Saturday, October 19, 2013

The significance of "whatever"...

One of my Facebook friends asked what the word "whatever" means in her friends' hometowns.  My friend is presently in Oregon, visiting her husband who is there on business.  Her husband said "whatever" to someone out there and they were very offended.  My friend and her husband are from the Philadelphia area and in Philly, saying "whatever" is not that rude.  I mean, yeah it's kind of snarky and dismissive, but it's not the kind of thing that would bring that much offense to most normal people.

The responses to my friend's query were interesting.  Most of her friends said it was a little disrespectful, but not "fuck off and die" territory.  A couple of folks commented that it would depend on the tone and the context.  One mother said she would wash her kid's mouth out with soap if she ever heard her say it.  Apparently, out on the left coast, "whatever" is highly offensive and actually is akin to saying "fuck off and die".  Someone can correct me if my friend's impression is wrong.

Anyway, I was suddenly reminded of an incident that occurred back in 1998 or 99... can't remember exactly when.  I was working as a waitress at a nice restaurant.  It was dinner time and someone in my section had ordered a cheeseburger, an item on the dinner cafe menu, while everyone else was having food off the regular dinner menu.  The crappy computer at the restaurant had a course numbering system that usually worked fine.  However, for some reason, burgers were not automatically designated second or main courses.  You had to enter it manually.

In my haste to take the order, I forgot to designate the burger as a main course; so I had to go back and talk to the chef.  I went to the kitchen and explained that I had forgotten to course sequence the cheeseburger and that I wanted to note that it was intended to be a main course.  The chef was very rude about it and made some nasty or sarcastic comment to me.  I no longer remember what he said, but it was offensive.  And I said in response, "whatever".  Actually, given my emotional state in those days, he's lucky all I said was "whatever".  At that time, I was trying to find the right antidepressant and was even edgier than usual.

Well... the chef got pissed and complained to the manager that I had been "rude" and disrespectful to him.  So she cornered me and bitched me out, which got me really upset.  I was pretty non-functional for about an hour.  I'm kind of surprised I never got fired from that job, actually...  though I was generally a hard and dependable worker.  Once I got my meds straightened out, I was a lot more even tempered.  For some reason, a couple of the managers actually seemed to like me and kept me around.  Also, they were chronically understaffed.  Anyone with a high enough tolerance for abuse and decent work ethic could work there as long as they wanted to.

Later, I told my shrinks about what happened.  The psychiatrist, who was a bit of an ass and used to patronize me by calling me "kid" and harassing me about my weight, asked me if I had apologized to the chef.  And my response was that the chef should have apologized to me.  I had made a simple error and immediately went back to fix it.  I was polite when I approached him.  He got shitty with me first.  It wasn't even like the error was a big deal.  All the chef had to do was make a note of it on the order chit, but instead, he decided to start shit with me when neither of us had time for the drama.

My psychologist, whom I suspect was not really all that impressed with the drug pushing psychiatrist, applauded me for being so assertive and said the chef was acting like a prima donna!  A couple of years later, his daughter worked at the same restaurant.  I'm sure he heard even more horror stories from her.

Restaurant work is hectic and frustrating and, if you work in a nice place, it's likely you'll have to deal with egomaniacal chefs who act like assholes...  and that chef who was rude to me was a major asshole who thankfully rarely worked on the line because he had been promoted to "executive chef".  I vividly remember the few times he did work on the line and he would throw tantrums that, if you were sitting in a dining area close enough to the kitchen, you could easily hear.  He was very unprofessional and would often get weeded because he was out of practice and easily overwhelmed.  And when he messed up, he took it out on the staff, who were forced to address him as "sir".  No, I'm not still bitter...  ;-)

I actually hated that job, but I'm very grateful for the experience.  I learned so much there and it did propel me to a better life.  I made several good friends working at that restaurant, too.  Some of them are still friends today.  Indeed, 17 months of misery in fine dining literally changed my life for the better and, I think, made me a much higher quality person.  At the very least, I learned to have respect for people who work in the service industry.  I will never purposely stiff someone who works as a server, unless their behavior is so egregiously rude and unprofessional that they make it obvious they don't care if I tip them.

That restaurant experience also gave me a lot of stories... and taught me a bit about fine food and wine. It helped me find a very easy and decently paying job when I moved to South Carolina and needed something that wouldn't interfere too much with grad school.  I ended up working at a country club where I didn't have to rely on tips, had flexible hours, and they would let me take home leftovers.  I also learned to try new things and enjoy really good food instead of processed boxed crap or casual dining chains.  I may not be skinny, but at least I get fat on the good stuff.




2 comments:

  1. I've never worked in the food industry. It seems that there are complete @$$holes in most areas but that chefs take up a disproportionate number of those slots. I don't know any chef personally, but what I've seen and heard makes a compelling argument to avoid many of them.

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    1. I actually do have a few friends who are chefs. Not all of them are jerks, but in a very stressful job such as restaurant work, you run into some folks who have trouble handling the pressure. Some of them drink and smoke too much, which definitely affects their disposition and ability to do their jobs.

      I seem to remember this chef in particular had worked his way up and was no longer expediting regularly, so he was out of practice. He had been called in at the last minute when the regular chef got sick, so he was pissed off about that. The chef who had called in sick didn't drink or smoke and almost never got weeded or messed up orders. He did, on occasion, throw minor tantrums, though.

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