Wednesday, June 25, 2008

boss man

I push through the swinging doors into the dressing room. I just want to sit down for a minute. It's a lousy night. There are twenty waitresses on the floor and probably about that many customers in the whole stupid club.

The club's response to an ever-weakening economy has been to jack up cover prices, which has run off a whole tier of customers. They've also hired more dancers, so that the house can collect more fees from them. I don't know why they've hired a bevy of new waitresses and scheduled twenty of them on a Tuesday night, but if I had to guess, they're trying to turn them into dancers. In a week, the youngest and prettiest of the new waitresses will complain to the managers that they aren't making money and the managers will say, "Why don't you dance for a night and see how you like it." The older, uglier waitresses will just drift away.

I always had a feeling if I knew too much about the runnings of this bar I'd hate it. When I was a dancer I came and went like a ninja. I made my money and got out, keeping interaction with management to the bare minimum possible. This is harder now that I'm waitress. Now that I have to sit in meeting with the managers for thirty minutes after the shift starts and thirty minutes after we close and wipe the tables down. Now that I have to ask the managers permission for everything I do, and report every dollar I make. Something in me that does not love a boss. No wonder I've been fired from half the straight jobs I've ever had.

I just want to sit down. Unfortunately, the waitresses' corner of the dressing room is occupied. The shift manager lounges in the ass-sweat-saturated wheelie chair, legs spread like a pasha. Waitresses perch around him, and one brand-new little blonde teenager crouches at his side with her head on his knee. He has one arm draped heavily over her neck, a lordling posing with his favorite hunting dog.

I get just a flash of this as I walk past, back into the dancers' space, where girls are re-curling their hair and bitching in familiar ways about familiar things. I want a cigarette. I even carry them on my tray, for customers to buy from me. But I don't smoke any more and I'm proud of myself.

I can't shake it. I can't shake my distaste for that frat boy gone to seed, with his white-blond hair spiked up and his pink-pink skin. His baby-faced smugness, eyes opaque as marbles. I can't shake my distaste for the whole stupid scene and I'm not sure why. I hope that little blonde girl has an epiphany some day soon and realizes that even if crawling on the floor for men's approval is her thing, she could be doing it for somebody a lot more worthwhile than the little oinker in the chair there. For fuck's sake.

Later in the night the same manager comes up behind me and raps my tray with his knuckles. "That's one," he says. As in, that's one strike.


"Don't put your tray there."

My tray is sitting on a wide ledge that lines the ramp down to the main floor. It looks pretty safe there to me, especially since I am standing next to it with my hand on it.


"Yes, really. Because someone could come along and just do this."

He puts his hand on my tray and gives it a sharp shove. It flies. Matches and lighters and cigarettes and ballpoint pens scatter while cocktail napkins and credit card receipts drift down slower, like snow.

We look at each other. "Really?" I say, finally. "But, who would do a thing a like that?"

He doesn't say anything and he doesn't have to. He folds his arms. I stoop to pick up my stuff, and here I am, on my knees, at his feet. He wins. I lose. I've been out-pissed in this pissing contest.

I sort everything back onto my tray. I go back to the dressing room. The chair is empty. I take one of my rescued cigarettes and roll it lightly in my fingers, put it to my mouth and light it with a kiss. It tastes like, fuck you. And it tastes like, enough.


Anonymous said...

God, do you take me back with this one. In my early adult years I was a wage slave in a factory, and suffered much the same indignity despite being in a union. I was further in what's known as "skilled trades", which meant I was in a slightly favored position compared to the wretches who had to work production. But nonetheless, I had a blazing hatred of everything management-related. I would drag myself in at 7 AM feeling awful from some disease or another, and if I had enough and wanted to leave before the end of the shift, I had to satisfy an old, job-scared boss with a room-temperature IQ that I really was sick and not just malingering. They spied on us everywhere. As I read your account, I had flashbacks and my gorge rose in sympathy.

It was a gigantic incentive to get my degree and get the hell out. I did, and later got a graduate degree that gives me even more freedom. Now I'm a respected consultant with a high-tech company, and I manage my projects without interference or undue scrutiny. It took me decades to reach this point, but I'm consciously grateful each and every goddamn day for it.

I found myself hoping that the end of the story would involve some proctological work to remove the tray contents from his nether regions, having most unfortunately entered through the scrotum during a horrible industrial accident. I like happy endings.

Frank said...

Good one. I was hoping you were going to hide a thumbtack on the chair somehow, for the King Pig.

Some people can be such dicks...

Krafty Like A Fox said...

Good luck. Bad managers, especially ones that are power-tripping tools, can make even the best job awful.

Zero Rostropovich said...

Sometimes I despair the species... mostly I despair my gender. I pray better days ahead for you, Grace. Chin up, 'kay?

Anonymous said...

Job be damned! Given the over-staffing and apparent dwindling prospect of making good money, I'd have beat the shit out of that little prick on the spot. Then I would've held him down by the collar like a bad dog and made him put everything back on the tray.

All of that aside, you write beautifully. I started reading a couple of weeks ago (was it a link from BoingBoing?) and I've come back daily since. The words you choose string images together in such a way that I'm almost there with you. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a couple of years now, but never felt compelled to leave a comment before. I've always enjoyed your writing and following your ups and downs. I sure hope your day project kicks in soon, so you can knee that POS squarely in the scrotum on your way out the door. Good luck to you.

Josephine H. said...


This entry perfectly summed up my seething distaste for the whole fucking industry.

Your manager is an ass hat. A fucking scummy ass hat. They all are.

cosmiccowgirl said...

Nice. I really like the way you ended this one.

Adam said...

Boss man's insults should be easy to ignore. He will live a stupid, stupid life, and waste away like the others of the same kin. You wait, and move on to better things. Better people.

You win ;)

Anonymous said...

Finally a peak into the waitresses experience in the clubs that has my resentment of them melting away- being replaced by camaraderie.

Lord of the Barnyard said...

Some cigarettes just taste better than others. That one sounded delicious.

Anonymous said...


this is a great story about the power struggles at work that I'm sure people from other industries relate to as well.

Nia said...

hey girl.....
our writing topics sound very similar. have you read my monologues i emailed you? i swear to god i think the exact same shit. our lives mirror each others currently.

my club is getting worse and worse.

talk to you soon.

'olivia'/ n

Brother Monk said...

Please write a book soon... every time I read your blog I am sorely disappointed when the last of your words cross my retinas and rolls into my brain... I so badly want more...

Jessica Pauline Ogilvie said...

what an asshole. at least it made for a great post...

Anonymous said...

You know, it's high time that someone sent YOU back to college so YOU can get a job where asshats suck up to you instead.

I have that job. It was a long hard road getting here, but my boss does what I tell him, and gets the hell out of my way the rest of the time. Jobs like this don't fall in your lap. You have to seek them out actively, and put yourself in a position where they want you in that job. Cocktailing does not look like any kind of a step up, but you don't seem willing to get out of Texas to look around and discover that your talents are wasted there.

I do hate to see talented women undervalue or devalue themselves because they believe they have no choice and have painted themselves into a corner, usually trying to help someone else out.

Anne Marie

Grace said...

Are you by any chance THE Anne Marie? If so, god damn.

I have to say in my defense, though, not just to you but to many people whose comments are similar:

1. I have already completed a bachelor's degree. This is why I'm sending C. to school first and not vice versa. After he gets his B.A. the plan is for him to put me through grad school.

2. I do actually have a day-job which is extremely satisfying and which I expect to pay off very well in within the next two years. It's actually looking like it might be able to support me in relative comfort by the end of this year.

So, I am not, like, this sad self-sacrificing chica who has given up everything for her man. Or whatever. Nor do I feel particularly trapped. I feel tired and exasperated and, at the moment, underpaid, but there are a couple billion other people out there who feel the same.

Anyway, I do appreciate your words of encouragement and support. Just wanted to say...I'm not as pathetic as I might seem when I write these grumpy posts at 3 a.m.


Anonymous said...

I wanna say that in your position when dealing with the fuckwit I'd be big and strong, but the reality is that I'd probably do what you did and just be quietly angry. I mean, at the end of the day, the only thing that could come of violence is a lot of unpleasant litigation. Anyway, good luck. There are a LOT of us pulling for you.