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Stories from the Shawarma Shack

This week started with a whimper and ended with a WTF.

Mondays are typically slow. This Monday was no different. I’ll save you the snore fest and sum it up by saying that it was barely worth the gas I spent driving there. Except that this little red haired girl © Charlie Brown showed up and said she was a new hire. Excellent. We need more waitstaff (sort of). Welcome aboard, I’ll show you the basics before R (The Boss’ oldest daughter) gives you your full training. Red tells me her girl-friend had started the day before. Gravy! Now roll the silverware.

Tuesday I had the day off. Which meant I ran around like mad until it was time for me to get The Kid from school. Then I took a nap. I’m so lame.

Wednesday was slow. Except for a girl from a local group that I’m active in showing up to work and discussing her boy toy’s (her words not mine) aversion to food in general and the reason behind it (and there’s a good reason behind it), it was pretty boring (see why I don’t blog about work? Not a damn thing happens).

R comes in and as we’re closing out my shift she starts grumbling about her dad giving her two bisexuals and telling her to train them. I had to stop myself from laughing too loud. My boss’ idea of a qualified employee is young and female. Being bisexual, if he had actually known about it at the time of hiring, would probably have been the cherry on his sundae. I don’t call him a Greasy Rat Bastard for nothing. I laughed and mentioned that Red had said her girlfriend was working here, but I thought that she meant girl-friend, not girlfriend. I asked R how she knew they were bi. She says they told her and that were making out in the parking lot.

*pause*

Making out? Neither of them drive, so that means they were standing in full view of everyone driving past.

Now let me state now, I have absolutely no issue with anyone being anything other than straight. Do what makes you happy. However, I do have a problem with people getting happy at work. It’s just not professional. We may not be Tavern On The Green but you don’t make out standing in the middle of the parking lot of the job you just got. It’s just not kosher. Plus, not all of our customers really appreciate girl-girl action. Ann Arbor might be a major liberal city, but there are still enough McCain/Palin signs around to remind you that conservatives still exist within city limits.

Thursday, I came in late and pissed off. Very pissed off. The Man drove me to work so he could run some errands during the day. Apparently, if I tell him at 1015 that I want to leave in 5 minutes, that means I want to leave at 1030, which is the time that I’m supposed to BE at work. It started slow, mostly take out orders, which is pretty normal since we open around the beginning of people’s lunch. My cook, Mo, was on his cell phone for most the day, yakking away, loud as hell, in Arabic. Which meant anytime there was a lull in orders he’d go out back to talk more, which meant I had to go find his ass so people wouldn’t be waiting forever for their food.

Around 3 I had a rush. 10 people came in pretty much at the same time. Completely unexpected, though not wholly unwelcome (except the chick who stiffed me. She’s unwelcome). Near the end of my shift, before R came in, Red’s girlfriend calls, “I won’t be able to keep working there. I’m exhausted and I keep working like this I won’t be able to get my school work done.”

*pause*

That has to be the lamest fucking excuse to quit ever. She’s exhausted? She worked TWICE since being hired. That’s it. Two days. That’s her whole damn training period. But she’s exhausted? She had someone working with her so she wasn’t being swamped with customers. But she’s exhausted. GTFOOHWTBS.

I wake up at 645 (though I don’t actually get out of bed until 700), get The Kid clean, dressed, and off to school (she eats breakfast there). Then I go to work where I run around (or stand around) for 6.5 hours dealing with an idiot boss and customers who seem to enjoy annoying the hell out of me with their stupid petty requests for shit that doesn’t even come with their order. Come home, make dinner, take care of The Kid, check her school assignments, praise her for the work she’s done (and let’s not go into what I have to go through when she’s sick), make sure The Man has what he needs for work, deal with email, messages, blogs and I don’t get to actually wind down until after 10pm. If The Man works a midnight shift, I stay up until he leaves (1145pm), then I’m still up chatting with friends that I haven’t had a chance to actually talk to all day because I was busy. Then it’s bedtime and up at 645 to do it all over again.

But she’s exhausted.

Kiss. My. Ass.

Her shift was 5.5 hours. That’s it. You don’t even get a damn lunch break unless you work 8. She worked a grand total of 11 hours this week. But she’s exhausted.

I told R when she came in, one of my regular customers was at the counter when I told her. He works full time and goes to school full time. He laughed and said she needed to get over it. R is a high school student, oldest of four kids (which means she basically does the parenting when The Boss isn’t around…The Boss is divorced and Mom lives in another state) and works in her dad’s restaurant after school. She just rolled her eyes.

Red quit too. I had a feeling they weren’t going to stay around long. Neither of them had waitressing experience, and neither of them had ever actually been to the restaurant to eat. They just saw a help wanted sign and came in. Red couldn’t identify any of the items we have on the menu except for a few of our salads and hummus. That’s it. Red’s excuse for quitting was that it was too far to walk and she couldn’t afford the bus (her bus fare would have been two dollars every day she worked, plus since she was working night shift, someone could have given her a lift, so it would have been just one). Her and her GF came in to give R a birthday present (Thursday was her birthday), and Red was using a walking stick that was too long for her and hobbling rather dramatically saying that her knee was swelling froma childhood injury and that it hurt to even stand none the less walk.

She applied for a job as a waitress knowing that she was going to be doing a lot of walking and standing. WTF. Another lame ass excuse if you ask me. What fucking waitress SITS? If all we did was sit all day we wouldn’t have to wear ugly, comfortable shoes. We could wear the cute, but highly uncomfortable ones designed for women who don’t do a lot of walking.

So we’re down two waitresses who probably would have sucked as waitresses anyway. They’ll go get jobs at the mall or something now. Good riddance.

Been a long time…some thoughts and stuff.

Yeah I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been meaning to, just like I’ve been meaning to actually work on my book blog, but I can’t get to the fucking computer for more than 15 minutes without The Man bugging the hell out of me to get off.

The Job

I’m going to find another job soon. I’m being criminally underpaid. He decided (remember I’m off the books, as is everyone else I work with) that $50 every two weeks was ok. Now, I’ve taken on an extra day. Initially I was doing a 20 hour week. Now it’s 26. I should be getting $138 every two weeks. I’m being jacked for $88. Here’s the problem, if I go report him, everyone I work with gets in trouble because no one is paying income taxes at the moment. We never filled out a W2 so we don’t get W4s. I’d be happy to tell The Boss to go fuck himself and sic the IRS on him (and MiOSHA) on the sly, but that would put my coworkers (who really don’t need/deserve that sort of stress) in harms way. So I’m stuck. If I complain to a Labor Board, Cook, Mel, Mo and The Amazing Beulah (who I’ve found isn’t really so scary after all) all get caught up in it (S1 and S2 have both quit, S2 didn’t last her first week).

So I decided (and I told Cook today) that I’m only going to stay there a little while longer, then I’m going to try to find another job. Whether it’s waiting tables or something else, I don’t care (well…I won’t work fast food, that’s just something that’s not going to happen), I need to get out of that place. I don’t need the drama.

Have I mentioned that we haven’t had Coke there since the 6th of this month? And that our CO2 tanks are now empty as well, and have been for over a week? We’re a restaurant that serves pop but has no pop to serve. How in the hell does that make sense?

So I’m restarting my job search. Now that I’m in the work force it should be a little bit easier.

Revelation

Since getting back to work I’ve realised something: Being a stay at home mom made me disgustingly dependant to the point where I lost sight of myself.

Let me state right now that I don’t regret being a SAHM. Not in the least. I loved watching my daughter grow up and discover something new every day. That look she gets when she gets something makes me feel like I’m on top of the world. No, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

I’ve always been a really independant person. It’s just part of my nature. I started working as soon as I could so I could get what I wanted when I wanted it without having to wait for someone to be nice enough to give it (or the money for it) to me. I hate feeling like a charity case and I hate it when I have to depend on others to take care of my needs. That is what happened when I became a stay at home mom. I became dependant. I couldn’t buy groceries because I didn’t have money because I didn’t have a job. I couldn’t get things for the house because I didn’t have money because I didn’t have a job. I couldn’t…I couldn’t…I couldn’t… I can go on forever like that.

This isn’t to say my husband didn’t take care of us. He did. And he did an amazing job doing so. He has no college education, works (mostly) part time at a job that pays under $12 and has no health benefits for anyone not full time (and then you’re paying so much that you may as well get private insurance on your own). And he’s been working his ass off on his music career and has made some big moves of late. Yet and still we’ve never gone hungry, we’ve never been without the necessities. The Kid has always had clothes and shoes that fit. She’s never needed for toys, or books, or crayons, or some sort of entertainment. We’ve always made a way no matter what happened. My problem is just that I hate asking people for what I need. I feel like a child asking if I can have some money to get a new shirt, or a new pair of shoes or jeans. I get eaten by guilt spending that money on myself. I look and see a bill that needs paying, or something The Kid or The Man may need/want and that becomes priority. Spending on me can’t happen without spending spending on them first to assuage my guilt, and my feelings of being greedy for not being happy with what I have.

Since starting at The Job I have rediscovered my independance. Even if just a bit. It’s an important bit. I feel like an adult. I feel like I actually bring something to the table in this relationship. I feel like less of an undue burden. I can feel myself regain some self confidence that I lost when my Demon decided that my being unemployed (even if it was by choice to raise my daughter) meant that I was less than, that I was a disappointment to everyone around me and that I was nothing more than a bother and burden.

Of course, intellectually, I knew I was something something very important by being there for my daughter and raising her. I knew, intellectually, that there was no job in this world that can pay me better than seeing those beautiful brown eyes look at me and watching her as she sat up on her own, took her first steps, said her first words, coming home from her first day of school, watching her write her name for the first time. All these big things and all the little things in between. No office or cubicle or promotion or paycheck could ever replace that. But intellectual knowledge, and all the love I have for my daughter, can’t stand up to the steady, repetitive drum beat of my Demon slowly erroding the wall intellect and love build up.

Not being able to actually get a job for almost a year didn’t help matters any. In fact it seemed to confirm everything my Demon told me. I was worthless, useless. No one would hire me because I wasn’t good enough to be hired. It’s hard to fight that and not put in applications thinking “I’m not going to get it but why not.”

Slowly, slowly, I am beating back my Demon. I am regaining confidence lost over the years. It is taking time, but I am finding who I am again. I’m rediscovering my personal light and path.

Slowly, slowly.

I’m bout ready to scream

So last night me and The Man got into over the phone. Partially it was my fault. I should have been more clear on where I was going and what I was doing (I was going to a local restaurant for a get together for a local group I’m sort of involved with). I had also forgotten to talk to him about it last week, mostly because I was dealing with the start of The Kid’s school year (and needing to get clothes for her), and burying my aunt and all that would come along with that. Add to that the fact that me and Mo got into it at work because the drawer was short $15 (it was short $11 when I came in that day) and I wasn’t sure that I was going to still have a job by the end of the week; yeah I was a little stressed.

Not only that, but I’ve been neglecting things that I really want to do. Me and my bestfriend decided to start up our own book review blog. Well, it was sort of my idea and I talked her into doing it with me. I was going to come up with the basic review format and do the ratings, but now that The Man is home and using the comp more, I rarely actually get ON the bloody thing except late at night. By then I’m too damn tired to do much of anything, certainly not to sit in front of photoshop and piece together images.

Then there’s Second Life where I’m an assistant manager at a shop (yeah crazy right, I’ve been employed more on Second Life since last October than I have in the year and some months that I was actively looking for real life work). I’m basically the main person she counts on to do their job and I’m barely on for more than a few minutes to delete and answer messages. And as weird as it may sound, being that I’m talking about a virtual world, I feel bad that I just don’t have the time to do the simple work she needs me to do.

Speaking of The Job. I’m getting paid off the books. I don’t really get this, but apparently ALL the staff is getting paid off the books. How in the hell do you run a restaurant, with all its expenditures, and not have staff on the books? Dish washers? Ok, I can see that. Maybe even a cook or two. But we’re open 7 days a week for pretty much 12 hours a day. You gotta have at least one cook and one waitress on file. That place is a massive IRS audit waiting to happen. And The Boss is insanely cheap. I got yelled at yesterday because a table ordered a large Greek salad, but the two people there ran out of time, so I gave them two boxes. They were splitting the salad (which was obvious if you saw the fact that the salad was in the middle of the table between the two people). The Boss waits for them to leave and goes off.

“Why did you give them two boxes?”

“Because they are splitting the salad.”

“No. It’s one salad, one box.”

“No. It’s two people, who were both eating the salad, they had to go so they get two boxes to split the salad.”

“One salad, one box. She called here, order to go, but eats here (note: she called ahead because she was going to be between classes and didn’t have a lot of time, I put her order in as to go but told Cook, in front of Boss, that it was to eat in).”

“You were standing right there when she called the order in. She’s at school right now (there’s a university right down the street) and had a break between classes so she and her friend came in to eat. They ran out of time and wanted to take the salad with them. They were splitting the salad to begin with, so of course I’m going to give them two boxes. She paid for her food, and tipped me ($5 on a $14 bill…36% tip, I’ll ride and die for that chick). What’s the problem?”

Boss just huffed after that. He really couldn’t justify being cheap about two people splitting a large salad (our large salads can easily feed two people, or be a full meal for one). We’ve also gotten into it about bread (only with hummus, but not with baba ganouj [WTF?] and only two packages for a medium order, no matter how many people are eating it; if they want more, charge them), and refills on drinks (anything besides water, wait until they ask, don’t refill it automatically). I ignore most of these rules. Because of the way waitstaff wages are caculated (restaurants are only obligated to pay at least $2.65 an hour because we get tips that are supposed to make up the difference and add up to minimum wage; legally we’re supposed to declare our tips and log them and if our tips that day don’t make up for the loss then we get paid extra by the owner…but then again this isn’t exactly a totally legit operation) I can make more in tips than I would from my check.

Just FYI: Waitstaff don’t make living wages. They have to bust their hump extra special hard to make ends meet. Don’t be an asshat and not tip at least 20% (unless your waiter/tress was just THAT bad). We don’t live in Europe where being waitstaff isn’t looked at as badly as it is here and they get paid decently. And if you’re one of those fuckers who go “Well you knew what you got paid when you took the job, should have found one that paid better.” remember that shit when your boss passes your ass up for a promotion or denies your request for a raise.

Some folks honestly do enjoy working waitstaff. It’s hard (especially on the back, legs and feet), but you meet new people everyday, no two days are ever exactly the same. You can’t say that for cubicle life. Me, personally, I love being waitstaff, but I can’t work big restaurants. I learned that at the last place I worked. It’s too much stress for me to handle (well I wasn’t on anti-deps then so who knows). I’ve been working food service in one way or another since I was 15. I love food and all that it represents. I once considered going into culinary arts, but, again, the stress…I don’t think I could hack it.

The problem with me is that I take too much on. I have no clue how to leave well enough alone and become invested in things. Then life takes its course and I find that I’m over my head and struggling to stay afloat.

The First Week of The Job + Sometimes life really sucks

So I started my new job on the 18th. Because my boss is amazingly cheap, training days are unpaid (yes, that’s legal). I had worked there before, I only really needed a refresher on the cash register. Monday and Wednesday were my official “training days” not that I needed training on Wednesday, but like I said my boss is a cheap bastard (the man knows how much each individual napkin costs, he’s that cheap) and nothing is cheaper than free labor.

Noe before I get into anything, let me give you the cast of characters:

There’s S1. A cute little 16 year old girl who acts like a cute little 16 year old girl, which makes me ever so happy that she normally works the second shift because I’d have to strangle her happy peppy ass one day.

S2 is her sister. S2 is older than S1 by a year, however she seemed to have missed the happy peppy train that S1 caught. She’s also not quite as cute.

Cook. He’s the cook. He’s also a pretty good singer. Or at least he can carry a tune while singing in Arabic. I have no clue what any of what he’s singing translates to. It could well be some Arabic version of Baa Baa Black Sheep and you have to really suck to fuck that song up.

The Amazing Beulah, or TAB for short. She’s a dishwasher. I gave her that name because she looks like she could well have been some middle eastern female wrestler at some point in her life. She’s bulky (not fat, but very square) and she scares the hell out of me. Plus I don’t think she likes me too much.

Boss. This should be pretty obvious. He’s the boss. He’s also the owner of the restaurant and a tight fisted penny pincher. I defy his miserliness with no problem because I need my damn tips. Screw his overhead, I got bills.

Mo. A waiter/cook/manager. He’s a bit younger than me. S1 has a crush on him and flirts with him as often as possible. He happily flirts back. Apparently no one has made clear to him just year that here in the US, a 26 year old guy can go to jail for messing with a 16 year old girl. I wonder if I should tell him….NAH!

Mel. A waitress. I’ve met her once. She mostly works night shift on days that I don’t work at all. She probably won’t get much mention.

Ok, I should also state that besides me, S1, S2, and Mel, everyone there is Arab and speaks Arabic as their native language.  This means most days it’s just me and a gang of Arabs, and when they don’t want me to know something, they start chatting away in Arabic. I’m not yet convinced that they’re talking about me, but then again you never know. My conversational Arabic is limited to a few…impolite words.

Anyway, back to my story.

S1 “trained” me my first day, though I figured out more by myself the second day (working with Mo) than I did with her. Day one’s tips were ok. S1 and I split the tables so I would have made more if we hadn’t. Day two’s tips…meh. Again, table splitting with Mo.

Thursday and Friday I had off. My legs and feet were thankful. By the end of Wedsnesday I felt like my legs had been beaten and not in the fun way. Adidas are definitely NOT waitressing shoes.

Saturday was the worst fucking day of waitressing I’ve ever had. Ever. And I’ve done a lot of waitressing. In the course of 7 hours, I made $4. From take out orders. We had not one sit down order. I worked with S2 that day. Four hours after opening, Boss came in bitching at us because we were sitting around (what did he expect us to do). I came pretty close to telling him to kiss my ass, but held back. S2 had to leave early, which she discussed with Mo, but Mo failed to discuss this with Boss. Mo also failed to call me or leave me a note saying that I was supposed to be training S2. Apparently S2 didn’t know this either. I didn’t find out until after S2 had left for the day. Fucking yay.

Sunday, day off. Yep. I only work three days a week for now. I’ll probably pick up more days after The Kid starts school.

Monday, it was just me. Well, me and the health inspector that showed up two weeks early. I called Boss to let him know, and he got there quick (why he doesn’t get his ass in that fast any other time is beyond me). She pointed out some stuff that I had a feeling she was going to point out, large containers of hummus and baba ganoush were dumped for being 5º to warm, cooked chicken had heat turned up under it for being 5º too cold. But beyond all that it was a pretty good day. Pulled a little under $40 in tips and was one damn happy camper (my tank and wallet were both on E thanks to Saturday’s bullshit). I treated myself to an Epsom salt bath soak. All was right with the world.

Tuesday I woke up with a phone call from my sister. She didn’t really want anything.  Just to chat. I hung up with her to go potty, if I had waited for her to decide to hang up first I’d have wet the damn bed. That woman doesn’t stop talking.

I got up, did my usual morning routine of coffee and some half assed breakfast along with checking email and RSS feeds.  Around noon my sister called, but my phone had been in the basement with me which meant I was roaming (an extra $2 if you’re with sprint). I took the phone upstairs and left it. She hadn’t left a message so it must not have been very important. I was quite mistaken.

I called her back 15 minutes later to hear her say “Aunt N*** died.”

I did a mental double take, “Wait…what?”

“Aunt N*** died.” she sniffled.

I still wasn’t really comprehending what she was telling me, “What? When? What happened?”

“They found her this morning. Grandma B**** talked to her last night before going to bed, this morning they found her dead.”

I was stunned. Completely blown back. This was my grandfather’s sister.

My greatgrandparents had 11 kids. My grandfather is oldest of them all. The youngest is younger than my 50 year old father. My greatgrandma (Grandma B****) just turned 88 this year, so yeah she was pretty young when she started (but that was about WW II, so it was pretty common). The aunt that died was one of the younger children. About mid-50s.

After I got my head together I drove to my sister’s house where I was greeted with hugs and kisses from The Kid (who is staying there until school starts, or until after xmas -which we don’t celebrate- if she has anything to say about it…she doesn’t). I instantly felt better. My sister and I watch novelas, munched on home made cookies and chatted while we waited for my mom to finish up her vet appointment so we could all go to visit my greatgrandma together (GGM and Aunt N lived next door to each other).

When we pulled up, we heard the most miraculous thing coming from the house: laughter. A few of my other aunts and uncles were there helping to get things set out (clothes for Aunt N, pictures so the mortuary would know how she looked). GGM was on the porch with some family friends (and family) chatting. It took me a bit to realise that she was the reason there was laughter and some lightness.

GGM is from Mississippi, she grew up during Jim Crow, and God only knows what she was subjected to as a black woman of the deep south. She’s nothing if not stoic. When I was 11, she watched her husband wither away to near nothing as pancreatic cancer slowly took his life. No doubt she cried, and cried hard. But she never asked for pity, or sympathy. She never used her husband’s disease or her widowhood to get something. She accepted his disease and death as being God’s will. And what struggles she had with God and that will privately, I don’t think we’ll ever know.

While at her house I watched her. She laughed and smiled and chatted like it was a normal day. But it wasn’t denial. It was acceptance. She told someone over the phone “Ain’t no use getting upset and beatin yourself up over it. God takes what’s His. Ain’t a thang we can do bout it.” Thus the family matriarch sets the tone for the next week until my Aunt’s funeral. And if my greatgrandfather’s funeral was any example, there will be no loss of dignity, no melodramatic moaning and wailing, no flinging of ones self over the body, no hollaring or carrying on. There will be mourning, dignified and quiet, but nothing to cause embarrassment. GGM will be the rule by which we measure ourselves that day.

After leaving there we went to an italian restaurant and indulged in desserts that are most fitting for three women in a state of mourning: rich, sweet and chocolate.

I eventually went to bed around 1am. How I managed to actually sleep is beyond me, but I did.

Today I refused to call off. I was going to go to work and stay there come hell or high water. Unfortunately it went down hill pretty fast. After the second cash paying customer I was completely out of 1s, 5s and 10s and Boss was nowhere to be found. Add to that the fact that I had four tables, all of whom would want to pay eventually, and the stress began to build. Then the credit card machine gave off an error message. Still no Boss. Still no change. More stress. Then I had a table that wanted a carrot juice. I’ve never made carrot juice. I had no idea how to hook up the juicer, neither did Cook. Once we got it together, there was no where that I could plug it up AND use it. After fighting with it, failing and having two people walk out unserved, I cracked. I went to the table and apologised profusely. Trying really hard not to cry. I did though. I had to explain to her that it wasn’t just the juice, but the juice on top of other problems plus the death of an aunt and I was sort of having a plainly crappy day.

Yes I looked like a flake, but at that moment I really didn’t care. I hurried back into the kitchen and composed myself (after crying a little more). Cook knew what was going on with me and called Mo to come in early to take over for me. Mo didn’t come in early (I kinda didn’t want to), but after that cry I felt a lot better. Carrot juice table paid and I gave them change out of my own wallet (oh, don’t worry I got my damn money back). I took care of my remaining tables (who had, fortunately, come in post-breakdown). I then snatch $40 from the till (all we had were 20s), ran to another pita joint down the street (which was doing more business than we were at the moment…and they were hiring…hmmmmm), got change and came back in time to find one table seated and a to go order that Cook had already started prepairing (God bless that man) I just had to ring it up.

After that, smooth sailing. I pulled in about $32 in tips. Eventually Boss showed up. He was mad about something having to do with the inspection. What exactly I don’t know. He was busy yelling at Cook at TAB in Arabic. After a while he cooled off a bit.

You know…now that I’m employed I can’t use the tag Unemployment Blues. I need a new one. But I can’t think of one. Dammit.