Tuesday, October 24, 2006 by Ospite.

Harold has worked at our restaurant for awhile now...prior to my hiring anyway. He's the black sheep, the ugly duckling. He doesn't quite fit into the society well. I have the feeling he was always beat up at school for his quiet demeanor, and crossed eyes. He now seems bizarrely content to hide in the kitchen washing dishes with his headphones on.

He walks to work every day and it takes him hours. Why he doesn't take the bus is beyond me, but he walks everywhere. I think he has found solace in solitude. Safety in singularity. If there's no one around, there's no one to hate you or talk down to you or look at you like you're the oddball. He can have an attitude, but it's my belief that it's caused from low expectations. Almost no one at work talks to him. He wafts through the kitchen like a spectre. He never makes eye contact. He's there, but not really.

One of the most recent hiring waves brought in Jimmy. He's a very large, very loud, black man. He's a riot, and Harold's exact opposite.

Tonight, they were on shift together. And there were words.

Jimmy for some reason cannot stand Harold and tonight he was set off. Harold is notorious for under-the-breath comments, and unkind words that are virtually inaudible. Apparently Jimmy caught one such comment tonight.

"Listen you motherf*cking little b*tch, I want you away from me. Don't even come close to where I'm at!" ...and this went further and further.

Now the section of the kitchen where they are stationed isn't close to the dining room but Jimmy is far from softspoken. As I walked out and hit the floor, I could still hear his voice clear as a bell. That's when the soon-to-be-rumble becomes my problem, when my customers can hear it. When a patron's meal is disturbed by personal back of the house issues is when management needs to step in. Did they? Of course not. Not until I approached the closing manager.

"You realize I can hear Jimmy on the floor? And not quietly either? I can pretty much pick up every four-letter word."

Swear on your own time and your own dollar, but when you're in the trattoria, your mouth will be clean, and your personal presentation will be professional. Or you find a new place to work.

Well, rather than yell back, because that's not something Harold does, he simply kept 'invading Jimmy's space' and causing more issues. The manager told them to quiet down and spoke to Harold about his attitude and Jimmy about his volume level. Harold was then told to empty to food garbage cans with were borderline overflowing. He took off the slotted top, threw it on the dish line, spilling dumped food everywhere...on the dishline, floor, counter, everywhere.

I thought Jimmy was going to throw a plate at him. He was livid. I think he may have done something if the manager hadn't walked in just then.

"What the F*ck is this? Harold...seriously?! Are we 8 years old again? You're hand washing the floor now because I'm not having my server trapse this f*cking sh*t into my dining room! Get on it. NOW!"

It took ages for everything to get cleaned up. We all had to stay late because annoying customers stayed so long we had to turn up the lights and turn off the music on them. I felt like I was working in a bar. I walked outside after an age-long shift to find it cold and rainy. As I drove home I passed Harold walking in the rain. I didn't slow down. I didn't pick him up. I didn't go out of my way to help him, even though I'm pretty sure he needed it. I'm wishing now I'd been the bigger man and done what no one has done for him in ages...done something nice...given him a break.


Blogger Raven said...

Harold sounds like he might have a mild form of Aspergers Syndrom. Just a thought, it might not just be attitude, but a real problem.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Dropout Waiter said...

Don't you just love those domestic quarrels in the workplace :P I can't wait to start my new job and see which people I'm gonna like, and which ones I'm gonna hate.


8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first thought was Aspergers too. My daugther has it, and it sounded a lot like her way of dealing with people. But even if there is no "explanation" for why he acts the way he does I feel for him. No one wants to be invisible. When you are told (or you know from reading peoples' expressions and attitudes) that everyone wants you to just go away and shut up you have two choices: scream at the world, Oh yeah? I'm here, I'm staying! Or slowly fade away. One minute of kindness won't change him, he'll know it for what it is: pity and short lived at that. But steady kindness, a kind word, a smile, might really make a difference to him on a day to day basis. Is anyone willing to try?

4:48 AM  

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At your service, Ospite

I am not in the restaurant business, I am in the people business. I use every opportunity to people watch, because to me, even the most mundane is fascinating.

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