Monday, April 03, 2006


I've graduated. I have my own tables and my own section. I'm not shadowing anyone and no-one is shadowing me. I'm cool, I'm calm, I'm confident. Then it all goes to hell.

I have about six tables, we're not expecting a busy night. It doesn't seem like there are a lot of other waitstaff on. Suddenly my section is full and I have a thousand things to do. The Hotel is a machine. There is a procedure for everything. Now I am trying to remember them all while doing my basic service routine. The ladies on 21 are unhappy because I told them there was bread on the tasting plate, but it is only a bread twist, not fresh or toasted bread. I take wine from the reserve list to a VIP table along with the decanter and then forget to decant the wine, pouring the wine straight into the glasses. All the menu items have to be written the same way on the kitchen dockets. No individual interpretation allowed. Every item has a shorthand name and some of them aren't logical. It's a big menu and I mess up a few. I am constantly checking the sheet in the kitchen to make sure I've got it right. Unbooked tables aren't set and in one case I forget to take the cutlery to the table before the meal arrives (not being used to an un-set table). All of these things are relatively minor in the scheme of things but an unhappy customer is an unhappy customer. Mine seem fine - the ladies on 21 are happy when I give them fresh sourdough bread. I end up feeling like I've made a thousand mistakes. Everyone else is busy too. I ack up the other staff in their sections. There definitely aren't enough runners.

Suddenly, it's over. By law we have to close early on Sunday nights. The customers are leaving and we're all busy cleaning. Everyone works together - I help out one girl with her extra large section - later she tells me she often works Sunday night and no-one helps her. I don't like that. We're all busy. We're all tired. If we all work together for half an hour, we'll all go home early. Aside from that, this is the first time in three weeks I have actually had a chance to speak to someone I have worked with on several shifts, other than a work related instruction. The place really is busy and the pace is frenetic. We all sign off at 10.30pm. This is the earliest I have left The Hotel - ever.

Before I leave the duty manager tells me I did a great job. It didn't feel like it to me. I felt like I made so many mistakes. 'Just your dockets,' he says, 'I know it's hard, but learning the menu is one of the most important things. Every time I went to your section, it was perfect. That's what we look for. So keep working on memorising the menu names. Good job.' This makes me feel instantly better. I know my mistakes were of a minor nature but I have high standards. On the floor a lot of small mistakes can turn into chaos.

I appreciate the fact that the duty manager
bothered to tell me I did well. I've been feeling a bit out of place in the new environment. Now it seems I am a city waitress after all.


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