Here’s one from the good old days!In the last few months, I have achieved a healthy balance in my working environments. In the morning I have an office job, and in the evenings I work at an Italian restaurant. While I am in the office, blearily watching the minutes tick by, I long for the hectic world of foodservice, and while I am at the restaurant, balancing awkward, heavy trays and splashing ice water everywhere, I long for the sweet, merciful release of death. So far, it has been a good system.
I wouldn’t mind the restaurant job as much if I weren’t in constant fear of being screamed at and/or fired. Mine is not a forgiving restaurant owner. There is a high turnover rate here—none of the other employees have worked for longer than a few months; all of us are fairly new. It is not difficult to see why; in this city there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of bodies willing to bear steaming hot plates of gnocchi and salads buried in pine nuts across a polished wood floor, until the day they either die or drop something.
There is something almost exhilarating about knowing that your job hangs in the balance every time you cross the room. “Could this be it?” you think at every turn. Did I just make my last cup of coffee? Will this steak betray me? Might this soup be my undoing?
I am not good at selling things to people. I should probably not make a career of it, as it would not be a wildly successful career. I’m simply unable to make anything sound appealing that I don’t find personally appealing, which is a large part of selling things…possibly the whole part. I didn’t fully realize this until I began working with people who ARE able to sell things.
“The Tiramisu? Oh, uh, it’s ok. You might like it. I mean, I’ve never had it, but it’s…I mean, it looks pretty good.”
This is not the way to sell a dessert. My boss at the restaurant, the gay French boss, the one who could not be either more French or more gay or he would risk exploding in a blinding flash of gay French light, the one who spanks me when I mess up orders and who made me call his old restaurant on April Fools Day and make a reservation for Joan Rivers; now HE knows how to sell things. He could sell a can of ravioli on a doily on a plate for $23. Oh, you need a can opener? Excellent choice. Of course, there is an additional $7 charge for that.
In his case, the key to selling things appears to lie in mispronouncing words to make them sound more exotic and less intelligible. Somehow, when he says “Beef Onion soup,” it sounds like a magical, tasty elixir. When I say it, I sound like a grouchy, world-weary cafeteria lady.
Actually, my favorite thing to do is to warn people away from certain dishes. If my boss were aware of this, I would doubtless get more than a spanking. But I can’t help myself sometimes. “Don’t bother with the Lemon Delicious cake,” I’ll murmur, leaning in closer as the table falls silent and round-eyed, hanging on my every word. “It’s not that good. People don’t usually finish it.” If I know a certain dish is good (usually only because I’ve slunk behind the ice machine and scarfed up untouched portions when the boss wasn’t looking), I recommend it, but people are never as impressed by my assurances of deliciousness as they are by my candid admissions of mediocrity. Perhaps my real calling lies more in the area of food criticism.