Monday, June 05, 2006

It Started With A Phone Call

About a month ago, I got hired as a manager at East Of Eighth restaurant in Chelsea. I had passed it many many times and was aware that they featured an occasional drag show, and had a bit of a gay following based on, if nothing else, it's location. I had never gotten around to eating or drinking there. I interviewed just once, with the owner/GM, Micky Feldmen. My interview went well and I was offered some training shifts, with the understanding that someone else was interviewing and they were bringing him in as well, so my job was by no means secure. Several days of training ensued, and when that was complete, I was given a schedule. As it turns out, my rival just never showed at all. I was replacing a manager who was well liked. He had resigned as he found his schedule and other responsibilities he had taken on were taking up too much of his time.

My training consisted of 3 shifts with 3 different managers. While they all had slightly different styles and things they emphasized, I fully understood what my responsibilities seemed to be. I started working on my own and was closing four nights a week. Some nights, the daytime manager would leave me a note regarding something I had forgotten, or something that needed to be taken care of. One night, the owner expressed some annoyance that I had failed to leave some notes in the log book regarding how the night went, show attendance etc. I never did it again. I had previously expressed I was finished in the restaurant/bar business, but if I had to have a job, this was a good one. The pay was fair, the food was good, and while I was having some trouble juggling the job, my gym schedule and the new dog, I was confident It would all work itself out. I genuinely liked most of the staff I was working with.

About two weeks ago, the other night manager, who has worked there off and on for over 7 plus years, announced that he was resigning his position as well. I was a little distressed that people were jumping ship all over. Especially because everyone had remarked as to how long much of the staff had worked there. I chalked it up to the business being in a state of flux. It happens periodically. I came to work the next day, and was immediately called into a meeting with Micky. He informed me that Greg was leaving. I explained I had already heard from Greg. I asked what we would be doing. Micky explained that he needed me to change my schedule. He wanted me to work weekend days and two nights a week. They were going to be moving our catering manager into the restaurant manager job five nights a week and hire a new catering manager.

I expressed that I was hardly locked in to my old schedule, having only done it for a couple of weeks. I stated that I would be happy to make whatever changes Micky needed me to make. Indeed, I immediately started calculating how I could make use of only working two closing shifts a week, and how I could incorporate the changes, such as having my weekend nights free for the first time in years. I was excited at the possibilities.

I finished my work week last Sunday. As I previously posted, I was doing a happy dance that the transition to my new schedule meant that I would be off all week. I was supposed to come back to work Friday morning, work during the day with Micky, and get instructions regarding opening the restaurant, banking, change etc. Saturday morning I would start my new schedule.

Tuesday evening I returned home and picked up my phone messages. That's when I got the phone call. It was one of the waiters from the restaurant. He expressed how bad he felt that I had been fired from my job and how wrong he thought it was. As if it had already happened and I knew about it. Of course, it hadn't and I didn't. At first, I was unsure what to do. I listened to the message three or four times, trying to figure out if maybe he misdialed, or was reponding to a rumour. I had no inkling that I was about to be fired, and I couldn't imagine what for. Indeed, I was just starting to get more comfortable, and was eager to start my new schedule and responsibilities.

Finally, I decided to call Micky directly. I called him on his private cell. He asked how I was. I responded "You tell me, I just heard a phone message consoling me because I had been fired." He asked me who the message was from and I resisted telling him. I asked again if it was true. He said it wasn't. I repeated myself and asked if everything was OK. He said it was. I asked if I was still meeting him on Friday to train for the day shift. He said yes. I asked what was going on, and he said people were spreading rumours. Confused but feeling a little better I hung up.

I related the story to The Hellcat later that night. We both agreed it was extremely odd. I told him I had decided to go to the restaurant the next afternoon, to find out, if nothing else, why a rumour was circulating that I'd been fired. That's a pretty specific rumour. So that's what I did, right after lunch.

I asked where Micky was and found him myself. I asked to speak to him privately and he agreed. It was then I asked for an explanation for the phone message. It was then he admitted that he was "letting me go." And that's when I felt I was punched in the gut. He explained that the original manager I had been hired to replace had a change of heart. Apparently, he wanted his job back. Or more specifically, I think he wanted my new schedule. I'm speculating, but it seems likely. It was pretty obvious to anyone that my new schedule was a pretty easy work week. He explained that he really liked the other manager. He had told him if he ever wanted his job back he could have it, apparently the rest of that sentence being at my expense. He then went on to inform me that he hadn't really been happy with my work. That the previous manager had been more hands-on. He would jump in and do things where I seemed to just "hang around the front door". I guess if you call taking phone orders, taking reservations, keeping an eye on a bar that is hemmoraging cash, answering questions, giving directions, cleaning up the new outdoor section, seeing that the bathrooms were clean and voiding checks that need it hanging out, then yeah, I was just sitting on my ass. To say I was surprised was an understatment.

I expressed my disappointment. As I said, I was just starting to get comfortable. The guys from SIN came in that weekend for brunch. Despite the fact that I had closed the night before and had to work again that night, I made a trip in to the restaurant that afternoon, on my own time and without being asked, so I could meet the guys and make sure their experience was a good one. I thought a gay men's social group was an extremely important resource for us if we were looking to expand our customer base. I thought it would help us if they knew they had a HIV+ manager on board. I think I wondered aloud why nobody had ever said a single word about how I was doing my job. Now that some time has passed, WHY THE FUCK didn't my boss tell me if he needed me to do something or be a certain way? So that I could, you know, do it. Or be it. How in the world can you fire someone for not doing something, if you haven't asked them to do it in the first place? It's sooooo passive/aggressive, and I'm p/a personified.

Now that some time has passed, I went from feeling like shit to being really quite pissed. I was basically used. I showed up for training. I guess I got the job because I was the only one who had. I was given minimal direction if at all. I was allowed to work for weeks. I was asked to change my schedule and obliged quickly and willingly. I was getting along well with the staff. Then as soon as the guy I replaced changed his mind I was kicked out. Oh, he did offer to give me a recommendation. Like "Oh, yeah. Tom worked for us for a month but we weren't at all happy with his work and fired him. By all means, give him a chance." Asshole.

So there you have it. Kind of back to square one. The bills are paid up. My credit is still in good standing. I'm not without resources, and there's dog food in the cupboard. We'll be fine. But right now I'm mad, embarrassed and feeling like shit about myself. Which sort of explains why I got so drunk Friday during the Blog-a- palooza event I woke up physically injured. P.S. I didn't fracture a rib, I'm just a little dinged up. I have no idea what I'll do next. Maybe I just want to make drinks and be left alone to play with my dog.

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