November 29, 2013

Now Hiring People With People Skills (And Who Won't Accidently Kill Anyone)

Back in the summer when I was career job hunting I served at a restaurant in Westboro, one of the rich hipster neighborhoods in Ottawa. Every bakery in Westboro is vegan this and gluten free that even for pets. The pets in that neighborhood eat better than I do on most days.

The tips were hits and misses. Some days I would only take home $20 but there would be occasional nights where I take home close to $100. Server wage at $8.75/hr wasn't enough to cover my my bills, gas, food and mortgage. I was surviving on tips. On days when I made less than $50 tips I would eat Mexican rice mixed with salsa for $1.50, and days I made over $50 I would treat myself to Mexican rice with beef for $3. That was my diet for 5 months.

I refused to ask my parents for help as I've always been about 'female empowerment' and being 'miss independent'. I'd rather be broke than lose my street cred. Besides, an artist isn't respected unless they are a starving artist and in our society, a person is not "real" until they have been poor. And I wanted to be "real" even if it meant catching scurvy from malnutrition along the way.

When the restaurant was slow, I could have crawled up in a fetal position and take a nap in the booths without anyone noticing. But when it was busy, it was busy. One night I had 6 tables all coming in at once plus my existing tables which turned into one of the more memorable nights.

Two middle age guys sat, hello, can I get you something to drink, would you like to order now, okay. I walked to another new table consisting a family of 6. Hello, can I get you something to drink, the kid was taking forever deciding between apple juice and pineapple juice, I stood and waited, and waited some more, okay, apple. I moved onto another new table of 4 foreigners, hi, can I get you something to drink, 4 water. I billed a table. I watered my existing tables. I took the drinks to the family of 6, they wanted to order, but the kid couldn't decide again, and the mom couldn't decide for the kid either. I stood and waited. The kitchen bell rang. If I don't get the food the kitchen will yell at me, alas I'm stuck here while you guys ho hum.

After getting yelled at from the kitchen, I delivered food for the two middle age guys. I went back to the table of foreigners whom made it clear that they had been waiting impatiently for me. Would you like to order now, okay, first guy ordered, the other three just sat there in silent, hello, anytime now, the second guy ordered, next, the lady paused, and paused, and finally ordered, one more, I stood and waited, the other lady was still not ready. "Maybe you can come back" she said finally. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR, SPANISH SEABASS?!? ITS GODDAMN COMMERCIALIZED MEXICAN FOOD. I'M NOT ASKING YOU TO PICK YOUR FAVORITE CHILD SO I CAN GAS THE OTHER ONE LIKE IN SOPHIE'S CHOICE, JUST ORDER!

After I delivered the food for the party of 6 and checked on the two middle age guys. One guy's face was bright red and inflated like a hot air balloon.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"No, I'm having a allergic reaction." The guy said.

Omg. Call the ambulance.

"Sorry, this is the second time I've had an allergic reaction in a restaurant. I'm allergic to peanuts."


While the guy waited for the ambulance, I went to the foreigners table. The last lady was finally ready to order: "Caesar Salad". Wow, you took 20 minutes to decide and went for the most generic item. Your lack of adventure disappoint me.

Time to bill the family of 6, the grandmother was paying, probably a 10% tip the most, andddd yup, 8%. 'when I was your age we only had to tip 50 cents! You're lucky I gave you a $5 tip for a $59 meal!' some older people would mentally reason, but have you considered how much has gas prices and property values gone up in the last 40 years? I hate people.

"Thank you! It was a delicious meal and a great service!" the grandma said.

I smiled and thanked her, but internally tried combust her into flames with my eyes. Compliments don't pay bills. How about I compliment hydro on their great service and skip out paying a portion of my bill next time.

The ambulance arrived. The flashing light lit up the entire restaurant. Suddenly the place looked like a strip joint.

"Can I have my bill?" the allergic reaction guy asked.

"It's okay, you don't have to pay" I offered.

"No no no, at least let me pay for the beer."

What a nice guy. 15% tip and I almost killed him. God bless.

"Call me tomorrow so I know you're okay!" I said, and gave him my personal number.

The foreigners ate. I gave them the bill. $85, foreigners don't usually tip well because they are used to not tipping in their country, but I figured I should at least get a couple dollars. "Thank you! You were great thank you we will be back!" the old guy said and they left. I smiled back and looked inside the bill fold. 30 cents tip. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! I almost killed a guy and he tipped me more than you did, and yet you're the one who is alive and well. Life is not fair.

This is how serving works: At the end of every shift the server has to tip the kitchen 2%, the bar 1.5% and the host 1% of the total food and beverages sale regardless to how much tips the server made. In the case of the East Indians, I had to pay $2 out of my pocket to cover my tip out to the kitchen, bar and host.

That's what most don't know about serving. People think servers are over paid for their easy job. Yes, serving is easy when you have only one or two tables. You don't need a degree to pour water and carry food. The lunch and dinner rush is when serving is hard. Every table is like a toddler- one is crying, one is thirsty, one is grumpy, one wants their food right away, and you have to juggle them all to keep them happy. In Canada server's wage is $8.75/hr, which is lower than standard minimum wage of $10.25/hr. It's not as bad as US where servers make $2.75/hr, so tipping is essential in North America.

And it's not that I hate people. I hate people but I hate saying I hate people because that makes me sound mean. I'm actually nice and sometimes can be quite compassionate and I like people it's just that I hate people. You know what I mean?

Days passed and the allergic reaction guy never called. I worried that he might have died. But who am I being such a pessimist. Perhaps during his visit to the hospital he found the meaning of life. Then maybe he moved to Mexico and got a new job and a Mexican girlfriend and a new ocean front house eating real Mexican food all day. Wouldn't that be nice.