I’m a couple of weeks into the new job at the most dysfunctional restaurant ever, and I’m really trying my best to stay positive. Every time the owner, who I must repeat looks like a mental institution escapee and sounds like a bear or perhaps wild boar, comes into the restaurant, he berates the managers, who in turn, pass the energy of horror and disappointment onto us, the servers. Instead of telling the owner to go f*#k himself, they hold pre-meal meetings to unload their self-loathing on us, turning red in the face as they fill with rage. The servers are disposable here and they treat us as such.
There is one assistant manager here who is six foot five, French, and reminds me of a marionette with a long skinny body and oversized red cheeks. He is, unfortunately for him, very ugly. I would feel bad for him, except he has chosen me to follow around and criticize for any and every reason. He is nasty. I have dubbed him “Ass Clown.”
One of the waiters, Michael, has managed to get a piece of key lime pie and is offering me a taste in the back. Being that the owner is too cheap to have us taste any of the food we sell, I take the opportunity to have a bite. I’m also starving, because they rarely feed us here. Imagine working in a restaurant full of food, but you’re constantly starving. The key lime and magical sugar is melting into my mouth, sending me into a heaven when French Ass Clown appears in front of me and crosses his arms like a cat who’s just trapped a very naughty mouse. “You’re here stuffing your face while your customer doesn’t have bread on the table.” (Meanwhile, that’s the busboy’s job, but I can’t tell him that with a mouth full of whip cream, can I?).
Michael is halfway across the restaurant, mouthing the word “sorry,” when I realize that he saw Ass Clown coming and darted out in time to save his own ass. What about me?
The Mexican kitchen staff who seem to have forgotten that I understand Spanish from all the telenovelas I watched with my Spanglish speaking mother say things in front of me as I pass through the kitchen, (like “nice ass” or “I’ll get her to go home with me, watch.”).
I am reminded by a busboy, who looks like an Ecuadorian Sumo wrestler, not to go near the sprinkler system switch. He will later be fired for having a wrinkled shirt.
I’m still wondering when I get to rest my feet. Isn’t it against the law to work a 14-hour shift with no break? We are like Chinese factory workers here, disposable and only existing to earn the big man his money.
So, I continue to work in my pressed white shirt, red tie, and permanently plastered fake smile. I’m starting to really like the gay mafia I work with. They get my jokes, I get theirs. However, Oscar the Grouch the waitress keeps following me around the restaurant to share infinite gloom and doom. “Oh you have no idea how bad it is here. Remind me to tell you about when I had to go down to the police station to report stolen money by a manager. This is a place where souls go to die.”
The people at table 13 want another bottle of drugstore-price Pinot Grigio. Turkish tight pants (who it turns out is really Albanian) wants to know why I didn’t help the people on table 24 crack open their lobster. I don’t know whether to respond, “Because lobsters should go free like little butterflies,” or “Speak better English, PLEASE.”
I go home to cuddle with Vito, but he’s too busy vomiting on my host’s Persian rug. He picked up a bug from another dog who’s owner openly said “He caught my boyfriend’s stomach virus, now they’re both throwing up.” She said this, chuckling lightheartedly, as Vito was licking her dog’s mouth.
I return to work, staying strong by muttering affirmations under my breath like, “I am surrounded by good. I am prosperous.” And, “Life is for me. Nothing can be against me.” And, “I am filled with the light of good.” I have to make this job work. I need money, and I can’t go back to my crazy parents’ house.
I’ve pulled my hair back into a professional bun. I’ve tucked my shirt in nicely. I am ready to succeed today. Make lots of money and impress the management with my cheerful attitude and dedication to good service.
I am in the front section, when big wild boar bear owner comes in and sits down at table 9…in the front. I escalate into top gear, flying through my section, offering my best and doing a damn, good job if I may say so myself. Despite all that, French Ass Clown seeks me out as I’m sweating my ass off trying to take orders to say, “How many tables do you have?” I’m not sure where this is going, but it sounds sarcastic. “Five,” I respond. “Ahh! Only five and I have to clear your plates!” This is only the beginning of his tirade against me because I wasn’t Octupus Plastic Man, in all places at all times doing the busboy’s job.
I look at the lobsters in the tank, clawing for their life and crawling on top of each other’s bodies. If they are not already dead, they are dying and will be dipped later in someone’s butter sauce. That someone will be wearing a lobster bib while their significant other takes pictures with a digital camera they bought on credit. Everyone will be laughing.
There is no busboy to be found, so I’m clearing tables myself and bringing them to the back where, low and behold, ALL the busboys are gathered round, eating leftover oysters… On my way out, I hear something to the effect of “She’s not my type,” in Spanish. So, I reply, “Listen pendejo, I understand Spanish.”
I get no break and have to go right into the pre-meal staff meeting where French Ass Clown, in his best attempt at English, is going on ad nauseum about the waitress who left a dirty dessert plate on the table. He stares at me with his red cheeks from atop his stilts as she says this. What do you want me to be, ashamed?
The owner comes back, screaming something about the staff meal being too extravagant for us…I’m starving and tired, as I haven’t had a break, and I still have a table sitting there, after having only tipped me nine percent.
French Ass Clown drops some menus on me when I finally sit down to eat my two pieces of miniature chicken. “Break time is over. Go give these to table eleven.” I get up, carry my plate of expired chicken over to table eleven and put it down on their table. “This is an example of our food,” I say. “I’ll be right back.” I go to the kitchen, put the menus in the dishwashing bucket, walk through the bevy of scowling Mexicans, and oops, hit the sprinkler system switch. Flour drops from the heavens onto all of them, while water rains down on everyone in the restaurant. I look at French Ass Clown and his dripping brill cream while clenching my stomach pretending to contain my laughter. I drop my apron to the floor and walk out of “City Crustacean.”
I walk onto Sixth Avenue in the midst of Rockefeller Center and take out my cell phone. “Hi Dad. Is my bedroom still available?”