Monday, October 15, 2007

Tales from the Biz: Carlos and Avril

Once upon a time, at a very busy, kinda high-profile (at least back then) restaurant in New York City, there was a new manager named Carlos.

Carlos had never worked in a restaurant before. He was a recent graduate of a well-known, upper-crust business school, and had done a little bit of time on Wall Street. He came from money, and one day at one of those parties where the women try to hide their plastic surgery scars, men swing their dicks around and brag about their success, and people like me wander through with trays of drinks, he had met the owner of a very large and successful restaurant group, and decided that when he grew up he wanted to be just like him.

So he took a job managing one of his idol's establishments, so that he could "learn the business from the ground up."

Like many people who are stupid enough to take a job that would require them to work eighty hours a week making $35,000 a year in New York City, he hit the ground running. Running around acting like he knew everything, that is.

He was a jerk. Racist to the busboys, sleazy to the women, attempting to take advantage of the chef, bossing around the servers... He assumed that he was smarter than everyone else who had worked in the industry for years. Little did he know that a piece of paper from a hoity-toity school that Daddy got you into means nothing when you are in the trenches in a restaurant.

Someone must have clued him in on the fact that having the senior servers on your side is wise, because he did actually listen to a few of us on occasion. So we took full advantage by just sitting back and watching him dig his own grave, looking for little ways to humiliate him. Like accidentally letting it slip to the GM when he comped his banker cronies hundreds of dollars worth of food. Or clueing the busboys in on the fact that he spoke Spanish and was trying to keep it a secret, in an attempt to one-up them, so that they would not get the mistaken idea that he was on their level in any way.

And then the ultimate...

One night an executive at some record label came in after a concert with about twenty people, among them Avril Lavigne, who at the time had just released her first album. She was an adorable, tiny ball of energy, punked out in cargo pants and wearing sequined devils ears, even though Halloween was months away. She was also young - we all knew that she was only about nineteen - but ordering drinks nonetheless.

Standing right outside the door to their private room, my cohort, Jeff, pulled Carlos aside.

"Look, dude, someone needs to card those guys. We can't do it, because they won't take us seriously, and then they'll hate us and not tip us well. It needs to be someone with more authority. I mean, you're the only manager on right now. Can you imagine how much trouble you'd get into if they find out you let all those kids drink in here?"*

"Yeah, you're right. Don't worry, man. I'm on it."

Carlos swallowed hard and bounded into the room. We gathered outside, quiet as church mice, and peered in.

"Listen up," he bellowed with as much false bravado as he could muster, "I'm, uh... going to need to see everyone's ID's in here. Right now."


The room went silent. The executive's chair scraped back as he got up and backed Carlos into a corner.

"Listen, kid," he spat. "The owner of this company is a personal friend of mine. My label brings huge amounts of money into his restaurants every year. How do you think he'd like to hear about you being the one to personally blow that?"**

"Uh.... uh..."

The room burst into laughter as Carlos mumbled something about "guessing it was ok" before he scurried out of the room.

"Where do you think he's going?" I asked Jeff as he darted past us.

"To change his pants, I assume."

We smiled slyly to each other as we ducked back into the room to take drink orders.

Point - servers.

*It is widely known in the New York restaurant scene that you never check the ID of someone famous. Let them have whatever they want. And don't ask for their autograph.

**I actually kinda loved that people in New York were willing to be completely unmodest about the power throwing money around could have. So un-Southern, realistic, and fabulous.


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