What about the holidays brings out your inner Grinch?
The very first thing I thought of when I read today’s prompt was Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, CT.
For six or so of my illustrious ten year career with Friendly’s Restaurant, my Christmas season started with a cringe worthy day of serving weary, impatient, aggravated shoppers on Black Friday at the “Friendly’s in the mall.”
You had to clarify which Friendly’s then because there were three within spitting distance of each other – the one “in the mall,” the one “outside the mall,” and the one in .Burr Corner – just around the corner from the one inside and the one outside the mall. I worked at all of them at one point or another, as well as the Silver Lane and Burnside Avenue locations in East Hartford, the Rockville (CT) location, one crazy day in Mystic, and a winter break at the Sumner Avenue location in Springfield, MA.
But the Friendly’s in the mall was my home location. It was the most fun job I ever had. Ever. I was an excellent server and I loved coming home with an apron full of cash and an arm covered in ice cream up to the elbow. Our little group of workers were tight. We’d fist pump when we were working the same shifts. We’d pool our tips even though we weren’t supposed to. We get to work, kill it, close up and hang out til 1:00 or 2:00am. Get up and do it all over again the next day.
Black Friday signaled the start of the most irritating two months of work. Also the most lucrative, but I’m feeling the annoyance creeping up on me just thinking about it.
First of all, you had to leave for your shift at least an hour early to get through the traffic to the mall, find parking and walk from Guam into the restaurant in the middle of the complex.
Now, if you live in NoVA, this isn’t a big deal. You probably leave for work well over an hour early everyday, but that is just NOT how it is in Manchester, CT and sitting in the line of traffic on Slater Lane was infuriating.
You finally get in to find out you’re covering breaks. That’s restaurant speak for “making no money while taking care of everyone else’s tables.” The unspoken rule in serving is if you start the table, it’s yours. Even if all you’ve done is drop off waters and take an order. So when you’re covering breaks, you’re mostly taking care of tables off of which you will not be making any money. Then you’ll get one party seated in that section that IS yours and ten minutes later, you’re in another section covering for another server and you have one table there. And so on and so on…
You finally get your own section and you’re trying to get into a rhythm but these people are insufferable. They are tired from getting up early to get the good deals. They are indecisive because they’ve had to make decisions on gifts all day. And absolutely MOST importantly, they’re out of money. I mean, not everyone, and never completely, but they sure as heck aren’t in the “giving mood” after shopping for presents for their entire family and probably for their in-laws, too.
If it’s early enough – 11:00am to about 12:30pm, they are probably just stopping for a quick bite before braving the crowds again. One Senior Fishamajig with cole slaw and a coffee. Total bill: $7.50. Tip: $1.00.
At 12:30pm, the families start showing up. Exhausted and unable (willing?) to keep their kids from mashing up french fries, crushing their crayons, and then throwing ALL of it on the floor, I will beg the hostess to sweep under the table before seating it again. I know this is futile. A. The hostess will just kick the crayon/french fry mush further under the table because B. The carpet sweeper hasn’t worked in three months.
One Turkey Supermelt with fries (hold the thousand island dressing, sub ranch, light on the cheese and hold the butter on the bread), one Colossal Bacon burger with waffle fries (oh, waffle fries are 50 cents more? Never mind. What is your vegetable today? Broccoli? Ok, but no stems, k? Thanks), one Kids Grilled Cheese with applesauce. (YES applesauce. YES APPLESAUCE!), one Kids Mac and Cheese with french fries (Because SHE behaved herself in Macy’s unlike someone else. No, no milkshake. Because you get ice cream with your meal) **cringe** Two Cokes, two Kids milks, and four waters. (But can you put theirs in the kids cups with the lids and could you give them the different colored straws in each? Thanks.) Total bill (after making a Monster Mash and a Conehead Sundae to-go): $35. Tip: $5.
Three o’clock is actually the sweet spot of the day. Hardcore shoppers are gone. Kids are in the playscape and out of your hair. In walks the appetizers and ice cream crowd. Solid $20 checks, solid $4-5 tips. You have time to put an extra cherry on the sundae of the college kid flirting with you. You have time to do “coffee shots” with the crew before gearing up for dinner. You steal a slice of bacon from the VAT on the grill. You plead your case to the supervisor for why you should be the first one cut if it slows down.
At the end of your shift, you roll two trays of silverware, you “marry” the ketchups, you refill the sugars and you make yourself a sundae to-go. You may or may not pay for it.
You make plans to meet up with everyone after they close and you take the long walk back to Guam, get in your car and try not to get ice cream or grease on anything.
Now that I think of it….
Maybe it doesn’t make me so Grinchy…. 🙂