a positive impact on people’s lives. Our customers, who are some of the best customers any restaurant could hope to have, will come in hungry and tired and stressed out. We are going to fill their tummies with excellent food which will make them feel refreshed and nourished. We are going to fill their hearts with our kindness and hospitality. When they go back to work they will be happier and more productive. The spirits of the people around them will be buoyed as well because we will do such a good job at what we do, and those people in turn will also be more productive. Will the world end if we don’t perform well? No. But will it be a better place, even just a little? Yes. Quite possibly yes.’
And then Monday sucked too. Oh well I tried:)
Dignity and Respect
Me, The JerBear