Monday, December 15, 2008


Adverse effects:
  1. Loss of any sense of what day of the week it is.
  2. Neglect of personal correspondence.
  3. Neglect of blog.
  4. Refusal to commit to any invitation.
Positive effects:
  1. Tons of money and no time to spend it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

an insanely large machine

So I work as a busser in The Cheesecake Factory in Waikiki. 21 million in annual sales, and in the last year, as tourism receipts and room occupancy rates have taken a serious hit here, our store has increased sales by 10%. There are 340 employees (plus the 18 of us that got hired when I did), 17 managers, 140 servers... I thought I had been working in restaurants for the last 5+ years, but I was totally wrong - I may have worked in businesses that sell food to make money - but not in a real restaurant. It's truly an insanely large machine.

There is a guy, Oscar, whose job it is to clean the back of house. He sweeps the line, he sweeps the prep kitchen, he mops, and then he does it all again. It takes him a little over an hour, and he does it all day, from 10 in the morning, until his relief comes in at 5 in the evening, when it all begins again. The dish room does not have stress mats in it... it is literally one giant floor drain with one inch by one inch plastic grates covering it, such that all the debris and liquid just goes into the floor. The dish machines and the sinks drain into it, it smells a little nasty, but it's effective. The last prep cooks leave at 2am and the first of the next day are in by 6. All of the managers have CIA style earpieces with microphones on their collars so that they can communicate with each other and the hosts, the expediter has a microphone that pumps into the speakers in the back of hose to give commands and sports scores to the prep cooks, dishwashers, and Oscar. "White rice to sautee." "Salad side bus-cart pickup." "Oscar to the pasta side, broom and wet mop." "Go Phillies!"

I bus. We turn tables in less than two minutes from when they break, or we get our knees broken. We are so busy (a 1 hr.+ wait every night) that the only limit to the amount of money we (the restaurant) can make is how quickly we can reset a table. It's a very important job in the grand scheme of things. We are table setting mercenaries. There is no such thing as a break - not if you want to make money... and we all do.

Money is what makes the machine run. 340 people who have come together to make awesome food, offer exceptional service, and be be total badasses which in turn, makes us all a ton of money. Well, I don't make a ton yet, but mark my words: I will. Because I am a badass. And this is a place that is custom made for badasses like me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

1st night: hookers and sailors

My first night here, my cousin took me out for a little walk through the town to show me around. We walked down Kalakaua St. which is Waikiki's "main drag." There are countless designer stores (including three Coach stores in about half a mile), restaurants, and tourists. Just on the other side of the row of stores, restaurants, and hotels is Waikiki beach. We made a quick stop by the beach, and then turned left towards Kuhio St.

My cousin told me that one of the interesting things about Hawaii is the fact that laws are selectively enforced. For instance - prostitution laws. He said as we turned onto Kuhio that we would certainly encounter some hookers. He also warned me of the likelihood that I's find myself checking out a chick one day, only to discover that she was a mahu (pidgin for transvestite). There they were, around fifteen or twenty girls lining the left side of the street, with velvet-wearing, bejeweled cane-carrying pimps scattered here and there. Right on cue, a group of seven sailors, complete with white bell-bottoms and funny little sailor-hats, walked by. One of the girls poked her fried, who was distracted by the debris she was trying to remove from her clear-plastic ultra high heeled shoe as if to say "wake up... it's time for business!" Their ship had literally come in.

As I laughed to myself in amazement at the sights and sounds of the city we made our way to Kelly O'Neils, an Irish pub. My cousin took the opportunity to warn me that if I ever wanted to get a massage, I should be careful that I knew what I was getting, as even the most respectable looking massage parlors assume that you want "full release." Even though the signs in the doorway said SMOKING IS ILLEGAL!, there were ashtrays on every table and smoke was in the air. That's my kind of Irish Pub and another fine example of selective law enforcement. I ordered 2 pints of Guiness, one for each of us. After a nice, traditional slow-pour, the bartender brings me the dark foamy goodness and says,"That'll be $13.50." Ouch. I was not expecting that.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

job hunt/tuberculosis/cheesecake

I never knew how hard it could be to get a job. I know that the economy sucks, that it's the slow season here, that most places are still overstaffed from the summer, but Jesus Christ, I have a damn MBA and I'm applying for jobs as a line cook, busser, or host. I know... you might say that that is the problem... that I'm over qualified for those jobs, but I'm under qualified to jump directly into a management position in a high volume restaurant.

After two weeks of button up shirts and khakis, craigslist,, and unsolicited walk-ins, I finally managed trudge through all of the lip-service interviews and into a place that appreciated my talents and understood my goals: The Cheesecake Factory. I had waited a while to apply there even though they are "always hiring great applicants" due to the fact that my cousin works there. I got the job (busser) at my second interview, have now completed my training and am an official Certified Cheesecake Factory Busser. Now to begin my unrelenting quest to be the best, to get to the top, and to learn as much as possible from the insanely large machine...

Oh yeah. TB. Hawaii has twice the number of tuberculosis cases (8.5/100,000) as the rest of the U.S. and as such, they require TB testing for all students, restaurant workers, and caregivers.) They put a little bit of liquid under the skin of your arm and then two days later you come back. If your arm has a dime sized discoloration/reaction in the spot where they injected you, you have TB. I do not. I imagined that I did -- that I would wake up in the morning and see the splotch and have to get lung x-rays and treatments and not be able to work for months and how amazed everyone would be that I had consumption. I could become a public speaker, telling people how important TB prevention and treatment were, while quietly coughing blood into my handkerchief for dramatic effect. But I do not in fact have TB.

small apartment, big roaches

I've never lived in a place with roaches. Sure, I've seen one or two in Chico or Arcata, but not like this. This is a big city with big roaches. They fly. The full grown adults are literally two and a half inches. There was one last night in the sink that was carrying a large slice of the white part of a green onion in it's mouth. Like a dog with a bone. My roommate Lori says that the best thing to do is spray them with Simple Green. "It works great and it's not toxic, like those bug sprays" she said. It does not work great. Perhaps it makes them clean and fresh smelling, but it does not kill them, it just gets them wet. The best things I have found for dispatching them are a plastic fork, with which you can crush or cut them in half before using the same fork to move the carcass to the trash, or a slipper (pronounced slippah, =flipflop/thong).
I've also never lived with three people in a 300 sq. foot apartment. Three full weeks now and it's really not that bad. Eric and I switch off between the couch (loveseat) and the easy-chair. I think we are all being very careful to be considerate and accommodating, and I think it's working. However, I look forward to a time when no longer have to live out of my suitcase. At this juncture, I think I'd rather have a dresser and a closet than a blow job.