Monday, September 25, 2006


I really wanted to take my own advice to heart. I wanted to start out the week in control, on top of things, slightly more rested than I have been (we got the hell out of Dodge yesterday…packed some bags and went down to Eugene for the day…) I was ready…really ready…for today to be something like the first day of the rest of my life.

So, I wake up at 5:45 to the beginnings of a beautiful day. I roll up to the side door of the café at 6:58. I decided last week when I made the schedule that I could save a half-hour of employee labor by opening both the kitchen and the front counter. So I make the coffee, start the bacon and sausage, set up the kitchen for breakfast, take down all the chairs from on top of the tables, and cheerfully wait for my first customers—and my 8:00 counter person—to arrive.

8:00 comes and goes…I have customers, but no counter person. 8:05….8:10…counter person is still a no-show. I am trying to wait on customers, make espressos, and cook breakfasts, and I need to dodge into my "office" to grab the phone number of this missing employee. Round about 8:15, I manage to make the phone call.

"Hello, is Counter Girl there?"

"Counter Girl is unavailable."

"Ummm….this is her work calling. She’s supposed to be here…"

"Counter Girl is in the hospital."

"Oh. And someone was going to let me know this…when?"

"I was unaware that she had to work today…"

"Okay…well, could someone please call me and let me know what’s going to be happening in the next few days….?"

Jesus H. Christ. What the fuck else could happen? This girl is one of my first batch of new hires, which as of this writing appears to be going down in spectacular flames. Here are the stunning results of my first hiring wave: one promises to call me back and I never hear from her again. One accepts the job (and a uniform shirt) but calls me before her first day of work to say she’s accepted another position. I never see her, or my shirt, again. Of the two that actually did show up to work, one is now out for God knows how long, and the other has been hijacked by one of her other part-time jobs so that she’s only available to me five hours a week. Net gain: less than zero. Time and energy invested in training completely wasted.

I know I must look like a total bitch, looking at another person’s misfortune only from the aspect of how it is about me. I mean, I like this girl, and I feel bad that she has run into this complicated web of health crises in the last two weeks. But she’s in the hospital getting the treatment she needs. On the other hand, the immediate fallout from her health crisis for me is that all that wonderful "administrative time" I lavished upon myself on this week’s schedule has gone utterly up in smoke. Today was another grueling fourteen-hour-day, which found me running the store with one other person—a girl who is now in her third week of employment with me. And then I also had the pesky former owner hanging around wanting attention. And flames shooting out of the back of the deep fryer. Thank god it wasn’t busy, or we would have been SO completely screwed. As it is, I’m just sitting here physically and emotionally strung out once again. You would think I would be getting used to it.

I don’t know. It just seems like things are determined not to come together for me here. I can NOT catch any kind of a break. Tonight as I was driving home, almost in tears from the frustration of busting my ass for yet another day and getting absolutely nowhere, for the first time, the words, "I want out…" tried to form themselves into a real seed of capitulation. I won’t let myself go there… I know things will eventually get better. But right now, it seems like I’m destined to spin my wheels for an unspecified length of time. And what I really need is to get some traction under me and make some forward progress before I get totally mired in the muck.

It’s gotten so that I can hardly look forward to going to work every day, because I don’t know what new crisis is going to hit me right between the eyes this time. Speaking of which, I had better climb in bed and try to prepare myself for the next wave…


  1. It all sounds incredibly frustrating and stressful.  My husband has been managing restaurants for 30+ years and based on his experiences, I'd say the employee problems are not unusual.  Restaurants tend to attract a pretty unstable workforce.  I guess you just have to keep the big picture, the long term goals, in mind to keep you going.  Good luck!

  2. i stumbled here a few days ago....i am completely fascinated by you and the way you is as if i am there as you talk about your day. I am so sorry things with the restuarant are so screwed up but please know i am reading and have enjoyed getting to know you.
    lisa jo

  3. Lisa, I am listening, I really am.  Just imagine that I am sitting there with a cop of hot chocolate, listening and not saying a word.

    But, given the constraints of time and distance, let me add:

    I think you should be able to find joy in your work.  But I also keep in mind the advice that someone gave me long ago, that it takes a good six months for a new work situation to feel like home.

    Do you have a mentor type person?  A group of women business owners?  Is there someone else with a restaurant that you aren't directly competing against whom you could spend some time with?  Or someone else with a retail business who also has to struggle with the employee problem?  I know how much you need one more task in your life, but a community of women makes 100% difference in everything.

  4. Knowing nothing about the restaurant business, I have no advice to give you.  Hang in there, Lisa.  It will get better.  I don't know when but things will turn around for you and start heading in a positive direction.

  5. I do hope that sooner rather than later things even out and you can find joy in your business.

  6. Sorry I can't be there to help, please call me when you can, if only to sing an off key lullaby.


  7. We always hear that nothing is harder than the resteraunt business...and from what you're describing, I completely believe it.  I'm so sorry that you have had so many hurdles in these first weeks.  It has to be frustrating.

    I wish I lived closer Lisa....I'd come and pinch hit at the counter for you.  I really would.