Stone Crabs-in-a-Barrel Days

In my previous life, as many of my readers know, I worked for a magazine as a writer and managing editor. THE Editor, my boss, adored me as an employee for the first year. I worked long hours, got the magazine back on its monthly publishing schedule, and fretted over every tiny detail.

During that first year, I also assured my boss not to worry when she twisted her knee and had to be out for two weeks, when I myself had only been on the job for three. I offered advice on how to cure a sinus infection–every month for months–when she called out sick at least two days out of five. I sympathized with her plight about scheduling repair people between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., dentists who could only book an appointment in the middle of the day, planes that were late, cars that broke down, and snow that only seemed to fall in record amounts on her driveway.

Actually, a year into the job, I finally got it. Duh. This so-called boss didn’t like to work. Truth was, she rarely came to work. I was doing her job and mine and doing both pretty darn well. Except she was making the big bucks and I was making far less. And it wasn’t so much the money that made me crazy, it was how no one called her out on what she was–a lazy-ass employee who worked the system well enough to take 5-day weekends every week.

The minute my editor knew I knew she was a lazy-ass boss, she stopped adoring me, and she took off even more time. She manufactured illness and excuses that were as laughable as they were lame. She was the joke of the office. Except I wasn’t laughing, because I was killing myself to save the integrity of the magazine, while she “worked from home.” I finally had enough, and I walked away. She was fired a few months later. Gosh, really?

This weekend, I had my first uncomfortable moments with co-workers at my South Florida restaurant. Oh sure, this was inevitable. But I always take such moments very hard and very personally, figuring if I were THAT great a worker, these moments wouldn’t happen. My brain knows this is an idiotic way to perceive working relationships. My heart, however, takes them very much to heart. Then my heart hurts. Then I feel like I am at the bottom of a barrel.

Last night, I pissed off my normally supportive GM. I wanted to die when this happened, and I spent the rest of night working in a fog and going over and over in my mind about how to make it right with him again. I am pretty sure we are okay, now, but it definitely shook me.

Tonight, I pissed off a couple of servers who actually remind me of my lazy-ass former editor boss, except these two aren’t boss material, or even close to it. They are the types of servers who think hosts and bussers work for them, and they are the first to criticize the hosts and bussers when something goes wrong. They are crappy about turning their tables, but refuse to lift a finger to help the bussers re-set their tables, even though they know we are down more than a couple of bussers. Then they complain about their cover counts.

Or, in the case of this evening, they complained about me–the dumb host. Despite the many hats I wear at this restaurant, that’s the one they like to keep me in. The details of what heinous offense I committed against them are unimportant. If I was decent enough at my job, I would have taken the extra step to set them up for success, right? If I was finally getting it at this restaurant, I wouldn’t have been on the receiving end of one’s confrontational attitude in front of guests I was trying to seat, or both their relentless rolling eyes and angry glares the rest of the night. If I had just….

On the other hand, f— ’em. Because at the end of this night, at the end of this weekend, just as I despaired that the reality of this place’s reality might be more than I bargained for, I remembered what the best maitre d’ I ever worked with used to say to me, when he sensed I was both incredulous at and folding under the crush of the blame game: “Crabs in a barrel, baby. Don’t let ’em drag you down.”

What I wouldn’t give to work another shift with him. Tomorrow would be fine.






8 responses to “Stone Crabs-in-a-Barrel Days”

  1. Tinker Avatar

    Joke ’em if they can’t take a f***. Or something like that.

  2. mikepete Avatar

    BOY!! I needed to hear that tonight!! Thank you!

  3. Julie Avatar

    I had one co-worker who’s refrain was “that’s not in my job description” and would refuse or half-heartedly help. We were in the middle of a big event and I was working on a project scheduling 400 people for four customized sessions. It took forever and was very stressful. When it came time to help me print out everyone’s schedules and have someone run them down to the registration area, it wasn’t in her job description.

    This whole project wasn’t in my job description. I’m a graphic designer.

    At the end of every job description at our company, it reads “And other duties as they are assigned.”

    Some people just need to be thumped on the head… with a brick.

  4. Kim Ayres Avatar

    There is all the difference in the world between someone working to the best they are capable of, and somone working the minimum they can get away with. If ever you look around and see other people shirking off and getting away with it, it is the most demoralising thing and makes you think, “well if they can get away with it, why should I bother?”

    How much is it a passion and how much is it just a way to earn bucks? For those who just need the money, they will always look for the easiest way to get it with the minimum effort. If the boss is tolerating that behaviour, or failing to create a climate where everyone feels they belong, then he needs talking to

  5. Ex-Restaurant Manager Avatar

    Lazy, self-important employees are the bane of a smooth running operation, be it a restaurant or a 7-11. Even though Florida is a “free-will” state ( you can fire anyone at anytime with no appreciable reason ), it’s still wise to start a paper trail. In other words, the dreaded Employee Communication Form. It helps in case of unemployment claims. It also lets that employee know that you mean business. Any most importantly, that you are NOT their peer, but their superior. And then spread the word that you’re looking to hire more servers.

    Some servers I had working for me were good, hard-working, responsible people. And some needed their egos deflated. Sounds like some of the latter migrated to your place.

    Good Luck, RG!

  6. savannah Avatar

    tell me you’re off tomorrow, sugar, because it sounds as if you need a tiny bit of distance! 😉

  7. Brave Astronaut Avatar

    There are people in any work environment that one does well to not piss off, ever. Shortly after starting at one of my first jobs, I alienated the office manager. I spent the better part of the next year making amends.

    People who depend on you would certainly do better being nicer to you. I will admit to some naivete about the restaurant business, but a server pisses off the host, that would be bad, would it not?

    Plus, they are being mean to you. And we can’t have that. Don’t make us come down there and work them over in the alley.