Hello Monday

If I were ever to open a cafe, that's what I'd name it--Hello Monday, no comma. Everyone who worked there would be super chipper. People would actually whistle while they worked even though I couldn't afford to offer health insurance or pay above minimum wage. Why so happy then? Because happy people get better tips. Happy good looking people get tipped even better.

I've worked two jobs that relied on the kindness of patrons. My first was at La Mocha (or La Mocosa as I used to call it to my own endless and unshared amusement). It was located on the bridge section of the Glendale Galleria and one of several locations owned by a very to the point Persian business woman. Even though I wasn't a coffee drinker, she taught me the ins and outs of steaming milk properly and talking about beans as if I knew what they tasted like. It was here that I learned the higher the ponytail, the bigger the tips.

As I'd concocted my own special drink of non-fat milk, ice, a squirt of Torani banana flavored syrup and a healthy scoop of Nestle hot chocolate mix (it was the mocha in La Mocha), I was constantly on a sugar high that made me very productive and hard to insult. On a good day the tips would equally roughly if not more than half what I'd earned on my by the hour pay.

My second job was much more lucrative when it came to leaving work with my pockets stuffed with cash. For one summer I worked as a hostess at the Bonaventure Hotel's ground floor restaurant. My shift started at 5:30 in the morning and I usually hobbled out the employee exit by 1 pm. I've always loved hotels and seeing how they work made me appreciate them even more. As it was clear to all the union workers that I wasn't going to make a career in the food and hospitality business, I was farmed out a part-time limo driver named Rashid who was a full-time scammer.

One of Rashid's many side gigs was running a grab-and-go coffee, fruit and pastry bar. What we'd do is this: We'd meet by laundry and Rashid would grab a few clean table clothes, then pushing one of those tall catering shelves on wheels, we'd make the rounds through the various kitchens and fridges. We'd pick up juices and yogurts in one, muffins and danishes in another. Rashid would run off to procure coffee, tea, milk, sugar and cups while I made nice with the ladies in the kitchen as piled my tray with apples and bananas. Once I even talked them out of giant bowl of chopped fruit. This made Rashid very happy, but once when he took a bowl without asking the fruit lady, she got mad at me and I had to apologize for Rashid. When I told him why I'd come bearing no chopped fruit, he said he'd take care of it. The next day we had chopped fruit and no more problems.

Once we had all that we needed, we'd set up in the out of the way corner that was designated as Rashid's space because there was a store room he had a key to where we could stash extra yogurt and juice and the catering shelf. Rashid was big on presentation and traffic flow, everything was laid out just so with one end for cups, napkins and utensils and the other for paying. This is where Rashid stood behind a cash register he'd also found somewhere deep below the Bonaventure. Next to the register stood a glass in which every morning Rashid would place a crisp dollar bill in.

I never understood why or how this thing with Rashid worked. He was direct competition to the restaurant that wasn't more than 20 feet away and 20 times more expensive. We sold almost everything for $1, except for the fruit salad which was $1.50. For people who didn't want to spend $12 on a piece of toast and a couple of eggs, this was ideal for them and us. They'd buy a cup of coffee, a piece of fruit, feel like they'd gotten a good deal and leave a couple bucks in the tip jar before taking a seat in the lobby or going back to their rooms. When there was a convention in town, Rashid would have to empty out the register once or twice during a shift to make room for more dollars. At the end of the day, after we'd broken down the tables and returned the catering shelf, Rashid would hand me a wad of bills and go off to his next job. I'd have to go back to the restaurant and hostess until my shift was over. Tips were way worse at the restaurant and almost non-existent for a hostess. (Though a nice elderly Italian man once gave me $5 for bringing him a $2 carton of yogurt.) I'd come home, stick the money in my sock drawer and pass out with my feet propped on a couple of pillows. By the time the summer ended, I had almost $1,000 in loose bills.

If I were to breakdown what I earned per word for my three published books, I'd probably have to admit I was doing a lot better when I was working on my feet than sitting on my ass typing. But that would make me sad and totally go against my concept for Hello Monday where everyday is Monday and that's a good thing.

No comments: