This morning I got some black trousers for the training night. My parents shopped for my Grandma, debating whether or not to buy her a cosy Onesie because she’s getting to that stage of dementia where clothes annoy her. In the end they opted for some loose-fitting dresses because Grandma would probably not appreciate living out her days dressed as Pikachu or a crocodile.
I showed up at the restaurant five minutes early, my kind but over-protective parents insisting on giving me a lift in case I melted in the rain.
The first hurdle was putting on the oriental-style waitress’ shirt. It zipped up the side with fasteners going diagonally from my armpit to my neck. Somehow getting those fasteners matched up seemed like rocket science. Eventually I realised that the fasteners were fine. I just needed to tug it around so it sat the right way.
Soon, I realised what the real problem might be. The manager speaks quite quietly and has a Chinese accent. It was hard to tell what she was saying. Strong accents are also harder to lip read. Luckily my friend was beside her, and sort of translated for me. I probably seemed rude or stupid or both, but I was loath to tell my potential boss about my hearing difficulty before she watched me help in the restaurant and shadow my friend while she worked. My instinct was that if that was the first thing she knew about me, it would really cut down my chance of getting a job.
When I’m nervous, my hearing is not at its best. The auditory part of my brain tries to run off and bury its head in the sand, hoping that any important things I need to hear will disappear if it ignores them.
The Chinese flute music playing in the background was a beautiful auditory distraction.
The friendly people in the kitchen introduced themselves as Harry, what sounded like “Duke”, but is probably “Jake”, and “Toshi”, who my friend said is actually called “Tesh”. I got one out of three right. My bad hearing night was like one of my good hearing days two years back, but I still felt stressed-out.
One of my first tasks after refilling baskets with prawn crackers was to take plates off a warmer and set them down in front of the customers. I was so nervous I nearly dropped the plate and plonked it down in front of a customer with a Crack! She leaped back in her seat, clutched her chest and said, “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
I think I kind of grimaced at her and squeaked, “Sorry, I’m new!” before scuttling back to my place near the desk, not looking at the manager, who had been watching. She told me, not unkindly, to “Put the plates down gently”.
Then she said something which sounded like, “Get big plate, pot”.
In the kitchen my friend, the veteran waitress, asked me what I was looking for.
“I’m getting the big plate from the pot”, I said, confused. She looked at me as if I wasn’t making any sense.
Although there wasn’t a pot, I was supposed to get big plates. I helped set them on another warmer from a cupboard.
My friend did most of the work, while I did my best to help, rapidly mentally translating what people said and hopefully not making too much of a mess of things.
I learned where everything goes, how to set tables, bring out and light warmers, where the dirty plates and food goes, and a little bit about how to work the touch-screen computer order thing (although, to be fair, I still don’t really understand that).
By 7.30 pm there was a lot of standing and waiting to do while the last customers finished, making me wonder if this is the reason for the word Waitress.
Sweeping the floor was not a problem. I’m more used to sweeping leaves from garden paths, but there isn’t much difference.
Mopping is quite similar to sweeping.
As payment for me helping out at the training night, Harry cooked me a tinfoil box of delicious food. Chinese food is my favourite.
If you can be hired for sheer enthusiasm, nervous energy and a quickly-learned visual knowledge of the basics, I’m their girl. Otherwise, I think I’m out of luck for a job there. Either way, it was an interesting experience.