Monday, December 14, 2009

Rat in the kitchen 19/07/09

At the till last night I look out the window through the clouds of smoke at the Sicilian faces and carrying on. Lots of smooching last night. A bunch of girls took a photo and I thought if I saw that photo out of context I would probably never guess that they are Italian; they could be Iranian, or Turkish or Greek or Lebanese. The mix of heritage here is so wide – Sicily was invaded by Phoenicians, Greeks, Spanish, Saracens among others; the people look completely different to the Tuscans I was used to around Florence. The dj put on awful techno and psychedelic house at the start and I asked him three times to change and put on nice summer happy dancy music but each time he reverted, until at one point I looked over furious and mouthed ti ammazzo (you’re dead!) and after that he put on Bjork, latin music, reggae etc …You can only get what you want here if you shout and get angry, there is no point in being polite and sweet.

In the afternoon il barman came over to stock up the fridges and leae the bar they way he likes it. He had a bit of a moan about how untidy it was and I said he needed to talk to mio marito about that as he is the barman during the week. He also suggested a few things to improve the smooth running of the restaurant, though it sounded a bit like he thought the waiters didn’t work hard enough. His main problem is with il cameriere who spends a lot of time texting ferociously, flirting with tables of girls and smoking outside and having a chat. Il barman pointed out that in many places the waiters clean up and there is no need to get a cleaner in. This I have seen in small bars, but our restaurant is too big for that, and the waiters are tired at the end of the night. But it brought me to something I have been thinking about for a while: the toilets. Often when I check them there are hand towels on the floor or the toilet roll is off the roll on the wall: it takes so little to smarten it up again, but it would be useful if the waiters would check them too. We should have a rota on the wall with cleaning times for everyone. Well, when I brought this up with the waiters later, there was no joy. La cameriera kept saying, I know what people get up to in the toilet and there is no way I am going in there. Our hands have to be clean for serving tables. Of course I said, as do mine. But we would have gloves obviously. I don’t see why I have to do it alone. She made a real fuss, but as mia cognata said, the real reason was that mio marito had asked the dishwasher guy to give us a hand on a couple of quiet evenings to set up the terraces outside (which is hardwork shifting the tables and wiping down the chairs and tables), instead of calling her. She didn’t agree that the waiters should keep the bowls at the bar filled with peanuts and pistachio etc … that the barman should do this. But the barman during the week is my husband, I pointed out. She also appears to think the barman does nothing. She is a right little madam. She then said she was already looking for another job, that it was too tiring working here. Every day there was something new and unexpected to do and she was worried about that before she came. Like what I said? She moaned about the gate now being open on the top terrace so that it will be a worry about people doing a runner. The chairs and tables were heavy and she was tired and had a bad back. She basically hates working as a waiter I said to my husband later. Why she came in the first place, I don’t know. That she hated having to clean the chairs and tables every day, that they should be covered better. I pointed out that they are well covered but that when we shower down the terrace in the evenings to get rid of the dust, the chairs get splashed and just need a quick rub, but that we could get another tarpaulin cover. She then said it wasn’t really a problem. It was hard to follow her, she sounded really confused. She went on complaining that she should take some time off in August because she had started work right after getting her distance degree. But she only works three or four days a week, so how can that be so exhausting? I said it would be a pity if she left, that she worked well, but what did she actually want? Do you want the four days because now coming up to high season we can give you them. Or will that tire you too much? She then complained that the cooks often forget to tell her that something has run out, and she takes the order only to find out that there is none left and has to go back to the table. Well, that annoys us too, but what can you do? Every day you need to ask the kitchen staff if there is something missing, and check on a few things that were missing the day before, it is all about collaboration.

She is a real moaner though. The cheek of her, I thought. All smiles and quietly getting on with her work but secretly pissed off and probably complaining to the others, because she said maybe you should also talk to the kitchen because they don’t like the changes to the menu all the time either. Mind your own business I thought, and then felt betrayed by the kitchen staff as I am so nice to them and always check the menu with them and ask if they think they can cope or if it is too much … some of the dishes are suggested by them for God’s sake ... I don’t know … it becomes the whole us and them syndrome, just because we are their employers, they have to talk against you.

I was weary after that discussion, which I had intended to be positive and proactive. To top it all off, at the end of the night when everyone had left except il barman and two girls who were trying to get him to go the disco with him, there was a kafuffle in the kitchen. I went up to find the two waiters on guard, one looking intent, the other petrified. There’s a rat! They cried. Oh, God, I said, just don’t let it past into the restaurant. But we had no chance. The big rodent slithered past us all and went under the waiters’ table at the side of the room. We loitered there, hoping the customers would leave, hoping to shunt it back up to the kitchen and out the back door. But no, it skidded out of there again and down the restaurant and out the front door, under the horrified eyes of the two girls. They left crying ‘I’m not coming here again!’ There were quite a few people hanging out outside too.

Great. Just what we need. Nothing is working right; everything is going wrong.


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