Sunday, October 05, 2008
so i'm working at amelia's deli, and the list of idiosyncrasies you must know in order to place orders correctly in the computerized register is.. not short. and what i get write away, is that there is no way -no way- to pre-train or teach these things in advance. the ONLY way to learn is on an as needed basis
so for some basic things, the computer key matches exactly; turkey sandwich = turkey sandwich
i love those orders.
and then you let the customer choose which bread, what they do/don't want on their sandwich, drink? chips? fresh baked dessert? (can't help but think of squidmann here and if he ever surprises me again, i will ask, "and how 'bout one of our savoury snacks?")
but then come those orders for which there is no key to push.. no match on the screen.. and the ONLY way to place the order is to first ask gita, or tony.. or the other new person..
"hey, how do i....?"
and i don't know if this falls under the general laws of physics, but INEVITABLY, and quite CONSISTENTLY, it works like this:
every 1 question is followed by 3.
3 more questions. -3 more people in line.
so i do the best i can and with effort.. summon my sense of humor
prepare at the same time for the change that's coming.. -because they are in the process of creating entire new classic and gourmet menues for in house and catering
so new computer program/new idiosyncrasies. what i've learned these past couple weeks may become irrevelant by next month
which makes me summon amos lee lyrics, "keep it loose/keep it tight."
-AND i'm interrupted by the thought here, that i'll be printing this post out, and checking with owners gita & vinit whether i can keep this post (are you comfortable?), or, will by request, delete it.
it is my absolute instinct to write creative non-fiction, but never at the expense of the discomfort of others, so..
as i've expressed to gita, "this is heaven for a writer! working here.."
the stories pile up in me faster than.. (create your own analogy here ). but i'm aware, the majority will need to wait 20 years for a place on the fiction shelf under a pen name.
but i can tell the truth on myself..
turn myself in:
everyday i work at amelia's i return home and must empty out some 12 or more little, tiny, scraps of receipt paper.
on some papers, i've written my spanish words of the day, actual and phoenetic, because everyday i work i try and learn at least one spanish word. catalina speaks almost exclusively spanish and i speak exclusively english, and so we've agreed to help one another out
so to date i've learned/taught (but not necessarily retained), spoon, fork, knife, shoe, good morning, good, how are you, the #16, rag, towel, and soaking wet (moo-cha ag-wa)
after drying the tables/chairs on the patio after our first night's rainfall.
but i know unless i employ these words and use them in my actual vocabulary several times a day, several days in a row
they disappear like (create your own analogy here).
and on the other tiny scraps of paper, is written
send agent. please send agent. literary agent. please.
because it is my nature to write when i'm nervous.
/and when i'm happy, when i'm sad, when i'm hungry, when i'm confused.. but the point here..
and i know.. - i know - landing a literary agent and signing my lucrative contract, and living out my days in the literary arts will not eliminate my anxieties/nervousness/discomfort/insecurities
in fact, i'm quite convinced, they will increase
but so will my income. that makes the return on investment more attractive.
any number of things will cause me to grab a scrap of paper and my pen:
i think the most recent, was.. the case of the unpaid-paid coffee drink.
went like this: hyper-sensitive-people-pleasing-relatively-new-cashier-who-wants-only-always-to-do-the-write-thing (that would be me), brings delicous, gourmet, breakfast out to husband/wife on the patio
* husband/wife, by the way, have beloved dog with them.. as that very morning, the rains had drenched/ruined the 8 1/2 x 11 sign held by tape to the iron fence surrounding the patio that once read: NO PETS IN PATIO AREA. -and, it does not roll off my tongue with ease
okay; at all. that this is the policy at amelia's. i kindly (cowardly) overlook what is a precious, cute, well mannered dog. think to myself.. pleasanton, being practically the dog capital of california.. home of the famous pooch parade..
well, maybe i can talk gita/vinit into allowing dogs in the patio area. maybe. or maybe not. does a 2-3 new cashier make such suggestions? i don't know.. i've forgotten all the rules.
husband says to me, "where's my coffee? i paid for coffee, but didn't get one" -and, i had JUST looked at his receipt in the kitchen, because i was triple-checking the table # match with the food on the plate to make sure i got that part write, and knew -or thought i knew- there was no coffee on the receipt.
so offer to bring him a coffee (even though amelia's has a self-serve counter), but when i go in to get the coffee, re-check the receipt there is no coffee listed. very well then,
bring the gentleman his coffee, and politely say something like, "i'm sorry.. we didn't charge you yet for the coffee..." and he is reaching in his pockets for some cash, but at the same time convinced he paid
i'm convinced (based on my evidence) he did not. his wife knows they did. she shows me a receipt and sure enough, her receipt shows they paid.
so i get to feel like an idiot, apologize of course, and then it's further pointed out to me, that they paid for a LARGE coffee, but what i brought the gentleman was a small. so, now i'm back inside getting another small coffee for the lady, to make up for the errors
now i'm back checking that damn receipt again, our receipt, and there is no coffee... but their receipt clearly shows a coffee.. i just don't get it. then alfredo comes to me with an entirely different receipt, that shows the coffee
that's write about when i grab a scrap of paper and write: send agent. literary agent. over and over again.
the other times is anytime i make the slightest error.. and i do see my peers making the same number of errors and the same kind, fairly innocent: forgot the drink cup, wrong soup, forgot setting of silverware, etc. -except that i hate making those errors more than anyone else i think
i want to perform error free. and i've come to learn this is just not realistic.
i hate that more than other people too i think, that it's just not realistic.
so have adjusted my performance standard to, "do my best."
and i think.. you'd think.. that as a mom, i might be able to handle several incoming requests/needs at once, but truth is, i'm best with one customer, one special order at a time.
sometimes i'll have a customer placing a special order (for which there is no matching key), and another customer wants the restroom key, now please, and another leans in from the side, wanting to know where the straws or napkins are
i'm at risk here for sending one person to the bathroom for straws, while i hand the restroom key to the customer ordering the sandwich, and the sandwich to the person who wants to use the restroom
so adjusted my performance standard again to, do my best; one customer at a time.
and find a scrap of paper, and write that down: do your best; one at a time.
this calms me so.
it's been/remains, such a chronic state of learning/navigating/negotiating.. the computer system, the idiosyncrasies, the new upcoming menues, the personalities of co-workers, the personalities of customers, my own personality..
when things go write -which in truth, is the majority of the time- it is so utterly rewarding and gratifying
when the order is write, i remembered the special requests, i remembered the drink cup, i remembered the oatmeal cookie, their sandwich arrives on time, they sat at freshly cleaned table,
when all communication lines up.. from customer order to computerized register, to cooks/sandwich-maker, back to customer's table..
and i know several returning customers by name now, who rave about their meals and service.
this is as comforting, calming, reassuring as all my little scraps of paper.
but my dream remains:
send agent. literary agent.
in fact, i've recently posted a flyer in amelia's window.. about my recently published work -and the upcoming reading/release party
makes quite public my desire to become a famous american writer, enjoy a life-long career in the literary arts
because, i've landed on this thought; this realization about the risk of making your dreams public knowledge
best case scenario: your dream comes true.
worst case: it does not.
anyway.. in amelia's, as in life, you get customers that fall in two basic categories