Sizing up the Labor force

31 10 2009

Reflecting on my summer in New York is like taking little pieces of random things and making it into one big puzzle.

Like the time, inside the Starbucks on Union Square, I walked past a long line of tourists, waiting to have their cappucinos and lattes and picked up a sandwich and left.

Basically, it was my big Fuck You to Corporate America. Here was a company trying to provide a service without the ample workforce.

There was only two employees and, bless their hearts, they were working as fast as they could.

In New York, time is of the essence. One two weeks into my stay did I finally come to grips with this fact.

Time is money.

Outside of the Starbucks, a man had set up a table with literature displayed about hungry children in Africa. I gave him a dollar and made my way to work, eating the sandwich as I walked.

When I got to the bistro, only Cody, the tattooed drummer with black-framed glasses was there. Cody was a waiter at the bistro. He lived in Brooklyn, like all the rest of the twenty-something hipsters, and was the kind of guy who could fit in at a gym just as well as a comic book shop.

Omar would be the other waiter on the day shift and I would be the bus boy. This entitled the three of us to the ‘house meal’ — served up by Miguel, who was running a tad bit late today.

The General Manager wasn’t there either, nor the sweet little Italian lady who did the books.

Cody told me the liquor license had expired so if anyone wanted to imbibe, tell them all we had was beer and wine.

I did have to turn away one nice couple because Miguel had not arrived. Can’t have a restaurant without a cook.

Cody slammed his notebook on the ground in disgust and that’s when Omar turned to me and smiled.

“I guess we’re going out of business today,” Omar cracked.

But we didn’t. Miguel did show up and cooked up a delicious omelet with rice for the house meal. Eventually, hungry and thirsty tourists would wander in, many seeking to simply use the bathroom.

Previously, Barry had assured me that it was not rude to enter an establishment and ask to use their bathroom.

By the time I had landed my bistro gig, Barry was in France, hiking through the Pyrenees mountains. I was still a little sore at him for so abruptly sending me on my way so when he asked if I’d like to accompany him to JFK for his flight, I politely declined.

The thing is, I enjoyed talking with Barry and, especially enjoyed attending theater with him. During ‘Twelfth Night’ he was like my interpreter, explaining Shakespeare in a way I could really understand and relate to.

O world! how apt the poor are to be proud.”

Alas, Barry was on his way to France and I had found labor in wiping down tables on Prince Street.

My cut from the lunch rush was 16 bucks, thanks to Omar. Cody, that greedy bastard, didn’t tip me out.

When the GM finally showed, he told me to get some black slacks because jeans were not acceptable on the floor.

So I took the money I made from my busy boy shift and spent it on a pair of pants. A foolish purchase, as it turned out.

My time at the bistro would be short-lived.

And the pants never really fit.



The Manhattan Bistro

27 10 2009

Like I have said to many of my friends, New York was challenging. Wall Street’s collapse had made it that much tougher on the working man.

I needed a job.

And I wasn’t the only one. The homeless population was up this year, some tending to congregate around the LGBT Community Center in Lower Manhattan.

“Lower Manhattan homeless have a much harder time of it as opposed to the San Francisco homeless,” Barry noted.

Determined to grab my share of the ‘American dream’ — in my grandfather’s birthplace no less, I persuaded Omar to speak to his manager about me.

This came after Omar had visited Barry’s house-swapped studio in Gramercy. In his boyish charm, Omar remarked that the staircase appeared like something out if “Gone With the Wind.”

Omar was staying in Queens at the time and he would ride the train into work. The Manhattan Bistro wasn’t the subject of rave reviews in the local press, but the neighborhood couldn’t be better.

An Apple store had opened a block away and now tourists were packing the area to shop, check e-mail and dine.

Omar waited tables at the Bistro, effectively running the front operations. The lunch crowd was light and there wasn’t much of a dinner crowd.

“Chalk it up to high prices,” Jimmy, the kitchen manager said.

Before I started working at the bistro I had to talk to the GM. Omar brought me in early one morning to meet with the GM, who was this really tall and really skinny guy.

His hair was cut like a mo-hawk. Sad to say, I can’t remember his name.

The GM told me he had family in Florida and that I needed a pair of black pants in order to work at the Bistro.

It also helped that I knew a little espanol, particularly the Mexican variety, because the kitchen was, for the most part, an “All-Hispanic Zone.”


Omar, in an amazing sign of loyalty, votched for me with Jimmy, who agreed to let me work his days off.

There was just one hitch….. Jimmy didn’t take a whole lot of days off.