Team work.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Medium-sized fish in a very small pond

It was ten o'clock on a Wednesday night and the festival was in full swing.  Ten o'clock marked the end of my shift.  After fourteen hours of work, I was glad to be done.

'Who told you you could leave?  Everyone else is staying late.'  I had had a feeling that there would be some confusion around my leaving at the scheduled time, given how impromptu I felt the training for this event seemed to have been and how bungled the communication re: work hours for the event via email was.

I produced a copy of an email in which the assistant to the Big Boss had written to me very clearly: Work hours--Mittwoch: 8.00-22.00; Donnerstag: 8.00-22.00.  The floor manager's face twisted into what appeared to be a mixture of anger and frustration as she began to walk away.  'I don't have time to sign you out right now.  I'll do it tomorrow morning.'  With those words she disappeared into the crowd.  I walked in the opposite direction out the service door knowing full well that there was no way I'd be returning the next day.  Without her signature, I would not see one Rappe of 350 CHF, but I couldn't care less.  The waitress nightmare come-to-life that I'd lived that day was over.  Tomorrow's shift, what was sure to be another stressful experience, could FUCK OFF.

I had arrived Wednesday morning ready for the scheduled 2-hour training.  After dealing with all the back-n-forth via email hammering out times and days of catering gigs, I was encouraged by the idea of having a training.  I thought it meant that those in charge actually cared to have us be prepped for what would be two very long and, as I would soon find out, grueling shifts.  Indeed, I had hoped to be part of a well-functioning team.  My hopes were soon dashed.  The training consisted of  approximately 15 minutes' worth of how one uses the hand-held ordering device.  The festival food menu was pretty extensive with many drinks, appetizers, entrees and desserts.  We were shown how to punch in a drink order.  For example, if one wanted to order clear apple cider, then one pressed the 'apple cider' button.  Cloudy apple cider was 'shift' + 'apple cider' button.  Glassware was just 'shift'.  From that brief description, I wasn't really sure when and how many times we were supposed to hit the 'shift' button if we wanted to order a few bottles of cloudy cider with glassware.  (As the evening picked up, it was clear that glassware was just a quaint notion.  Bottles were brought to tables in a hurried rush sans glasses.)  When I asked for clarification re: ordering procedure I was told that 'none of this pertained to me' as I would be in the VIP area.  Well, that was news to me!  Moreover, I had no clue what being in the VIP area meant.  I quickly found out it was a brunch for 'promis'.  I wasn't given a time frame for the brunch, but it was all over within a couple of hours.  The main event, where I would be running food, was 'general admission' and it would seem that residents from far and wide came out in full force with one thing on their minds: eat, drink and be merry!

The low-lights of the evening were as follows: food being constantly sent out to tables where there was no cutlery.  Drink orders disappearing into thin air.  The angry: 'We've been waiting 30 minutes for our drinks!'  The confused: 'We ordered drinks...?'  The obnoxious: a chorus of whistles, the constant chant of 'over here!' and 'hey!' 'hey!'  A few dudes felt it prudent to stick out their arms like Gong Show hooks and try to corral those of us walking by them, en route to other tables.  It mattered not if our arms were laden down with plates.  I kept expecting Bratwurst and french fries to fall on someone's head.

The high-lights of the event came in the form of that sometimes really lovely 'matey' camaraderie that one builds with one's co-workers.  It's like, hey, we're all here in the trenches, let's try to have a laugh and keep things moving.  Carla, a stout and friendly woman was always up for a quick chat and a smile.  Then there was Daniela who was a bit sassy and every time I saw her she'd say something to make me chortle.  Most of us, however, just looked harried and stressed.  There was, honestly, no time for anything other than GO-GO-GOING at top speed from the kitchen to the tables to the wash-up area.  And, hurry up, while we were at it!

This poorly executed event was put on by a 'successful' catering company from the area.  If what I participated in was a 'success', then I would certainly hate to see failure.  I'd imagine that there is hardly any competition for gigs in this area, so this particular catering company gets all the really lucrative yearly festivals.  What a sad state of affairs.  Festival goers and those who work them deserve better. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014


I just finished listening to an excellent 2010 re-broadcast interview with Marc Maron and Robin Williams in which Williams mentioned having battled with thoughts of suicide.  He riffs for a few minutes about it in dialogue form as if he were talking to his own conscience.  His conscience shows Robin all that he has to live for and then persuades him to put suicidal thoughts in the WTF? category of his life.  If only they had stayed there.

I've heard from a few friends and read those quoted in newspapers about how Robin Williams' death affected them more powerfully than they thought it would.  It was as if a family member had died, they'd said.  I felt the same way.  On Monday morning, I went, still in a haze of sleep, to the computer to read the online version of The Guardian newspaper.  I was met with a front-page image of young Robin Williams.  There were dates.  I didn't understand what I was looking at.  I thought, why is there a photo from 'Good Morning, Vietnam' in the paper?  Then sleepiness was replaced by shock and I began to sob.  I had grown up with Robin Williams always there, always making me laugh.  As a kid in the 70s, I watched the Happy Days episode on which his character, Mork, debuted.  Robin's Mork was an immense force in a kooky, red space-jumpsuit.  Last year, I caught Williams' 2010 stand-up show 'Weapons of Self Destruction' on YouTube and it was just as searingly funny as it was political.  I remember hoping that he'd film shows like that more regularly, in part, to fill the void that George Carlin's death left.    

There's something, too, about my being from the Bay Area that makes his death feel like a personal loss.  Those of us who went to the Holy City Zoo, albeit years after Robin got his start there, and were, in general, supporters of Bay Area comedy, felt, I think, a sort of proprietary pride in seeing Williams become a huge star.  It was a case of 'local boy makes good'.  He was legend, he was unique, and he was ours.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Brocki 'find' #4

Swiss-made Embru industrial furniture ca. 1960-1970.  The chair is both height and depth adjustable.  The hubs will now have a more comfortable sitting experience in front of the computer.  At 45 CHF, we paid about the going rate.  Given the craftsmanship and materials used (all metal and lovely wood), I truly would have expected a higher price tag, but, hey, I'm not complaining.