I think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously. In light of my last post, a follow-up is necessary. For the past few months I have been the front-of-house manager for one of most popular restaurants in our area. I mentioned in the last post how much I love the problem solving, right? Yes. Did I also say how much chaos is my thing? Yeah. I did. Oh. My. I love when I eat my own words. It’s tastes great!
Here’s the deal. I like to take crazy and make it make sense. I’ve been pretty good at my job thus far. Busy days are my favorite. I like the feeling of stepping in when everything hits the fan, fixing it, and no guest in our restaurant even notices. I usually laugh hysterically when several people come to me at once with what they feel are end-of-world problems. I don’t laugh at them. I laugh at how nuts things can get. I usually take a deep breath, roll up my sleeves, and start putting out fires. One by one in order of priority, I fix things. Yesterday, things got a bit too much. Even this chaos-seeker couldn’t get the fires under control.
It all started at noon. I got a call from the busser. Car problems. He’ll be an hour or so late tonight. No problem here. Due to budget cuts, I was scheduled as the hostess. No big deal. I can buss and host. Solved. When I got to work, more little fires. BAM! Taken care of in the first hour. I was thinking it was a crazy start to a Monday, but things were quiet. Business was slow. A sick server’s shift got covered, another needed the next day off. No problem. Move this one here, and that one there. Done. Sometimes things get hairy. That’s the way it is in the restaurant biz. Just Saturday I was talking with a cooks’ father who was in town from Florida. He’s had a successful restaurant in Syracuse for thirty years. We chatted about how it is hard at times. It’s just the way it is.
Everything at work stayed quiet the rest of the day. Too quiet, in fact. By four PM I was so bored I actually said out loud that I wished to bar would explode so I’d have something to do. To give you some background on that statement, let me tell you that my first day managing we had a loud gun-shot sound in the middle of the dinner rush. Turns out the bartender caught the edge of the bar glass with a wine bottle. A six foot section of the bar burst into a ba-gillion tiny pieces. Right under a hotel insurance adjusters’ dinner. Yeah. It’s gets crazy. It always happens right when the restaurant is full too.
So, I’m so bored yesterday that I asked for an explosive mess.
I got it.
The busser let me know that he’ll be even later. The restaurant was starting to fill and my servers were getting a bit frazzled. I let him know to just get in when he can. They would love his help cleaning up later. I proceeded to the bar to make some drinks, wondering where the bar tender was. At this point I was wondering if he was coming at all. As I made a few drinks, the look on the servers faces was getting panicked. The restaurant was filling very quickly. I was tending to the bar folk to relieve their stress. I was getting that feeling that things were slipping from me. I couldn’t leave where I was…too much to do.
Muddling drinks in the midst of a “situation” feels like waiting for water to boil. The time seems to never end. I knew I needed to walk the floor and check on my servers, but the drink orders kept coming! I got up and couldn’t get out from behind the bar. I spied the pizza server and knew she could make drinks. I called her over and let her loose. I served pizzas for her and ran through the kitchen to check the schedule.
Just as I suspected. Bar tender was an hour late, and now fired! Okay, no bar tender tonight. Things are getting nuts!
Throw in the fact that the service is getting slower, we’re on a wait list, and another local restaurant owner was very unhappy with his experience…that all adds up to this manager feeling like a failure.
Who’s that I spy? An off-duty bartender walking in the lobby? Get in! Punch in, and send the pizza girl back to her side.
Here come more and more people. Food is in the window and needs running. Here I go. The bartender is doing his best. I check on cups and run more to him. Who’s that I see? That’s right. The thirty year restaurateur. He asks how I am. Uhhhhh. Things are a little messy tonight.
“I know. I could tell when I walked in.”
Defeat is an ugly mental state. It was on every face of my people that night. Times like that you just have to push through. I was holding on to the idea that the busser would show up at any minute to smooth things out a bit.
Then I saw a text.
He’s not coming. Just couldn’t get here in time with all the set-backs.
More defeat on the faces of my servers. That meant that after all the rude people, failed team member, stress of knowing you didn’t give your guest what you wanted to give, you’ll now be taking on all the closing cleaning of the busser.
I stayed to close because I knew my servers need a lift after all that beat-down the night gave them. I figured that if we pumped up some old-school hip-hop after closing we could get the pep in our step back.
The service settled. The guests went as fast as they came. When the last one left, I went straight to the music.
It wouldn’t work.
And that was the night.
At every expectation of relief or hope of it getting easier, it failed.
Isn’t life like that? There are certain seasons, days, years, that feel so defeating. I was downcast in my heart while still trying to encouraging to my staff. I determined to just push through the crappy night. There’s a word that I learned early in my Christian walk.
That word has a way of lifting me and propelling me. Sometimes by one more day. Sometimes by one more hour. Just a bit longer. I have a verse on my wall that I look at and consider almost daily.