I love my upstairs counterpart–a 24-year veteran of the biz and a flat-out pro. He is a dead ringer for and has the same deep, rich voice of the Uncola guy from the 7-Up commercials of yesteryear. He was lured back to the restaurant group when management wasn’t quite sure how I would pan out before our location opened.
As it was, I panned out fine after they tossed me in the deep end for six weeks to work at another of our group’s restaurants–which also happens to be among the busiest in the U.S. By the time our place opened its doors, I had learned from the best how to greet and seat hundreds–and build a 5-top in mere seconds.
Great, but what about the bathroom jokes?
I’m getting there.
Every morning, as part of our opening side work, one of us has to check the four bathrooms to make sure they are stocked and clean. We also have to place a bathroom check card in a cute little frame so that, throughout the day, the other hosts can check them off after they pick up toilet paper scraps and wipe off countertops.
This early morning task is not a favorite. It’s a little creepy for either of us to meander in to the opposite sex’s, um, personal realm. You just never know what you’ll find. Examples:
–I pound on the door of the upstairs mens room and announce my presence. No one answers, so I walk in. Only to hear the rustling of newspaper and shuffling of feet in the one stall. Please. Couldn’t you have yelled back that the place was occupied?
–I pound on the upstairs men’s room door and announce my presence. No one answers, so I walk in. Only to be followed by two workmen who plan to do their business in full view of me. “Hold on,” I say. “I’ll just be a second in here.” These guys don’t miss a stride toward the wall. “No, problem,” says one. “You aren’t in our way.” Well, thank goodness.
–I pound on the door of the downstairs bathroom and announce my presence. No one answers, so I walk in–almost. Because when I open the door, the first thing I see is a guy’s booted feet. The rest of him is under the sink countertop. Lying on the floor at a 90-degree angle next to him is another workman. I gasp. They are clearly startled. I say, “Oh, sorry, didn’t know anyone was in here!” They also gasp, then start babbling. “No problem. We’re fixing a leak, I mean…” “He means we’re plumbers, working. That’s why we’re on the floor together.” I am not one to judge.
Basically, I hate the opening bathroom side work. Which is why my counterpart torments me with it. “What’s the problem? I never have any problem with it? Just announce yourself.” Uh huh, right.
Recently, the bathroom humor became part of our break time. Time was, the staff could eat employee meals at the upstairs bar. Pretty soon, however, the upstairs bar began to resemble a high school cafeteria and actual guests couldn’t find an empty bar stool in the mid afternoon. This made the upstairs bartenders furious. It wasn’t pretty.
The word soon came down that, from now on, we were all relegated to the employee “lounge”–a cramped room flanked by two employee bathrooms, covered with wall-to-wall lockers, with a round table placed in the center of it.
My counterpart was appalled that this was where he would have to eat before he headed to his night job. At first, he tried hunkering down on the corner of the cheater rail. No way! Next, he hid in the coat closet that isn’t used for coats, but rather to store napkins and tablecloths. Gotcha! Finally, he perched on a chair in an alcove leading to a fire exit. Busted!
The first time he acknowledged defeat and actually took his meal to the lounge, he invited me to join him. “I got a side order of fries for you. Come on, we’re dining in the bathroom!” Ha!
The little room was packed when we arrived. The other bussers and servers were somewhat shocked to see us there. They assumed we had some special dispensation to continue to eat in public.
“Hi folks,” my counterpart boomed to all. “Sit down,” he motioned to me. He pulled up a barstool, covered it with a napkin, and placed his plate on it, displaying all the flourish as if it were a white tablecloth in a fine-dining restaurant.
“Perfect,” he decreed.
At which point the sound of a toilet flushing from one of the bathrooms provided the mood music.
“I love this!” he smiled at me. “Yes sir, I love it. Don’t you take your meals in your bathroom at home?”
He laughed his deep, Uncola-man laugh, and I couldn’t help but giggle along with him. Everyone else chomped their food in silence and stared at us.
I love my upstairs counterpart.
He makes everything seem okay.