Where I write

Where I write

July 21, 2011

The Dreaded Side Work

This is, Brandy, working in the kitchen making fruit cups. She is smiling because I asked her to smile but usually no one smiles when they are making fruit cups. To make the fruit cups you have to stand in the hot kitchen with poor ventilation, sweating in a heavy brown shirt, wearing tight blue gloves, filling little white dishes with watermelon, pineapple, melon and grapes. Then you have to put plastic wrap on each of the cups and date them so if the health department comes checking up on stuff we won't get in trouble. Everything in a kitchen has to be dated. Filling fruit cups is part of the dreaded thing known to all servers as "side work." We only earn our hourly wage of less than $5.00 per hour when we do side work, so most servers despise having to do tasks in which they aren't making tips. There is a nightly list of side work that each server is required to do.

Before I explain the required and monotonous side work, I have to point out Brandy's hair. She wanted to do something "fun" so she dyed just the front of it blond and left a part in the back her natural, a light brown. Everyone at work teased her about this two-toned look, but she said when her hair is down it looks like a blond halo around her face. She always wears it in a pony tail, so she doesn't get hair in people's food. She was going to donate her hair to an organization that makes wigs for people with cancer, but now she dyed her hair so she will have to wait until it grows out. In the meantime, she is now a blond waitress, well the front half of her, like me. (And she is way more attractive than she looks in our frumpy uniform). 

Besides making fruit cups, servers are also required to fill salt and pepper shakers. I once worked at a restaurant where the manager would hold up each salt and pepper at the end of the night examining them to make sure they were filled to the brim. These two would never pass inspection. Servers before they can leave for the day, or night, are also required to empty coffee and tea urns, wipe down counter tops, fill ketchup and sugar containers, stack glasses, and on and on and on. There is more, but it is too boring to mention. Let's just say most servers try to get these tasks done as quick as possible. One of the most dreaded tasks, the one that can make servers the most grumpy, is rolling silverware. It's mindless work and seems never ending.
Look at that man in the far right corner of the photo. I think he is calling for a lifeline to lift him from silverware hell. Pity the server who attempts to not roll his or her share of silverware at the end of the night. In fact, speaking of Brandy, last night she got hit in the nose with a plate. She's okay, but she left work early and still we all asked her if she had rolled her silverware before leaving. She wasn't bleeding anymore so we figured she could still fold some napkins and polish a few forks and knives.  I know. That's mean. No one said servers were really those kind, smiling people that greet you at your table. Hey, we are only human.

I have a reputation for being a terrible silverware roller. Terrible.
This is what mine often look like. Wrong. It is suppose to be tightly rolled. This one is loose at the top and when the server assistant puts the rolls on the table it can easily unroll causing forks and knives to clatter to the floor. I understand that this drives the manager who works in the days crazy as he likes things neat. I try. I really do. So this is server side work and perhaps the reason why so many people in the restaurant industry have cocktails when their shift ends each evening. While filling containers of ranch dressing or cutting lemons, they are imagining a cold beer or glass of nice wine at the end of the dark tunnel called side work.

Update:  For those who follow my blog and might be interested: Bailey, the handsome Vegan quit, and moved on to a greener pasture. Juan is no longer single after reconnecting with someone he knew way back in grade school. I still have not moved to my pink Barbie condo, but I have not lost hope.


Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever seen so much silverware in my entire life! :-O

Next time I eat out, I will be that much more appreciative of rolled silverware, filled salt and pepper shakers, and salad dressing bottles filled to the top. :-)

Rita A. said...

Ah. The things we take for granted. The behind the scenes jobs that nobody wants to do and are seldom discussed. I always pour the salt all over the place, I guess I wouldn't make it as a server. lol

Anonymous said...

Ah yes,the dreaded side work. I have side work too, but as a dog groomer what's rolled in a napkin is definitely not silverware. Wanna trade side work? lol

Anonymous said...

My working life started many (many) years ago in the restaurant industry. I was only a lowly busboy, but my time there gave me a deep respect for servers and those who strive to keep their customers happy, while coming up with reasons not to kill them before they finish their meal. :-)