Saturday, March 31, 2007

On a count!

In the restaurant, when we're running low on an item, it gets put "on a count." If there are only five creme brulees left, creme brulee gets put on a count and on the computer where we enter our orders, there's a little "5" on the creme brulee button. That number gets reduced each time one gets ordered.

Well, my Saturday nights as a waitress are on a count. I hate the busy Saturday nights. The shift goes from 4:00 p.m. until at least 11:00 p.m. when we close. There is NO time for a break or a snack or anything during that time. Imagine not eating from 4:00 pm til 11:00 pm on a Saturday night. Now imagine doing that while you're also constantly on your feet, rushing back and forth and carrying things for hours on end. You get hungry, but have to ignore it. You get thirsty, but have to ignore it. You have to use the bathroom, but have to ignore it (maybe you make it to the bathroom once or twice during those hours). You get REALLY hungry, but have to ignore it. Then you're starving, but have to ignore it.

Then the restaurant closes at 11:00 p.m, but chances are tables linger, especially if some of then arrived at 10:45 p.m. to have a full dinner with dessert until almost midnight. So I still don't get to rest because I have to wait on them, plus do my nightly sidework (cleaning the espresso machine, wiping down shelves, stocking straws and napkins, etc.). So really a Saturday night shift goes from 4:00 p.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. WITHOUT A BREAK. I take a granola bar to munch on when I can't wait anymore (but I have to eat it on my feet while I keep working).

Seriously, is there anyone out there who actually wants to do this job for their lifetime career? Or do people just get stuck in it and resign themselves to it and make the best of it? Who likes to work for up to 10 (or more) hours without a break? Without sitting down once?

WHO?

Ah, restaurants. Completely in violation of labor laws that require employers to give their employees regular breaks. Is it supposed to be every five hours? Every eight hours? Either way, restaurants are in violation.

So here's the count: I WILL have another job (or more than one part-time job)by the end of April. These are my last Saturday nights!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

So tired

So tired of being a waitress. Feet hurt. Feet hurt almost all the time. Don't like being up late. So tired of being up late.

I'm giving myself one month to find some other way of earning a living. Something I can do SITTING DOWN. My feet hurt so much from being pounded on for hours every day. How the hell do career servers do it? Those are people who wait tables their whole lives, ruining their feet, knees and hips. They're on their feet for five or six days a week for DECADES. How do they do it? Why do they do it?

I dread Friday and Saturday night shifts the most because they're the longest and busiest, especially Saturdays. I HATE SATURDAYS! Even if they are the most lucrative nights, I don't care, you can have'em. On Fridays and Saturdays I leave the restaurant so late. I'm a morning person and (have tried but) can't sleep late, so I drag around on too little sleep, feeling like crap. I hate working late nights and I will NOT do it much longer.

Who the hell wants to work in the restaurant industry? I've worked in corporate, academia, non-profit, childcare and as a musician and I'm telling you: no one in any of those fields works harder than restaurant people. It's backbreaking, tedious, stressful, physically and psychologically demanding work for everyone: the servers, the cooks, the bartenders, the dishwashers the managers, the hostesses. Obviously I haven't worked all the jobs in the world, but of all the industries I've worked in, this one is the most physically draining. Restaurant people work HARD.

Even the management does. Even the top-of-the-food-chain (within a restaurant) general managers are on their feet all night, putting out fires, trying to calm angry customers, coordinating food and drink orders when necessary, being the person with whom the buck stops. I'd never want to be a restaurant manager of any rank. As late as I get out of there, managers are the very last ones to leave at midnight or 1 a.m. (or 3 a.m!). No, thank you!

Oh, the restaurant industry. I've been a server for a brief two and a half years and I've had enough. This is not where I belong. I don't like being up late and my feet hurt. I feel disappointed in myself to have ended up in this sad, physically painful situation. I'm giving myself one month to find an alternate job. Maybe office work or teaching. I doubt it'll be the dream job, but I've reached a breaking point and I just need another job that I can do sitting down!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Why Blog?

In the past couple of months bloggers Modigli and DCNats have retired their blogs. Modigli explained that the erosion of her blogger anonymity made her feel like she couldn't express herself as candidly as she had when her blog was newer. Blogger.com's new format caused the destruction of DC Nats' website. I hate the new blogger version, too. It's not compatible with my Apple Safari browser and causes me considerable inconvenience in order to post (like right now) or comment on others' blogs.

By the way: if I ever stop blogging completely, you can be sure it's because Blogger.com finally froze me out or my ability to access it through my Apple finally became impossible. Sometimes it's tough to get a post to go through, like right now.

So I look at these other blogs' endings and I wonder what keeps me going, especially when it's not technically easy for me anymore. Unlike someone who began her blog as a way to keep a private journal, I never wanted anonymity. I've been writing in a private journal for decades and don't need another one. What I wanted out of a blog was a public identity as a writer. My blog has a photo of myself, my full name and home city. When I launched my blog in June 2004, I even sent an email announcing it to everyone in my address book -- family, friends, friends of friends and people I couldn't even remember.

The realization that family members were reading and were occasionally offended hasn't stopped me. Knowing there are co-workers and former colleagues/friends/roommates/lovers reading my opinions and viewpoints doesn't slow me down. Of course there are people I'd rather not have reading, but if they are, well, I guess it doesn't bother me THAT much.

I don't know why others blog. I'm especially puzzled by those who try to keep their blogs anonymous. Besides anonymity being impossible to maintain (eventually SOMEONE comes across your blog and recognizes you and then it's just a matter of time before you're taking shit for your opinions), why would you put effort into creating a website and pouring your time and energy into maintaining it if you're never going to accept credit for your work? What is it that "anonymous" bloggers are trying to accomplish?

I think they want the freedom to say anything and confidentiality so certain people don't find out what they said. Expecting that from a blog is a very bad idea. If you want to be able to rant without accountability, join a support group or talk to a friend you can trust to not repeat what you say. Or write it down in a private journal. Blogs are public. That's all there is to it (the exceptions are websites you can put restrictions on so only certain people can read it. But can you be anonymous on those? I don't know).

The real reason I blog is for a sense of community and support. It's important to me that someone be out there reading. I began my blog when I was just coming out of a bad depression and was longing for more friendship and social contact. Writing in my journal helped me a lot and so did composing a few short stories and poems. But it was only when I began sharing those with others that I discovered the community that writing can bring. When I'm writing I don't feel lonely because I feel like I'm communicating. Even if it's the middle of the night with no one around, if I'm typing an email I feel like I'm actually with the person I'm writing to, even if they won't see it for hours. When I'm posting to my blog I have a sense of audience. I know someone will eventually read it. For me that's a powerful loneliness suppressant.

In the past year my blogging has slowed down because I've finally found a long-term relationship and I'm very happy with this guy. Happiness isn't as strong a motivator for me to write. My jobs have also changed a lot since I started the blog. In June 2004 I had a desk job with an Internet connection and little to do all day. That made for endless blogging opportunities. Then I was unemployed for a while and had even more time to blog! These days I just haven't made it as much a priority as I used to.

I don't know why DC Nats blogged (Joel?) or what motivates others. But it'll probably be a while until I stop altogether because I'll always need community and connection with others. And I can say "anything" here, right?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Career

I've been sitting with these suggestions and ideas from friends and I've been considering the ones that sound most appealing to me. I even found someone to ask questions of about the cable show idea.

But yesterday I realized that of all the possibilities, the one I really feel passionately about is teaching voice, which is how I earned my living from 1997 to 2000. But I can't call it teaching voice. When I used to give individual voice lessons in my home, I'd often start with a meditation exercise. Then we'd do yoga stretches, then breathing exercises and then vocalization. We might or might not end up working on an actual song. I preferred working with people who didn't think of themselves as musical or creative. Most of my clients were grown ups who dreamed of singing but doubted their abiliities.

Sometimes when someone would come to their lesson feeling sick or without a singing voice or just feeling low-energy, I'd say, "No problem. We'll just have a different kind of lesson today." We might do the whole thing flat on our backs and it might be more of a meditation or visualization session with the theme of healing. There might or might not be vocalization exercises that day.

I used voice to help people deal with confidence problems, release stress, have fun. I showed them they had powerful voices they had never heard. I showed them they were creative, musical people who could sing on key, who had rhythm, who could hear harmonies. No matter their physical limitations, I knew I could teach them. No matter their beliefs about themselves, I knew I could get them singing.

I want to do that again. I think part of what has kept me from returning to that work is that I often felt guilty for charging people for voice lessons. I didn't feel like I was giving strict voice lessons or technically producing singers. I felt like I was promoting myself as one thing, but providing something different. Maybe what I was really doing was figuring out what the person needed and providing it. It was all very fluid and spontaneous. I also got lonely. I'd rather work as part of a team or staff. My favorite job ever was as a gospel choir director at a church, but with no degrees in music and no ability to play piano, getting that job was a fluke. Also, I'm now an atheist.

I'm going to have to figure out what to call my "lessons" or what to call this work in general and figure out how to market/promote it. Then research what kinds of places might provide this kind of service and what kinds of organizations might hire someone like me, etc. This feels like a big job.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I need your input on my job

I work in a restaurant, but am ready to move on to a new career. I just don't know what career that is. I've hired a life coach to help me figure it out and he's been great. With him I've worked through a lot of chapter 10 of What Color Is Your Parachute? I am at a point now at which I've figured out a lot of the basics of what I want, but I still don't know what job or field I'm looking for. This is what I need your help with. To anyone who might come across this post, what job(s) or field(s) or organization(s) come to mind if I tell you that I want to use the following skills and that these are my top subjects/interests?

Absolute top three favorite skills:
performing
singing
writing

Top three subjects/interests:
relationships
self-improvement (mental, spiritual, emotional, psychological, but not physical)
fitness & diet


Let's brainstorm! Give me whatever you've got. Thank you!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Cynicism can be romantic too

The National Public Radio website reports that anthropologist Chris McCollum finds that couples tell very similar stories about how they fell in love. He had found that when talking about how they found a job, people tell stories about very deliberately following certain steps to get to where they wanted to be. But love stories are told completely differently. The article says,

when people really started opening up about their personal stories, they tended to fall into one of two categories. McCollum describes the first category as "romantics." They tend to believe that the external forces of destiny brought them to their beloved. On the other side of the spectrum are "realists," who tend to believe that random chance brought them together. Either way, both believe the process is out of their control.

Not surprisingly to me, many stories start with, "I wasn't looking for a relationship." I hate stories that start with that line! It feels totally unfair to me, who spent 10 years very, very intentionally making every effort to find a man.

My Herculean manhunt sort of makes me want to agree with what McCollum's subjects seem to believe: that finding love is out of our control and we can't make it happen. But even though I was starting to conclude that at the end of year nine, I don't believe it. I published the story of how I met my current boyfriend on my blog last spring, but I'm going to publish it here again at the end of this post because I wasn't entirely truthful. In fact, I left out a huge chunk of how Bob and I got together because I thought if anyone he works with found out the details, he might get in trouble. But since then Bob himself has shared our story with co-workers, so what the hell. My fictionalized, but now completely truthful, story of how Bob and I got together is below and it's called "Doink!"

But before I get to it, I'll just say that we originally met through the Chicago Reader Matches website, but didn't hit it off. I now know that for most of my dating life I have had some very fundamental beliefs that were keeping me from being truly open to loving someone and those beliefs had to be KILLED before I was going to be able to fall in love. It just took ten F#@^-ing years of spinsterhood for that to happen. But finally one day, at the age of 39, I made a very deliberate decision to prioritize falling in love over everything else I held important. Two days later this guy named Bob -- who I hadn't liked when we'd first dated -- asked me out again, but this time I liked him. O, miracle of miracles! -- I ended up falling in love with someone right after I finally made the decision to be open to doing so!

Fate? Destiny? No. Bob and I fell in love because I worked hard for years to meet as many men as possible, then I made a clear decision to fall in love with someone and Bob is a guy who doesn't give up easily. Nothing mysterious about it.

I do not believe in soul mates or destiny. I could have easily ended up with another guy if Bob hadn't been around. I don't believe there's any such thing as "the one," but it looks like that might work against me. Back to that NPR article, Helen Fischer, an anthropologist from Rutgers University who also studies love says that research shows that when people believe they're with the one they were meant to be with, they have happier marriages. I don't believe I was "meant" to be with Bob and I don't believe he's my soul mate. He was just the next one up at bat. Is that cynicism? Will it eventually sink my (one year and counting) relationship? Oh, well. At least it had a good start. Here's my "story with a happy beginning."


Doink!

At work in the restaurant, he was in his element. He’d started as a dishwasher at the age of 16 and spent two decades working his way through several jobs in the industry. Better at partying than at school, he’d always been the class clown and his co-workers liked his easy approach, his goofy jokes and his constant desire to make everyone happy. He loved restaurant life with its teamwork, its mealtime tidal waves of customers and the way he could easily read people when their need for food or drink brought their true natures to the surface.

But for all his charisma on the job, he was lousy at dating. He just froze up. As a result, his only romantic relationships were with the women with whom he served tables, tended bar and cleaned counters. Unable to function very well socially outside of the job, the restaurant was his entire world.

By the age of 38 he was the general manager of a large restaurant in downtown Chicago. It was an excellent job and he devoted all of his energy to it. He had a great staff and a beautiful building. But as the general manager, he couldn’t date anyone he worked with. They were all his subordinates and he couldn’t break his personal code any more than he could violate company rules. He spent his first three years there mastering the never-ending tasks of a general manager, but he spent parts of his fourth year anticipating his 43rd birthday and wishing he weren’t always alone on his days off.


****


She had no problem with nervousness on dates. At the age of 39 she calculated that she’d been dating for 24 years which meant she must have gone out with over a billion men. Although most days it felt like two billion. Earnestly longing for a relationship she could settle into, she also had certain standards. She knew her future partner would be just as extraordinary as she. Their vocabularies would span lakes, his mind would be so agile it would occasionally surpass hers and everyone would admire their beauty and know that these two attractive, brilliant, fascinating people belonged together. There would be no ordinary romance for her.

But finding this romance was turning out to be extraordinarily difficult as well. She had tried every dating tip she had ever received and she had read every book on relationships that anyone had ever thrust into her jewelry-bare hands.

Nothin’.

And although she had a masters degree in English literature, she had skipped from job to job and was currently exploring life as a waitress. Even her broad employment experience, through which she’d met thousands of people, hadn’t yielded that lifelong match.

She had no problem finding men that wanted to be with her, but she just never felt more than a passing interest in them. Her mind was too sharp, her education too prolonged, her humor too quick for any of them. And she dismissed entire populations out-of -hand. Why even bother dating someone without an advanced degree, or who lived in the suburbs, or who had never been to Europe? Her soul mate would be distinguishable by how far he stood out from the ordinary people. She even weighed first names carefully and would insist “There’s just one name I cannot date. I will never be able to go out with anyone named ‘Bob.’”


***


Bob’s hours at the restaurant weren’t getting any shorter, so he knew he had to try some new ways of meeting people. He had always hated the idea of “shopping” for human beings, which is what online dating felt like to him, but after months of sizing up the situation, he knew he needed to take unprecedented action.

After work one night, he wearily pounded out his answers to the online Reader Matches questionnaire. He didn’t proofread for typos, he didn’t check his spelling and when he glanced over his answers for coherency he didn’t refine any of his sentences. The sophisticated part of his brain was roped off for the evening.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he muttered as he clicked on “Submit.”


***


Regina was bored with dating. She had little optimism left and had developed a very tough-audience attitude towards first dates. Because men tended to like her she not only never got nervous, but she entered dates like a potential boss in a high-unemployment economy. She was particularly tired of online dating. After years of mining most of her dates on websites, she was finally getting zombie-stare, cold-coffee, there-won’t-be-anything-on-the-next-page-either tired of online dating. But she wasn’t quite done yet, so she responded to the email from the guy who called himself “Doink” (no worse than her handle, “Flamedancer”). She appreciated that he worked in a restaurant, like she did, because he’d understand about never being free on Saturday nights. His ad conveyed a sense of whimsy, light-heartedness and that masculine can-do optimism that always attracted her. They emailed for a week, then set up a date.

It sank.

Actually, it wasn’t bad. She found him easy to talk to and, with their jobs, they had a lot in common. He was just as easy to get along with as his ad had promised and he wasn’t bad-looking and she even agreed to a second date. But he wasn’t funny. Neither of them laughed once and that was not a good sign. The seriousness of their dates puzzled her because his ad had suggested so much more personality than he showed. She might have given a third date a try, except that Bob’s response to their first date was to send her a half dozen tiramisu desserts from his restaurant and his gesture after their second date was to send a dozen white roses. The combination of the blandness of his company and the fervor of his attention weirded her out.

“You’re very enthusiastic,” she said slowly, after the flowers.
“Yes, I am,” Bob said confidently, then hesitated. “Is it too much?”
“Yeah, it is,” she admitted and that was their last conversation.


***


Three months later, Regina needed a job. Bob needed a server. Regina actually had the nerve to contact Bob about a job and Bob was open-minded enough to respond. From their two dates, Regina knew Bob was an excellent manager and Bob knew Regina would be a great server, so he offered her the job and she accepted. Sure enough Regina learned quickly, carried herself with poise and professionalism and became one of his best servers. And sure enough, Bob was the best manager Regina had ever had: organized, communicative, funny and very supportive of his servers and kitchen staff.

And there was his personality! Bob was very funny and he made work fun. Regina liked his tall, lanky walk and his calm response to problems. He was so good at his job and at making everyone feel at ease, Regina immediately decided he was the best manager she'd ever had. It also felt like the best job she’d had in years and she wanted to stay for a long time.

Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed at the end of Regina’s third full month there and everyone was laid off.


***


Bob wasn’t going to keep trying to date a woman who clearly had no interest in him. When he had stopped calling Regina after those two dates, he was done, but he also recognized a good employee. It seemed like things had finally worked out as Regina settled into the job, but he inconveniently found himself still attracted to her. Of course he’d never act on it and he carefully made sure he never displayed the slightest favoritism. Regina was a great server and a great person and he wasn’t going to let her great rear end get in the way of a comfortable professional relationship.

But as the restaurant closed down around them, Bob felt a strong urge to talk to Regina. He screwed up his courage and asked her out for a drink one night.

***


Regina said yes to the drink because she wasn’t doing anything else after work that night and hanging out with Bob would probably be as fun as working with him. And it was. They went out for pizza where he ordered beers and she decided to relax for once. She was surprised at how much she enjoyed his company, so when he asked her out for a drink the following week, she said yes again.

The third time they went out, Regina steered him to one of her favorite all-night diners and chatted happily away about whatever came to mind. She knew she wasn’t attracted to Bob and never would be, but hanging out with him was great. It was so easy to talk to him and he made her laugh. And he seemed to think she was fascinating. The only thing she had to do was ignore the attraction she knew he felt for her. She felt bad to be taking up his time and money when she was never going to feel the same way about him. But each time he asked her out, she heard herself saying yes.

Because Bob had to go out of town there was a lapse during which they didn't see each other. When Regina didn’t hear from him, she was a bit surprised. Was that disappointment? Impossible.

The next time Bob called to ask her to dinner, Regina had to work at displaying nonchalance. She got ready with only a little more than her usual attention to detail and she chose her outfit still clinging to the worn certainty that this was not a date, not with Bob, not a date at all.

When she saw him, she was impressed with his sharp new haircut and goatee. Regina had always been a sucker for a goatee. Was it possible that Bob actually looked kind of hot? As usual, they had a great time. In fact, it was the best non-date yet. As they talked and bantered over steaks, Regina considered whether or not she might feel like kissing Bob good-night. Yes? No? Maybe.

As he drove her home, Bob told her about his new assignment. He was working on a restaurant that needed a management overhaul. He’d be working there for the next month or so. With his car stopped outside of her building, Bob started to say good-night. Regina still wasn’t sure what she was going to do.


***


Later Bob would say that he’d never forget watching Regina undo her seatbelt, turn around in the front seat and climb over to sit in his lap. As she put her arms around him and tentatively moved her lips to his, he thought, “There is a God...”


***


Later Regina would pull back from one of the hundred kisses that followed, reflect on her former opinion of Bob and her old dating standards and say, “I’ve been an idiot...”