Sunday, June 10, 2007

A day in the life of the diner

I woke up early this morning and drug myself across the house to the window facing south. I was looking to see if the balloons were launching so that I might go out and take a few pictures. I saw the wind in the trees and knew the answer without looking and returned to my warm bed. A half hour later, the phone rings. My daughter is calling from the diner telling me that the place is packed and we are dramatically understaffed. You see, on a normal Saturday, the rush does not usually get there till around 9 or so. I jump into my clothes and kissed the wife who tells me that she will be right there. She just has to take a quick shower. Smiling, I leave the house. “See you in a few hours”, I whisper knowingly.

I arrive at the diner and find that Jimmy has jumped into the kitchen to help along with our newest cook to help the opener. Two waitresses are trying hard to cover the full floor and people are beginning to pour into the backroom. “I am sorry; you can’t sit back there just yet.” I tell them. An angry “Why” is the most common answer. I try to explain that I don’t have a waitress for the room just yet and while most understand, there are always the ones who don’t. I ended up letting a few stay and promised the others that I would seat them as soon as possible.

Going out on the main floor, I find the prep cook has jumped in and is helping buss and set tables for new coming guests. Even my daughter and Kaysie from the Twins have jumped in and are helping. How stupid of me to not realize that when the balloons did not go up, all the people that went out to see them are not just going to go home. Balloon crews and spectators have decided that the next best thing would be to go have breakfast somewhere.

So begins one of our busiest Saturdays of the season. I spread my time between bussing, greeting, setting up plates in the kitchen, and helping deliver food to waiting customers. In the middle of the melee, the cashier brings to me a part from the register that keeps the tape rolled up. She cannot get the tape off of it. No problem, I tell her and proceed to break the part trying to get the tape off. I then quickly retreat to my office and storage sheds looking for one of my old backup registers that might have that part on it. Otherwise I will have quite a mess at the register as the tape rolls out on the floor where the paying customer stands. With a great sigh of relief, I find just the part that I am looking for and proudly fix the broken register but them am called away to another problem.

What seemed like minutes but was really a couple of hours later, my wife arrived and took over the kitchen part of my duties which allowed me to spend more time on the floor and out-front assisting the greater.

It is always interesting working the floor on days like this. They are never the same. People want to know how long it will be till they can be seated, others will flag you down for to go boxes, you stop and adore the cute little brown eyed baby that stares up at you as you walk past. It is kind of like being up on stage at times, because people are always watching you. Remember; try to smile even though your head is filled with all that stuff. Has a waitress got to those people yet as I don’t see drinks in front of them. Still another has that annoyed look when they are waiting for someone to take their order. I quickly scope the room to see if I know any of the faces. I spot a friend across the room and make my way over to say hi. Right after I arrive, I hear a crash and turn wondering what waitress had dropped their food or if a collision had happened somewhere in the room. At the counter, I spy a customer sitting low in his chair, his shoulders even with the top of the counter. The swivel base of the chair has broken at the screw and the chair has dropped to its lowest level. I arrive at the counter to find the regular customer laughing so hard that he is in tears. The customers around him are relentlessly teasing him. I sigh in relief, thankful that a friend was sitting in the chair when it broke instead of some scary characters that you see sometimes that are looking to sue for the smallest reasons. I offer to find him another chair but he won’t have it. He gets a kick out of drinking his coffee that sits at eye level.

I am called back to the register as the cashier cannot get the new piece to fit the right way. As I work on the machine, Jerry arrives. Jerry is a local street person that we try to help out from time to time. He tells me that he doesn’t want money, but has a proposition for me. I let him know that I will be with him as soon as I can and finish off my job.

My wife grabs me to let me know that they have no steak knives and asks if I can get the dishwasher to get cracking on getting them some. I find us short handed on them so go out to the storage and retrieve a few dozen, dropping them off with the dishwashers and then assuring my wife that they will be coming soon.

A customer asks for me in the backroom. I had told her before that if she gave me notice, I could have the baker bake her unusual pie as long as we had the ingredients. She let me know that she wanted an Apple/Marion berry pie and that she had to have it the next day. With Jim stuck in the kitchen, I asked him if he would have time to make the pie. With his assurance, I returned and let the ladies know that their pie would be ready.

I headed back towards the front, straightening and cleaning up various stations that always seemed to be in flux during times like these. I am called to the front where a customer is unhappy because someone else was served ahead of him. That some one else was eating biscuits and gravy and the cook had put one order up too much so they gave it to him to clear out his ticket. I tried to explain this to the customer who felt that his Omelet and Eggs Benedict should have come out before that other person. Most times they understand those things, other times not so much.

The cashier calls to me to inform me that Jerry could no longer wait and that he would come back and see me another day. Meanwhile the line to get in the door is a page long and I struggle with the greater to set the new eaters as soon as possible.

Hearing raised voices in the kitchen; I zip in to find that one of the waitresses had taken out the wrong order. One of the waitresses is asking for her plate on the ticket that is up while the cook is trying to let her know that the plate was just up in the window. The pass bar is loaded with orders that are ready or close to being ready to deliver. I calm the cook down, ask him to redo the order and proceed to assist my wife in getting the plates ready to deliver. The first ticket that I work on calls for gravy on the hash browns of one of the orders. I quickly spoon gravy on to the plate and place the ticket under the orders waiting for delivery. The waitress grabs the plates and takes off looking at the ticket for hints of where it needs to go. She turns around with a frustrated look. The gravy was supposed to go on the bacon and eggs, not the scramble. The girls all jokingly tell me to leave the kitchen and I am more than happy to oblige.

The madhouse continues on till sometime after 1PM but the day continues as I know have to get the bussers started in their cleaning, make sure that the waitresses do their backup before they leave, and encourage the tired employees to keep going and not to drop their guard just because it has slowed.

It is funny, on a busy day such as this a few weeks back, a tired wife grabbed me as I flew through her work space. “Honey, I think we should have bought a flower shop!” she stated. “We would probably make better money doing that.” I winked back. “I would just rather handle a beautiful pot of flowers than plates of biscuits and gravy.” She yelled out as I walked away.

The busy day is now finished. A dark and quiet diner now waits. I am ready to climb back into that bed and let my body recharge for yet another day. I wonder what that day will bring. Anticipating that the balloons will not go up again, I have brought crews in early. I know the real meaning of that is however, that the balloons will probably go up and the crews will be there in force just waiting.

I love this job…..goodnight

1 comment:

Elise Michaels Media said...

Thanks for blogging your world, Lyle! It's nice to read the behind-the-scenes stories. Kind of reminds me why I got out of it and went into radio - those busy days will put gray in your hair! (btw - isn't that just like KC to pitch in and help? I bet she had even the grumpiest customers smiling!)