Saturday, September 22, 2007

"The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship"--Francis Bacon

"Grand, gloomy, and peculiar, he sat upon the throne a sceptred hermit wrapped in the solitude of his own originality"--Charles Phillips

The Phillips quote is a description of Napoleon I, and I have come to enjoy it. I am thankfully a good deal taller than the late emperor and not nearly so grand nor even fractionally as historically significant--but I understand the mood that the description evokes. I have not yet met my Waterloo, but I hope it comes soon--this decade-long march is beginning to lose both color and purpose.

I must be two people--the one that runs my restaurant and the one that I am outside those walls. Many people have a professional and personal persona, but few have the professional one so dominate their lives as does mine. It is a matter of hours really--when 80 of them each week are spent suited--sweating, struggling, and bailing water--the personal me quickly finds itself the bit player in my boring two-man show.

I don't really mind the imbalance most of the time, because I am fatally flawed--the very quintessential workaholic. Where I am given pause however is at the border between the two people, where the personal and professional have daliance.

Most of my employees do not like me. Most respect me [which is all I really ask], but few find me to have any redeeming qualities on a personal level. I, after all, am the person who catches everyone, the person that foils plans, the person that prosecutes broken schemes, the person who professionally executes the capitally-unfit for service. My staff listens for my swift footfalls upon the tiles of the kitchen floor. They look over their shoulder to confirm I am not lurking. They avoid my office as if it were that pit in the desert from Return of the Jedi.

You see. I am the dick who makes such a big deal out of everything. The guy who doesn't understand that it hurts to work with a hangover. I'm the one who won't agree that it is too expensive to dryclean the uniform tie that they did not pay for, and that it is not ok to wear it filthy in order to avoid that expense. I am the one who won't allow them to carry their cell phones and use them "out of sight", and further and even worse I am the absolute piece of crap who has the gall to declare that texting is indeed "using the phone", and similarly banned. I am, in short, the monster that forces these hapless souls to actually do their jobs in proper and consistent fashion.

All this is standard operating procedure for anyone who does my job, and I accept it without pause. Where I differ a little bit, however, is that I do not trouble myself to pretend that our collective relationship is anything other than what it really is--all business. I have a manager friend that will have after-shift drinks with his employees and then be hurt the next day when his bartender buddy tells him that all those he bought rounds for started bashing him the minute he left. I do not go to birthday parties or 4th of July gatherings and force conversation, or cluster with other managers like the nerdy guys at the Sadie Hawkins Dance. I let them talk, let them have their fun, let them be friends--and I stay out of it.

As I have mentioned before--I have bailed people out, paid their rent, bought caskets for their deceased relatives, found them good plumbers [and paid the bills], and sent them on their honeymoons. I have sent them to concerts for Christmas and served them huge feasts on or near holidays. I know how hard our jobs are, and I try to lighten the mood and the load whenever I can. I do all this with as little mention and personal involvement as possible--because a fake, forced thank-you is far more bothersome than no words at all.

A conversation that ceases as soon as I come around the corner gives me not a second's pause. A group that moves their drinking elsewhere when I show up at the bar are given credit for their convictions rather than disdain for their intolerance. These lines are clear cut and obvious, just the way I like it.

Presently there are three people in my restaurant with whom I have a strong personal connecton. Two are associates, one new and one of long tenure--both are invaluable and both bring a smile to my heart [if not always to my face] whenever I see them. One is a staff member, and for the first time in more than seven years this one is a staff member who is also my girlfriend. While "no dating the staff" has been my mantra since before Bubba started hosing down his interns, this one was just irresistable.

Among the others, there is as much gold as there is flotsam and jetsam; but within that greater group consistency of action must rule the day. As much as I appreciate the good feelings and wishes and acts of friendship from the good ones, I will keep it all at arm's length so as to avoid the eye-rolling, finger-crossing, plastic words and motions of the rest.

Heavy lies the crown and sceptre, or micros card and plunger as the case may be.


Blogger bittersweet me said...

i only know you from the dozen+ posts that i have enjoyed here, but i have a huge grin on my face after reading this one.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Steph said...

I'm envious of your girlfriend! :)

I feel the same way you do. I work in an office and have helped management enforce the Facebook ban. People hate me but as my boyfriend just said (before I read this post btw), "You're not friendly but you only pick on the slackers."

12:51 PM  
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