One of my trainees is a baby–17, headed into his senior year in high school. I adore him. He is earnest and smart and hard-working. And very nervous. I am pretty sure this is his first “real” job.
Restaurant Gal Daughter has been a Godsend in his training. She has shown him many ropes and offered sage advice on how to handle the rigors and challenges of this crazy job. (I am so proud of how well she is doing, and not just because I am her mama!)
If today didn’t send him screaming for the door, he’s good for a while. Happily, Restaurant Gal Daughter had given this trainee her take on not getting “pulled-into-the-drama”–just before the incident.
But first, let me set the stage.
Thursday is always busy, but today was crazy from the get-go, since the U.S. was playing its World Cup match early. Area bars were packed by 9 a.m. A small crowd gathered at 10 a.m. outside our place. When I told them we weren’t open, they pouted and seemed so disappointed, I asked my favorite manager if it was okay for them to come in to watch. Sure, he said.
So, while I was trying to go over table numbers and sections with the kid, customers were cheering and groaning and swilling various drinks at an hour when most folks take their orange juice plain, not mixed with Vodka.
“This is a bit unusual,” I told him.
“Oh, okay,” he smiled.
At our actual opening time, customers were on a mission: Get a table by any TV, anywhere. We filled very fast.
It got so nutty, I sent the kid and Restaurant Gal Daughter to seat with the other hosts, figuring the trainee would shadow for another day. But they threw him to the wolves, and he ended up seating on his own. He did fine.
When things quieted down, we settled in for our training meal.
“You are really doing well,” I smiled as we enjoyed our entrees. “Based on how today went, what questions do you have?”
Before he could even think about a response, the sound of breaking glass and clanking silverware reverberated near the podium, about 15 feet away from where we were eating.
Someone dropped a huge tray of items, I figured.
Then I heard the shouts. Uh oh.
“Hey, I think there’s a fight next to the podium,” I told a manager who was working on paperwork nearby.
She glanced up. “What?” Yep, exactly the same bewildered response I had when I was asked to call the police.
More shouts came from the area. “A fight! Someone’s fighting,” I repeated.
She dashed out as other staff also gathered to break it up.
The bussers who had gotten into it with each other were told to follow the manager. Other servers and bussers and hosts quickly appeared with brooms and trays to clean up the mess.
I stared. I was actually stunned, even though I had heard and seen it unfolding. The reality of it–at that moment–was simply stunning.
“Does that happen often here?” my trainee asked, trying not to sound nervous, his eyes as big as the now-broken saucers.
I turned to him, still feeling like I was dreaming.
“Oh, that? No. Never,” I answered, sounding confident and relaxed, and wondering where I had acquired this sudden acting ability, because I sure didn’t feel relaxed.
“Oh good,” he smiled, obviously relieved.
Oh my God! I thought. What the hell had just happened? Was it for real?
“Hang on a sec. Let me see what’s up,” I calmly told my trainee.
I wandered over to the scene. Restaurant Gal Daughter and another host were standing behind the podium, frozen, both with their own deer-in-the-headlights expressions.
“Is everything okay?” I asked them.
“Did you see it?” Restaurant Gal Daughter asked, almost breathless.
“Was it really a fight?” I asked, still not sure I had correctly processed what I knew I had just seen.
“YES!” she exclaimed, laughing a laugh that was all nerves and no frivolity.
“Well, it’s all over, now,” I said, doing the reassurance thing with her, too.
“Um, sure,” Restaurant Gal Daughter said. “But those customers all saw it,” she said, pointing to a family.
At which point, another customer, a young business guy, walked past us and smiled, “Everything okay, now?”
Are you kidding me?
“All good,” I smiled back.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
That’s all I could think.
But I knew I had to return to my trainee.
He looked nonplussed. I had adequately reassured him. The uproar had been brief. It was all over. Even the shards of glass had been swept up in less than a minute.
“Is that what you mean about the drama?” he asked.
I stared hard at him before I answered, mustering a quasi-smile. “Yep, that’s some kind of drama alright. Just let it roll off your back. Besides, I am sure they won’t be working here anymore.”
“Crazy, huh?” I smiled
“Yeah,” he sort-of laughed. And he finished his meal.
And all I could think was, “Are you kidding me?”