Recently the ex-restaurant manager posted one of those "self-help"-style lists, a comparison of what makes a leader and what makes a manager. Listening to me as I read it, one would have thought they were overhearing a Simpsons episode as I kept blurting out first, "woo-hoo", and then, "d'oh", in succession all throughout the article. Every single entry applied to me.
The simple fact is that I am as negative as positive, as constructive as destructive, as much angel as demon--I vary my goals, attitudes, and executions depending on who I am addressing. The manager in me occasionally sees triumph when a near-lost cause rebounds, while the leader in me is sometimes heartbroken by the terminal collapse of one of his followers.
For Halloween, I guess it should be a horror story.
Several months ago I hired an unlikely young lady as a member of our staff. A little younger than most of my employees, a little less experienced than most, and possessed of a notably "different" look physically. Though I administrate a conservative restaurant in a conservative place serving conservative guests, I have been known to roll the dice from time to time where hiring is concerned, and this young lady seemed to merit such an exception.
She was bubbly without seeming stupid, articulate without being false or forced, and while straightforward regarding her lack of experience she seemed truly excited about the possibility of bettering herself professionally.
In the beginning she was all promise--a fast learner that quickly made friends on the staff and drew huge fans amongst our regular guests. She was willing to do a number if different jobs, even hostessing a few times when we, as most restaurants, were in dire need.
She was a superstar--Madonna in her prime, Celine Dion at the Grammys, Helen Mirren winning the Oscar.
Then, things started to change. I cannot climb inside her psyche to say what the trigger was, or where exactly the turn began, but a few things seemed to manifest themselves dramatically at almost the same exact time.
Suddenly, Ms. Overachiever slowed down dramatically in a physical sense--she went from a 12-speed road racer to one of those adult trikes--"sense of urgency" had clearly left the building. The young lady who once so nimbly traversed our narrow, busy hallways began wandering aimlessly through the restaurant as if she were trudging from her living room sofa to the refrigerator to get a pie and a fork. Two other possibly related though seemingly opposed changes also manifested themselves as she began gaining huge amounts of weight while simultaneously starting to fuck everyone--and when I say everyone I damn near mean it--half the cooks and more than a few of the waiters [and possibly a waitress as well].
Throughout the decomposition process I tried to stay involved, even as my alarm and dismay grew daily. The leader in me didn't want to lose a valuable asset while the manager didn't want to worry about another ass-dragger. There were encouraging words, pointers, mentions, comments, short discourses, chats, discussions, and finally incredulous challenges. Most of her responses were even more disappointing than the errors and failures. Vacuous apologies mixed in with half-hearted explanations and sarcastic retorts.
Then the climax, the "Here's Johnny!!" turning point of my little Halloween tale--seeing my once bright-eyed and bushy-tailed acolyte sitting on the floor of the restaurant before service, fat mini-skirted ass right on the carpet[any restaurant readers just cringed, thinking about how foul the carpets are in even the nicest restaurants], asleep in front of a sloppily-prepared pile of sugar caddies.
This moment of clarity illuminated my diva, once so full of promise, for what she had become--mini-skirt Elvis. And not the going-into-the-army, swivel-hipped, getting-censored-on-Ed-Sullivan Elvis either, but the oozing, sweaty, jump-suit wearing, pill-popping, scarf-throwing Elvis that staggered around the stages of Las Vegas before shitting himself to death.
Trick or treat.