Saturday, April 25, 2009

Find Out What It Means To Me

I made a frightening realization a week ago and it is this: I have never been treated with the respect I deserve in any workplace ever in my entire life.

At this point I have had a number of jobs and while I would have liked to be a producer for PBS or part of a film festival staff, let's just say it didn't work out for me. I had some success in that field but when you're 27 and the best full time job you can get pays $12 an hour as a receptionist at a studio and you think it will lead to something better, oh please. Let's give it up already. I took other jobs to afford my life and it lead me to where I am today. Miserable. I have several friends that believe that I should work in a food oriented business, and here is what I have to ask them: Have you ever worked in a restaurant before?

I think there should be a law that requires every American to wait tables for at least one month. The restaurant is where you see it all. You see families argue, people mistreat their children, people who let their children run everywhere while you are carrying bowls of hot soup, bad dates, hot dates, gross eaters, Atkins dieters, etc. The Atkins people were hilarious by the way: "I'll have the cream of broccoli soup to start, a side order of meatballs covered in cheddar cheese with a side of Italian sausage, and a diet coke."

Actually the carb lovers were hilarious too. They always asked for extra bread before they got their enormous plates of pasta and they never ate it. Sometimes people ordered extra bread after they got their enormous plates of pasta just to see it on the table. So all the extra bread goes from the cutting board, out to the table, and then to the garbage. Do people not understand this waste? This is Americanism.

Waiting tables was a great job for a time. I made decent money and was walking away with my earnings everyday. I had total job flexibility to the point where I could get my shifts covered for three weeks while out of the country and then still have them when I got back. I filled my time before my shift with going to the gym and reading and looking for the "real job" that would pay me less. I interned and volunteered and got a few temp gigs as a production assistant but it didn't pay the bills. I kept working at a restaurant for probably too long after I finished my undergraduate degree because I was holding out for the right job but...

Things happened like a man soaking up his bloody nose on a menu and then handing it to me to throw away. An old man that came in often couldn't be easily heard unless I got close and then he would spit all over my face. (We would have to take turns dealing with that one.) Cooks would tell me that I looked pretty when I happened to be leaning over the bread table right in front of their station. People would wait for a table for an hour and then think the the food will magically appear as soon as it is ordered. They would harass me every single time I walked by even though there were 5 other tables in the section. Customers would yell at me for taking too long because they didn't think to give their children food at a decent time and now they were cranky and hungry but it was my fault. The lonely and obviously divorced older men would want to talk my head off about comic books or other literature to impress me. Please. Vegans would come in and decide to make their own menu.

For example, I was waiting on this memorable gigantic pain in the ass party and there were two aging hippies at the end of the table. They came in to the restaurant every once in a while so I knew it was going to take 10 minutes just to get all their stuff right because they were crazy annoying vegans.

The woman: "I'll have wheat bread with the house salad but I don't want any butter or salad dressing or cheese or lettuce. I want spinach instead of lettuce and I want you to add radishes and raw zucchini and raw carrots and whatever other raw vegetable you can find in the kitchen. I will have four or five lemon wedges and I want a side of balsamic vinegar. It better not have any sugar or additives in it."

The man: "I'll have the spaghetti primavera without the pasta, just the vegetables steamed. No cheese, oil, or butter. I want other vegetables steamed also and I want them all on separate plates: mushrooms, broccoli, red peppers, carrots, and eggplant."

"Oh sorry sir all of our eggplant is pre-breaded and fried for the parmesan dish."

"Fine I'll take whatever other vegetable you can provide, but none of them can touch each other and they must be steamed."

The salad came out perfect and beautiful, but the lady picks through to make sure it's to her liking and is unhappy with the minuscule bit of lettuce that ended up near the bottom and demands another salad.

All the steamed veggies come out beautiful and perfect as well and the man is in the middle of a sentence with some normal family member when I put the food in front of him. He sees the mushrooms and yells out in a panic, "OH MY GOD. YOU DIDN'T PUT ANY MEAT GRAVY ON THIS DID YOU?!!!!!!!!!?????????!!!!!"

"Sir, um….. the thing is that you know, mushrooms make their own juice when you cook them you know?"

"No I'm sure that I can smell pork. TAKE IT BACK."

"Sure no problem!!!"

This might have been a funny moment in the restaurant world but when I think of what I put up with from people in general it's astonishing. My family always told me that as soon as I had a decent office job I would be treated with respect. I can tell you from experience that this is simply not true. Whether my manager's fiance hit on me, or my producer didn't expect me to take a lunch or a bathroom break, or my supervisor makes sexual jokes at my expense, or my co-worker talks down to me like I'm an idiot; I have never been treated with the respect I deserve.

I think that it has really struck a nerve recently because I have put up with these scenarios for so long and all of a sudden I can't deal with it anymore. I can't believe that I have to complain and have meetings with 3-4 managers about inappropriate behavior and common decency and respect. At my second job there is no such thing really. My second job is at a bar and the guys I work with are over the top sexual and downright gross for the most part. I have come to expect this in the service industry but when it happens also in "professional" office environments then it really made me think that there is no reason that I should expect this at all. I always thought of myself as the cool girl that is the good sport about gross men and their pathetic stupidity but my goodness. I don't know what to do now where I will be treated well in the workplace. Does it exist? Do I have to cut my hair short? I'm not type to encourage unwanted attention so I just don't get it.

My first job was in a diner called Baker's Square. I worked there when I was 15 years old and two of the cooks asked me out on dates repeatedly. They must have been at least twice my age and both were married with children. I think that because the service industry is where I learned that I should just put up with this nonsense, I just can't go back. I don't know what the answer is to the right career path but I can tell you that I will not work in anyone's kitchen except my own.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that every one should work in a restaurant in their life, and in retail, and any other public service industry for that matter. You really get to see how horrible people can be to other people. It is a humbling experience and working in a restaurant gave me new appreciation for those that do it. I am an awesome tipper because of it. It is often a low-paying, thankless, and backbreaking job that I recommend to anyone who is a giant douchebag who thinks they are better than everyone else.