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Sunday, January 30, 2011

86 Potatoes

Sunday Floor Chart:
1. Josh- the comedian                           6. Diane- the lifer
2. Ross- the hustler                               7. Larry- the sports guy
3. Jennifer- the party girl                        8. Jason- the intellect
4. Angela- the crier                               9. Chief- the trendy guy
5. Angie- the sick girl

It was late Sunday morning at the restaurant.  The serving staff were gathered around table 40 finishing up their breakfast before Mike came over to have their shift meeting.  Mike is the manager on duty for the day and for the last 8 years.  Mike is 41 and still believes that his promotion is coming any day now.  For the most part the staff likes Mike, he's pretty easy to get one over on, but not the manager they necessarily want around when shit hits the fan.  Paired with his lack of self awareness and social awkwardness, Mike isn't exactly know for his composure.  Today, Mike is very excited to be seeing his first morning shift in a while; he's usually what the team calls the "closing bitch".  Mike walks over to the table with an unfamiliar pep in his step and greets the group.

"Gooood morning everyone," he begins.  " How are we all doing on this glorious day?"

With a little bit of his cold pizza still in his mouth, Josh responds casually.

"Hey Mike, you're looking dapper today.  Did your mom lay out that outfit for you?  The paisleys match your eyes."

Mike trying to ignore the blow and the laughter at the table, reminds himself that not even Josh will get to him today.  This was going to be the day he proved himself.  Not only was Sunday a busy shift, but today was graduation.

Still laughing a little, Jennifer jumps to Mike's rescue.  "Shut your mouth Josh, I think he looks nice,"  Jennifer says with a wink.

Josh can't resist, "That's not what you said last night."

Jennifer rolls her eyes, but offers no retort.  Trying to regain control of the group, Mike begins his speech.

"Okay, okay, let's get focused everyone.  I haven't worked a Sunday in a while, but I'm expecting a smooth and productive shift from all of you.  We're going to be busy today, so everyone needs to bring their "A" game."

The staff played with their phones and aprons while Mike rambled on about his daily sales predictions based on last years stats.  Mike could be long winded when it came to the numbers.  There really wasn't much Mike could tell the staff of 9 that they didn't already know about Sunday shifts.  It was usually the same crew with the same routine.

They would all come in around 11:00am eat their breakfast and shoot the shit until 12:30pm when the church crowd would show up and order their usual high priced Sunday steaks.  The church crowd was never the most pleasant group and the tips were usually a little more scarce.  It was large groups of families and friends that usually came in on Sundays.  By 1:00pm the place would be a mad house and not slow down until 3pm. The staff had about an hour to clean up after screaming babies, unnerved mothers and  righteous older men going out of their way to ensure the waitress could feel as small as he was made to feel the last 2 hours of services.  While the serving staff was a strong one and knew the ropes inside and out, the kitchen was never prepared and would always crash by 1:30pm.  Sunday was a day for survival.  The staff felt completely entitled to sit around and do nothing until their first table.  Mike felt equally entitled to be heard and was wrapping up his morning speech when he realized he was missing one of his 9 servers.

"Where is Angie?  Has anyone heard from her? She is supposed to be here," Mike questioned.

"She called out sick last night, Blake said he would leave you a note," Diane answered letting Mike know she was not happy to be working with him.  Diane had been around long enough to know how this day was going to go already.

Mike, mumbled under his breath in frustration at the the lack of communication and then gathered himself up enough to change the floor chart and walk away.

Moments later the first table of the day walks in.  The Booker's were an older couple and afternoon regulars.  Walkers in hand, the couple followed Brandy, the hostess, to their table in Angela's section.  Diane, finishing her coffee sees them sit down and walks to the back where Angela is finishing up her opening duties.

"Angela, you got sat," Diane informs.

"Oh okay, I'll be right there," Angela responds.  She puts away the last of her cut lemons and washes her hands before leaving the kitchen.  After taking the Booker's usual order of two steaks, two baked potatoes and two side salads she stepped outside for her morning cigarette.  Angela takes a lot of cigarette breaks, claiming it calms her nerves.  Knowing what a loose cannon she is, management rarely denies her this privilege.  When Angela came back in she took a seat at table 40 to sip on her coffee and listen to Jason lecture Larry on the corrupt politics that take place in the NFL.  She knew the Booker's didn't like to be bothered often.  She could relate to them.  She supposed they had their Sunday rituals just the same as she did.  She noticed their hot tea was getting low and started to get up when she heard her name being called from the kitchen.

"Angela, to the kitchen!," Mike yelled. 

"What's the problem Mike?"  Angela asked while making her way to the coffee machine for hot water.

With an element of panic in his voice Mike informs Angela that the cooks just told him they were out of baked potatoes and she needed to have her table pick a different side.

Angela took the Booker's their hot water and informed them of the situation.  Mike walked around the restaurant individually cornering each server with the breaking news.  The staff was cool about it but warned Mike that it would be getting busy soon.  Even the staff knew how many baked potatoes they sold on a Sunday and wondered why Mike wouldn't just call another restaurant to borrow potatoes or go buy some. 

Mike knew how people talked about him in the company and he also knew it was his fault they didn't have potatoes.  Mike was supposed to identified the problem early in the morning while going through a manager checklist.  Mike was late to work and didn't do this; now it was too late to leave the restaurant.  He didn't have a enough staff to send anyone either.  Blake, the closing manager, wouldn't be in until 4:00pm.  By the time Blake got there the lunch rush would be over.  Mike had no choice but to make it through the shift without this American staple.  The last thing he needed was to broadcast that he was late and incompetent to any neighboring managers.  He was beginning to panic and the staff was beginning to pick up on his energy.

Chief was posted up on the center wall so as to be seen by anyone who cared to notice him.  He watched Angela at her table as she broke the news and noticed Mr. Booker not taking the news too well.  When Angela walked away from the table Chief saw that she was about to start crying if she hadn't already started. 

"Angela, you okay?" Chief asks.

"No, I'm just embarrassed.  It's not my fault.  I didn't know we were out of potatoes.  They are acting like I just told them their dog died. They want to talk to Mike," Angela whimpers.

Angela goes to let Mike know and Chief walks up to the host stand to greet the rush that was now beginning to come in steadily and flit with Brandy. Chief was tickling Brandy when he noticed Mike over at the Booker table.  He couldn't really hear what was being said too well, but recognized Mike's threatened hunch of the back.  All he could manage to hear before the couple got up to leave was the woman say "Are you new here? Where is Blake?"

It only took the Booker's walkout for Mike to loose all control.  The rest of the shift went by like a bad dream for Mike.  It was a tornado of guest complaints, long ticket times, and walkouts.  Mike had his job and life threatened by graduation parties and church congregations alike; he couldn't see straight. 

The restaurant was going down with Mike.  The staff was arguing amongst themselves; there was a full out war between the kitchen and the servers.  Ross, deciding he had seen enough and still focused on his money for the day appointed himself  the one to say something to Mike.

"Mike man, these people at my table are not happy and they can hear you cursing from the kitchen," Ross pleads.  "Get a grip man, I need you to go over there and make things right.  Buy their meal or something, shit!" 

By the end of the shift Mike was halfway leaning in the office chair waiting for the complaints to start filing in via the computer.  Josh approached the defeated manager after he cashed out his last table.

"Mike I must say your stats are staggering.  You had 5 walkouts, 12 guest complaints, and a chart topping one hour ticket time on an order of cheese sticks.  A truly impressive shift I must say."

Mike, numb to any jabs at this character takes Josh's money and left the office.  The worst of it was over for now and the restaurant was a mess.  Mike was a sad display as he helped the staff clean up after lunch.  The busy work kept his mind off the situation, sort of.  He even tried to justify the situation.  Hadn't he done the best he could?  He was finishing taking the last of the servers' money who were done for the day when the first complaint came in.  The guest complaint was attached to a question from his boss.


Did one of my guest really hear you yell "Why the F*** can't these people be happy with F****** mashed potatoes"???!!!!  We need  to talk!

Mike quickly "X"ed out of the email when he heard Blake walk in the office.

"Hey Mike what going on man?"  Blake greeted Mike. "Hey, listen when I walked in Brandy told me you ran out of baked potatoes.  Bro, I just looked in the walk-in, there is a whole case of potatoes!  Didn't you look?"  Blake just chuckled a little and left the office to go start his shift.  On the way out he asked Mike to unlock the baked potatoes key while he was sitting at the computer.

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