"What did you do?" My voice drilled into the phone, "don't you know it's Rush Hour Saturday Night!!?"
"Calm down, you have a corrupt file server, I'm resetting things, you should be back up in five minutes." The faceless voice of Glen oozed through the phone line at me.
"Should I put you on hold?" I asked hopefully.
"No, I call you back. I have to escalate the problem," he replied evenly.
I looked at the clock, it was 8:05. "Five minutes?" I repeated, but he was gone and now Donny's voice came panicking through the headset;
"They're running out of checks!!"
The big plastic box marked 'Crash Kit' was open on the desk in front of me, there were maybe a hundred paper checks still inside, the thing was meant to accommodate a small bump in the road, a brief power surge, not a long term system failure. I scooped up the checks and returned to the kitchen where I detailed one of the hostesses to pass them out then I went back behind the line to orchestrate the chaos of hand written orders being pushed at the cooks over the expo line. A half hour went by and every time the phone rang I looked up hopefully, but there was no call and we kept pushing food into the window. Through the window I could see waiters hurrying out with plates and back with re-fires, bearing tales of enraged customers and begging for table visits that neither Donny nor I could make. Another hour went by and IT didn't call and the orders kept coming, by the to-go station I could see servers bent over calculators and scraps of paper, toiling like accounting clerks in the stone age while behind the line I was sweating and squinting at sloppy orders trying to sell complete tables from the disparate scraps of paper (For we'd now run out of 3 part checks and orders were coming in any old how) to Donny on the other side who was having a real struggle now, getting overwhelmed servers to run food.
I caught up a bit and glanced at the clock; 9:30.
The host called through the head set, "Tables 21, 34 and 83 all want to speak to a manager!"
I broke away and headed out to the dinning room, table 34 was the closest; a 4 top with a fat, middle aged couple and two kids. The fat middle aged man was in surgical scrubs and even from a distance I could tell he was pissed off.
As I approached the table he was shaking his head as if in disgust, "You're the manager?" He demanded, looking me up and down as if I were some kind of gross object.
"Right," I said, thrusting out my hand for him to shake and introducing myself.
He Ignored my outstretched hand keeping his own folded across his chest, "No wonder," he said, still staring at me through hairy eyeballs.
"No wonder, what?" I asked.
"No wonder this place is being run like crap, look at you!"
I looked down and I must admit I've looked better, there were grease stains covering my button down and my black Chinos were speckled with flour, my usually spit shined shoes inundated with food particles. I dug down deep and somehow managed to conjure up a lame smile, "Sorry," I said, "you see we've been having a a bit of a tough night. Can you tell me what happened here, maybe I can try and make it better for you....."
He let out a little frustrated laugh and stood up, dropping his napkin onto the table, his family following suit, and started to walk away, then he half turned back to me, "You're honestly that incompetent," he said, "that you don't even know what happened!?"
I shrugged my shoulders as my headset crackled back to life, "J.R., J.R.," it was the voice of my assistant Donny, "I really need you on the line, I can't get anything out of these guys....."
I pressed in the button, about to respond when the to-go girl cut in, "J.R., I've got a guest complaint on line one."
"Be right there, Ashley, then I'll be on the line, Donny."
"Forty open, fifteen parties on the wait....." came the voice of the hostess.
I looked over and noticed table 83 was already empty so I didn't go there, but 21 was waiting for me and this time when I stopped table side the guy actually shook my hand.
"I don't like to complain," he said, then he looked at his date, "I never complain, do I?"
"No," she said, "he never complains, "But our food took like forty five minutes to get to the table and when it came it was supposed to be a seafood platter with the shrimp fried, not grilled, no sauce on the crab cake, three clams instead of three oysters with all sauces and lemons on a separate plate, and look what I got!"
I looked down, he had a seafood platter, the way we make it. I sighed, it's always the special orders that get fucked up, its just got too many moving parts when there are that many modifications, somethings bound to go wrong. I sighed, "I'm sorry," I said, "We're having a tough night. Can I have it re-done for you?"
"And wait another 45 minutes?" he said, "No way. I'll just salvage what I can from the wreckage."
I nodded, "I'll take it off the bill. Sorry we disappointed you."
I picked up the phone in expo while everything burned around me and listened to a woman who was enraged that her chicken wings which she wanted to be all flats tossed in BBQ sauce instead of mixed in Buffalo sauce still had one wing in the bunch. I took her address and promised to send a gift certificate. Then, since I was at the phone anyway, I dialed the number for IT and after a few voice mail messages and pressing innumerable buttons I finally got someone on the line. A woman with a fine southern drawl.
"Glen, no Glen's not available right now, he's on break."
I gripped the black, plastic receiver so hard in my hand that my knuckles turned white, "What?" I croaked. I gave her my case # and asked if I could speak to anyone else.
"No," she said, "It's just Glen here right now, but he should be back in a half hour or so."
I hung up the phone and jumped back on the line. It took forty-five minutes to clear the window and by the time it was through we were off the wait and there were only about four or five menus open. I decided to close the doors about ten minutes early and just as I finished that task one of the servers came to me and said Glen from IT was on the phone.
"You should be coming back up now," he said.
"What about the money?" I asked.
"You're going to have to reconcile it by hand and then enter it all into the system one check at a time." He said.
I looked at the clock and it was almost mid-night. It would be five or six AM before we would be done and I had to open in the morning at seven.................Some days are like that.