Monday, August 15, 2011

When it rains, it pours

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.

--Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai


When you can do nothing, what can you do?

--Zen Koan

For the past few months or so work has been, to put it bluntly, an absolute sh*t show. Labor cuts, lack of supplies, problems in the kitchen, new staff, and just general all-around mismanagement have combined to create a work environment where just getting through an average shift – I don't even want to talk about Friday through Sunday – requires a Herculean effort for what is an increasingly Sisyphean task. I can pretty much count on something going wrong – a late ticket, a missing entree, something made wrong, getting weeded because I'm stuck waiting on the bakery – at least once a turn, and it's often left me feeling like I'm keeping my station from collapsing into pure chaos on the strength of will alone.

I try to hold fast to a general rule, which is that unless I'm doing anything about a situation – in this case, looking desperately for a new job so I can get the hell off of this sinking ship before it fully capsizes – I have absolutely no right to complain. I've written before about the allure of complaining; how addictive it can be and how inescapable it seems on any given shift (like moths to a flame, so are servers to bitching). The truth is, there's definitely a small rush that comes from letting loose in a full-on bitch session. Not just the energy of the anger but also a temporary (and completely illusory) feeling of power; some scrap of control over a situation where you are, in reality, totally powerless. But it's an inherently negative energy; as good as it may feel at the time, engaging in it always seems to leave me feeling drained, exasperated and, ultimately, defeated.

When it comes down to it, I can't make sure we have enough trays or steak knives or whatever it is in stock all I can do is let a manager know when we don't have what we need (and continue to let them know, over and over). I can't make the kitchen not have 30-minute ticket times, I can just send my food as fast as possible and course a lot tighter than I normally would (translation for non-waiters: send the dinner order five minutes after I send the appetizer order). And I can't do anything about having to work with a glut of green servers with little to no experience, all I can do there is to offer my help and to make a (strongly) concerted effort to not be as condescending and bitter as possible.

Like so much in life, it just comes down to acceptance, time and time again. The above quote from the Hagakure is one of my all-time favorites, because it really does extend “to everything.” Right now when I go into work most nights, odds are it's going to be a rainstorm. I can attempt to run and duck under the eaves of houses all I want, but I'm still going to get soaked. Or, I can walk calmly and peacefully through the storm: still drenched, but at least with some small measure of serenity.

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