Sunday, December 07, 2008

Don't Quit Your Day Job

During our Tokyo days, we used to say things like "I'm a director/producer now, but what I really want to do is plumb" and "I'm a media personality, but what I really want to do is wait tables." As glamorous as our lives may have seemed to outsiders, it had taken over everything. We were constantly working and production is always both mentally and physically challenging.

First, let me tell you plumbing is a great profession. It's also highly lucrative. Politicians and media producers are about the only people who don't know that.

Second, be careful what you wish for. Big Dog is now doing way too much plumbing.

As for me and waiting tables... when you are multi-lingual, there are too many other ways of making money. Teaching languages, interpreting, translating, dubbing. It's too much trouble for most working people to pick up a new language -- much easier picking up someone who already has the language ability. I never got to flip burgers, babysit or wait tables -- all of my early jobs were language-related.

Friday evening, we got an SOS from the Japanese restaurant on the highway.
"Our waiter's gone off to university and two of the kitchen staff are on sick leave. It was insane today but it'll be impossible tomorrow. Saturday afternoons are hell. Can you help us?"
Several hours in hell? Doing something I am clueless about? Why not!

I recruited Big Dog, too. Between the two of us, we might be able to manage, I thought.

The day started off nice and easy: a few North American couples to ease us into our new jobs. In between, we learned about the different plates for different dishes and all the different sauces and garnishes that go on at the last minute, we learned how to make the drink orders, wrap silverware in napkins...there was so much more to do than just taking and delivering orders!

And then, just as they predicted, it got busier and busier. By 3pm, the place was a battlefield. Orders were flying in, plates were flying out. Seeing that we were running out of glasses, I quickly washed a batch that came in. Calls were coming in for take-away.

We knew this pandemonium well, though it's been a while since we'd been in it. Your brain goes blank and your body switches to automatic.

"Teri pollo! Mesa Seven!"
"No! This one's for Mesa Ocho!
"Two teas, helado, one sin, one con sugar."
"Yakimeshi sencilla, para llevar!"
"Limones, doko?"
"Cambio, onegai shimas!"

We were calling out orders and questions in a strange mix of Japanese, English and Spanish. Customers, too, were ordering in a bizarre mix of languages.

As it turned out, BD was a great host. He was all over the place, taking orders, delivering orders, bussing... Even during the mayhem. Plus, he looked cute in his hachimaki, Japanese headband. I looked hot and disheveled. My hair wouldn't stay slicked in place like the señoras' and my shiny, sweaty face was making me a little self-conscious. Worse, I proved to be as untalented in this field as many others. I am not a natural born host -- more like, natural born hermit. I bounced from cashier to dishwasher to prep staff, filling in the holes, but it's a good thing I have other skills because I made a pretty pitiful waitress.

At the end of the day, we were both exhausted. But, we found out that the Mexicans who dined here were fabulous tippers. Actually, pretty amazing! Here we were, thinking that North Americans were such good customers.

And I learned a thing or two (again) about humility.

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