Monday, November 05, 2007

Even triple chocolate raspberry cheesecake didn't make this fun

When I was in high school, I worked for a place called The Parker House in downtown Sudbury. A fancy little B&B combined with restaurant, it seemed like a great place for summer work - great atmosphere, amazing food, and the chance for some waitressing experience.

Parker House did a brisk lunch business, which often had people lining up out the doors and onto the sidewalk outside. The clientèle that queued up at lunchtime usually consisted of lawyers, paralegals, and other important looking people who were always saying things like "I need this order filled in the next five minutes", "how fast will this be?", and "I really hope I don't wait as long as I did yesterday".

Regular people would respond to a smile and a "we're going as quickly as we can, please have a seat and we'll call your number soon", but these business-suit-wearing-multiple-cell-phone-carrying people only want to hear "it'll be ready in 2 minutes!"

(Their orders were NEVER ready in two minutes)

The problem with the lunch crowd was that they all showed up at the same time and expected us to have all of their food ready at once. Since it's not possible to make up 50 specialty coffees, 20 smoothies, 100 fancy grilled sandwiches, and package up dozens of deserts, people were always cranky and always "late from lunch". But everyday it was the same thing. We had this one lawyer who used to show up at 12:08 every day and expect his grilled sandwich and double mocha latte to be ready immediately. Even if there were 25 people ahead of him in line. I remember asking my boss one day if we could just prepare his sandwich ahead of time so he'd only have to wait for the coffee, but she said the one day they had done this for him, he got angry and ordered something else.

I guess some people just enjoy being pissed off...

So there I was, new to the food services industry, waiting tables, bussing tables, cleaning floors and bathrooms, making food and brewing interesting kinds of coffees while Nat King Cole sang on the stereo. It was hard work, but I did enjoy the bustle of it, the smells of the food, and the fabulous food I got to eat on my lunch breaks (that I had to pay for).

Aside from paying for my lunches and having to share my tips with the other waitstaff (one of whom was totally useless and pretty much leeched our money - including a $5 tip from my PARENTS), the problem that finally led me to quitting was my boss' incredibly messy desk.

Some of the staff claimed that she used to keep a bottle of rum in her desk, which she'd mix with cokes and drink downstairs while we ran around working. I never saw this, but I don't ever remember seeing her without a drink in her hand.

One morning after I'd been there for almost two month, I got into work, grabbed my apron and the broom (people opening had to sweep everything up from the night before), put on the coffee, and glanced at the schedule hanging beside the door.

"What the HELL?!"

My name was scratched out, as well as all of my shifts.

Dropping the broom, I hurried down the steep stairs to the kitchen area and my boss' desk to find out what was going on. Having not been told of any problems with my work, I was very confused about seeing my name with a black line over it.

"Oh good morning, Melinda", said my boss quietly.

"Ya, um, good morning. I'm just wondering why my name is scratched out on the schedule. Is there some kind of problem?"

"Why don't you tell me?" she said, adding "I'd really love to know where that envelope that had $800 on it disappeared to. And since you closed last night, I figure you'd be a good person to ask."

Never in my life have I been so completely shocked. I'm the kind of person who spent an extra 40 minutes at that same job because my till didn't add up to what I thought (was missing around $3.20). I've never stolen anything in my life, and certainly wouldn't consider taking an envelope with $800 from somebody's desk. And that's assuming I even KNEW about it, which I hadn't until that morning.

My boss and her husband then proceeded to grill me about the missing money for about 30 minutes, after which they said I was "off the schedule" until it turned up.

I marched out of there with tears in my eyes, furious and humiliated.

They hadn't fired me. Yet. I figured they'd wait a week and if the money didn't turn up, I'd be out on my ear. At that point, I didn't care anymore and just wanted my name cleared.

Sure enough, the money did turn up. My boss' messy desk was the culprit. Loaded with papers and empty cups, the missing envelope had been knocked into the garbage can, which the cleaning staff (who were also questioned apparently) had then loaded into the huge bin outside. It was found the next day by the same cleaning lady who'd probably dumped it there, and brought back in to sit on the messy desk.

My name was cleared, and my job will mine, but at that point there was no way I was going to stay employed with them. So I quit.

Other than collecting my last paycheck, I haven't been back into the place since.

(which is too bad, because the food was incredible)

The chef at the time was one of the nicer employees, and followed me outside to say goodbye as I carried my little paycheck and dumped my apron on the pile of uniforms.

"So apparently money went missing again. They accused the cleaning staff, fired one of them, and then asked ME if I 'd heard anything about it!"

I wasn't surprised.

With my last-ever piece of chocolate cheesecake in a bag on the seat beside me, I drove away from that place with a huge smile, thinking of all of the poor people who go dumpster-diving in downtown Sudbury. One of them was eventually going to hit the jackpot.

All because of a messy desk.


  • At 9:25 AM, Blogger Suldog said…

    Ugh. That's horrible, M. You sound like you were much calmer, once your name had been cleared, than I would have been. I would have had to open up a can of self-righteous indignation on their asses.

    Coincidence: My great-great-grandfather was a chef at the Parker House in Boston. He was (believe it or not) the inventor of the Parker House Roll.


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