Gather around kids, it is story time. All those recent adventures at the restaurant reminded me of other times I was working in the food industry. I then remembered that I never recounted the story of Kevin on this blog, and decided that I had to rectify that.
In the early months of 2014 the forces of nepotism unceremoniously threw me into a manager’s position at a fine dinning restaurant. More specifically, the position was to be the General Manager of the restaurant. The family member that got the job just decided on no proof that I could do it, and that that was the job I deserved. Prior to this I had had only two restaurant jobs, one was working as a dishwasher and the other was peeling Yucca. I had both of those jobs as a teenager and only because my friend who ran those business found himself so god damned desperate one day that he literally threw me into the kitchen with minimum instructions.
I was magnificently unprepared. I not only had no idea, I had no idea where to get ideas. I didn’t know the first god damned thing about restaurants. Even something simple like sections and table numbers was all alien to me. But the restaurant was failing right out of the gate (that is a whole other set of stories), and I was thrown in the mix.
The fake-it-till-you-make-it gene must have skipped a generation. The restaurant opened and on the first night I was not only the General Manager, I was the only fucking waiter. But we opened, and the job was thus mine.
As general manager, my first order was to find some staff. I proved completely unable to do this, and was surprised every day when I turned up to work to find that someone had been fucking hired.
This is exactly how I found Kevin working there one day.
Kevin was a god damned relief in one respect because he proved that if I had no idea what I was doing in this job, neither did anyone else. Only difference being I was severally underpaid to not know what the fuck I was doing (I was actually making less than DC minimum wage to do that job, but no one was declaring me in any kind of tax, so I was getting all of that money).
Kevin was a young kid who seemed to have a pretty positive attitude. He was attending a local community college and needed some extra money to keep his life going, and I guess he showed up at the door one day looking pitiable. He had never worked as a waiter before (although he had filled pizzas for Dominos), and so whomever gave him a job decided he could only be a food runner and not a server.
Its all about who you know, I guess.
So I pretended to know what I was doing and started to show him the ropes. He cheerfully punctuated enthusiastic little ‘Yessir’ and ‘Got it, boss!’ to everything I told him, and I started to like the guy. But two or three days into his working and I noticed that he just wasn’t able to remember things. Some of the things, like the names of the dishes in Italian, were kind of difficult for someone without a background in Italian. But he wasn’t even getting things in the ballpark of correct. I guess I could forgive that, but not only was he unable to remember table numbers, but he seemed to be oblivious to the clue that he was fucking things up. He would do things like bring two entree plates to a table of four that had no drinks on it yet (not even water) and where everyone was looking at a menu. It wouldn’t dawn on him that he had the wrong table, he would just put a plate down and say “That’s, um, lingu- pasta with… sauce lamb, beef, deer? One of those. This other one is, um, fish of some kind.”
That magnificent bastard was so god damned incompetent that I looked like a master of my craft by comparison.
And he was terribly slow. The restaurant was small, but it was in a location where there was pretty much nothing else around, so we would get pretty packed. We were also pretty much always short staffed. But no matter how busy we would get, he would always just take his time with everything. The restaurant could be packed like a sardine can and he would take a leisurely stroll, looking about to see who was around.
I pretty early on caught him by the dishwasher’s station, stuffing food the customers had thrown away into his mouth.
NOTHING IS MORE REVOLTING THAN THIS,
AND YET I HAVE SEEN IT HAPPEN IN EVERY RESTAURANT I HAVE WORKED AT.
But a momentary need for professionalism took over and I pulled him aside and politely told him that he really should not have done that, and that it was very unprofessional. I don’t know why i needed to say this at all, but clearly nature had failed this kid in the distribution of common sense.
I don’t know if he stopped for a bit, or just waited until I was busy and kept doing it, but maybe a week later I heard a torrent of Italian cursing coming from the kitchen. The head chef had caught him eating food off of a customer’s plate. The rest of the kitchen staff was bent over laughing at Kevin.
Not with him, at him. And not saying really nice things to him at that. But Kevin didn’t seem to care. They laughed at him, and he laughed with them. Or at least, with himself. The kid really had a magnificent fucking attitude. The chef started making extra fried calamari with every order and leaving the extra out in a bowl for Kevin, who would come in and tackle it fistful at a time with every trip to the kitchen. A tax of verbal abuse from the executive chef came with every bite, and Kevin never seemed bothered. Berating Kevin kind of became a restaurant punch line, and he always took it in good stride.
His last straw came on the inaugural day of our brunch. None of us working there were terribly convinced that brunch was a good idea, but all the customers we had told us that we simply must open for brunch.
It turned out to be a mistake.
On our first brunch service we were all waiting around for customers that would never come when the chef had an idea. At one place he once worked at, they had newpapers on every place for brunch service. He thought it was a good touch, so why don’t I send Kevin out to get a bunch of Newspapers. So I hand Kevin a stack of money and tell him to go fetch some newspapers, enough for every seat in the restaurant (it wasn’t a very big place). So off Kevin went.
He was gone about three hours. He came back with one singular newspaper, a snicker’s bar, and none of the money I gave him. He was smiling his big goofy grin, looking like the puppy that just shat the rug and had no idea what was coming to him.
Me and the chef’s wife looked at each other incredulously. Maybe he was high? It seemed like a reasonable explanation. I shit canned him on the spot, less because I wanted to and more because I knew if I didn’t the chef would kill both me and him.
I had to confront him.
“Kevin where in the world were you!?”
“I went to get the newspaper?”
“Near my house!”
“There is a place across the park that sells the paper. Wait, where is your house?”
It was about a half hour away.
“And the money?”
“I bought the paper”
“You bough one copy…”
“I needed gas too”
“See you Kevin”
Me and the chef’s wife (she hung out at the restaurant) would talk about Kevin for month’s to come. A little conspiracy theory brewed between us. What if Kevin were not really an idiot? What if was hoodwinking us all. Consider: We paid him for weeks to not work really hard and he got to come in, goof around and eat pretty good food while never having any real stress at all.
As a final note, I think whatever confidence I may have had died with that job. It was clear to me that I had no idea what I was doing, and it was clear to me that everyone I worked with KNEW that I had no idea what I was doing. Everyone seemed to have expectations of me, and I never knew what the fuck I was meant to be doing to satisfy these expectations. And no matter how you cut the Kevin situation, I kind of feel bested by it. Sure, maybe he was an idiot, but in that case he was an idiot I was supposed to turn into a feasible employee.
I think I am a little more comfortable believing he was a genius who fooled us all.