At the end of the day, and, frankly, in the middle of it, getting through the day is all about the details. The details you remembered, the details you almost remembered, the details you put on the back burner in the midst of a zillion phone calls and emails that gobbled up the rest of your once-sharp attention span.
I imagine there is an imaginary details barometer out there that registers all of this, then lets you know on a walk or a subway or a bus ride home, how it all worked out. This particular day was a winner. This one was 50/50. Other days, well, you dipped below a certain threshold and the barometric pressure was all out of whack.
Out of whack can happen so fast, so easily. It happens before you know it, before you can reign it back in and make it right. It happens when a quiet, not angry, reprimand leave you too chagrined to speak.
Before you know it, salmon filets and crab cakes are piling up in heaps on your desk. And all you can do is try to figure out a way to stare them down.
Party wants a choice of steak and salmon.
A choice of steak and crab cakes is mistakenly typed into the computer. It does not matter who made this initial mistake.
While manager is off, call comes in to correct the mistake and re-send a contract reflecting said correction.
While manager is off, some 50 phone calls and an equal number of emails come in. Wines for the week and cash bars need to be outlined. Menu selection numbers need to get to purchasing. The chef needs to know all of this, too, while he reminds you it is okay to book anything last-minute we can handle. And that’s just for this week–while all the while you are fielding those calls and emails to book for next week, next month, the next three months, the holidays, next spring’s party season. Oh, and don’t forget the tour groups that really only want a regular reservation for 80.
Where is my floor? Where are my guests to spend a few moments knowing? Where am I?
And that’s how the salmon-not-crab-cakes scandal unfolded. I let purchasing know about the change. I ran a new contract for the client reflecting the change. I just forgot to run a third cover sheet reflecting the change for the servers the night of. I thought I had. But I hadn’t.
Stop mocking me! I scolded the crab cakes. Get a life and quit meddling in mine! I yelled at the salmon filets. Both of which were piled so very high on my desk.
“But we wanted salmon, not crab cakes!” said the client to the captain the night of this event. She was not at all happy that her guests were offered crab cakes, which are a few more than a few dollars more than the salmon entree.
“That’s not what I signed for,” she declared. And she was right, as the captain discovered, when he reviewed all the paperwork and discovered my mistake. Her version of the correct contract was stapled to the back of the 20-plus other papers that made up the correspondence that resulted in an otherwise very nice dinner.
And the captain told her he was sorry, but now he also had to answer to the chef in the non-private-events side of the kitchen as to why he needed crab cakes from this chef’s delicately balanced line. And when the captain explained the error, the chef muttered expletives outlining his frustration with the one who made this mistake. In the end, it was only eight crab cakes.
Take that! said the salmon filets. Gotcha, said the crab cakes.
But a room fee was waved to make the client less anxious. And the eight crab cakes were discounted, too. And no one actually ordered the salmon, except for a couple of people. Most everyone ordered, and loved, the steak, which was correctly listed on the menu all along.
And I heard about this from the captain, my manager, and the GM, the morning after this scandalous crab-cake caper. I thought, too many times to say aloud, “Shit!”
And I repeated too many times for comfort: “I’m sorry, that last bit of paperwork slipped through the cracks. My mistake.”
Salmon, not crab cakes, I now repeat to myself. Don’t let it happen again, I constantly remind myself. Oh, don’t worry, it won’t ever happen again, I reassure myself.
All the while, I can’t help but notice the salmon filets stuffed under incomplete contracts, nor the crab cakes that remain hidden, lurking in my inbox.
Shhh. I whisper to them.
Don’t ever let those details–no matter how small–ever be wrong. Not tomorrow or the next day. Or the day after that. Repeat after me, I repeat to myself: salmon, not crab cakes.
Until the phone rings, and the maitre d’ says someone wants to talk to me in person. Live. Face to face.
I look at my desk, my email, the blinking light on my voice mail. So many salmons. So many crab cakes.
And yet I shout out with glee: “See ya later salmon filets. I’ll deal with you tomorrow crab cakes. I have people to talk to, people to interact with, people to welcome into my world.”
Until they remind me again, hours later, again tomorrow, what I can’t ever forget.
Salmon. Not crab cakes.