Friday, February 10, 2012

On Flailing

     Flailing, def: As a restaurant person, being buried in "to dos" and careening around aimlessly with all sense of rhythm, timing, and organization gone.

     I've acquired my share of flail stories from working at several interestingly-run family-owned establishments.  For example, at the old regime of my current job, I was frequently thrown to the wolves, a.k.a., Wednesday night service. Two servers on an 80-seat floor? Ok. No food runner? ORLY. On top of this the bartender and host would blatantly ignore what was going on, even disappear frequently. The phones would ring, food piling up in the kitchen window, with people waiting impatiently at the host stand.

     I hate flail with a passion. I'm a bit OCD and it actually makes me feel like less of a person to suck at something so badly. Not everyone is this way; the other server in the above mentioned scenario thought the chaos was great, like they were part of a punk rock-ish pirate crew ala Kitchen Confidential. More money for us, they said,  but I said, what the hell; not only was dealing with annoyed people all night traumatizing, running a fine-dining establishment like a fast food place wasn't exactly a sustainable business plan.

     Thankfully, new management and deft consulting have turned things around, and the restaurant is now stable and professionally run. Hectic, big stations still, but more or less predictable. I've almost been a bit twitchy with the routine of it all.

      An opportunity to try something new recently came my way, however: A couple shifts a week at one of the area's top restaurants. The thought of crawling out of my safe niche made me a little anxious but it it seemed like a good way to break the routine, refresh my service, meet some new peeps.

     A "little" anxious was not quite the feeling. I'm terrified of flying and I almost would have rather jumped on a plane to Australia than go to work that first day. I was shocked at how permeable the layer of time was between now and the bad days. The bf thought I was crazy, reminding me that I run ten-table stations at my current job like a boss. "I think I have PTSD," I joked limpidly.

     I wish I had a dramatic story to insert here about how everything fell apart, how I faced my fears and persevered, learning important life lessons. But that's not exactly the case. It's actually been kinda easy and fun; I like talking to customers and describing food and wine. The new spot is a wonder of cleanliness and efficiency, making my OCD brain say simply "yay." My fourth day on the floor was as close to chaos as I've come so far, as I had a 14-top in addition to five rather demanding tables. Had I been an actual newb I think I would have went down, but I knew to look confident, smile, ask for help with a couple critical things, and avoid any kitchen mistakes. 

     So the bf was ultimately right, I have no reason be so anxious. If anything, I shouldn't let old memories terrorize me, but say instead, "Hey, I've lived the worst of it, what you got?"
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