Thursday, September 15, 2011

… And Another One Bites the Dust

I guess it's no longer important that our microwave blew up because fridge number 2 is being eulogized and mourned over in a cemetery plot next to fridge number 1. I have nothing to put in the microwave since all of my food has walked off on newly sprouted legs (leaving only an unpleasant smell and a trail of green goo behind it). Even if I did have some kind of sustenance, I woke up this morning and realized that I am yet again teething. I may steal some of the dog's chew toys. Maybe her squeaky chicken. It's not very lifelike but I'm desperate enough that it just might taste like schnitzel.
In other news, after the disaster that was the 60's party I knew I had to quit the bar. I worked one more shift and then quit afterwards. Suddenly dressing up like an escaped Bais Yaakov girl didn't seem so bad anymore. At least I wouldn't have to wear peace signs. I decided to ease back into working at the restaurant without them even noticing. I told the manager that I could work any time the rest of the week if he needed me. Which he of course did. The owner's parents came in to eat (gratis of course) and his mother commented that “she was so glad to see me and was so upset to hear that I'd quit.” I'm like, I uh... thanks I guess. She seemed as upset at my leaving as I was on returning to the restaurant.
So I'm pretty much where I started except down some money for the month of August for the few weeks I didn't work at all. Not only that, but when the owner finally noticed that I was working full time again he “renegotiated” my wage back down to minimum. So he's a jerk and I work at a job that I hate to pay for an apartment that's falling down around me. Such is life I suppose.
It's not only my life that sucks. My mother got back from the States last week from helping her mother move to assisted living after becoming essentially immobile and wheelchair bound. My family all met up on Thursday for a sushi dinner in Tel Aviv to celebrate my birthday. Not the happiest of occasions. I was forced to sit through my mother telling us about my miserable, sick grandmother and my sister and her husband telling us about how their apartment caught fire, almost burnt down and how all their stuff is ruined. Great. What an uplifting conversation. At this point I just kind of wanted to go home. Does someone else maybe want to get mugged or come down with E. Coli? Or maybe go through an earthquake, hurricane, subsequent power outage and phone company strike? Oh no wait, we're back to my grandmother. My sister called my parents in the middle of the night and my father picked up. In her state of half-consciousness, when my mother heard “fire” she of course immediately thought there was a fire in my apartment. If my apartment ever burns down, it will be because I burnt it down. Or because the wall next to the bathroom with faulty wiring is still wet. If my landlady's apartment burns down (she refuses to replace the fridge because she wants no responsibility for anything in the apartment), I will proclaim my innocence and take an extended vacation in Baja.
Obviously I was in quite a mood after a.) reading my fridge its last rites and b.) receiving my paycheck for August. I know I demanded 27 shekels an hour but after working at the restaurant during that time, I saw how incredibly busy it was and how much money we collected in tips. For those of you just tuning in or who may have forgotten, the salary is paid in a very unusual manner especially for a restaurant. The customers are charged a 15% service fee directly onto their bill which is counted and split up at the end of the month. We are then paid by check with all the taxes and other various government fees already taken off. If we don't make an average of at least minimum wage an hour in tips for that month, the restaurant makes up the difference.
When I got my paycheck I was a bit taken aback to realize that I'd gotten what I'd asked for but no more. I knew that we'd made an average of maybe 800-1000 shekels in tips a night. Where was all that money going? I couldn't figure it out and I was getting more and more upset as I thought about it.
I sat and stewed some more on the bus and by the time I got to work I was so angry that I demanded that the manager tell me where all that money was going and why my paycheck was so low. I told him if I didn't get a satisfactory answer I was going to turn around and walk out the door. He said he didn't know how the owner paid everyone, he also wasn't sure why my paycheck was so low, bla bla bla, more excuses, and you can't leave because we have a table of 10 coming soon. I was like, not my problem. Call him up and tell him I want to talk to him. He didn't want to call him (he dislikes confrontation and conflict even more than I do) but said he'd let me talk to him when he called in a few minutes. The owner finally appeared (late to a meeting, as usual) and said he'd talk to me after said “meeting” (i.e. shady looking business deal) and then the 10 people came in and I had to take their orders (not as patiently as usual) and then he left again. He did eventually come back and I cornered him and asked him to explain to me how he paid us. After sending me off again to do a few things (go check on the table in the corner, bring that table ketchup, etc.) he finally couldn't put it off any longer. He explained his incredibly complicated method of hour keeping and tip accounting and I finally understood that he's an even cheaper jerk than I'd thought. It seems he also pays the manager from tips (instead of just paying him a normal salary) even though he's not a waiter plus if the tips come out to more than 30 shekels an hour for the night, he counts the kitchen as one person (for 7 or 8 hours) and shares the tips with them too (not that the kitchen staff has noticed any kind of change in their salary). He also pays himself tips if he works in the dining area for a few hours even though he owns the whole place. So essentially, he's paying his entire staff on the tips that the waiters are earning. And that's where all that money is going. Cheap bastard.
After explaining all this to me, he said to me “there were a few nights that you didn't make 27 shekels an hour so I added a few shekels to make it 27 an hour for that night. I thought you'd be happy instead of complaining that it's not enough but I guess no one ever is.” I didn't have anything else to say to him so I just got up and left. I was pissed off and not feeling fantastic (physically and emotionally) so I informed the manager that I was leaving when the other waitress showed up. I don't know what's going to happen with this job but all I can say is if the place burns down, I'll be in Mexico.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pugnacious Bartenders & Peace Signs

You know what I dislike more than drunk people? Parties. Which is why I was very happy not to be scheduled to work on Thursday night which is when the bar was having their highly anticipated (by them if by no one else) '60's party.' In fact, I was quite relieved because the one thing I hate more than parties is dressing up. The other staff seemed to be excited, chattering over what they were going to wear and how much fun it was going to be, etc. I did not partake of this chatter; I rarely partake in any chatter especially if it revolves around clothes, parties, or any kind of fun whatsoever.
It had been a long week and I was looking forward to a relaxing Thursday of coffee and lunch at the mall in Ma'ale Adumim with my father and then making dessert (in a clean and fully stocked kitchen) for the family we were staying at for Shabbat.
I had worked Sunday, filled in for someone on Monday, worked as scheduled on Tuesday, and answered the summons to help out at the restaurant on Wednesday (explanation to follow). Frankly, I was exhausted. As for working at the restaurant, the manager had been calling me every day asking me if I could work that night. Obviously I had told him no, I had a job, I was working that night, whatever would make him stop calling me. I finally told him that there was no reason for me to work at the restaurant because I was getting paid 25 shekels at the bar and I wouldn't work for less. He called me back the next day and told me that he'd relayed my message to the owner but had told him that I would only work for 27 or 28 shekels an hour. The owner actually agreed to guarantee me at least 27 shekels an hour (which just shows how desperate he must have been). So I agreed to work on Wednesday. I needed the money and the pay and hours were better than at the bar so I figured I may as well work there a few times if they needed me.
First however, I was expected at the bar for “arts & crafts” time. They had asked all the waitresses to come in to decorate for the 60's party. They offered us free food and drinks (including cocktails) as an incentive because obviously they weren't paying us for our time. I guess they thought we'd come in due to our clearly feminine love for cutting out hearts and peace signs and for the chance to chat about our love lives and gossip about the customers. I passed kindergarten despite being the kid who glued her fingers together and I have no great love of arts & crafts. I also wasn't going to be drinking any cocktails seeing as I had to work at the restaurant afterward. So I wandered in an hour late trying to hide my annoyance at this irritating obligation and trying even harder to ignore the idle chitchat which is considered to be interesting to the other waitresses. They didn’t even end up having free food or drinks (which didn't altogether surprise me). All I could do was look forward to my day off on Thursday.
Thursday came around, and I was happily carrying out my plans of coffee and cooking. I had just finished making the dessert and had moved on to making peas when I decided I should probably check my phone. I'd left it in my bag and forgotten about it for the past few hours so I was not surprised to find a missed call and a text message. They were both from the head waitress at the bar. I was not anxious to read the message knowing that it was probably something that would ruin my day. And it did. She wanted me to come in at 8:00, dressed up. After wailing and cursing for about 5 minutes while mournfully stirring my peas I looked at my watch and realized that it was already 6:30. There was no way I was going to make it on time if I had to go back to my apartment first. Plus I didn't happen to have a 60's costume lying around. Really, who has random costumes sitting in their closet? Do they think I live in the backstage of a theater? So I pulled something marginally retro together and told them I could be there by 9:30.
It would not be an overstatement to say that I was dreading it. And justifiably. When I got in the computer they use for ordering was down so the other waitress asked me to give the bartender the order while she was busy elsewhere. I took a step into the bar area in order to catch the bartender's attention and he went nuts on me. He said, “I don't know if anyone told you but you may NEVER come behind the bar. This area is bartenders only and waitresses aren't allowed back here. If you need something you have to call me or put in an order, not come back here. Bla bla bla, you're bad, what were you thinking, I'm a territorial caveman with prehistoric instincts, etc.” At some point I think he regressed a few million years back to grunting and making threatening movements at me. When he was finally done proving his superiority over me, the lowly waitress, I just kind of stared at him for a few seconds and said, “I forgot what I wanted.” I finally remembered and asked him for ½ a liter of Heineken and a Coke and he responded that I should put it in the computer and then he'd make it. I was starting to get quite exasperated so I told him none too gently that the computer wasn't working and that I'd put the order in afterward. All this and the order wasn't even for me. Last time I do anyone any favors.
The night didn't get much better from there. We had a special drink, a “dirty hippy” that they wanted me to push. Evidently their marketing for the party hadn't been particularly effective because everyone I told about the drink just looked at me blankly. I'm like, you know, in honor of the 60's party. More blank looks. Did you not notice the cut-out peace signs taped to the mirrors and the cliched 60's slogans adorning the walls? Do you think the staff dresses like a bunch of burnt-out hippies all the time? I had two big tables that night of barely legal teens who kept ordering more and more and by the end of the night had ordered so much that they had no money left for a tip. One table even stiffed me 15 shekels.
At about a quarter to 4 in the morning I was getting worried that I'd miss the last late bus back to Talpiyot. I went up to the manager to tell him that the last bus was at 4:10. He then asked me when the first bus was. I couldn't understand what he was asking me. I was like, well I missed the first bus long ago. He's like, no, the first bus in the morning. I was like, are you serious? The first bus is at 6:00 or so. What, I'm supposed to wait here until then? He was not very sympathetic.
So I went back to cleaning stuff and waited for him to come down and organize the money I had on me. First he had to take out the cash that people had used to pay for their meals and then count the tips (which was whatever was left). Somehow though, I was missing 200 shekels from the computer account of how much I'd sold. This was not good. We looked everywhere, did the accounting again, but still couldn't figure out what had happened to that 200 shekels. In the end the manager said, “we'll figure it out” and let me leave without taking it out of my paycheck.
I started walking home even though I was pretty exhausted because I didn't feel like waiting around for 45 minutes for a bus. This was a mistake. There are many creepy people out in the early morning even if it's fully light out. I shall not go into detail so as not to worry anyone, but suffice it to say that if you're going out that early in the morning, take a dog with you. A big dog with lots of teeth.