I live in a mid sized city where there are not many part-time job opportunities available for students. The only jobs that pay well are waiters’ jobs at restaurants. Getting one isn’t easy especially if you have no previous work experience. So when I was lucky to land myself a job at a classy restaurant (the type where the average meal costs somewhere close to my monthly groceries budget) I took it! I didn’t really need the job, but such opportunities don’t come around very often.
Even before I started working at the joint, I’d heard quite a few negative stories from students who used to work there but quit. “The manager’s an arrogant asshole with PMS 24/7, he doesn’t protect employees from rude/abusive customers, and the place is just too strict.” I ignored these stories coz I was driven by greed to apply for a job there. Seriously, the ad said between R300-R500 a night (roughly Ksh 3000-Ksh 5000) tell me, who would say no to that? That is a lot of money to a student! In my head I’d already seen how I’m going to pay off my substantial gym debt in one week (I haven’t been there in almost a year [to flex what? These ribs?] but I’m tied down by a contract. Yes I know I’m stupid, no need to remind me!) upgrade my wardrobe the next week, buy an iPod the next, then save up for a holiday in Cape Town and a PlayStation 3 after that.
During the summer holiday (November to February) lots of tourists flock into the city and everyone knows that they SPEND a lot of money, so waiters can make up to R800 a night! I even decided to stay here instead of going home to bum all week at jobless corner waiting for the weekend to hustle the folks for cash to hanye.
The one week of training isn’t easy. Basically a trainee starts off in the kitchen where you’re at the disposal of the head cook. If she decides that utasugua vyombo, peel potatoes, sweep and mop the floor, make salads and garnishes, you’ll do just that. And I did! Then you proceed to the grill section where you peel more potatoes, learn about all the steaks and how they’re prepared, what they’re served with etc. After that you’re assigned to shadow the waiters, serving customers, lighting candles, emptying ashtrays, setting up tables, carrying away plates after the customers are through. Then you proceed to shadow one waiter and learn everything about taking orders, placing orders in the kitchen and the grill section, serving the meals and using the computer to place orders and prepare the bill. After you’re done with all that, you sit a test on everything you’ve learnt during training.
I went through the whole training period wondering when I’d start making money! I only worked for a day coz for the last two and a half weeks all the shifts were full, I didn’t even make the stand-by list.
But there was lots of drama behind the scenes. We had two managers (and, of course, the token black junior manager) Manager A is a straight up category 1 asshole. He never has anything good to say to anyone. Manager B is an easy chap. He’ll crack jokes and have a smoke with you before work and catch a pint at the end of the night. But if a waiter screws up during the night, he’ll throw a bitch-fit, and apologize for it at the end of the night. It’s no secret that Manager A and B don’t get along, mainly coz Manager A has some connection with the owners of the restaurant so he feels that there’s nothing that anyone can do to him. That’s why he treats everyone like shit.
Eventually, Manager B quit and left for Cape Town, and then we were stuck with the asshole. Most of the waiters said there’s no way they’d work for him so they quit and applied for jobs elsewhere.
A classmate of mine who also works at the restaurant told me on Friday that there was a severe shortage of waiters at the restaurant and that I should go over and put my name down for as many shifts as I can. Huku my mind is thinking Ka-ching!! Jackpot! $$$$$$$! So I did just that.
When I got there, there were only four or so waiters for 40+ tables and guys really looked like they could do with some help. I asked the head waiter if he could put my name down for the evening shift and for more shifts through the weekend as well, but he said that I had to speak to the manager. I asked where he was and he told me that he was in the kitchen. But I was in casual wear and I asked if it was ok for me to go into the kitchen dressed like that and he was like “yeah bru, it’s cool. Just go in and speak to him.”
At the kitchen the head cook greeted me and asked me to wait for a sec while she calls the manager. I asked her if I should wait outside coz I was in casual wear but her reply was “oh don’t be silly, Archer. Wait right there and I’ll call him for you.”
A few minutes later the manager came out and the expression on his face indicated that things were not going to be good. “What the f*** are you doing in my kitchen? Get the f*** out!” I tried to speak to him but he ordered me out, so I decided to wait for him by the front desk. I thought he was being his “normal” shit-faced self so I didn’t take his language too seriously.
He showed up almost half an hour later, clearly disgusted at my presence. “You’re still here? What the f*** do you want?” Before I could speak he blasted me for being rude and disrespectful by walking into his kitchen as if it was my own, and for talking back to him.
“You think that you can just walk into my kitchen to ask for a job? Who do you think you are?” I tried to explain to him that I DID work there but he shut me up with “that’s the problem with you foolish Zimbabweans and your lousy manners. Your sub-standard education clearly doesn’t equip you with common sense and courtesy.”
I didn’t bother t tell him that I’m a Kenyan and not a Zimbabwean, coz it wouldn’t have made a difference to him. We’re all silly half educated immigrants anyway, right?
I apologized if my actions came out as being disrespectful to him as that was not my intention. I would not have gone into the kitchen in casual wear if I hadn’t been given the green light by the head waiter and the head cook, coz it’s rather obvious that that’s a no no. But he wouldn’t listen.
“Get the hell out of my restaurant and only come back after you’ve learnt some manners. Get out!” Huku he’s pointing to the wide open door.
I stood there and gave him a couple of minutes to calm down before attempting to speak to him again. Actually I was like “breathe in, breathe out. Wuuuusaaaa. Tulia daddy.”
“Didn’t you hear what I said? GET the f*** out of my restaurant! Get out! I have no business to discuss with idiots like you!”
Haiiiiya, he’s serious? Kwani who the hell does this mbuzi think he’s talking to?
“Actually, you know what, you arrogant bastard? Go fuck yourself! I quit!” and I walked out.
Seriously, what the hell was that about? Yes I know it was wrong for me to enter the kitchen in casual wear, but it’s not as if I sauntered in to have a chat with the coffee girl. (well, she’s pretty, she’s got one hell of a diab and she’s quite flirtatious…!) It’s amazing how petty some people can be! So you can imagine what kind of bitch-fit he’d throw if a waiter accidentally messed up an order or forgot to change an ashtray by the third cigarette butt. He’d give you a thorough dressing down right in front of your colleagues. It’s not hard to see why more than three quarters of my colleagues decided to quit once Manager B left. Even for that kind of money, no one should take this kind of bullshit from anyone coz you’re still selling yourself cheap! What differenciates you from a prostitute?
If you’re running a restaurant with over 40 tables with only four or five waiters since all the rest have quit, then you should realize that something is wrong. Hiring new guys isn’t a solution coz they’ll have to train first which takes time, and the place already has a nasty reputation among students, so no-one is willing to apply for a job there for whatever amount of money. If the kitchen staff are so demoralized but only continue to work for you coz they really need the peanuts that you pay them, then you should realize that something is wrong. (you should see how they prepare customers’ food. It’s shocking! I’ve seen tomato slices fall to the floor and somehow find themselves back onto the plate!!) If another manager quits coz of your arrogance, surely, can’t you see that there’s something terribly wrong?
Someone ought to put this guy in his place. Beat his ass up a bit. (comrade Bomseh si you make a plan?) But why should I care? It’s not my restaurant.
As for me, a friend of mine is hooking me up with another job at a restaurant that’s equally as popular among tourists, and if I get it, then I might decide to stay here and work during the holidays instead of going to Nairobi.
But tolerating these Afrikaners isn’t going to be easy.