Monday, April 12, 2004

The Grinch who stole Easter... and what returned it

Work this Easter weekend was manic.
Jim and I had a talk the other day about how working in the service industry tells you all you need to know about mankind, and most of it is not pretty. We had a mild debate about whether it disproves evolution or not. I said it does, but Jim had a point when he said on days like this it was pretty clear that we stem from monkeys. Again, I argued against that, because I have seen monkeys that were better behaved than some of the customers we get.
Yeah, I have posted about this before. I know, boring schmoring loring. Why haven't you changed the channel yet.
But that's the only way you can stay sane in that business. Laugh and rant. Respect to those only who deserve it. Develop techniques to deal with the frustration. Russ gets overfriendly... it's his way of taking the piss. Clive does his [cough]LOSER[/cough] thing. I think I just ignore rude people by now. Or I speak my mind without speaking directly to them. Just making sure that they know what a bunch of rude idiots they are. That may not be the best way, but it saves me from stomach ulcers. I mean, I don't get paid much and I don't mind the work I have to do for it, cos really, I love my job. But I am not getting paid enough to take shit from people, especially when it's not justified. I mean, we are all grown-ups, but cafe customers have a tendency to turn into a bloody kindergarten sometimes.

The service industry can be rewarding, no doubt. Some of our customers are really really sweet, and I love sometimes, when time allows, to sit down with some of them and chat or joke around, or make their stuff extra nice, or fool around with the kids, and on days like that I really really really enjoy my job. I mean, in the end, you, the customer, and me, the waitress, are both trying to walk out of this place, happy with each other, right?

We have our regulars that are just adorable. There is Sue. Sue is... how to put it politically correctly... mildly "mentally disabled". I guess her age at about the late 20s, early 30s, but she seems kind of in the mind of a 12-year-old. Which, honestly, can be a bloody good thing. She has the sense of wonder and appreciation of a kid that I envy her for, and the reason why I hesitated to use the word 'disabled' is because she just...isn't. She doesn't seem to suffer from it, and while she may not be able to do some things, she is bloody good at the stuff she can do. Sue is a cupcake. With icing and sugar hearts sprinkled on top. She knows everyone's name and always asks us how we are doing, and she always orders a large coke, "filled right up to the top". She is kind of part of the café. Sometimes she brings in her photo album. She has a digital camera and takes pictures of the boats in Poole Harbor and at the pier.
She is infatuated with them. And then she prints them out and shows them to us, and I tell ya, that girl has TALENT.

Then there is one of the guys who scans the beach for coins with a metal detector, who always comes and orders "a softie [ice cream], please!" with a big smile. And some tourists who I sometimes ask for their accents, and we get into a nice chat.
Or some old chaps who impart some wisdom on me. Can't top that.
And the beach staff - the lifeguards, the deck chair fellas, the delivery guys, the train drivers... it's our own little beach community out here, it's really cool.

But then there are other people. "It's weekend, so hey, let's turn off our brains and our manners and just torture some of the idiots that have to work today. And we can insult them and ridicule them and treat them like subhumans, because they can't say anything back without risking to lose their jobs!"

You have families who leave their table like a pig sty - what am I saying, like they had their own private nuclear war! - whinge at everything, let their kids go absolutely bananas (misbehaved is an understatement). Some people bring in their own food and leave the trash for us to clear up, how rude is that? I mean, I really don't mind people bringing their own stuff if we don't have it and they have particular needs. A Jewish guy once politely asked me if we minded that they ate their own food cos ours is not kosher, and just had drinks. I mean, I am not kicking them out for that, you know, that's cool with me.

You have people that were told there is a 20 min wait on any food because we have a gazillion orders and a tiny kitchen, and they agree and order food, but they come back after 5 minutes, complaining that they have to wait!Hmph! Why do you have to wait for your stuff? Well, look around you!! It's packed. About a million people were here first... why do you think you get any special treatment???
I am really tempted sometimes to just raise my voice, ask for a moment of silence and then ask all the customers who have been waiting longer than Mr Whinger whether they would mind if we served him first, because he is of the opinion we should.
And then just lean back with a satisfied smile, watching the mob rip him to shreds.

You have customers that walk off to the beach somewhere and expect us to find them there and serve them. WTF???

And then you have tourists who think they can diss you in their own language cos they are sure you can't understand. They don't realise how much of a shot in the foot that is when a lot of the staff is international. Mon is Spanish, Manue is French. Sanna is Finnish, but fools everyone with her Irish accent. I'm German, and most people think I'm American. So yesterday we had this bunch of Germans sitting outside. It was a really busy day, and we were literally running and doing our best, and it was fairly obvious that if the place is packed, they will have to wait for their food. You'd think, at least. I mean, they are told before they order. It's not that we're trying to piss people off on purpose. So there they sit while I'm clearing tables, and sneer in German that their buddy should just "take it and hit her in the face with it" or something, referring to some staff member. Usually I enjoy pretending that I don't understand just so I can listen to their uninhibited-because-they-think-no-one-understands-them chatter. But yesterday I turned around to the guy and told him in clear German that it must be bloody embarrassing to say such stuff and then finding out people can actually understand him. He stared at me like I had caught him with his trousers down and then muttered something, pretending not to care. It was a glorious moment.

Then you have people who feed the pigeons even though we have signs everywhere asking them not to do that because they are so bloody filthy. The pigeons, not the customers. Well - Ok, that can be confused. But no, "the kids love doing it! What's your problem?"
Well yes, ma'am. Your kids would also love to poo in the gutter, or throw rocks, does that mean you let them do it?
Our problem is less the pigeons than the same customers who feed them and then complain that the pigeons are jumping on their plates. Or get pissed off that them birds get tame and raid the empty neighbor table for food leftovers, then suddenly remembering how unhygienic they are - while they let their kids put pigeon feathers in their mouths. (I got a juicy salmonella infection from playing with that stuff when I was a kid, and it nearly wiped me out. And warnings back then about what you can catch from pigeons were not that common... but that's different today. The warning signs all over Bournemouth give you a jolly list of diseases... and you'd think some people read those things and learn. LISTEN AND LEARN. It's like bloody pre-school wasted on them.)

And not to forget the customers who get downright personally abusive. But let's not go there.

But the thing is, I still love my job. Cos our team is great, and fun, and I guess you get shit in any job, really.
But there are few jobs where, when going to work, you see the sun is rising over the sea, and the tide is out and the beach at peace and the sea is like a lightly rippled mirror... or wild and ridden by surfers who don't mind any weather. And every day it has a different colour. Gray, cold blue, green glassy marmor, and a beam of sun breaking through the clouds in the distance turns the horizon into a shining silver streak. Or the sky is an angry stormy purple-blue while the sinking sun makes the pier glow against it. Or green-purplish thunderstorms whip the sea, and lightning hits the water, and then drifts off to haunt the other end of the bay with shredded, misty clouds while our end lights up in beautiful wet post-t-storm sunlight. Or a summery haze envelops the pier, making the sea look like a timeless glowing mystery, like the end of the world.
What other job could possibly give me that satisfaction?
And no to forget, the coffee is free. Dude. Can't get better than that.

KungFuBarbie on the Soapbox just mentioned this quote from the movie "Clerks", and it will be my quote of the day:

"This job would be great if it weren't for the fucking customers" - Randall


I guess I have a new item on my To Watch List.

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