Tuesday, May 31, 2011
A black shirt and a bar
I buttoned up my black shirt, the garment had been purchased less than a week ago at the Sears next door, it was a necessary item for work outfit. Once buttoned and tucked in I put my suspenders over my shirt and rolled up the sleeves.
The small closet of a room stored the staff lockers. A large sign on the front of the door stated that "This room is not secure." Several of the lockers had small locks on them with various items of clothing, purses, and bags stuffed inside.
Next to the lockers was a rack on which lay various folded piles of towels; blue ones for the kitchen, white ones for the bar, striped ones for polishing. I took two towels of the latter types and an apron. I wrapped the thin strings of the white shoe length apron around my waist and knotted it. It was a stark contrast with my otherwise black outfit; black shoes, black socks, black pants, and black shirt. I opened up the staff locker room door and walked through the hallway and through the curtains onto the restaurant floor.
Having come back from Thailand broke I didn't have much option in employment. Not having a degree (which is worthless if its not a master's or graduate degree), and there being a recession meant that my choices for what type of work I wanted to do were limited so I did what an reasonable person would do, I canvassed restaurants for work. Having worked in the food service industry for over 7 years I've done it all. I've washed dishes, prep cooked, line cooked, bussed, food ran, waited, barbacked, and bartended. I've never stepped into the big shoes of a manager because of my distaste for firing people and mucking my hands with owners and upper management.
The restaurant at which I work now is considered fine dining, which is merely a matter of appearance. Fine dining is more concerned with appearance and gives the customer higher quality food and beverages along with service. This labor and product comes at a higher cost both in terms of labour power and in price. With the higher bill comes a corresponding higher class of customer. Its hard to justify spending $50 on a meal as a worker that only makes $70 a day, but for someone that makes $150 or more daily the fee for luxurious living can be easily afforded.
As a bar back at the restaurant I am in in charge of doing all the grunt labor for the bartenders. The variety of tasks to which I am responsible for is enough to drive a schizophrenic sane. The onus is on me to make sure there is enough fresh squeezed juice, ice, crushed ice, bitters, liquors, utensils, plates, glasses, etc. all the while being burdened with customer service; clearing plates, getting and refilling waters, setting dining ware out. The pace of a restaurant is bipolar in the the psychiatric sense. The business can be depressed and slow with nothing to do and then all at once a maniac streak breaks out demanding immediate and sustained attention. This maniac dash must be reined in by concentration on a variety of tasks demanding one multi-task and constantly think ahead essentially doing labour saving tasks in order to make sure the job gets done.
Eventually the evening ends.I come home and I shower. The smell of food and liquor hangs on me like a foul perfume. The soap scrubs away the stench but doesn't alleviate the aches and pains. Its late and I know that there is no one to help me ease my pain other than other late night workers. I open a beer. The cold liquid rushes down my throat making my throat cold and my body warm at the same time. I stare out into space and try not to think of the things that I forgot tonight, of the repetition, of work.