Tuesday, October 07, 2008

SNEAK PEAK?

Although my new travel blog is not up and running in full force, I couldn't resist sharing this little gem with everyone. For anyone who saw the Iceland travel photos below (I have more on their way) and thought for a moment about visiting, here's your chance.


Wishes Come True....

The American dollar has crashed and burned in recent years, but it is nothing compared to the meltdown that Iceland, the up-and-coming tourist hotspot, is facing. Saying that Iceland has been an expensive place for Americans to visit was the understatement of the century, but now, in lieu of the world's financial crisis, the island is the first ever to have to declare bankruptcy. The Icelandic Krona has dropped dramatically, losing almost half it's value, and that should have the average pauper traveler jumping at this opportunity.

Icelandair was quick to formulate a plan to save the tourism industery, and what they came up with is round-trip winter flights starting at $400 round-trip. You would be hard pressed to find a flight across the continental US for that cheap. Plus, you don't have to worry about all those bullshit fees that American carriers have implemented. (like $25 each way to check you first bag, or $3 for water, $7 for a blanket). With Icelandair, you can check two bags free of charge. (sometimes three if you ask them nicely). Plus, keep in mind that when you get there, you won't just be saving on the flight, everything will be more affordable then ever.

This Deal is valid from NYC, or Boston, and must be booked by October 21, 2008. (although, I can't make any promises but, 9 times ofut of ten Icelandair will extend the dates for their book by period, but don't quote me on that).

Travel Dates: From November 1, 2008-March 31st, 2009.

My advice: If you are still up in the air about going, I wouldn't be surprised to see those fares drop down into the $300 range. But that's the risk you take if you wait. I'll update this page if I see them drop.


To read more about Iceland's "meltdown" go here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081007/ap_on_re_eu/eu_iceland_meltdown

To book this deal on Icelandair, go here:
http://www.icelandair.com/home/book-a-flight/special-offers/detail/store65/item331618/


To view my full complete guide to Iceland and other great pauper traveler's destinations chocked full of tips, savings ideas, itineraries and more:

Yeah, you're gonna have to wait a couple weeks still. I'm only one person damnit!

But for now, if you haven't seen them yet scroll down for a handful of steller scenic pics.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What's Ahead

I'm back from a cruise, and exciting 10-day vacation in Iceland, and have just officially started a full time job. That's right. I am taking a nice break from the restaurant industry after 8 years that have made me incredibly jaded.

The new gig is at a travel website/magazine in midtown. This officially marks the end of me bitching about serving (for good!), and allows me to focus more on some travel writing. So, for those who have stuck with me...here's what I have cooking up.

1. A travel blog/website: Providing advice and tips for young travelers on how to do so on a budget. I've been working on this one for a while now, and am planning on having it up and running by the end of October at the latest.

2. Now that I have weekends off (No more working doubles on Saturday and Sunday Brunch), it is my turn to see what this brunch craze is all about. Already I have checked out a few places, and plan on giving some inside info on the spots I love and hate. Coming from a waitress: service is going to be a key element.

3. The Harlem Mezz will be seeing more postings then ever. Its gotten a slow start due to the new job, and vacations. However, I'm signing another year long lease this week to stay put in Harlem so expect some postings soon. (including my roomates being kidnapped by a cab-driver).

And for now, I leave you with some scenic photos of Iceland:













Parts of a glacier that have broken off /Rainbow that chased our car

















Cliffside "Giant Troll" rocks with lighthouse/ Grass-turf church














Sunset over the Arctic ocean/Hot Spring lagoon (like a natural hot tub)


video
video

Geothermal activity near Krafla volcano

Friday, August 08, 2008

A LITTLE POETRY

Last summer, I entered a poem I wrote in the 2007 Writers Digest Competition. Although I rarely write poetry, for some reason I had an urge to submit one. The winners would not be announced until the fall, and during that time I moved from Brooklyn to Harlem. Well, upon surfing the Internet the other day, I discovered that I had in fact been a finalist and was in the Writers Digest published book. I didn't know this of course, because I had forgotten all about the entry and because the notification had been sent to my old address. So, out of 15,000 entries, I placed 44th (they choose 100 entries from each category). So, it's not the number one spot but hey, beggars can't be choosers and for someone who is not a poet, that's not too shabby. Any way, here it is for your poetry reading pleasure.


Central Park

Some days New York smells like Jamaica
from the street vendors blackening kebabs
on busy corners.
Reminding me that time doesn’t exist unless we let it.
as I pass a pub, it smells of England.
The stale musty aroma
mixed with the longing for a bitter dark ale to touch
my lips, brings me back to earth for a moment of
just
being.
The window of the 10th floor office bathroom
is always open, and the only sounds it allows are the slight breeze
and gentle humming of construction workers below.
Their skin is
a healthy tan from days in the sun.
One of them always sitting on a pile of broken concrete,
sandwich and soda in hand as droplets
of sweat bead down his forehead.
Although surrounded by
madness,
there are moments of real existence,
They are brief mirrors of calm, often passed by on
our quest to emptiness, and are insignificant yet immortal.
Take notice, but let them be.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I DON'T GET PEOPLE

First day of training at a restaurant is never fun. There's all those awkward moments when the person training you is just too "busy" to deal with you. No matter how much you try and help you are just in the way. So, you end up standing off to the side, pretending that you are actually looking over the menu so that the boss won't see you slacking on the first day. It's almost the same concept why people serve drinks at a party. At least you have something in your hand.

Well, this new training day (latest job fired me for taking off to go to a wedding, even after they had approved my request) I was learning how to do TO GO orders, when the bell went off in the back and my trainer said to stay put. So I did, and of course, someone has questions about the menu.

"Is the organic chicken white meat or dark meat?"

"I'm really not sure, I'm training. It's my first day and I've only been here for an hour. If you wait a minute Carol can answer your questions."

I though that was pretty clear. Now keep in mind that the girl not only has a TOGO menu in her hand, there is also a giant menu board above my head behind me. It's not like it's a complicated menu. We serve hummus, salads and wraps.

"So what exactly comes with the Lebane wrap?" she asks.

"First day." I answer.

"Is your ice tea sweetened? Do you have falafels?"

"Miss, do you see falafels on the giant board behind my head, or on the menu in your hand?"

"No..."

"Well, although it is my first day, I'm guessing based on that information at hand that we do not serve falafels."

Monday, July 21, 2008

10 DAYS IN ICELAND UNDER A G

There was one thing that George W. did right. That wonderful tax rebate. Prior to the latest waitressing job, I had been catching up on back debt. I was almost paying off my credit cards, and was in pretty decent shape.

And then one day I called my checking account to find G.W's $600 gift. It also just so happened to be the same day round-trip tickets to Iceland were on sale. I thought about it for all of 5 seconds. I had always wanted to go to Iceland but I had heard it was rather expensive.

The flight cost came to $522. With taxes, fees everything. I clicked purchase and sat for a moment kicking myself in the ass for what I had just done. Then, I forgave myself rather quickly and did a little "I'm going to Iceland" dance around my bedroom.

Unfortunately, that was the extent of my plan. I had no one to go with, no money, and no itinerary. Lucky for me I have a few friends who are a crazy as I am. One of whom booked a ticket as well.

The more we have been researching, the more we have found out just how expensive Iceland is. How much to rent a car for the week? The price tops out around $2,000. Food cost? Ridiculous. Plus, like most other currency now, the dollar is worth less than Icelandic Krona.

So... my latest idea is a test. Can we do 10 days in Iceland (and one day in the artic circle) for under $1,000? (That's including the flight...)

I am going to try and pull out all the stops. Every poor travelers essentials. From hitchhiking, couch surfing, hostels, camping, and carpooling. Can it be done? I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

It's Official

OK: I'm now officially linking the new blog.

Harlem Mezz:
The story of four country white girls living in Harlem New York.

http://harlemmezz.blogspot.com/

(Why Mezz? It's real.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

MOVING DAY

I had found out about the apartment in a one line Craigslist ad. The description was simply that it was four bedrooms, and gave the address, price and e-mail account. It's not easy to find a four bedroom apartment in New York. (Well let's just face it, apartment hunting isn't exactly a joy to do anywhere. ) It had been even more difficult to get a hold of the owner to show me the place. Persistance had paid off, and after taking five steps in, I told him we'd take it.

Which meant that my other three roomates hadn't even seen the place, so the pressure was on me if they would like it or not. There was no time or money to waste, and waiting only means someone else will snatch it up in a heartbeat. So we've always agreed to trust each other's judgement.

So far, there’s been no problems.

The place was on the corner of 125th street. It used to be an old Turkish Bathhouse, and the sign still remains above the basement entrance (also known as the rat’s home turf). If the whole Turkish bath thing seems to be a little out of place to you, you’re not alone in thinking this.

The apartment was on the fourth floor, there was no elevator, and the moving crew we had hired (and paid for) did not show up. This left my tiny mother, overweight father, 12-year-old sister, Karla, Beth, and myself to move everything up the four flights of stairs. My mother, always the problem solver, started talking to some people on the street. In no time she had recruited a couple guys who had offered to help us with the "big stuff" for some quick cash.

Half an hour later, one of them christened our bathroom by puking all over the floor. He told us “not to eat the Taco Bell.” Bullshit. It was Saturday morning and he was clearly more hung over then we were. A friend of his came in as his replacement, and after a couple hours and an ass-load of trips up and down the stairs the Uhaul truck was empty.

My mother opted to take a time-out and introduce herself to all of the neighbors. She stopped by each and every apartment in the building to say hello. An hour later she reported back.
“You girls should see how the apartment across the hall is set up. He has the TV against that wall," she said and pointed around living room and trying to inspire us to re-arrange the furniture we has just spent the last 10 hours moving in and out. I told her we would re-arrange later, and consider moving the TV. Of course there was not a chance in this happening. It was staying right where it was.

"There is a really neat tapestry on the wall you should go see, Amber," she continued. The girl on the next floor up is a hair dresser, and the people down the hall are cooking something that smells amazing.”

I couldn’t love her more than at the moment. She was, 100%, a people-person.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

I was born and raised in Upstate New York. I had chickens. Our driveway was not paved. We had so many broken cars in our yard it was starting to look like a used car lot. The mailman drove a station wagon. His own station wagon.

You get the idea.

I live in Harlem now with three of my closest college friends. At first it appears that the four of us had thrown a dart at a map promising to move wherever it landed. Such is not the case. It started with only three. We moved to New York in search of a job in each our fields, and after a year of living in Brooklyn, and the addition of a fourth room mate we landed in Harlem because it was the only place we could afford. (Although, I’m not sure how long that will last because it as recently re-zoned and in 10 years will most likely be the next trendy SOHO. ) Contrary to popular belief, we are not ducking from bullets. I’m not afraid to walk home at night (although I’m obviously avoiding dark alleyways-given). I’m also not going to pretend that if I had a choice on living anywhere in the world, I would pick Harlem. No way. I will say that I like it here. There’s never a dull moment.
At one point, I realized what an opportunity I had. This could be a real gem. Although I cannot possibly give insight to the inner workings of this historical neighborhood, I can provide a window. Here is the view of an outsider who is now on the inside. This is the view from someone raised in an entirely different environment. I will try to be as honest as possible, and to not sugarcoat anything.
This is the story of four country white girls living in Harlem New York.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

BACK IN ACTION

Hello to all those who were reading The Mirage. As busy as I've been lately, there is always time to write. However, as I said I can no longer write about waiting tables. I apologize to every struggling server out there, but I'm tired of re-living the day online. I realized however, that I have the makings for an interesting blog right in front of me, and it has nothing to do with complaining about restaurants. So from now on this blog is going to be about "4 Country Girls Living in Harlem." (among other things) Expect postings is the next few days.

Thanks to all, I hope you enjoy it.
~Amber

Friday, April 11, 2008

THE TIME HAS COME

I think it may be time to end this blog. I've been working 7 day a week trying to get my foot in the door in this damn city. Let me tell you, forget the foot you need to find a way to pick the lock and it's taking a lot of time and energy. When I originally began this blog I had no intention of writing about the restaurant biz.

If you've ever wondered why the name is Mirage, and not Jaded Waitress or something along those lines it's because I want to write about things the mainstream media isn't covering, (in my usual sarcastic tone of course) However, I've been so busy making ends meet, and taking on unpaid internships that restaurant writing was the default. I'm getting closer to the point where I'm seeing a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel, so perhaps in the near future you'll be seeing some solid articles up here. Until then, I'll post from time to time when something interesting strikes me.

Thanks for reading!
~Amber

Saturday, March 15, 2008

ACCESS DENIED

A miracle happened at work the other day.

"Guys, get over here now!" one of the servers summoned us.

"Whats up, I'm kinda busy. This better be good." He was waving a black amex around.

I have to admit I hate black amex cards. Number one the damn things are made of lead(or titanium, whatever) and are tricky to swipe on the computer because they are so thick. Number two, I can't help but get that feeling of envy everytime I pick one up. I analyze the person and think in my head "what the hell do you do that allows you to have a black amex?" I mean, they are like the holy grail of the Amex cards. Teach me your ways. The worst is when someone who is about a year older then me hands one over.

For starters, there are only an estimated 10,000 black Amex cards that exist. This low number shocked me since I usually get one just about every day. You have to charge a minimum of $250,000 a year to qualify. Hopefully someday someone won't be making that end of year quota and have to throw the rest on my tip. (Hey, let me dream ok?)

It's a secret mystery as to how you actually apply for one, and what specifically qualifies you. There is a rumor going around that the most elite of the elite now have the "American Express Crystal Card." I'm praying the name does not reflect what it will be made of. Point being, these things are no joke, and normally people don't just wave them around the restaurant.

"This black amex just got declined." We all stopped dead.

"That's not possible."

"Let me see the slip." Sure as shit, there it was, declined. Big bold print.

Oh, how I wished that was my table. I know it's a little messed up, but I would LOVE to hand that card back and say to that CEO at his lunch meeting with a sweet, sweet smile on my face "I'm sorry sir, but your card was declined."

In reality, it was probably a computer failure. It would have to be a miracle to have an actual Black Amex get rejected. But hey, you never know it could happen in the near future.

After all, Britney Spears has one.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

THE BEST SYSTEM SINCE POS?

The French resto. I am currently working at has an awesome system called VirtualGM. Has anyone heard of this? It lets you create your own weekly schedule, take days off in advance, post blog comments, "call in" to work via internet, and get updated information and announcements about the job. It's almost like the Angel system a lot of colleges use for professors to post homework assignments.

That's the downside. In terms of taking off for that concert you heard about last minute, it's amazing. Going on vacation? No problem, just put it on the virtual calender. However, now you have to take "server work" home with you. I'm beginning to think that having to check this Virtual GM every night for announcements might get annoying. The nice thing about a serving job is when you leave there is no homework. There's no taking the office back with you, once you are out of those doors you are free to be. This system may change that a bit so we will see how it goes.

As for me, I've been training and (it may be just this restaurant)but they require you to take a slew of online tests when you get home from training each night. Which is just what you want after a day of training when your brain has already absorbed more menu descriptions and wine pairings than humanly possible. Plus, you have to print pages upon pages of restaurant info, it's history, photos of the entrees, and price lists, which is sucking my ink down.

Anyway, if anyone else has been using this system let me know what you think of it. Is Virtual GM the wave of the future in the industry, or just great in theory?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

COUCH SURFING

Hey..this is specifically for Michael Abbot who left a comment under TAKE THAT FOX....You never left your e-mail. I get too many of those couch surfing requests because everyone and their brother wants to visit New York. I do read some of them if it's a weekend that might be available. Anyways...send me your e-mail and we can chat. If you don't seem crazy, couch is all yours.

THE EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

To start off, I'd like to apologize for my lack of postings in like, over a month. I've been fired at my latest restaurant job for missing a meeting. I always attend meetings, and this one happened to be on a Sunday at 8am, after I had worked until close the night before. I slept through my alarm clock and they fired me. Since, I have been taking some time off and putting all my effort into trying to find an editorial position in the city(and taking a mini break to Florida). So far, no luck on the job but Florida was grand. So alas, just when I thought I might have a shot at retiring the apron and tossing the server shoes, I am out of money and back in the thick of it. And so far, what a return it has been.

I had been given the heads up about the restaurant’s stealth-firing of me (they waited until 3 weeks after the meeting to do so) by some co-workers that heard through the grapevine. So naturally, when they called me down to the office my response was “If you are going to fire me, can you make it quick? I have an interview to go to in twenty minutes.”
Upon starting the new job, I was handed an employee handbook. Since it was incredibly slow due to the weather, I did something unheard of. I actually read this 35 page beast! Have you ever read your employee handbook? If not, I suggest you do so right away. My room mates and I had a long laugh. Here are some of my favorite passages. (the green comments are mine, obviously)

PAGE 20:
BEREAVEMENT LEAVE:
If you need bereavement leave, MIRAGE RESTAURANTS allows ONE day of UNPAID bereavement leave for front of house and kitchen employees for the death of an IMMEDIATE family member. MIRAGE RESTAURANTS may request VERIFICATION OF THE DEATH and/or RELATIONSHIP of the deceased in order to AUTHORIZE bereavement leave.

-Wait..hold the funeral, I need a DNA sample and a note from the coroner! Oh, that was your adopted sister? Clearly, you’re not related. (DAY OFF REQUEST DENIED) Grandmother? Still have to work, not immediate family. I’ll tell you what, when your mother dies THEN you can have ONE unpaid day off, but you have to prove it is her, beyond a reasonable doubt.

PAGE 8:
INSPECTION POLICY
The person or property of anyone on Company property may be subject to inspection without advance notice. Often inspections are on a “spot check,” merely random basis that in no way implies guilt or suspicion of wrongdoing. Anyone who refuses an inspection request will be viewed in the same way as someone who has had an inspection which detects wrongdoing. In addition, such a refusal will be regarded as insubordinate behavior.
-Gotta love that patriot act.

ALSO PAGE 8
(it’s a good one)
DRESS CODE, APPERANCE, and CLEANLINESS
Employees must have neat hair cuts, clean nails, and be devoid of body odors. Employees must observe the following.
-Jewelry must be kept to a minimum, Male servers should not wear earrings. Female servers may have one in each ear.
-Be aware of your posture. NEVER FOLD YOUR ARMS IN FRONT OF YOU. Stand up straight.
-Socks. (that’s all it says…just socks)

PAGE 19
SICK TIME
Servers are responsible for finding another employee to cover their shift when they are out sick. If an employee, because of severe illness or hospitalization, cannot call in, the employee must have someone else call in on behalf of the employee.
-So…make sure you have one of your friends sign a proxy before you start, that in case you are in a coma, they promise to call in to work for you.
Kitchen and management staff who are employed for more than one year may take up to 3 days of paid sick time. (Servers, you’re SOL) Sick leave is not to be used for personal time off. Management may require an employee to furnish a doctor’s statement to prove illness. (right..but since most restaurants don’t offer health insurance we aren’t likely to be visiting a doctor anytime soon.)

PAGE 19
HOLIDAYS
MIRAGE RESTAURANTS is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas day. ( WOO HOO! Clearly no one gives a shit about the veterans or the new year) There is no additional pay for working other holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas days are not paid for front of house employees.

PAGE 20
VACATION DAYS
Front of house employees who have been employed for more than one full year may take up to one week (5 working days) of UNPAID vacation. GEE, THANKS how thoughtful

PAGE 21
JURY DUTY LEAVE
Hourly employees will be paid their regular daily pay or forty dollars ($40) a day, whichever is LESS, for the first three days of jury service. Jury duty after the first three days will not be paid.
Let’s just hope OJ doesn’t go on another killing spree, cause you might be out of work for a while.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

ALL IN THE FAMILY

I there has been one or two times in my life that I have called my father desperately seeking advice. Although he always gives it to me even if I don’t ask, I do listen. After a while of listening I realized that it was usually really good advice. Not always, but usually. There have only been a couple times that I actually called and asked "What do I do here? I need your help".

“I hate this job Dad, it is making me miserable.”
“Then just quit.” There it was, plain and simple. "If you hate the job you work for, then do something you love, even if it takes a while to get there.”

Of course, that sounds great but there is always the problem of money holding you down. If you quit you can’t pay bills, you lose health insurance or benefits. So you deal with the shitty job that is tearing you apart little by little. Yet somehow, despite how much I’ve hated some jobs, everyday I have laughed at work. I don’t mean a forced- “I'm going to pretend that was funny even though it wasn’t, but I feel obligated to laugh since your my boss’"- laugh. I mean tears falling can’t hardly breathe laughing. The people who we work with make all the difference. They make it tolerable, until we are ready to leave. When something important happens in each other’s lives we are excited for them. When something awful happens we help them get through it.

I have found that the most amazing thing can happen when you're down, and in a rough patch. If you ask for help so many people are willing to give it until you are back on your feet, and doing whatever it may be that makes you happy. Sometimes you don’t even need to ask, people just hand it out. I once lent one of my co workers 700$ when he was in a rut. I had some extra money I had been saving to move to New York City but it would still be a while before I could go, so I offered it. I didn’t make him sign anything, which most people would say is crazy. I knew the type of person he was. He paid it back in full, all before I moved to the city. Everyone told me that you shouldn’t lend money like that to someone who wasn’t a family member. Sometimes with certain coworkers, they can be both.

I ran into him a few weeks ago, working at a much better job, back on his feet, new girlfriend, new apartment.In short, he is out of the rut. He made it a point to say to me "By the way, I will never forget what you did for me. It meant a lot."

So here’s to all the coworkers I’ve ever had. And here’s to helping each other out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

TAKE THAT FOX

If anyone caught the republican debate tonight I was amazed at how ridiculous Fox News is. Well, I'm not surprised, just frustrated.

First off, Ron Paul crushed Giuliani in the Iowa caucuses, but received no invitation to the last republican debate sponsored by Fox news. This pissed people off in New Hampshire, where Paul had been showing better numbers than Fred Thompson.

In tonight's debate he was the only one who actually said anything. He made points and backed up his opinions with facts, not by talking in circles. He did it all while being attacked by other candidates and by facing questions which none of the other candidates were forced to answer. For example, while one question was being asked about the direction of the Republican party since the Reagan era each candidate has their chance to answer. When it came to be Ron Paul's turn, he was asked instead about his conspiracy theorist followers and if he supports their views. Paul quickly pointed out the relevance to the question that had been on the floor for 20 minutes which everyone else had been allowed to answer.

"Can I please answer the question we've been discussing," he asked twice before allowing to continue. First, he had to state that his followers can think what they want, and he disagrees."

Following the debate, a small group of people(20 or so) were taken to the forum to discuss who they thought the winner of the debate was. When the cameras came on, and they were asked who they thought was the victor was a unanimous decision that Thompson won, and Ron Paul lost. Could that have been any more set up?

The interesting thing that Fox news seemed to overlook, was they offered viewers the chance to text in their vote as to who THEY thought won the election. Ron Paul was the winner by the American people, with 33% of the vote. Thompson came in around 19%.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

LOVED THIS

"I love New York because the waiters and waitresses are the most beautiful, interesting, creative, stylish, aloof, and driven collection of service providers that can be found anywhere on the planet. They all have a story. They all have a plan. And they all forgot to bring me the fucking mustard."
-NY mag

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

TO THE GOOD PEOPLE

I’m aware that people talk down to servers. It upsets me that they think they have the right to do this. In all the years I have waited tables, I’ve dealt with the little comments that make me feel like I’m somehow less of a person, but I’ve never had someone as cruel as I had last night.

I had a table of 8 girls come in. They all looked very young. I honestly wouldn’t have put a couple of them past 17. They wanted to order pitchers of margaritas, and my bartender and my boss informed me that I had to ID them. I rarely ID people. I know it’s the law, but in New York, for the most part, we just don’t do it. As it turns out one of them didn’t have her ID. There was one woman who was much older then the girls, and she flashed a badge quickly saying “I can vouch for all of them." I was OK with that, so I rang the drink order in. I mentioned the situation to one of the other waitresses, who suggested I run it by my boss just to be on the safe side.

He talked to them for a couple minutes, chatting about where they worked. Apparently they were all interns at the medical center nearby. I served them their drinks, and they ordered a couple of appetizers. About two hours later, an older man joined them who I presumed to be the doctor they were interning with. He was very friendly, ordered some food and drinks, and asked that he pick up their tab.

“I’ll pay the $193 because I’ve got to leave. They can take care of anything they order afterwards and I’ll let them know they also have to give you the gratuity. I’m not paying that, it’s on them. I didn’t like the sounds of this but what could I say. He told me he would inform them of this plan, and then he and the woman with the police badge left, the girls remained and ordered another pitcher. They had reached the point where they were louder than anyone in the restaurant.

A couple hours later, they had finished their last pitcher, and I brought them the checks. Since they were clearly not in the right state of mind, I gave them the check for what they ordered, and showed them what their boss took care of.

“Ok ladies, the guy that was here earlier took care of everything on the large check except gratuity, so all you have to worry about is what you ordered after he left.”

“So gratuity isn’t included?”

“No, it’s not." I repeated, and one of the girls handed me her credit card.” I ran it. She signed it, and all hell broke loose. I went to pick up the slip off the table, and she had left 10$. The total of both checks was 250$. I took a deep breath and tried to stay calm.

“Girls, I’m really sorry and I don’t mean this to be rude at all, but the gratuity wasn’t included on the large check either, and you have been here for five hours. Your boss wanted me to tell you that he had only paid the bill.” The restaurant its about 20 people. 8 seats were taken up for 5 hours by these girls and we had a full house and had to turn several tables away. Ten dollars was in no way acceptable.

“Yes, I know that. I was going to live you a great tip. I have a platinum Amex card. But you had to be a rude little bitch and ID all of us.”

“Well, I apologize about that, but it is my job. It’s the law. Our restaurant can loose their license , and I just started here and would like to keep my job.”

“Well, you should have thought about that before you had your manager harass us for ten minutes. Our friend was a cop, there should be no questions.

“Like I said, I’m new here so I wanted to double check. And if your friend is a cop, that is all the more reason to ID you because if I don’t I can get into trouble. Was your service alright? Were there any problems with your orders?”

“I have nothing more to say to you. If you don’t like what we left you, get a different job. You chose this one. Deal with it.” At this point they all got up to leave, and I called to the bartender to go get the manager. The girl who had been arguing pushed by me and said “Have a good night,” in the most sarcastic tone ever. My manager met them outside. I opened the door after a few minutes to see if he was having any luck reasoning with her.

“You are pathetic to be out here arguing with me about a tip," I heard her say. I guess there was no reasoning with her. She looked past him and saw me in the doorway.

“That little bitch there should not have ID us. She can deal with what she got. Let me tell you something, I am a college graduate. You choose this profession. Why don’t all you stupid people go to college and get yourselves a real fucking job.”

Up until this point, I had tried to be professional, despite the fact that I wanted to beat the shit out of her. Those words hit me so hard, that I lost it. Luckily my boss grabbed me and pushed me back as I lunged at her. He saved me from some serious assault charges seeing how she had seven other witnesses.

“You stupid ignorant bitch. You don’t say that to people. You don’t insult people like that as if you are so much better.” One of the other waitresses pulled me inside, as the girl was screaming at me. It wasn't worth it. She wasn't worth it, no matter how much satisfaction it would hav given me, it would have been short lived.

“What? Are you going to fight me? Let’s go bitch.,” said all 85 pounds of her. She then proceeded to punch our window. “Come on, you want to fight?” She kept hitting the glass until one of her friends pulled her away. At this point I was shaking with anger. I didn’t care about the tip. It’s money. What really bothered me was what she said. I wonder how many people actually think like that? When did we become a society where what you do for a living makes you less of a person? And what makes someone think they can treat other people like they are nothing?

I went inside to learn that everyone in the restaurant was aware of the situation. I could feel tears welling in my eyes because I had taken her words to heart. Everyone was so supportive. All of my tables kept telling me that I don’t have to listen to anything she said. They all left me amazing tips, in fact one of my regulars handed me her credit card slip with a 57$ tip on a 43 dollar check.

Here sweetie, happy new year and don’t ever let people like that bring you down.”

And as for my manager, he handed me a shot of Jameson and said “Cheers to good people, and thanks for not punching her.”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

UPDATE

Hey everyone
Just as an update for those of you reading this...along with this blog which is mostly restaurant industry and stupid shit I come across each day, I'm working on another one. If there are no posts, check out http://milgrammoniter.blogspot.com/. I'll still post the happenings of the server world...no worries.

Monday, November 26, 2007

TATER'S SALAD

“I need to find somewhere to put a walk in 8 -top,” Our host said with a frustrated look on his face towards the end of a busy lunch shift. I had just picked up some extra tables, but they were easy two tops and I never turn down the chance to pick up another table if I can help it.

“Put them in the alcove and I’ll take it.” That was my first mistake. Not looking at the 8 top clientele.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yeah just seat them and I’ll take it.” Second mistake. The uneasy sound in his voice should have given me a hint. But all I could see at the time was dollar signs, and was completely oblivious to the red flags. I got my first glance at them. The father had a trucker hat on. The mother was flagging me down before I could even make my way to the table. The rest of their party wasn't even sitting yet.

"Are you our waitress? Can you put the kid's order in right now?" I should have said, "No, I'm not but if you have a seat at the table I'll go find her." Instead I took the kids order, told her it would be a few minutes for me to put it in and get bread and drinks for the table, and took off running. At this point I was thinking, maybe the kids are just antsy, and if I make them happy she will leave me a good tip.

I returned a few minutes later and she informs me that they are ready to order. Wonderful. Let's get this over and done with. She orders two soups, one soup and salad combo, and one dish of pasta to share. A grand total of 30$ plus the kids food and drinks. For eight people. Not good.
The kid's meals were ready in all of 5 minutes, as were the salads. As I was refilling drinks, I heard the mother say to her youngest son "Tater, honey you want some salad?"

Tater? You call your kid tater?

I knew at that point all hope of a tip was out of the picture. Sure enough when the bill came, (58$) I got five bucks. Had I seen it before they left, I would have chased them out the door and directed them towards the nearest McDonald's. No tots, but the fries are on the dollar menu.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

FAT ASS BOOTH NATION

Every time I turn on the TV, it is inevitable that within 10 minutes some commercial telling me how to lose weight will appear on the screen. Usually there is some toothpick size actress endorsing the ad sending the message to 14-year-old girls everywhere to start throwing up their salads so they can look like a concentration camp survivor.

Today at my latest job, it was made clear to me just how much they are targeting the wrong group of people. As a nation, we've faced cholera, influenza, and yellow fever. 25 years ago we faced the AIDS epidemic. I will have to tell me children some day how awful it was when I survived the fat epidemic. I looked around the restaurant, and asked one of the hostesses if she noticed anything abnormal about the clientele.

"Sure, you mean the morbidly obese men insisting on me trying to fit them into a booth?" At the time, the restaurant had about 20 guests seated. About 9-10 of them belonged to the over 300 club. Most of them were men in oversize flannel shirts from Wal-mart, but a few were women in floral Mu mus. There was one man I was worried we might have to lube up with a stick of butter to get him out, seeing how several of his rolls spilled out onto the table, and almost onto his plate.

"Yeah, the guy table 30 has to be careful he doesn't mistaken his stomach for his steak, seeing how their both on the plate."

Let me be clear here. I'm not trying to give someone who might be a little overweight a complex. I think having a few curves, or an actual ass you can see is perfectly healthy. But these people are literally eating their way to an early death.

My section was not a booth section, and when all of our popular cushion-assed destinations were taken, I finally began to get seated at my tables. My first table was a couple in their early 50s. The woman looked a little chubby, but she was a healthy weight for a soon-to- be grandmother. Her husband was a different story. He ordered our lasagna, which happens to be somewhere in the net range of 3,000 to 3,500 calories depending on how much cheese they get grated on top. It's insanely big, and I had never seen anyone finish this dish on their own. You can see where I'm going with this.

About 10 minutes after they had sat down, they were enjoying their first loaf of bread, when the man had to use the restroom. He snatched up the entire loaf with his bare hands, and gnawed on it while wandering around the restaurant looking for the bathroom. The hostess finally pointed him in the right direction, and he mumbled a "Thank you," with a mouth full of bread and proceeded to the loaf in with him to the urinals. We just stared in awe. Did that really just happen. When he came back, I couldn't resist.

"Would you like another loaf of bread Sir?" I said, attempting to keep a straight face.

"Oh, absolutely."When the meal came, I warned him that his plate of llasagna was ridiculously hot since the entire plate is put in our pizza oven. I emphasized that touching it would cause excruciating pain. The edge of the plate hung over the table a bit, and the man scooted forward to get a better angle of attack. Naturally, his stomach flab made contact with the plate and I'm quite sure that he will have a permanent lasagna plate scar under his flannel shirt. He paused in agony for a moment, and then asked for more cheese, fork in hand.

His wife, in the meantime had chosen an average pasta dish, with some form of vegetables on the side. I boxed her food up as I watched her husband lick his plate clean. Up until this point she had just sat patiently waiting for her husband to finish, sipping on her coffee. Until then she seemed quite innocent.

"Hunny, did you want to order the smothered chocolate cake?" She asked him. Clearly she was fully supportive of his unstoppable desire to have a heart attack within a year or two.

I realized then, that by allowing things like this, we are all in some way responsible for the fat ass booth nation. But people can make their own decisions right?

I've got to get going now. I'm craving a double cheeseburger. Preferably one with extra cheese.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

YOU THINK THAT'S FUNNY?

Anyone who has ever been strapped for cash knows all to well that if you can't afford to go grocery shopping you start to get creative. Ranch dressing for pasta sauce? It could be good. Rice-a roni-Ramen-chicken helper? Let's see how many carbs we can toss together in one pot. For the past couple of days, I've completely out of ideas,(and ingredients) so it's been endless buttered noodles for me.

I haven't had a good week. Besides being broke, I broke something very close to my heart this morning. My pipe. Although it hasn't been getting much use lately, it was my baby, and it was magical. I had lost it countless times throughout the years, at parties, bars, and friends houses but somehow it was always returned to me, sometimes by people I barely knew. Somehow, they knew it was mine. I'm telling you, magic. So naturally, I couldn't wait to leave work and go home to deal with my grief. To add to my depression, one of the waitresses was angry with me, my boss yelled at me, and I had some drunk guy hitting on me. He was completely wasted and wouldn't let up until finally I spit out the words Fuck off, and he got the message. I didn't even think twice that he was a paying customer.

As I was walking home, I called my father to vent to him about all my troubles, when some asshole passing by decided he wanted to be a mister funny guy. He was much shorter than I am, wearing a perfectly ironed t-shirt that looked straight out of Hollister with his polo zip-up hoodie adorned over his right shoulder like a fucking parrot. Just for the hell of it, Mr. funny guy decided to scream in my ear as he was passing. He got the reaction he wanted. It was so loud it made me jump a mile and a half because I thought I was being attacked. He just kept walking away.

Somewhere between the buttered noodles, bitchy boss, broken bowl, drunk guy and a wicked case of PMS this guy messed with the wrong girl. I hung up on my father, and chased after the comedian. I got right up in his face, and I went off on him. I don't mean I was kind of rude, I scared the hell out of this guy.

"Do you think that's funny you fucking asshole?" I screamed after him down the street.

"Ahh, yeah actually I do,I find it very funny," he said with this shit grin on his face. His eyes were as wide as they could be, but he tried to mask his fear by not turning and walking away from me. Instead, he just kept backing up, walking backwards down and entire block to the point where he was almost running in reverse.

"Oh, really you piece of shit. Why don't you get a fucking life," I screamed at him two inches from his face.

"I have a life, it's right over my right shoulder here." I instantly looked at his stupid zip-up parrot sweater. Great comeback frat boy. What does that even mean?

"Who the hell does shit like that?" By this point we he had been retreating for a block now. He kept staring up and me and attempting to say something intelligent. All I kept saying was every swear word that came to mind. Finally, I rolled my fist up, and raised my hand ready to hit him.

"I should punch you in the fucking face, see if it's still funny." And with that, I almost did. I raised my fist, about to swing but something stopped me. I could kick myself for not doing it. But, I got the reaction I wanted. He flinched and ducked his head a little, covering his face with his hands. His friend however, had some shred of intelligence and realized that I could kick his short scrawny Hollister ass, and stepped between the two of us.

"Hey, hey. Listen, I'm sorry. He's just.....he's sorry." And with that he tried to take his comedian friend away from me. I turned to walk away, when I heard him calling from the other side of the street, still walking backwards.

"I like them feisty like that. Sexy." Of course, the best he could do now that I bruised his manhood was to to sexually harass me. Why are people like this allowed to exist? I hope the next person he decides to play his little prank on turns out to be some feisty pedophile who likes to ass-rape frat boys.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

THE BREAK UP

I stopped in to visit my old job earlier this week. It was really good to see all my friends. I had a million questions thrown at me about why I left, what am I doing. My manager never even asked what happened, or why I decided to quit while they were closed. I came to get everyone's phone numbers, since during a recent mishap on my phone I had lost a few people.

"Go on back Amber, you know where the phone list is." I stayed for a half hour or so, and filled them in on the new job and my new apartment. I just moved this week up to Harlem. Despite a serious mouse issue, the place is beautiful, and I feel like I'm actually in the city now.

I left the restaurant with an arm full of cardboard boxes, a pillow I had left there, a bag of food, and a list of everyone's phone numbers. I felt like I was breaking up. If so, it was the easiest, most non-awkward break up I've ever had. I sure am going to miss everyone. Maybe I'll drunk dial them this weekend.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

MEMO TO BOSS

Usually, when most servers quit their jobs it's not to join the Peace Corps. It's not to become a part owner in a new start up website. I find that most people who leave are in search of that restaurant that is actually well-run. Usually the sentence that follows when asked why you're quitting is "I'm tired of this bullshit." So it got me to thinking, is there such thing as this perfect Holy Grail restaurant out there? Would you actually have servers sticking around, and caring about their job if there was? And what do most employers do wrong that forces employees to leave? I've come up with a partial list of reasons that stop a restaurant from being successful.
This is my memo to every boss I've had.

Respect your workers. It's hard to care about your job when they don't care about you. This means not scheduling someone to work until 4am, and then have them come in to open the following morning to work a double. It means taking things into consideration. When someone requests a religious holiday off, don't make them work it because "it's only a request, not a guarantee." Don't talk down to us. There's nothing worse than a manager who makes themselves seem so much better than their workers.

Rotate the schedule, and keep in mind seniority. New kids always get screwed. That's how it works. Better sections and schedules go to the people who have been there the longest. But even workers with seniority are going to have to take a shit shift once and a while, otherwise you wont get new people to stick around. The best sections should go to the hardest workers, as a reward an incentive to keep it up. Know who your good workers are. You should be aware when someone just can't hack it. Don't put this person in the busiest section and your best server in the worst. Common sense.

It is required by law to give us breaks! It's amazing to me how many jobs I have worked in this industry where the managers completely ignore the law. I've worked 6 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours, doubles, overnights, and never gotten a break! (ok I'm kidding about the overnights) No break=angry workers.

Know how to prepare for service. No one likes to have to tell their customers (and they are customers NOT GUESTS) that they have run out of the the special of the day. Customers take it out on servers tips, especially if you are out of several items. Have your delivery truck come in on a Wednesday. You'll be able to make it through the busiest weekends then, and come Sunday you wont be out of every item on the menu.

Staff the floor appropriately. If it's dead send people home. Don't waste our time. Servers go crazy when there are 10 people on the floor at there only needs to be 3. If by some off chance it gets busy after the floor is cut, help out for a minute. That's what a boss is there for. Going along with that, just because you are helping your servers doesn't mean you get to dip your hands into our tip pool. It's illegal.

Staff the kitchen appropriately. When you're paying servers pocket change, there is always an abundance of them. It's no surprise that since the kitchen is making an hourly wage, there are never enough of them. This makes them angry, and ticket times slow, which makes customers angry and tips go down.

Servers are not custodians. You need to hire someone to scrub the floors, clean the toilets, the sinks, the windows, the walk in, the freezer and anything else you try and classify as "side work." If you try to force us to do this after we are closed, when we are only making 3.85 an hour, we will do it half -assed. Side work and closing duties only go so far, then you need to start paying us more.

More to come. What do you guys think? What are some reasons why you quit your server job? Has anyone ever worked somewhere that was really running smoothly? Bigger question, if so how long did that actually last for?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

BITTERSWEET

So far, the new job is alright. Not fabulous, not terrible, just alright. It's a well-run sports bar in midtown where I can be more relaxed with customers. I don't have to remember pivot points and who is "supposed" to order first. There's no need to open bottles of wine because everyone drinks beer, and I can swear at customers, just as long as it's friendly swearing. I can watch the football games, I get a long break when I work doubles, and for the first time in years I have Sundays off. I like my boss. She's respectful, helpful, and understanding.

It is, however, the same old thing. It's difficult being the new kid, and to top it off this is one of those places where some of the waitresses are on power trips. They won't except help no matter how slammed they are, and if you're taking too long at the computer they tap their pen angrily when they are waiting behind you. A few are very friendly, but I must say a majority of girls that work there are just downright bitchy.

I miss my friends from my old job. Although the company treated us poorly, the crew I used to work with was amazing. It made work feel a little more like hanging out with your friends, and made it easier to put the fake smile on when someone sent their steak back to the kitchen for the fourth time.

On a lighter note, anyone who knows me and reads this blog knows that I'm obsessed with traveling. I recently found the perfect part time but unpaid gig at a travel website. It's keeping me going when someone leaves a pile of change on the table as my tip.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

CROSSROADS

Ever since our restaurant closed suddenly for a few weeks, I’ve been stressing. I need to find a new apartment, I have no cash, and my gut instinct has been telling me to find another job. I try hard to listen to my instincts, but I find that it becomes difficult because your reason gets in the way.

Today instinct and reason collided. I was on my way to our sister store, whose manager had asked me if I would like to pick up a food running shift because they knew I was in a tight spot since our store’s temporary closing. They had made it sound like they were doing me a favor, and even though I knew the pay for food running was shit compared to serving, I agreed. After the shift, I was told that I had been put on the schedule every day for the next week.

Not asked if I could work, but told by the same company that failed to inform me until the day of that I would be out of a job for a few weeks with no form of compensation. The same company who I have worked hard for, 40-50 hours each week.

Here I was, on my way to my first scheduled shift this morning. A shift which I had learned was only available because their permanent food runner was gone for a few weeks, and they didn’t want to hire someone new. So I was filling in. Whose doing who a favor in all of this?

I reached the intersection between Central Park and the restaurant. Every step I took past the park and closer to the job was slowly killing me. People were laying outside on the grass, sitting on benches, enjoying the last few days of summer. I was about to give in, and allow someone to walk all over me. I stopped, and called a couple friends to ask for advice.

“You can’t just not go in, you need the money. Since it’s the sister store, if you quit there, when your store does open up your out of a job.” I realized their reasoning was right. I have a couple hundred dollars to my name right now. I can’t quit this job, I need to survive. So I walked in the store, down the stairs, stopped suddenly, and looked around.

I turned around and walked right back out.

I had no idea what I was going to do. My common sense was screaming at me how incredibly stupid I was for quitting, but my instincts were smiling. And so was I. At this crossroads in my life, between 5th avenue and 61st street, instinct has won the battle against reason.

I wandered around the city a bit and found myself a new serving job two hours after quitting. No resume, no application, no calls to an old manager for references. My new boss hired me based on her gut feeling.

"I can't believe how easy this was!" she said.
Neither could I.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

WITHOUT WARNING


I've been in Hawaii.


That is my excuse for the lack of postings and I think it's a pretty damn good one. Although, I probably could have hooked the laptop up in the hotel room, seeing that I was in a tropical paradise, I just didn't feel like it. I stayed on Oahu, but visited the island of Kauai. Oahu was loaded with tourists, so naturally I preferred Kauai. We rented a convertible and took off looking for waterfalls, beautiful beaches, and hot surfers.


I met Dog the bounty hunter (don't ask). I went skydiving over the mountains, visited the grand canyon of the pacific, went surfing, hiking, drinking and ate way too much food. Life was good. Flying back into New York was like returning to hell. I received a message from a co-worker while I was away that the restaurant would be closing for 2 weeks in order to fix some issues in the kitchen. (Awesome timing). I move into a new apartment this month, just spent too much money on vacation, and now I am out of a job. I don't think I will be returning to the restaurant after the closing period. It doesn't seem right that they can close just like that, without warning.

It often seems that OSHA forgot all about the restaurant industry......

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

WE'RE NOT IN BROOKLYN ANYMORE


I woke up this morning to what I thought was my landlady's small children chasing each other upstairs. We have an unspoken agreement with her. We don't complain about her children dropping bowling balls on the wooden floor above us, and in return, she says nothing about our drunken chorus of Bon Jovi's Livin on a Prayer at 5am.


It turns out it wasn't the kids trying to kill each other. I looked outside my back door to find that we were right in the middle of a rocking thunderstorm. Unfortunately, I had to go to work via subway. Twenty minutes later, I found myself trapped in a wet smelly carriage, with no room to move and no sign of the train going anywhere anytime soon. I wanted to slit my wrists with a dull rusty butter knife. An hour and some change later, the announcer finally explained to us that the Manhattan bridge was flooded. I happened to be one of the lucky few that made it to the subway before they closed the entire Brooklyn system, ensuring that anyone who had woken up after I did, was forced to stay home. You can imagine at that point how thrilled I was to have made the cutoff.


When arrived at work I was greeted with a kitchen staff that was just as cheerful as I was. The kitchen had flooded and the sewage backed up into the bar area, creating the most vial atmosphere in which I would be spending the next 8 hours. The cleaning crew came in and set up some giant fans behind the bar, which I dubbed my "swamp boats." I didn't understand why we were staying open, considering no one could get to Manhattan since the subways were shut down. As I predicted, we were dead all day. By four, the D train was running again, and I returned home to survey the damages from the storm.

There was glass all over my back porch from the other buildings that had been struck by debris. My roommate and I walked around our neighborhood (Sunset Park) and any doubt that this "might have been a tornado" was put to rest. Trees everywhere were up-rooted, and re-located. The building behind us was completely wrecked by a tree, and down the street the top floor of a home looked like a doll's house. It's walls were missing completely, and the furniture was still intact.

From there we walked to the grocery store, because when a tornado touches down in Brooklyn, it's time to start stocking up for the end of the world.


The pictures on this blog I took, but here's the news link if anyone wants to hear the story: (there's a video clip)

Monday, August 06, 2007

SUBWAY SATAN

I've seen my share of interesting characters on the subway. There's the cross-eyed man whose earth-shaking burps take place every 7.25 minutes and register a 4.1 on the Richter scale. In between burps the preachers are trying to get a word in about saving us all from hell by finding Jesus. Everyone has an incredible urge to throw them off the train. And of course, there's all ways your token harmless bum, begging for change or pissing on himself at the end of the carriage.

All of them are quite harmless of course, and I have never been afraid of how they might act. This weekend however, I ran into one creepy guy that I thought was going to hack me to bits with an axe.

He was a balding, overweight white man, who was staring out the window into nothing. I had no idea what he was looking at so intently since underground is only darkness. My friend who was sitting next to me pointed out that the man was actually watching the reflection to see if anyone was looking at him. He was mumbling random incoherent babble. Or so I thought.

He shook his head one way as if trying to get bad thoughts out of his mind, and then looked at me, with eyes as black as can be, each going in different directions and said "White supremacy". Great, I'm sitting across from a crazy Nazi, who was now hissing at us. The man must have heard my friend say "let's get off before this guy tries to kill us." At that moment, he leaped up out of his chair and came towards us, but then changed directions and went for the door.

We got off only to see the crazy eyed man turn around, and with both black eyes focused directly on me, he leaned up against the pole and smiled a grin that looked like a mix between the Joker and the Black Dahlia, ear to ear.

I started running up the stairs. I swear, that man was possessed by Satan himself.

Monday, July 30, 2007

CHALK ONE UP FOR OUR SIDE

Sunday Brunch, and I'm running around like a crazy person. Ever since our publicity in NY magazine for having the best brunch, business has been booming. The usual clientele is scores of twenty- somethings hung-over from a night out after a long week of office work. Bloody Mary's and Mimosa adorn each table and water is being chugged faster then the shots went down the night before. (and came back up for that matter). After all the one night stands and close encounters with the porcelain god, they come in and feast before spending the remainder of the day on the couch watching the DVD collection of Dave Chappell or Sex and the City.

Besides this crowd, there's the tourists. One table in particular is just screaming dysfunctional family. The son is around 18-19 and sitting on one side of the table, his parents on the other. No words are exchanged except what they would like to order, and the cracked out looking mother complains about her iced tea.
"It tastes stale."
"It was made this morning. We have hot tea if you'd like something fresher."
"No, water is fine." (of course) The son looks like he wants to kill her. She looks like this is a last ditch effort to try and spend some quality time with her family before he goes back to college. The father stopped caring a long time ago and just wants some French toast. Now.

Fourteen awkward minutes later the mother who had been trying to have a meaningless conversation with her son, was running out of things to talk about. Now, it's become my fault.
"Excuse me, will it be much longer? Can you find out if it's almost done?" she asked.

Right lady, let me hop on the phone and ask the kitchen to cook your med-well burger a little faster. They love that. I didn't even have to come up with some bullshit "yes let me go check for you". The son, silent until now, couldn't stand it. He was totally on my side.

"Mom! Calm the fuck down! Look around, do you see how busy they are?"

AWESOME.
Their food arrived one minute later.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

BOM CHICA WAH WAH

This pretty much speaks for itself. Oh, how I love adventures on the N train. I took this video at 6:30 pm. coming home from a day at Coney Island. Familes and children were all present on the subway, but this couple didn't seem to mind. Right after the clip ends, her head disapears into his lap. bom chica wah wah.

check it out...fucking hilarious.



Notice his hand down the back of her skirt....followed by her reach around in the front....
video

video
at the end.. she's reaching again..and he's about to straddle her....


Hand check!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

PARTIAL APOLOGY

There's one thing I took for granted when I wasn't working in the city. At the end of my shift I could just get in my car, and go home. I didn't have to worry about getting on the same subway car as my manager and having to talk, even though I know it's going to be a long and awkward trip home.

Tonight however, despite an awkward run in, I think I may have a new -found respect for my manager, (as much as I hate to admit it). The GM who hired me was fired the day after doing so. This is never a good sign when you're the new kid.The day after that, Mark, my new manager started working and he disliked me from the start. He was tried to get me to quit by giving me shit shifts, and bullshit excuses. I knew it, he knew it, everyone knew it. I wouldn't quit for three reasons. One, because I'm stubborn, two because I knew I was right, and three because I thought he was an asshole and I wanted to spite him.( All of which are very mature reasons, of course). When my favorite assistant manager was recently fired for no good reason, it simply added fuel to the fire.

Lately however, I've noticed a change. He's been cracking jokes with us, lightening up, and actually acknowledging that I do a good job. I realize that the owners who are higher up on the food chain then he is have been getting rid of managers left and right for years now. Maybe he was just worried about his job. Talking to him on the subway made me see that he's in the same boat as all of us. Not that I want to be best friends, but perhaps we both understand that there is an unspoken
"I'm sorry, I was wrong about you."

TRAVEL TIPS

Just as a quick announcement.... I've been working on a website for a while now which should be up and running by then end of next month if all goes well. I'm looking to add some travel advice from other people who have a really great tip to share. The general idea is somewhere that you went while on vacation that you wouldn't want to miss if you visited again. If anyone has any great stories, please e-mail me. I'll link the website to this blog once it's complete.
ambernola@gmail.com just title it travel tips.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

THE REGULATORS

This is a random entry, but I feel like it's quite necessary. This has been bottling up inside me for a while now, and I've kept quiet but I cannot be silenced any longer. I truly feel like the only way to make changes happen, is if people acknowledge that something is not right. I pray that by writing this, the common folk will ban together and try and rid the US of this injustice.

I have had enough of bathroom attendants.

I first noticed them a few years ago at ballparks and special events in order to maintain the cleanliness of the bathrooms. Now they are everywhere, clubs, airports, parks, bars. It wont be long before they invade the easy-does it porto johns. Or even worse, Thai restaurants.

Using the restroom should be a private time, and in today's hectic society there isn't much of this personal time left. Therefore when given the opportunity, we should take full advantage. Let it flow. Having someone ready with a paper towel in their hand and listening to your every shit dropping is (there's no other way to say this) it's just not cool.

When did we, as a country become so lazy that we cannot tear the paper towels or pump the soap dispenser for ourselves? Have we de-evolved so much that we can no longer use the restroom without assistance? Public restrooms are no pleasure to begin with. Now, we can no longer piss without being judged. If only we can learn to clean up after ourselves, there would be no longer a need for the restroom regulation.

I wonder what really goes on in the mind of a bathroom attendant, as they fake smile and hope for a tip, all the while hating that they spend 8 hours a day surrounded by human waste. Anytime I'm really hating my tables, I will try hard to remember that at least I am only handling people's food.

Monday, July 09, 2007

SERVER HELL

Saturday night, post July 4th. In New York, everyone is still in the Hampton’s and I am sitting in an empty restaurant writing blog entries on receipt paper. I pick up the receiver and call down to the office to where my GM sits with the door shut and does God knows what.

"Hey, there's no one in here. What are you thinking?" He pauses. I'm praying. Please say we can close early. Instead, he responds with, " tell Sam he can leave early." Sam is the new kid. Of course, I must stay in case we get a rush, and for the one and only reservation in the book, a 5 top at 9pm. I've tried calling them to confirm, but no one answers.

8:3o. Still nothing.

8:31, and I realize I've got to stop checking the clock. Instead, I track down the manager card, and use it to open up solitaire on the micros screen. I'm getting paid 5 dollars an hour to beat my old score. My manager finally appears upstairs, with some good news. "If they're not here by 9, we're closed." Those sweet sweet words rang through my ears, and I immediately went into "let's get the hell out of here mode." I changed the trash, changed the menus, filled the ketchups.

9:10 rolls around, and still no sign of them. GM confirms, "OK, that’s it, we're closed." I go into the back area where our music is and put on my IPOD. I'll be out in 15 minutes, easy. I round the corner with a new found energy and respect for my GM and that’s when I see them.

The 5 top is seated at the table. They are the only people in the restaurant and my manager is wearing a look that says I've got to let them eat, they had a reservation.

The anger starts bubbling in side me. Why didn't he lock the fucking doors?

He tells me he explained the situation to them, that we were closing early due to the holiday weekend. They didn't care. They made a reservation, (ok, in all fairness, they did) but they were late. It didn’t seem to bother them that the entire staff now had to stay and extra 2 hours to serve their every need. To top it off, they were tourist and there was the one designated speaker of the group who spoke broken English, and we only add gratuity for 6 or more.

I had just found myself in server hell. It was my worst nightmare. Worse then the unavoidable server dreams I have from time to time where I dream am at work, and have 100 tables to take care of and everyone is yelling at me. This was really happening. For every moment I stayed, trying to fake smile all though I wanted to murder them, I was begging for someone to wake me up.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

GROUNDS OF RIDICULOUSNESS

I try to look at the subway as a positive thing. It's tough sometimes. Trying to think of public transportation as better for the environment only goes so far when your sitting at a hot sticky underground station waiting 20 minutes for your train in the summer. It's harder during the winter when your waiting at an outside station, the bitter cold wind whipping through your entire body an numbing your face. At times like this, I could give a shit less about the environment.

So, I try and think of how else the subway is beneficial to me. It certainly isn't the time I save going to work. What is beneificial is the money I save by not owning a car. With gas prices as high as they are, and rookie police officers hiding in the bushes off expressways anxious to give you a speeding ticket, the subway does save me quite a bit of money. Plus, you can't get tickets on the subway, right?


How wrong I was. Within the past 2 weeks I've managed to get not one, but two tickets on the subway. The first, I must say was my own fault. It was late at night, I was going out and I had a beer at the empty station in Brooklyn. Out of nowhere, two young undercovers appeared and were more than happy to give me an open container ticket. At the time I was with two travelers from London, who thought the idea of getting a ticket for a beer was ludicrous. I had to agree. Open containers really aren't a big deal in England. The police have better things to worry about like oh, say, terrorism.

The second ticket I received was when I was rudely awakened at 3am by a police officer. He shook me and asked me to get off the train. I didn't know what I had done and thought perhaps something was seriously wrong with the train.

This was not the case. The two officers informed me that they were writing me a ticket for occupying more than one space on the subway. I thought it was a joke. There were several other people getting this ticket as well. The way I was sitting I was facing the other seats so that I could have my knees bent, but this forces my toes to be taking up more than one seat. Mind you, it's not like the subway was jammed with passengers, it was 3 am and there was more than enough seats available for an army. I didn't think my toes would be an issue. After talking back to the police officers and ridiculing them by asking if they had nothing better to do in NYC (which I probably shouldn't have done) I went on my way, ticket in hand.

I plan on taking it to court and arguing that if a larger person's fat spilled over into the next seat could they get a ticket? It's only a 50$ charge from what I hear, but it's the principle of the matter.

I'll appeal on the grounds of ridiculousness, because this word is about as absurd as the ticket.

Friday, June 29, 2007

CORPORATE BULLSHIT

I think it's safe to say that the turnover rate in the restaurant business is, for the most part rather high. It's rare that you find a well-run restaurant with good staff members and a management tem that treats you right and makes you want to stay. Usually, but not always, this type of environment will be a privately owned place.

So, the other day I felt sick to my stomach when one of my co-workers told me a story that happened at her second job. I had been there once, while waiting for her to get out of work. The bartender was a little older then myself and he kept me company while I was waiting for Sandy to finish her shift.

Apperantly, the restaurant had been secret-shopped. (Someone is payed to pose as a guest and then report on the service, in other words, a spy) There were a couple of regulars coming in, and the bartender I had met gave them a drink on the house. I can't think of any bar that I go to on a regular basis that doesn't do this. People return again and again because of gestures like this. In this case however, the "spy" reported it to the management and the bartender, as well as another employee were fired the following day.

They had both been working at the restaurant for 7 years. This is something I have come to expect from the corporate world of layoffs and terminations. It's a sad day when this business is becoming just as corporate and cold hearted.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

RENTAL FEE

Yesterday, as I looked around the restaurant I realize that our kindness to our regulars is being taken advantage of. Occasionally, we have people who dine alone who ask if they can plug their laptops in to an outlet. Since we are connected to a retail store, there are outlets on the floors in order to plug in antique lamps which we have for sale. I don't mind letting them use their computers while they are having lunch. Not a big deal.

However, things have gotten out of hand. The restaurant is beginning to look like computer lab. People have gotten the idea that they can order a cup of coffee and sit for hours typing away, asking for refills every half hour or so. The office meetings being held are at an all time high, and I'm just waiting for someone to wheel in a powerpoint projector. I can't get a word in to even find out what they would like to eat. When I try to ask I get the "how dare you interrupt our business meeting" look.

I reached my boiling point when a young couple came in, asked for coffee and then proceeded to seal envelopes and put stamps on their wedding invitations. Wouldn't they much rather do this in their home, and after flying high on the wedding bliss bullshit, they can fuck instead of gazing into each other's eyes across the table. I don't understand people sometimes. The overly excited bride-to-be even had the nerve to ask me if I had calligraphy pen she could borrow. Right, cause we often hand those out when you sign your credit card slip.

I'm going to start adding a rental fee to the bottom of the check. It will be another one listed as miscellaneous bullshit.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

NOT THE RUM!

It's amazing that ten minutes back in New York can destroy the relaxed, stress-free feeling I had during the weeks I spent in Jamaica.

I had tucked a bottle of alcohol into my suitcase. I mean, you can't go to the Caribbean without bringing some of their finest rum back with you. It's sacrilegious. So, to insure it's survival I had wrapped it in a towel, and I'm not talking a little bath towel. I don't take chances like that. This was a big-ass beach towel that was cradling the bottle like a little baby. Of course I would much rather have put it in my carry on luggage but because of the no liquids rule, that just wasn't possible.

When I picked up my suitcase in the airport I had a bad feeling. It had made it through the first stop-over but leave it to LaGuardia to ruin everything. When I opened my suitcase there was rum everywhere. I wasn't the only one this happened to, the entire baggage claim smelled like a biker bar. If I didn't know better I'd think the people who handle the luggage had some sort of bet going with each other. "Hey, 20 bucks says I can take out more rum bottles than you!"

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

NOT A FAN

I went to the Yankees game this Saturday (Roger Clemens return to the team). I'd never been to a game, but everyone seems to think the Yankees are the coolest thing ever. I don't really agree, (considering Jeter is currently doing Avon commercials), but I figured it would be fun to go.

My friends and I had bleacher tickets, and therefore we were seated at the end of the outfield. This I did not mind. For 12$ there were definitely some perks to looking at the Yankees from that angle. I had two things I wanted in my hand the moment I sat down; A beer and a hot dog. I got my Nathan's hot dog(for 4.75$!) however, I learned they don't sell beer in the bleacher seats. What kind of bullshit was that? Apperently they stopped this because us poor people get too rowdy when we drink.

Halfway through the game my friend Bryn got up to get a pretzel, and returned a few moments later pretzel-less with some wild story about some old man who wanted to fight her over her place in the pretzel line. I told her not to feel bad I had already been yelled at by the police because after my ass fell asleep, I stood up for a moment to stretch.

After the mostly uneventful game some wonderful drunk fan (obviously sitting in the non-bleacher seats) pulled the E-Brake on the subway, bringing it to a screeching halt. We sat for 30 minutes, too packed to move or sit down while we waited for the MTA officials to check each of the carriages. It was hot, I was sober and knew exactly how Elaine felt on Seinfeld.

So I've decided that next time, I'm getting Met's tickets. The hell with the Yankees.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

YOU'RE FIRED

Tip pools are the best of times and the worst of times. They are wonderful because if you get the awful table that sits all night drinking tea and coffee, your co worker with the 8top and 400$ tab makes up for it. On top of that, everyone works together and people have no problem telling each other when they need to step up. For the most part, things are less stressful because we are all on the same team.

At the same time, there’s always the one person that everyone wants to vote off the island. You're forced to share your money that you earned and they slacked off for. It’s like when your teacher used to grade on a curve, and there was always the one person who fucked it up for everyone. You hate them.

That person is one of our bussers who on top of not doing a damn thing, drives everyone crazy by simply being himself. Harsh, I know but literally no one at the restaurant likes him. So when our assistant manager Lori passed the word on to a few of us, “not to say anything, but, today will probably be his last day,” we breathed a sigh of relief. Naturally, ten minutes later the entire staff knew about his up and coming farewell, and decided to migrate to our bar while we waited to find out if the news was to good to be true.

We drank at the bar while he spent over an hour in the office. No signs of life yet. And then, he got his belongings together and brushed by us as we looked on, wide eyed and trying to pretend like we had no idea what was happening. The hush falls over the group, like when you know someone was just talking about you. He didn’t say good bye and we knew it didn't go well.

So this morning, I was ready for a relaxing day, stress free and the start of a brand new era at the restaurant. I rounded the corner coming out of the back area and I almost fell over. There he was coming through the front door. I prayed he was just picking up his paycheck, but he marched over to the computer and clocked in for his shift.

My manager didn’t have the balls to do it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

THE MEETING

Every so often, the management team at a restaurant have a little chat and decide that things need to change. Service is slipping and some issues need to be addressed. Then there is the inevitable note tacked up next to the schedule. Mandatory meeting, everyone must attend. It always sounds like a life or death situation, and management will remind you so every day leading up to the meeting. You better get a damn good excuse ready ahead of time for not showing up. I have yet to see someone fired for not attending, but you will get the worst shifts ever until they grow up and forgive you.

The meeting will always be scheduled on your only day off. This is a fact. Some places will pay you while they waste your time. Others will not. The same issues will always be addressed at each one.

"I'd really like to emphasize the importance of being on time, and working together as a team. We have some new menu items that I think we should go over." Today's even involved a test. Yes that's right, a written test in which all 15 or so front of house employees were sat at separate tables and handed a test face down. I found this incredibly humorous. In fact, I drew several pictures on the back when I was finished. I guess nothing changes since elementary school.

The one and only reason why people attend is after an hour or so of their rambling, out of courtesy, they ask if we have anything to say. Of course we do, we complain about the job constantly. I watch as my GM braces himself for the attack. After a five minute flurry of "you need less people on the floor on Saturday's"; hands are still in the air waiting to be called on. People are busting out of their seats ready to tell them to order more martini glasses so we don't have to serve martinis in wine glasses.

But, instead the GM interrupts. "Well, I think we're done here. I'm going to wrap this up. Thanks for coming in on your day off."
Mirage
Mirage