Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Now Have Time to Recommend Books!

It's rare for me to go and buy a brand new book. Usually I'll borrow from my parents' bookshelves, go to the library on a recommendation, or periodically browse my favourite used book shops. (She Said Boom on College St. often has new releases in excellent condition, at used prices!) But when I read an excerpt from Stacey May Fowles' Fear of Fighting this winter, I knew I had to have it.

Fowles, born in Scarborough, and currently living in Toronto, hones in on the nuances of relationships in an absolutely convincing and endearing way. Fear of Fighting brings up boyfriend-related scenarios and encounters that are utterly familiar, but her dialogue and descriptions are so hilarious, original and absurdly truthful:

'Before you know it, you go out for Chinese food and he’s ordering jelly fish salad and preserved pork just to piss you off. He asks you if you want green beans even though he knows you don’t like green beans, and when you remind him he says, “What kind of fucking person doesn’t like green beans?”'

The novel is packed with witty gems like these, some so true to life that it's astonishing - a collective Canadian female experience?? I invited a friend over for some wine, and the two of us read out loud to each other from this book. It was Saturday night, and the two of us were nearly in tears laughing at the genius of this author. Reading aloud...Canadian author...Saturday night....move over, Atwood!

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's My Party...

Let's say you were having a party. A party about shoes. Shoes made by respected, talented artists and designers. A launch party for Canada's only alternative fashion journal's shoe issue. With 300 people invited. At a world-class museum devoted to shoes. A party that was your responsibility to make successful, fun and memorable.

What shoes do you wear to this party??

And, if you can't even figure out what to wear on your feet, how are you supposed to dress the rest? (especially if the shoes you covet are worth two months rent...)

A Service Industry Diary No More!

Well, the day has finally come.... I have a day job! And as many restaurant-related stories as I have left to tell, there are so many other things I'd rather rant about. And rave about! Lots of great changes going on, and being introduced to so much more than taking orders, setting tables, pouring wine (Only for myself now!!).

Devoted readers, stay tuned!

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's in the Details

For once, I am in a fine dining restaurant and I'm not serving anyone. A alarmingly knowledgeable and well-composed lady is doing what I normally do. Tonight, I get to be the annoying girl who asks all the questions about the menu and hedges, needing more time to decide. But this is not the point. The point is that I came to a realization: I am a mediocre server, at least compared to this lady.

This lady is so good at her job, that she knows what I want before I know I want it. She has a 25% tip in the bag before the first course even arrives. This is what she does. She notices that I am chewing gum. She slyly places a little plate with a fancy cocktail napkin beside me, and I don't even notice. So when I'm ready to get rid of the gum, I don't even have to briefly consider defiling the expensive cloth napkins - she's two steps ahead of me with the solution.

This is amazing to me. She is a smart lady. I'm totally gonna steal her trick.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Baby, what's your sign?

My posts have been lacking lately because I've been working so few shifts that I've got minimal material to work with. It's been nice in a way because I've got plenty of time to focus on other important things. My mom has taken great pity on me, and has been popping around every corner with some version of a motivational speech. "Stop moping, you're a Leo, get yourself out there, take more vitamins, use these coupons I clipped for you."

She clips the horoscope out of three newspapers daily and will mail them to me with highlighted phrases and her own commentary on the side. I am supposed to wear my astrological sign like a badge of honour, never betray it, draw strength from it and manage my hair like a lion's mane.

Well, the other night after work, a few of us sat around chatting over drinks. The conversation had turned to astrology, and one of the chefs was giggling and calling himself "Le Bra" because he's a Libra. He asked me what my sign was and said, "Dude, you're a Leo? I would never have guessed that!" To which of course, I inwardly bristled. Having been conditioned since birth to think that I was a privileged, superior sign (or maybe that's a Leo trait in itself), I was aghast to think that no one would peg me as such.

He then went on to ask our boss (the owner, of whom I live in awe and fear) what sign she thought I was. And she said, "Hmm...I don't know. Cancer, probably." I smiled sweetly and replied, "Well, I am on the cusp!"

This exchange really magnified how much I've been compromising for this job. For example, at every other workplace, I've always loudly and consistently corrected those who misspell my name. Here, I've never uttered a protest. And it's spelled incorrectly on the POS, the schedule, and my paycheques.

I will apologize on six different occasions for some minimal mistake, say thank you repeatedly for someone who cleared an empty bread basket from one of my tables, blurt, "What? What's wrong?" when someone says, "Come here for a second." I am meek, demure, overly sensitive and smile to the point of creeping myself out.

But this is the only way I can get through it. I'm stifling all my instincts, because otherwise I'll probably walk out. I'm aware of how futile it is to argue, point out a flaw, assert myself, or reveal my actual personality. There is so much bullshit, tattle tales, critical judgement, and competitiveness that I don't trust myself to say a contrary word. I put in my time, wearing my chameleon suit. They can spell my name in Wingdings and call me a Capricorn, as long as I get paid.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Icing Sugar, I Swear!

I pass my co-worker in the dining room as he's carrying plates to a table. My eyes widen, but my hands are full and I can't stop him.

I pull him aside by the bar. "Hey, you have something on your face. Under your nose..."

Another colleague whisks by, chuckling as he overhears me - "Is it white, or is it red?"

He dashes to the bathroom to check out the situation. Returning, nose clean, he assures me that it was only icing sugar - he'd been munching on desserts. I nod skeptically at the man who has been on a diet since January.

Two nights later, I notice the same problem again. I don't bother to say anything this time.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Won't Succumb

My best friend has always been a little disappointed in how easily I give in to certain types of peer pressure - in particular, smoking. Primarily a problem after I've had several cocktails, I've always been tempted to have a smoke with the others. Usually a cute boy would say, "Join me for a smoke?" and I could never resist. Sometimes I'd just like to hold it in my hand, occasionally bring it to my lips and pretend that I was Lauren Bacall. I was one of those kids who puffed on her Popeye cigarettes, creating a fanciful imaginary character for herself. (The most recurring character was a harried single mom carrying her baby on the subway, late for an appointment with my editor. I was seven, the baby was my dog. I was also an only child.)

Working in the service industry has only heightened my exposure to cigarette smoking. As a general rule, it repulses me. It also annoys me that these smokers have the privilege of disappearing periodically for a smoke break. The fact that they disappear is the key. I can't sit around in the back with a bottle of mineral water, going, "Back in five. I'm on a Pellegrino break." I would also look ridiculous standing outside with the same bottle of water, taking swigs alongside their puffs. So I'm always the one to watch the section while they go for a smoke, given the job of running to fetch my coworker if the table starts to leave. I'm never in the position of frantically spraying Axe or choking down mints before dashing back to say goodbye to the customers.

But the other night, I decided that I was going to have a cigarette. It had been a busy, stressful week, and almost everybody lights up after work. "Hey, give me one of those," I said to the hostess, who looked at me suspiciously. "I'm serious. Please?" She slowly handed it to me like she was about to corrupt my virginal innocence. I don't see how it's any worse than blowing into my face half the time, but of course I smiled sweetly and said, "Thanks, got a light?" And I smoked the whole thing. I didn't even pretend to inhale like I normally do. The next day I kind of wanted another one and kept asking my roommates, "Do you think it's the nicotine invading my body already? Should I have another one?"

I did resist - smoking is an expensive and stinky habit. But for some reason, imaginary or not, that one cigarette was enough to calm me down as we sat around and made fun of certain customers and rehashed the pace of the kitchen. But I sipped my wine and smoked my cigarette and realized that it didn't make me any cooler. I thought of my roommate, who sounds like he's hacking up a lung in the shower and drank catnip tea for a week to try and break up the phlegm. I thought of boys I'd kissed who really did taste like ashtrays. I thought of the way my clothes and hair smell after a night out with smokers. And I put that darn thing out and super-sized my glass of wine instead. We all have our vices.