Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Real Men Take a Pinny and Tea Towel to Work

Manuel is very popular at hen parties
they say he's great crack

I was leaving work one night when I ran into the owner and his wife. We engaged in the normal boss/worker chit-chat, lots of doffing of cap and fake laughing. He gets nervous round me. He then pointed to my man bag and enquired as to the contents. He wasn't implying I was up to anything he was just interested as he had noticed lots of the male staff carrying them. I was tempted to say 2 bottles of vodka and half a dozen sirloin steaks, but wisely thought better of it. You would think that a waiter could travel pretty lightly, pen, paper and that's your lot. You would think so, but the truth is you need a veritable kit bag of stuff just to get through the day.

These are the 20 most Essential Items required just to make it through the day

1&2. Service Cloth and Apron. Now, most men go to work with men things, saws, hammers, computer gadgetry, trucks, and other such macho toys. Even chefs get to travel on the bus with a collection of manly cleavers in their bag. I have a "pinny and a tea-towel" as Little Miss Manuel likes to call them. Most waiters use a white service cloth,I use a black one. It just makes better sense! Your apron needs to have good deep pockets to keep your essentials in. If your are unfortunate to have an apron with a shallow pocket you end up walking about the restaurant with what looks like an erection. Which in most cases isn't so good.

3&4. Pens and Order Pad. Lots and lots of pens that is. I mean you need to keep a stash of pens that would make STAPLES the stationers proud. As pens will get stolen by customers and co-workers I never spend more than 30p on a pen. That's my pen threshold. Obviously I am not above pen pilfering myself. But I have been caught out a few times. Not by the previous owners but by the message/advertisement on the side of the pen. Pens left by medical reps. are the worst. Seriously you don't want to hand a pen to a customer with an advert for thrush cream on it. Our lot at work are a bit tight when it comes to ordering order pads, oh the irony. So when they do see fit to bless us with them you need to plank a few in your bag or you will spend the rest of the month writing orders on the back of envelopes or napkins.

5. Waiters Friend. Oh and this is critical, it has to be a good one. Not the sort you use to open your crappy bottle of Blossom Hill on a Friday night. The best types to use aren't even that expensive. One of the worst things that can happen to you as a waiter is breaking a cork when opening a bottle at the table. It's equivalent to a bank cashier not being able to count past ten. It's so very embarrassing. You also don't want to be struggling at the table. Once, when I was still a wetback the customer had to take the bottle off me to open it. That's not so good for the ego. And don't be tempted into buying one of those fancy jobbies that come in a nice presentation box. I had one of those and it cut my hand like cheese wire. Blood on the bottle is frowned upon. Get one of these, I swear you will never break a cork again or look like a dufus as you try to open a bottle. Although if you are opening Blossom Hill you should just use a spoon.

Those are the required tools of the trade the next list are the add on's that make you extra money.

6,7,8,9,10. Reading glasses, batteries, candles for birthday cake, newspaper/magazine, and something to amuse kids. At some point a customer is going to ask you for one of those. In fact customers get shirty when you don't have a charger for their Nokia 34zx62i or whatever it is. My bag sometimes looks like I've been shoplifting in WH Smiths. But it pays off. If you can produce a pair of reading glasses for an old duffer who can't read the menu you will be rewarded. If not "help" him down the stairs and just claim he didn't see the step.
You use to be able to amuse kids with dot to dot puzzles and colouring in. Now though, unless you stuff a PSP or something under their noses they just tend to cry harder. I care not for the little darlings. They can cry all they want. But if you show mummy and daddy, if he's about, that you are trying then your tip should be OK. A camera battery can really make a massive difference to the night. No one wants to forget Granny's 90Th birthday party so if you can save the day with a replacement camera battery then you will be quids in. Like I say it's all about the cash.

That's the punters taken care off, but what about me?

11. Tobacco and Mints. Nothing takes the pain away like a well timed smoke break. Mints cover the smokey breath. Hey, I care about my customers!

12. Food/Water. If you are working for 8, 10, 12 hours you need sustenance along the way. You can take your chance with a "staff meal", bearing in mind you will have to wait until customers have been fed, the kitchen staff have been fed, the managers have had their 3 courses, the kitchen cat has been fed, and so on. It's easier just to bring your own.

13&14. Book and iPod. A two hour split can be the most boring two hours of your life. It's not long enough to justify going home but too long to sit about scratching. I read, write and listen to music. Anything really to mask the screams of the chefs from lunch service.

15. Headache tablets. Sometimes the sounds of screaming chefs and demanding customers can be masked with soothing tunes. Sometimes you need to reach for chemical help. Strong prescription strength headache tablets are the job. If you can't get your doctor to prescribe them then just raid granny's bathroom cabinet. You are guaranteed to find something useful there. It's also cheaper than having to buy them out of the machine in the public toilets. Your next couple of hours should be a breeze.

16&17. Baby Wipes, deodorant, and aftershave. If you are working a split shift or a double you need to be fresh. Nothing fucks your tip up more than stinking up the restaurant. And as I normally smoke 2000 cigarettes during my split/break I tend to need a little freshening up before I go back onto the floor. You can't put a price on good personal hygiene!

18. Shoelaces and Polish. I have a recurring nightmare of being at work on a Saturday night when the place is full and I have no shoes on. Everyone laughs at me. It keeps me awake at night that one. So spare shoelaces are like my comfort blanket. And shoe polish is just good practice.

19. An updated CV. You never know who you might end up serving and you don't want to miss your chance at the big time. Also if you walkout it makes sense to start the search for a new job on the way home.

20. The name/number of a good employment lawyer. Restaurateurs are a shady bunch who will screw you as soon as look at you. Protect yourself at all times!

9 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Medbh said...

Great list, Manuel. I used to always carry a toothbrush and paste for those long shifts when the cigarettes film the mouth too heavily as well, and makeup and perfume for freshening up.
But I'm guessing you're not into the makeup and perfume. I also always brought a change of clothing and NEVER walked about in my black and whites. My brother was almost mugged in his by 3 guys who saw him on the street and decided to "roll the guy in the monkey suit." He came into my restaurant on the way home in a panic until I secretly shoved him out the back door. The guys stupidly hung around til closing.

ellie said...

"Pens left by medical reps. are the worst"

I can vouch for that, wndered why I was getting funny looks in work one day then realised that the clip on the pen in the breast pocket of my tunic said .....


My Viagra pen is my prized posession and the envy of many a receptionist!

savannah said...

great list! sounds almost like my bag...be prepared i say...

Conortje said...

Your bag must be massive - unless it's magic like Mary Poppins' one. You're not really Mary Poppins are you?

Old Knudsen said...

fuck lad you really go all out for the tips, you are a true master.


Lee said...

Great list. Lot's I would never have thought of but I have lead a sheltered life...

tallulahbloom said...

For being that organised you deserve the big tips!!

Manuel said...

All the planning in the world cant prevent foot in mouth disease though...

I'm thinking about a special black op's bag too. Fart spray, fake notes, uzi whatever...

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