I am glue. I am duct tape. I am glue. I repeat this to myself all day, like a mantra. I am glue. I am duct tape. I can help hold together the machine, but it is not my job to fix it, nor can I change the intrinsic nature of the machine. I am glue.
It has been a day. A day and a half of a day and still a double at work tomorrow and brunch (oh fuck a bunch of brunch) on Sunday, and I have yet to have my supper. (Which is soup. Which is simmering on the stove. I love soup. I love it so much I think I'll marry it.) I fired someone today.
I should say WE fired someone, because I am not the boss (I am glue) but I am the manager and I hired the man so it fell to me (I am duct tape) to let him go.
It was like breaking up with someone I never really liked in the first place. It was something I wanted to do, something I needed to do, but not a comfortable thing, no, and dreams were shattered. His dream of having a job. His dream of having a job where he could play with his phone all day, come in late, and disappear for long periods of time for whatever reason to do whatever it is he did. He asked for another chance. He was shocked, confused, hurt. He said he didn't understand, and that this was so unexpected. An hour after he left he called and asked again if there was anything he could do to change my mind. No, I said. I am sorry, I said.
There is that, and then there is this illness that is going around. Our sous chef was out sick and told me today that he threw up thirty times on Tuesday night. Thirty times! I did not ask if he actually kept count, although that is what I was thinking. Not that I didn't believe him but that is a pretty high number, and you'd think you would lose track around ten or so. He also said that he had a 103.9 fever. I told him that I was glad he was not brain damaged, and he concurred. His mother, our lady boss, has also been sick, which is why there was a reservation taken for 15 people in a private room for today at noon and no one told me. (I am glue.) Generally, when there is a private party on the books I schedule another server to take care of them. Today I took the party, as well as tables in the dining room and on the patio. The luncheon was a meeting of judges, and God forbid I ever get arrested (again) and have to stand before one of them because surely they will remember how I was tardy in refilling the iced tea and took forever to get their checks. There's a certain amount of pressure to get checks to people anyway, but when those people are expected in court, it ups the ante a bit.
The day shift ended as smoothly as it could, considering, and then the dinner crew started showing up. I sat and worked on the schedule for Thanksgiving week. I talked to the bosses about how the firing went, and how the judges were. I talked to the servers about the change of staff. A chef needed to talk about a hostess who sassed him. Our bar manager wanted an ear for her troubles with the bar staff. I explained to our new manager? office manager? assistant manager? about why it is necessary to put people on a wait sometimes, even when there are empty tables. I worked on the schedule some more. I made phone calls and cajoled the people who are not going out of town to work doubles over that weekend. I even made up a song about it to make it seem more fun. I said, over and over again, It will be Fine. It will be Great. I said Thank you, I love you. I filled in the head chef about the goings-on and we talked for a bit about his mom, who had passed early this week. It is very sad, and I told him that I was sorry to bring it up during dinner service but I didn't want to pretend I didn't know or that it did not happen. He said that it was alright, he thinks about it all the time anyway, and we agreed that it is nice to say things out loud. I hugged him, and I had never hugged him before, and it was sweet and funny.
I also hugged one of the hostesses when I saw her in the hallway as she came in and we both leaned into each other and sighed. She is a hostess, but she is also my baby sister's best friend and she is one of my little girls and her tiny bones are precious to me. It was good to see her face.
When our new server showed up to train for dinner I said, Hello Sexy-Pants! Come here so I can sexy your pants! Which doesn't make sense but makes sense for us because we have worked together before at another restaurant. To another server I said, No more talking. I don't even want to see your lips moving as if you are talking. Come move your face into my hand so I can slap you without moving my hand. Then I said, I love you. I am leaving now. And I hugged him too.
Then it was time for me to leave and so I walked around gathering my things and I hugged all the other servers. I told them all thank you, and I wished them a good night. I hope everyone is nice and you make lots of money. That is what we tell each other, and we laugh because we know not everyone will be nice and the money will be what it is on a chilly night a week before Thanksgiving.
There are things I can do, and there are things I cannot do. I can listen when people need to say what is resting heavy in them. I can reassure and be calm, even when I know that we will get our asses handed to us as we often do. I can work like a beast. I can tell people I love them. I can do that. And that is something that is not in my job description but it is something that, when said and meant, establishes loyalty and trust. They know that I will never ask something of them that I am not willing to do myself. I tell them they are beautiful, because they are so beautiful.
Here is the thing (I am duct tape): if you do your job well, people will tell you and thank you, but if you do your job really well, they will hardly notice what you do at all. That is the goal. That is the prize. To move through a space all the way to the end and touch but to not leave a mark, and when it is time to walk through the door everyone is smiling. I can't always do this, but when I can it is so fine.