Working in a Restaurant is Like Going To War

Let me begin with an honest statement; I hate my job. I’ve hated it for about five years now. I don’t think I could possibly pinpoint a definitive reason for my hatred because there are so many reasons why I absolutely despise the place. However, I can list the reasons why. The number one being that my job has robbed me and my family of having any normal holiday celebrations for the last ten years.

I work at a pretty well know restaurant that thrives during the holidays, more specifically Thanksgiving. Every Thanksgiving since I’ve turned eighteen has been a nightmare because of my employment. We sell pastries and whole turkey dinners that can accommodate families of up to eight people. Granted, a lot of restaurants and grocery stores have since jumped on the one-stop-holiday dinner-shopping, but the company that I work for started it all and has made a nationally known name for themselves in the process.

When I first started working there as a cashier I had just started my first year of college. I figured I could work my way to serving if I wanted and it’d be easy money while I worked on my Bachelor’s in English. I started out part-time during the last week of October. Little did I know, I was being groomed to take on their busiest time of the year.

When they first told me I’d be working on Thanksgiving Day, I was a little heartbroken. At the time, my grandmother had recently passed away and Thanksgiving and Christmas were always like her Super bowl. For weeks she would plan out her cooking schedule, buy her Christmas cards early, figure out what amazing gift she would get my grandpa for his one and only Hanukah present. My grandmother made magic happen every year. She epitomized the iconic matriarch in every way. She made sure every year that all five of her granddaughters had new Christmas dresses to take the yearly holiday photo. When people were losing their minds on Black Friday in the stores, my grandma was setting up her Christmas tree so that the gifts she had bought in August had somewhere to go for a few weeks. She was amazing, and 2008 would be the first holidays without her.

The more I thought about it, the more okay I was with not being at my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving. At the time the pain of her not being around was very fresh and I really don’t think I could’ve bared being in a house that was filled to the brim with every special memory of my childhood. Mostly because every special memory I had was connected to her in some way.

In the end, I decided not to quit and stayed on through Thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure the only two things that got me through that first Thanksgiving was the fact that my best friend was working right alongside me and that I still had Christmas Day to look forward to.

It’s funny to think back on that first year. The way I think about any holiday now is such a polar opposite to how I thought about them then. Back then it was all about being around my family and not caring about what hardships tomorrow might bring. I was “Living in The Moment,” as the kids strive to do these days. Now, the day after Thanksgiving all I can think about is next Thanksgiving. How to do things more efficiently, what am I buying for my boyfriend for Christmas, what’s the most expensive expression of my love that will make up for him sitting at home alone on a treasured holiday?

This past particular Thanksgiving my only thoughts on the holiday centered on how ridiculous it is that we celebrate the Trojan horse that we called Thanksgiving to trick Native Americans into trusting us. The dinner of peace was just a ploy to get the natives in our pocket, so we could then rape, murder, pillage and ultimately take their land for our own. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

A particular incident that sticks out in my mind of that first year at the restaurant began at 7 am in the morning. When I first started working there, I had all morning shifts, which actually had its perks in a lot of ways, but at the time I couldn’t stand it. I’ve never been a morning person, so most days I worked you could find me falling asleep standing up while filling a whip cream bag. I longed to work the fun and hip night shift with my best friend and the servers that were actually my age. Instead, I was stuck with the seniors and above crew. Where all of the servers were older than my mother and had been serving there since the restaurant had opened in the early 90’s.

Don’t get me wrong, eventually, these women would become like my extended family, but when I first started, it was like entering a high school cafeteria every day. They made my life a living hell. They hated me because I was new and young. Word to the wise; The older servers hate new and young girls. Even though a “seasoned server” can run circles around any new hot young thing and they know it. They still find you threatening. Maybe it’s because they know the young bus boys will all be tripping over themselves to run their food and drinks, and clear their stations first. Meanwhile, the older ones can’t get the bussers to bring more napkins to their two tops, let alone run their food. Whatever the case may be, they very much disliked me at this time and it really came out on days like this.

I answered the phone at around 7:15 am. The man on the other side of the call asked if we had any fresh blueberry muffins. I was trained to tell all the customers that our muffins were made fresh every day, so, of course, that was my response. He was pleased and quickly made an order with me over the phone for eight of them. After I hung up the phone, I went to the showcase, packed the eight muffins, and set them aside with a ticket attached to the bag.

At about a quarter to nine, the man walked in, paid for his muffins, and went on his merry way. About fifteen minutes later I got an angry call from an older woman. She was screaming down the line so loud and shrill, I had to hold the receiver about a foot away from my ear. She was pissed! She had sent her husband into pick up eight blueberry muffins, and what he had brought home were, “Stale pieces of shit!”

I was so scared at this point. I was positive I was going to get fired. The woman asked to speak to my manager so I quickly apologized and transferred her call to the office. I sat staring at the little red light on the phone that indicated someone in the office was on that line.  I knew that when that light went out, my manager would be coming up to get some kind of explanation as to why I was such a fucking idiot. I think when you know you’re about to get in trouble as a kid or an adult, the worst part is the couple of minutes of unknown fear. Your imagination takes over and suddenly you think it’s actually a possibility that not only will your boss fire you, they’ll go off the handle and hit you or something else completely heinous.

When my sweet, Asian Associate manager came up to the front of the house to speak with me, she didn’t really look angry. She didn’t look happy, but definitely not angry, and she didn’t say a word to me about the muffins. She acted as if everything was normal so I followed suit and kept my mouth shut. She briefly did something on one of the computers up front, and then, just before she headed back to the office, she turned to me and said, “When that man comes back in, hide and have someone come and get me.”

I was stunned. All I could muster was an up and down shake of the head and an, “Okay.” And just like that, she turned on her heal and flitted away to the back. I didn’t know what to think, but I wasn’t getting fired at that moment so I tried to continue with my side work and get on with my day. During the hour and a half it took for that man to come back, I must have looked out the window a thousand times. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what he was wearing. Ironically, I remember his face to this day, but I have no idea what he was wearing. If only I could remember, I could be gone, hidden behind the pantry before he even hit the door.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough. I was in the middle of finishing up a transaction with a customer who had bought several pastries when he walked in. I was standing behind the counter and couldn’t run away and hide as I was trying to give this woman her change. I quickly handed her $3.75 back and tried to bolt, but he stopped me in my tracks with a slam of his stale muffins on the front counter.

“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU SOLD ME THIS SHIT!”

I looked back at him, not knowing what to do. He was screaming obscenities at me at the top of his lungs. This went on for what seemed like literally forever. To the point where I didn’t even know what he was saying. All of my focus was on trying not to cry. My recollection of what exactly he said is very fuzzy. All I really have left of this memory is the moment he started to dig into his shopping bag. He opened the muffin box, plucked out a blueberry muffin, and threw it at my chest.

I remember that that was my breaking point. As I ran away, desperately trying to hold back tears, I saw the older server-women laughing hysterically at me as they rolled their silverware. Luckily, my manager was already on her way up, and when I realized that I made a B-line for the bathroom.

As I stood in the ladies room stall, sobbing and unenergetically wiping streusel off my chest I played the absurd moment of being assaulted with a muffin over and over in my mind. At the time I couldn’t comprehend how crazy and irrational food can make a person. To be completely honest, I still really don’t understand why people get so worked up about sustenance that we just end up shitting out after our bodies take what it needs to survive.

After I had calmed down a bit and had decided not to run out of the bathroom, out of the restaurant and into my car, never looking back, I left the Ladies and crept up to the front counter once I knew the muffin man was gone. My manager at the time was so sweet, even though I was a complete dumb-ass who had just cried at work. It wouldn’t be the first time, but it would be the last time anyone saw. . . Don’t hold me to that, it might be a lie. She told me that I had just done what they had taught me to do and that she had had problems with that particular customer before. I later learned that if the blueberry muffins weren’t personally handed to the “Muffin Man” straight out of the damn oven, in his wife’s eyes, they were old and stale and she almost always asked for a refund. I was the only lucky one to actually have any of the “stale” muffins thrown at them though.

It’s funny how something that I thought I would never live down makes me crack up now whenever I tell that story. Just the other night I was trying to tell my boyfriend about D-Day with the Muffin Man, and I could barely get the words out, I was laughing so hysterically. I don’t know if I can laugh at things like that now because of how ridiculous the situation was, or because since then I feel like I’ve had way worse customers.

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