January 2008 – April 2008
One of my strongest desires when I relocated back to New England after living in the deep south for almost ten years was to live and/or work in one of the coastal towns of the region. Salem, Massachusetts, was my first choice, and even now if given the chance, I’d move there. I settled for an assistant manager position at a steak house in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The person they initially hired for the position lasted only a couple of weeks. That should have been a strong indication of the fuck-chomp I was getting myself into. I wanted only to be a server or bartender, but JoAnne, the general manager, convinced me to take the management opening. Portsmouth is a fun town, and from what I’ve seen, similar to Salem except for the witch trials which didn’t even happen in Salem anyway so it was a partial win for me. Plus, I gained employment, which, as you can tell by this series, I had a difficult time maintaining.
It was no strange occurrence that JoAnne, after a grueling day of paperwork and banquet bookings would post herself at the bar shortly after I arrived for a glass or four of Malbec and an extremely rare steak. The position of Bar/Floor Manager basically consisted of me being a glorified bus boy with the added responsibility of making the schedule for servers and doing wine and liquor inventory at the first of every month and I expedited food every now and then. Typically, by the time JoAnne finished her second glass of wine, the pitch of her voice would change and she made it noticeable. After her third or fourth, she would meander through the dining room, swaying to a table and brace herself for balance. Often, she would ask the table if everything was alright and continue to move through the restaurant wearing her clown face—an exaggerated smile that showed off her wine stained teeth. A few times she had tried to run food in that condition, and the only service she offered was dumping it on the floor.
It didn’t take me long to stop giving a shit about the job, not with a proprietor who sat at the bar on Sundays, the only day I worked the bar, eating his extra crispy bacon and fanning himself despite the Cabella’s vented shirts he wore. The owner, a man with no restaurant experience aside for the articles he read in Restaurateur Magazine, would chew through his lip if a drop remained in a martini shaker or if the ice well was a few cubes short. Many, many other micromanagement tactics plagued my morale, and his mouth-breathing was a significant annoyance. He also had a habit of breathing over the top of his tongue, which is pretty normal when you think about it, but not when the person’s mouth is open and their breathing sprays fragments of bacon into the espresso martini they ordered. Perhaps the espresso martini gave his heart the needed boost to keep his blood flowing while he chewed, an activity that undoubtedly winded him.
The owner wasn’t all bad, though. We saw eye to eye on a lot of things such as the difference between further and farther, children were annoying especially in restaurants, and if you didn’t like the food you ordered and didn’t want to pay for it, you said something before the check was dropped.
Unless a child is exceptionally well behaved, they don’t belong in a fine dining restaurant. Other people have paid for a babysitter to enjoy a good meal without the shrieking and scrambling of tiny people. The only thing more annoying than those children, are the parents who allow their kids to behave that way. Take, for example, The Shaws. The Shaw family made reservations for twelve on a busy Friday night to celebrate a birthday. The Shaws arrived for their dinner with twelve adults. Tagging along with them were six children. A twelve suddenly turned to eighteen and the servers scrambled to find an extra table and chairs to accommodate the crayon munchers. The owner, who was sitting at the bar, shook his head and called me over to him.
“What the fuck is that?” he asked me.
“Did they say they were bringing all of those kids?”
At that point I noticed the hostess growing frustrated with an older man who kept tapping on the reservation book, which gave me the perfect opportunity to flee from my boss.
“Can I help you, sir?” I asked the man when I got to the hostess station.
“Are you the manager?”
“Janitor, but I handle the reservations, too.”
“Well, I made a reservation today for Hardy and your hostess here seemed to have screwed everything up.”
I took a look at the reservation book and quietly asked the hostess if she’d taken the reservation. I glanced at the clock to note what time it was.
“Sir, did you just get here?”
“Okay, and what time was your reservation for?”
“Well, sir, it’s 7:45.”
“Oh, so it’s my fault?”
“I didn’t drive you here,” I told him.
One of the perks of my jobs was being a dick. As long as I didn’t piss off any regulars or businessmen, I was set, and my boss didn’t mind either.
The Shaws, surprisingly, were ordering at that point, but two of the children with them were scrambling around one of the bookcases in the dining room much to the dismay of the tables adjacent to it. I smiled as much as possible as I approached the table and asked them nicely to put a leash on their mutts. The table obliged, but thirty minutes later I was back at the table asking them to keep their children from standing on the chairs.
“Is it really that big of a deal?” One of the men from the table asked.
“Not at the moment,” I told him. “But when one of your children falls on the table, gets a champagne glass jabbed through their throat, and spurts blood all over the linen, it’ll be a big deal. Blood stains and these are new linens.”
One of the women at the table dropped her bread knife. I smiled and walked away.
Within a half an hour, I made several trips between the bar and the circus table. At the end of their meal, an older gentleman approached me. Behind him, at the table, one of the women pulled her breast from her shirt and began to feed her infant. She used one of the napkins to drape over her shoulder. I stopped in the center of the dining room, mouth agape.
“Do you have a problem with kids?” he asked.
“No, I don’t,” I answered. “I have a problem with parents who can’t take care of their children in a fine dining restaurant, and with people who think it’s appropriate to breastfeed in public. That’s just fucking gross.”
The man clearly wanted to punch me and I would have thoroughly enjoyed it, but he stammered instead and asked where the owner was. I directed the man to the bar and pointed out the owner who would be livid moments later. While the angry gentleman and my boss were talking, I made my way through the kitchen, down the corridor leading to the outside alley, and out into the falling snow where it was quiet. My boss wouldn’t stop reaming me out for a half an hour about me throwing him under the bus the way I did, but it didn’t really matter any longer. I couldn’t top a night like that, except for the Easter Sunday I taught several small children the word, fuck.