Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Waitressing Years cont.

Hold on readers, we are about to embark on a whirlwind tour.  With my new found waitressing skills I went back to university and started looking for a part time job to help support my education/drinking fund.  First I worked at a little place in downtown Hamilton where I encountered extreme racism, a horrible chef/owner, and when I called for my schedule the girl who was supposed to be making the schedule told me that she had never heard of me and wasn't sure why I thought I worked there....  So I brought my then boyfriend, now husband, with me for moral support to pick up my pay cheque and never went back.

Next I worked for Yuk Yuks comedy club for two nights.  It was fun and funny and I thought I could really get into that job.  Except they also wouldn't give me a schedule, but instead of being honest about it they avoided my calls.  Finally, I left a message for my 'boss' and ended it with, "If I no longer have a job with you just let me know and I will stop calling."  He called back to insist that of course I still worked for him.  Then refused to pay me for the time I had worked.  Finally I also had to go down there to pick up my cheque which they tried to withhold. 

So ended my working career while in university.  But what followed was an unimaginable and hideous list of waitressing jobs that I can only give you in bullet form. 

*Tony Roma's in the Falls, by far the best waitressing experience of my life.  Lesson: always work for reputable chains not sketchy, dirty places where you fear for your life.

*Denny's - ignore my previous lesson.  New Lesson: Do not work for chain restaurants where you get yelled at for polishing the silverware and are told to just stand and do nothing instead.

*Biscotti's - a little place in Toronto.

* The Fiery Grill - a fun place on the water in Muskoka where I spent a few summers serving and swimming and tanning which no longer exists.

*__________ - another place in Toronto that will not be named because it does exist still and was mostly a front for drugs, but also a big supporter of the underage drinking community.  Once I asked two young girls for ID and got in trouble from my boss because they didn't have any.  Also we had to climb a small winding staircase to get to the upper portion of the restaurant and the owner used to stand underneath and grab our ankles and then fire you if you dropped your tray or spilled a drink.  Please note - I quit this job and was not fired because I have impeccable balance skills.  Although I did once shout, "You are not an alligator.  Don't touch me." because he was obviously pretending to be an alligator under there.  I did mention copious amounts of drugs were being dealt and used in this place, right? 


Stay tuned, up next is a much anticipated chapter called, "Marching With Horses".  It is also the current working title of my life story - special thanks to my friends Jen and Carlie for their continuous support and laughter at the failure that is my life.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Waitressing Years

I believe we all have a blog post with this title in our lives.  For some of you it might be the McDonald years, or the pole dancing years, or the I have an actual job as a real grown up and don't waste my time blogging years.  Whatever you fancy.  These are the years when you feel like you have really made it in life.  You set a goal and you achieved it, you make lots of money and have piles of cash lying around your bedroom to spend however you see fit (side note - I don't know if real grown ups keep piles of cash, but when I am a real grown up I will.  In fact, I plan on having a little cash bowl, much like a candy bowl, on my coffee table for people who are poor and need a few extra dollars so they can just grab some cash.  Also, I might have a candy bowl too, and a fancy hand sanitizer in between the two because I don't want your grubby little money fingers touching my jelly beans.). 

After my summer of barrel picture taking, I decided the next summer I would waitress and make fantastic tips and (hopefully) no longer be mistaken for a young boy.  I started out working for the Parks Commission in the Falls.  I am not going to name my current employers or give you too many details about that, but I feel it is rather safe to let you in on the long list of places I have previously worked.  The Parks are a huge organization in the Falls and hire the majority of students looking for waitressing jobs in the summer.  Because I had never waitressed before I wasn't allowed to waitress there, but I was given a hostessing position and was told the next summer maybe I could work up to waitressing.  Fine.  I took it.  I hated hostessing.  It was awful and terrible.  The servers hated me because I cleaned up their tables and re-sat them.  They preferred to take long smoke breaks and ignore the customers.  The restaurant was right near the brink of the Falls and dirty, sticky, stinky Niagara River water would soak me as I walked around with customers.  It would also soak their food, but not their appetite for over priced crappy food with a view that you could walk down and get for free!

The woman who trained me told me how much she loved this job because she put in her hours in the summer and then collected unemployment in Florida for the winter.  She wasn't in her mid to late 70's and so this didn't really make sense to me, but I pushed on.  For about a week.  Then I had an interview at the Keg.  They hired me and I quit my Parks job (being blacklisted forever from their empire) and moved on.  The Keg was more organized in their training, my supervisor had me fill out a written test which I'm pretty sure I failed because I hadn't memorized the postal code of the building and an alternative phone number for the restaurant.  You might think that is a joke, but I promise you that one is 100% true. 

I was still hostessing but I felt like it was a step up.  I wore a tie every day to work.  Actually, in hilarious news, I just realized that this is the most formal dress code I have ever had for a job!  O dear... 

Then one fateful day I was searching the internet for a new job.  Always searching.  I saw a resturant hiring servers with no experience who could start immediately.  I called and then went in that very afternoon to a place that no longer exists on the top of Clifton Hill.  It was not the Keg.  It was sketchy.  Nobody in their right mind would eat there.  It wasn't busy at all.  But it got me in to my dream job.  I quit the Keg.  I called in early in the morning before the July 1st long weekend, because I'm super responsible like that.  I told my new job I couldn't start until after the long weekend because I had to stay at the Keg.  Then I went to the cottage for the weekend. 

And that is the story of how I became a waitress.  This chapter is to be continued because it is a very very very long one.  Almost unimaginably long in the amount of places I have worked.  I hope you have started counting already because they are about to add up very very quickly.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Barreling Right Along....

My path of employment, for the most part, continues along the expected path of most students.  Part-time, low paying, cashier type jobs.  Long, late, drunken serving jobs.  Those sorts of things.  What is most impressive/horrifying, is the vast number of positions I have held in my life time, and of course, my inability to find a job I am good at and love.  But every once in a while, a job comes along that fits into none of these categories.  A job that is strange and unbelievable, that offers me a special sort of skill set.  Something people who have grown up in cities whose main source of income is tourism will understand because we are willing to gouge the tourists for every cent they are willing to throw at us.  Ready for this?  I was once employed by Niagara Daredevil.  This is a company where people paid $16 for a polaroid picture of themselves and sometimes their loved ones, pretending to go over the Falls in a barrel.  (Side note - I was looking for some pictures to entertain you and for the sake of my own integrity, I have to inform you, if you were to go there you could also get a picture in a canoe pretending to go down the rapids.  This was not nearly as popular because, obviously, it is kind of stupid).

Every day, I would head off to work in these little booths at the base of the Skylon Tower.  The only way I can describe the set up is, pretend for Christmas as a small child you really really wanted to go over the falls in a barrel.  Your grandfather, loving you a whole lot, decided to build you a Falls and also a barrel so you could take pictures and pretend you had been.  The whole thing was a rickety construction.  The locks were ancient, the till was a drawer with a pad lock, you had to count the number of polaroid sheets you used and if you made too many mistakes you would be in trouble.  The problem with the picture taking process was you had to pull the picture sheet straight out of the monstrous camera contraption or else it would leave blotchy marks.  Then you would have to let it wait the appropriate amount of time until the ink had dried, all while having tourists impatiently waiting for the photo.  Then, once the paper was off and the picture quality was fine, it had to dry!  Can you ever imagine how many over eager customers grabbed the picture as soon as I set it down, forever leaving a thumb mark smushed into the middle of their picture??  No you probably cannot imagine.  Just as you can't imagine this was actually my real summer job, and I went here at least five days a week and sat by myself trying to pressure sell people into getting these photos.  But it is all true.  I could not make this stuff up if I tried.

I have two very clear memories of that job.  First, across the hall from me was a HUGE television that played the Marineland commercial constantly.  You know how much you hate that song when you hear it twice in a row on the radio?  Imagine EIGHT HOURS NONSTOP!!!!  I shudder every time I hear it, or see the little girl wiping the screen clear to watch the beluga whales because I know there is a triangle spot of frost on the lower left hand corner she is always going to miss.  Every time.  Until you think you will lose your mind hoping she would just pay attention to what she is doing and clear the whole screen.  You'll see....  o you'll see....

Can you find the frost she missed?

Sorry...  where was I?  O yes.  The other thing I learned was about myself.  In my head I picture myself as rather adorable.  I know I'm short and have stubby legs.  I can't help that.  But I have a cute little smile and twinkley eyes, and, I had always assumed, at least a little bit of innate sex appeal.  This job taught me otherwise.  I had to wear a baseball cap, as well as an oversized t-shirt with a picture of the owner in the barrel going over his fake falls on the back.  I was mistaken for a boy multiple times.  The other girl I worked with had long curly blonde hair and somehow made the shirt fit in ways I couldn't.  I would tie it up, wear extra make up, push up bras.  It didn't matter.  Inevitably, I would hear someone say, "Go ask the boy how much a picture costs."  I am not too proud to admit this, sometimes I would turn around to answer their question and people would say, "O dear I'm so sorry sweetheart."  but sometimes, they would not say anything and they would leave believing they had gotten directions to the elevator from a pre-pubescent boy. 

In conclusion, the rediculously useful skill of being able to successfully operate a polaroid camera from 1953 has not actually gotten me any great number of job offers.  Instead, I seem to be suffering from the fact that I spent my university summers not working towards a career but trying to avoid huge amounts of student debt and filling my resume with hilarious, but not so employable skills.  Stay tuned, I wish I could say it was all uphill from here....  but it is decidedly not.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

My Career Path Continues....

On to grade twelve.  I was forced to quit my most favourite job at the IGA because I wanted to be a camp counsellor for the summer.  I loved camp and so gave up the hours I spent scanning food.  On a side note, one of the negatives of that job was the week there was an extreme sale on pig legs.  If you have never seen an entire pig leg, they are gigantic.  About the size of me.  Apparently the people of Niagara Falls have a secret love of them because when they were on sale people were buying in bulk.  No lie.  I would have have to try and scan five or six of them in an order.  They do not fit neatly in little styrofoam deli trays.  O no.  Instead they were wrapped up in clear plastic garbage bags.  Think Dexter, but just giant legs, with bar code stickers attached.  So I would have to manuver the leg to scan the bar code, but let me just tell you this other little piece of information, pig legs are really quite hairy.  Not hairy like mine in mid February, no these hairs are like little metal spikes, breaking open the bags and quite often scratching up my arms.  You might think this is disgusting enough, but once the bags were filled with these little hair holes all of the pig juice would come dripping out all over me.  I would return home from these pig leg sale shifts covered in all sorts of bodily pig fluids, while they seeped into my open wounds from the pig hair, exhausted from the strenuous activity of even lifting them.... 

Gag if you must, but I lifted this dang things for a whole week to satisfy the resident's of Niagara and their sick porky fetishes.

So it was time to move on.  In grade twelve my job criteria was no job interview, only on weekends.  Here is when life tricked me, I was taught if you said what you wanted enough times then you could be given it.  I repeated my request approximately four times before a class mate offered me a position as gift shop girl in a motel/hotel where the rooms were rented hourly and nobody bought anything from the giftshop but the owner's son took a liking to me because of my extreme and obvious contempt bordering on hatred for his entire family including his wife and kids.  Did I mention I was often called on to babysit?  Sometimes to waitress during breakfast or stand at the front desk while they went for cigarette breaks?  I ran food to the bar.  I cleaned rooms.  I delivered room service or extra towels or answered the phone.  What I rarely did was sell anything from the tiny little nook that was the gift shop.  I dusted meticulously, frequently showed up so hungover I could barely stand, and rarely smiled.  They had a policy about employees paying 50% for their food.  I refused to eat there or give a single cent of my hard earned (well maybe just earned....) money back to my employers.  It got so extreme that the owner's son became obsessed with forcing me to eat his food.  If you know anything about me it's that I don't eat when I'm uncomfortable.  And I especially don't eat when I'm trying to prove a point to a giant asshole.  He went so far as to tell me to order anything I wanted off the menu for free.  He would leave plates of ribs for me, or have steaks cooked up just as I was walking in.  As someone who spent a while as a vegetarian, and continues to not eat beef or pork, he clearly went the wrong way about getting me to eat.

I tried to find you a picture of a gift shop without disclosing my actual place of employment, but all that came up was Zoltar.  I thought that would be more entertaining than my past anyway.....

In conclusion, that was not a good job.  But that year I went on my very first airplane at 17 to Mexico to build houses in Ensenada and get extreme pink eye.  This opened my eyes (although not literally, literally my eyes were stuck completely closed for most of the week because my whole face had swollen shut because of the infection), to a world outside my own that I wanted desperately to explore. 

I quit my job for another summer at camp and then was off to Hamilton for my university years at McMaster.  But that....  is a story for another day.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Beginning

Here we go, delving into the history of my career, or lack of career more accurately.... 

I began, as many 16 year olds do, working at a grocery store. I was a cashier at the IGA.  If I must be truly honest, this has been one of my favourite jobs.  I loved scanning and chatting with people.  I was quick with processing orders, and was sometimes even allowed to work on the express check out lane.  I liked memorizing vegetable and fruit codes.  4011 was bananas, 4060 broccoli.  I started refering to them at home by their numbers instead of their names.  Occasionally when trays of cookies were broken they were brought up to the front for us to eat.  My best friend worked in the deli and would make me delicious turkey sandwiches.  Yes, life was good at the IGA. 

But this is not how I started working there.  I had been at camp for the summer volunteering and came home to look for a job.  My Mom knew a manager and got me in at the IGA.  Although I had been home in August they wanted me to start in September.  They scheduled my first shift for the second week of grade eleven, to start on a Monday.  Unfortunately, that morning I woke up with a raging fever, horrible, awful couldn't get out of bed, too woozy to stand.  Absolutely no way I would be able to go into work.  I pitifully had my mother call me in sick, and then crawled back into bed with a bottle of advil, a carton of orange juice and some sad little tears.  I felt foolish for missing my first day of work, for having my Mom call me in sick, for getting sick.  Little did I know, the universe had a plan.  The universe wasn't satisfied with me starting work on that particular day because it wanted to use the most ultimate foreshadowing this side of the globe has seen in a long time.  Horrified by current events it would be years before I saw the connection between my first day of work and the rest of my professional life.  But once I made the connection, it was clear my fate had been written.  I was destined for a long and uphill battle to build my career.

That's right.  If you haven't guessed it yet.  I called in sick to work on Monday September 10, 2001.  Tuesday morning I went to school for just the morning so I could rest up in the afternoon to start work.  We know how the rest of this story goes.  Needless to say I did not rest that afternoon.  I sat alone, with the rest of the world, in my basement watching the towers crash and the people and the ash and rubble.  Then I cleaned up, put on my brand new green IGA shirt and headed in to work. 

I read a book where the main character makes the big move to NYC to have a glamorous new start and instead ends up moving in to her new apartment on Black Friday and watches the entire world collapse around her.  At the time I had felt badly for her as she tried to navigate her uncertain future and find work in a world where there were no jobs.  Little did I know, I started work on the very day that would work as a catalyst for an economic downward spiral for our American neighbours and ultimately for my own career.

I have no conclusion.  I am here to state facts.  You, my wonderful readers, are the ones to draw conclusions from my stories of employment and help me to determine where I went wrong and how to right my wrongs and lead me to the path of success and vacation time and sick days and weekends and pay that is high enough to buy me groceries.

As an aside, I also had a book review for you.  If you are fascinated by the events of September 11, and are interested in a look at how the survivors started the huge task of rebuilding their lives and families and their own jobs, there is a fantastic book called, The Woman Who Wasn't There by Fisher and Guglielmo.  It is also a documentary which I am having a hard time finding but would love to see.  Here I leave you to enjoy the rest of your Wednesday.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Summer Update!!

I'm back.  I was recently inspired by a sangria filled dinner on a patio with friends to begin a new series of posts.  These posts will focus mainly on past places of employment.  For most people this might be 3 or 4 posts, but I have had, at last count, somewhere around 30 jobs. 

My friends and I determined that I am not a failure in all aspects of life.  I am really only a failure in the employment arena.  Hopefully, with your help, and my determination to share with you the ups and downs (mostly downs) of my so called career we can figure out what has led me to this place in my life, and maybe how we can fix it! 

See you soon.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Conclusion to my Sneaky Plan.

Well in ultra-shocking news, my plan to trick the universe into giving me what I wanted (aka a career I could care passionately about and work my little head off for the next 40....  well maybe 35 at this point...  years) did not actually work out as planned.

In fact, I am just an idiot, as always.  But now I will fill you in.

So, my brilliant plan, was to give up on wanting to help anybody in the world and start applying for jobs with only my own financial gain in mind.  That's right.  Give up on the children.  Give up on the 5 years of post-secondary.  Give up on all of my part-time jobs and sacrifices and extra training and courses I have taken.  Just switch over.  No problemo. 

Not only did I apply for the most boring/high paying job I could find in manufacturing, but I sent in a good application, and spent an hour filling out a survey on myself.  Take that universe.

The universe did not like this plan.  In fact, the universe was like, "O dear, we have made a horrible mistake, we've only been toying with you in some sick cat and mouse game for the last thousand years, but really, we would like you to work at a job you would be good at instead of a job that makes your soul die."  *aside - news flash universe - that is already my life right now, currently my soul is dying, slowly and surely, day by day.

The fates, or powers that be, threw me a bone.  A little teeny tiny baby chicken wing of a bone.  Or, more accurately, you know when you are eating fish and you accidentally choke on a little invisible fish bone?  Yes.  That is what I was given.  Fish bone to choke on.  But if I don't die, at least I had some fish?  I have gotten quite lost in my own metaphor here people.  I apologize.  Back to my actual story.  What really happened is that I got a call for an interview for a part-time 8 week contract job that I would LOOOOVE!!  I got all excited about this, thinking it would be my way in to what would eventually lead to my dream job.  I know, I have thought this before, but it has never panned out, I am an eternal optimist, what can I say? 

I went to the interview and felt it had gone well, and was told to expect a call in two weeks.  Around this time I was also given an interview with the manufacturing company I had applied to.  Here is where my crazy logic came in.  I thought if I also went to that interview I could once again rile up my fate and scare it into giving me a job to prevent me from throwing away the last six and a half years of my life to work in a factory. 

And, you know the end because I started this post with the end.  That plan did not work.  In fact, just to screw me over a little bit more, I not only didn't get called back for a part-time 8 week contract, I also did not get called back from my manufacturing interview. 

I am now welcoming suggestions for other ways to trick the universe into accidentally giving me a job!  I need to step up my game a bit here I think.