Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Elephant In the Room

A few years ago, an old friend related to me that parable of the "elephant in the room." My friend was talking about coping with an issue that he needed to deal with. The elephant in the room can be many things-- a relationship issue, a substance issue, many things. Every time the elephant moves, he knocks over furniture, breaks things, etc. You spend your whole life righting furniture, repairing things and generally cleaning up after the elephant, all the while not doing what's really needed-- getting the elephant out of the room. I've always liked that analogy, and have found it useful with a lot of situations. There's most definitely been an elephant in my room the last couple of months.

A few bloggers had noted a dearth of blog posts from me the last couple of months. There was a reason for this. I had taken a job at a restaurant in downtown Chicago, which at first turned out to be great. The money was great and I loved the people I worked with. Then things started getting difficult. They had a series of great reviews, which is good and bad in the restaurant business. Good in that it brings in new business. Bad in that it brings in waves and waves of new people. The restaurant struggled to keep up with it. I was being scheduled for two and three consecutive double shifts, as was a lot of the rest of the staff. I was working 50-60 hours a week, in addition to school. All the while, a very hostile management atmosphere was developing. I was exhausted all the time, frequently being scheduled for double shifts without a meal break. I'd get home from a 14 hour day and have dinner at 1:30 in the morning. And then get up at 7:30 to do it again. I was getting worried about making sure I kept up with school, and particularly spending time with Kim and the kids, which was not happening. And of course, I was too tired and uninspired too blog.

A couple of weekends ago, I ended up working a double on a Sunday, despite having requested that day off. I started early, so I didn't get to make my kids breakfast-- a tradition on the weekends. I was scheduled for a day shift and on call for the evening shift. The day shift was very busy, and of course I ended up having to work the night shift. Kim had to drive Adam to my ex's house, and I got zero time with him or my stepdaughter that day. The night shift was hellish-- the place filled up after the Bears game, and I was "in the weeds" as they say in the business, the whole night. And of course, I hadn't gotten a meal break in between shifts, so I was so hungry I was dizzy. I seriously thought about quitting that night.

Two days later, I had an incident with the General Manager that was truly the most bizarre moment of my life. Seriously. I mean, that includes run-ins with nuts and drunks on public transportion in Chicago. The restaurant and I came to an abrupt and unpleasant parting of ways. That's all I'll say about it.

The good: to be out of a job situation that was increasingly chaotic and stressful. The bad: to be looking for another waitering job at the second-to-worst time to be doing so. It's difficult because all of the restaurants are closing their patios with the end of the summer, and have sufficient, or even excess staff. The only worse time would be after Christmas, when business plummets for a couple of months.

Fortunately, I kept my part-time gig at Jury's. It's keeping my head above water. A lot of people have suggested more shifts there, but the problem is that it's a small mom and pop place where people never quit-- I worked there four years before I was finally not "the new guy." I've been picking up shifts here and there, but there's really no chance to go to full time there.

In the meantime, I've got a lot of lines in the water. I'm at a point that I may have to do something drastic, temporarily, like work at Whole Paycheck Foods. I've got kids to take care of.

So, after a couple of months of being too busy and beat to blog, I've been too worried and irritated to blog much, and didn't want to say anything about my situation. Enough of that. I'm spending time every day job-hunting. Sooner or later, I'll be working full time again (hopefully sooner). Aside from underemployment, things are good. I've got a lovely wife, whom I'm sitting with, watching Guys and Dolls with, something we'd long wanted to do. My kids are well. I'm enjoying school. Things will be okay. As my mother is fond of saying, "This too shall pass." We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.


lulu said...

Ugh. I hate being in the job search panic. You were smart to get out before it made you completely crazy, and before it seriously wrecked havoc on your family and school work.

It may be a bad time to look for a waiting gig, but you've got the most impressive resume in Chicago, besides, at some point, you'll walk in to interview and the manager will say "Hey, didn't you work at The Smokehouse?" And you'll be gold.

Our friend Liz and her husband are frequently looking for servers at their place in Evanston, ask tenS about it.(they end up with a high turnover due to the poor work ethic of NU students)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's best that you left a bad situation, but man that's still tough. You've got a good attitude though, and that is gold.

MacGuffin said...

Jeez, sorry it didn't work out for you. I'm sure something better suited to your needs will pop up.

Valerie said...

I like the saying your mom is fond of saying too. My sister says it to me when I need to hear it most.

Best of luck with the job search.

I've never seen "Guys and Dolls." Is that bad?

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Hang in there Champ, a smart guy like you will always pull through.

Bubs said...

All I can say is, you handled that entire situation with remarkable grace and humor. Isn't it scary how quickly events at work can carry you along, out of control? I'm glad you're spending more time with your family and recovering.

Chris said...

You seem to have a really good attitude about the whole thing. I'm sure everything will work out for you. It's good that you got out of a situation that was such a physical and mental drag.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

I hear you! I've been out of work since May. I'm in a much different profession, but it's tough. You've got the right attitude and I hope are able to apprecitate having a little break.

The exact right thing has no choice but to come along.

Erik Donald France said...

Good luck, man. You'll land a good one.

I like the elephant analogy, too.

Splotchy said...

Wow, I wonder how many times this kind of thing happens -- a business is ruined (or on a collision course with ruin) due to success.

Glad you are out of there.

You're gonna be fine.

kim said...

Honey, that was a great post. Good for you. Somehow the term, "House Husband" doesn't suit you...your too sexy for that.

Oh, and before you go hunting today, can you grab the recycling?


Skylers Dad said...

I am glad you are out of the nasty situation at that place. After I got your email I thought to myself that it probably could have been a worse confrontation.

Hang in there, things will come your way soon!

SamuraiFrog said...

Oh, man, that's right where I was for the last year. I know what you're going through all too well. You've got a good attitude, and I'm sure more time spent with the family helps you feel good, too. Just keep plugging ahead and do what you have to. Good luck.

vikkitikkitavi said...

JohnnnyY, I know you are smart enough not to kick yourself over losing a restaurant job. It's an insane business. Crazy shit happens.

You are a good and experienced server. There will always be a job for you in that world if you want one.

And I just have to say that I LOVE Guys and Dolls. Even with all the miscasting, it's still great, mostly because of the brilliant book and lyrics based on a Damon Runyon story.

Andi said...

Sorry to hear that the job went so far downhill, but it sounds like you have a great attitude about it, and it's definitely good that you got out before you took to the clock tower.

Best wishes, my friend!

cheer34 said...

uggh no one needs the mental and physical toll a crazy job gives. Better things are waiting for you. Plus you know just about everyone and someone is bound to offer acceptable employment soon.

Dale said...

And now there's an elephant in the blog!

Sounds like a lot of really hard work and quite a lot to juggle Johnny but we're behind you.

If you get really stuck, dream up a scheme where say, when someone's too tired to write a blog post, you step in and do it for a nominal fee. We end up with a well written and interesting blog post and you end up with the cash.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I certainly can sympathize with you on the whole blogging / work issue. Best thing a person can do is "keep on keeping on."

GETkristiLOVE said...

It will be good to get a job that's a lot less chaotic so you can spend time with your family.

Have you seen that interesting Van Sant movie called Elephant? It's very Columbine-esque where two kids are planning to terrorize the school and never speak about it their whole morning on the way to school.

'Bubbles' said...

I'm sorry that was started out so well turned ugly so fast!

Fast business growth separates the quality leaders from the shmucks in a big way, huh? They need a quality work force and they abuse them... not rocket science to see the irony there!

Good luck on the hunt, and I've got my fingers crossed for you!

Johnny Yen said...

Thanks for the tip-- it's looking likely!

As you know, I walked into the place and it turned out that I knew the waitress who was working at that moment.

This last weekend, I got to spend a lot of time with my kids, bike-riding, playing frisbee, etc. I knew that overall things were better.

Thanks-- it may already have.

It's so true, isn't it?

You need to see Guys and Dolls. I don't like musicals, and I love it.


Thank you-- I could have been really, really angry about it, but as a friend once said, "Don't rent them free space in your head."

I've tried not to go into "full-blown panic mode." It doesn't help things. Yes, it was a really bad situation. I didn't realize how bad until after I got out.

Lady Who Doesn't...-
I think I'll appreciate the break after it's over. I want to be working full time.

Thanks for the encouraging words! I have a feeling you're right.

It happens all the time, actually-- a bunch of good reviews can, ironically, contribute to the demise of a restaurant. It's one of the reasons that there's a 98% failure rate in the business.

Yeah, I'd look terrible in a French maid's outfit. Maybe I should get some lederhosen...

Skyler's Dad-
It definitely could have been an even worse confrontation. I could have decked the asshole.

Thanks! My kids were very unhappy about not seeing me. Money's not everything in life (though having enough helps).

You're absolutely right. That business if filled with dysfunctional people. And I need to take the advice I've given many other people in similar situations-- don't take it personally.

I'm not a big fan of musicals, but I just love Guys and Dolls. They even somehow got Marlon Brando to almost stay on key.

Thanks! I was imagining what it would have been like if I'd still been there. My checking account would be a lot healthier, but not my mental and emotional (nor physical) state.

Thanks! Something may have actually come up already!

Flattery will get you everywhere....

The encouragement I've gotten has really helped.

I thought about you and your situation a lot. That must be horrible, having that "sword of Damocles" over your head. I was really relieved to hear that they'd at least temporarily solved things in Michigan. Unemployment is really fucking stressful.


I do know of the movie. I'll probably see it eventually, but it's one you've definitely got to be ready for. It has particular resonance for me, not only having been an educator, but about four years ago, two kids brought a gun into my son's old school. I wrote a post about it around the time of the Virginia Tech killings, but decided to postpone putting it up. I'll probably post it soon.

BeckEye said...

You are like the 5th or 6th person I know, including myself, who is looking for a job right now. What a world. The worst part is that looking for a job is like a full-time job...with no pay and double the aggravation.

Beth said...

Oh, Johnny, that sucks — but it sounds like it was a blessing. With your wide network, I'm sure you'll find something worthy of your talents soon.