Sunday, December 31, 2006

Here's To It!

New Year’s Eve. Tradition has one posting either a thoughtful retrospective on the past year or a hopeful prophecy for the next twelve months. Am I too tired, too strung out, to bow to tradition?

First of all, like almost all of us who have attained the half-century mark or more, I am once again flabbergasted at how quickly the year has whizzed by. Especially the second half—since we signed the papers to become genuine, bona-fide members of the ranks of small business owners. Silly me! I thought that coming out of "retirement" and becoming an entrepreneur would somehow impede the march of time. As if filling the days with the myriad responsibilities of the corporate executive would weigh them down sufficiently to slow them, at least a little.

In fact, the opposite has happened. July First was…yesterday. Or at best, last week. Even though I’ve spent more than the recommended percentage of the last 4416 hours awake, frazzled, running my butt off, stuffing my brain with facts and figures, pulling old, moldy management techniques out of my ass, polishing them off and trying to see if they still work (the jury is still out on that…) You would think all that…all that insanity would have put some drag on the rush of time. But no. If anything, all those things have slammed their considerable bulk against the back bumper of the year and sent it bolting past more quickly than ever.

There have been years—1995…1999… and maybe all the years between and a couple beyond—when the best I could say for a year was that I had survived. I survived. December 31 came along and I was still breathing; sometimes, it seemed, unmercifully. But this year…this year has been hard. A real test. A bona fide, in your face, do or die challenge.


Not merely survived, but learned. And grown. And I’m not done yet.

This fifty-something matron, who as lately as twelve months ago, motivated by a sudden unnerving perception of her proximity to the great beyond, had embarked upon a search for spiritual reality… A superficial search that ended in frustration… This fifty-something matron can sit in her recliner, with circles under her eyes, feeling a bit like a helium balloon on the fourth or fifth day post-fill; defiantly typing in her New Years Eve 2006 blog entry:  I’m not done yet.

Isn’t that a gift?

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

...So Far This Week Part 2

And here is the rest of the story…

In an anti-climactic sort of way, 5:00 girl showed up (five minutes late) on Tuesday night. I’m not sure whether I dodged a bullet or just delayed the inevitable. It was kind of awkward, actually. I was fully prepared for the husband and me to close the restaurant alone. And, truth be told, we could have done so with no problems. It was actually an inconvenience and a waste of labor dollars for Ms. "I’m-Going-To-Quit-Any-Time-Now" to show up. Sigh!

We got out of there about ten seconds after pulling the chain on the "OPEN" sign. I went home and felt…nothing. Shell-shocked, maybe. Or perhaps I’m just getting used to having the crap beat out of me. I really wanted to be pissed…to be worried…to be something. But I was just too tired.

I went to bed and slept remarkably well. Which is an accomplishment in itself. Time was, employee debacles of this magnitude would have me up ‘til all hours fretting, rehashing and second-guessing myself. But somehow the sheer ridiculousness of this situation has led me to conclude that the problem can’t possibly be with me or anything I have done (except, perhaps, that my "panic hiring," of my first few months at the café was coming back to bite me in the ass…) So, knowing that I had two reliable employees opening in the morning, I slumbered like a baby. An exhausted, menopausal, hot-flashing baby… 

All I knew was that I didn’t have to open on Wednesday. That I didn’t have to work a fourteen-hour day. I felt like a sailor on liberty. I didn’t set the alarm. Woke up at my leisure. Had a couple cups of coffee and interacted with my poor neglected animals for a few hours before hauling myself to work (notice that I didn’t say I cleaned house…) I arrived at the café shortly before noon. Everything was ship-shape, prep had been finished, breaks had been taken, the place looked great. Wouldn’t have looked better if I had been there myself.

To condense a long-winded yarn, Wednesday was as good as Tuesday was bad. Business picked up to an almost-acceptable level. I set up interviews with three girls who had applied, returned, and dutifully checked up on their aps in the past week. And, unbelievably, a former employee—one who had quit in pique not too long into my tenure as owner (but had at least given notice…!)—came in and asked for her job back. A funny conversation, that. She: "This is humbling…but, I need a job." Me: "Are you kidding? Can you start, like, tomorrow?" And so she did.

A good friend of mine wrote in her blog the other day that her life was a game of "Chutes and Ladders." And I felt like I was right there with her.

At the moment, I’m at the top of one of those ladders…

My Week So Far

Monday—the best that can be said for it was that it was a day I didn’t have to work, and didn’t have to worry about what was going on at the café without me there. We shuttered the place and hied us hither to Eugene to spend the holiday with my family. Without nagging café issues to keep my mind spinning and my stomach churning, I was mostly comatose. The life of the party, I was not.

What I remember about the day is that I ate way too much, generally had some kind of alcoholic libation at my elbow, and didn’t engage in a whole lot of physical activity. Basically, I just sat and let the party(s) go on around me. But I didn’t fight with sister C, and I didn’t spend most of the day in tears…which puts Christmas 2006 head and shoulders above 2005’s version.

Tuesday—Back to the grind. And the grind mangled me pretty good. The day started crappy and just kept getting crappier. Cook no-showed, I had to drag myself out of bed two hours earlier than scheduled to subject myself to one of those infamous fourteen-hour days. Which turned out to be like watching paint dry, because business was terrible. If I have to be there from open to close, I at least need it to be busy enough to keep me awake. It wasn’t.

What did keep me awake was the drama surrounding the second employee no-show of the day. I manage to get a fourth person to come in to cover lunch (to make up for missing cook)—the good and faithful "D." Lunch sucks…it becomes obvious that I didn’t really need to pull "D" in on her day off. But my one other decent employee—"T"-- is feeling under the weather, so I send her home and "D" stays to finish out the lunch shift. To be relieved at 2:00 by "T2," who we know is going to be there because she just called a little bit ago to check on when she was supposed to work.

Two o’clock comes and goes…no "T2." "D" calls her house…no answer. Leaves a message on the machine. We wait, and twiddle our thumbs, and business is still abominable, so all there is for us to do is make up theories as to what has happened to "T2."Maybe she had to walk to work. Maybe she’s having a fight with her boyfriend. Maybe she got hit by a truck and is lying dead by the side of the road somewhere… At 2:45, I decide to call "T2" again.

This time, someone picks up the phone…and hangs up. I call back, and the line is busy. I assume the phone has now been taken off the hook to prevent further attempts to call or leave messages. I further assume that this indicates that "T2" has given her notice. Or not.

Business is so terrible that I send "D" home at 3:00, even though I will be alone until somebody else shows up. I know the husband will arrive some time before 5:00, and judging by the rest of the day, I don’t seem to be in danger of being swamped. And I will be spending the time on pins and needles anyway, because my 5:00 girl (who, by the way, called earlier to find out what time she worked) is also hanging by a thread. She has another job, I know she has another job, but she doesn’t know I know. Rumor has it that she is trying to decide whether to "just quit" or wait until the new job actually starts. So it would not be out of the realm of possibility for her to become the third no-show of the day. In fact, I am fully expecting it.

I spend the next two hours trying to figure out how I am going to fill a 180-hour-per week schedule with just myself and my two decent employees.

And I have run out of time for writing this morning, so I’ll have to finish this later...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Was It Merry?

Unbelievably, Christmas 2006 has passed into the annals. It came and went so fast that I didn’t even have a chance to eat its dust.

Things are going abominably at the café again. Last week was almost passable. 

We had a great little Christmas party (which I planned and provisioned in the space of about six hours…) and the week’s business was much better than I expected. Things seemed to be looking downright satisfactory as I locked the doors Sunday afternoon and prepared to take off for Eugene.

I should have known it couldn’t last. Not only was business in the crapper today, but I had two, count them—two employees no show/no call on me today. One of these I was fully expecting…and I was feeling pretty smug about calling it right. But the other one completely blindsided me.

I feel like a flat tire.

I’m going to sit down now and try to make up a new schedule that primarily consists of me.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Another Long Week

Yet another week has gone steadily downhill since the early hours of Monday last. 

Remembering those "Ten Good Things" lists I used to post, I feel so far from those lists… Even though I sometimes had a hard time coming up with those ten things every week, I don’t think I could come up with one for this week. Well, maybe one. I’m still alive. And my husband is still safely ensconced in his comfy chair to my left…that’s two. And there’s still a roof over my head, heat coming out of the vents, lights that spring to life when I turn a switch, food…well, certainly not here in the fridge. But I do have access to plenty of food, approximately 1.1 miles from my recliner.

Look at that…I’ve come up with six good things without even trying. But that wasn’t the point of this post. I wanted to whine J .

So, am I after coming up with a "Ten Bad Things" list? No, I guess not. But it does still seem, at times, as if life is out to get me.

Yesterday was the capper. I mashed my finger between a 75-pound meat slicer and the wall. Third finger, left hand. What saved my finger from being busted was my ring. My ring. Which is now hopelessly mangled.

I had to cut it off my swollen digit with a wire cutters. I worked the cutters between the back of my throbbing finger and the band of my ruined ring, squeezed and twisted until the chink of the blades meeting signaled the deed was done… And then I sobbed like a five-year-old.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Have Yourself A...

Okay…roller coaster is on the uphill track now.

I’m sorry. There are times when my naturally pessimistic nature and a lull in the action combine to drag me to the depths…

I’m coming up for air now. And not in a frantic, desperate, gasping rush to the surface, either. I’ve just filled my lungs, held my breath, and am waiting for the laws of nature to send me bobbing up into the realm of life and air and restoration. Those good ole laws of nature. Those unbreakable ordinances that keep us in our places.

I realized I wasn’t a salmon, and I had to quit trying to make like one. Quit struggling upstream…just stretch out and ride the current. Maybe even float backwards a little, because sometimes there’s no other way to go if you want to stay alive. You slow down, plan your next move and carry it out deliberately, instead of throwing everything but the kitchen sink out there in a frantic search for something that will work.

Yesterday I took a minute to think. And the thought that came to me was this: It’s Christmas, Mr. Scrooge. My favorite time of the year…which, with only the slightest of wounded sniffs, I was prepared to sacrifice to the Entrepreneurial gods. Well, the gods rejected my sacrifice. Blew the smoke right back in my face. So I guess I’m free to take my Christmas back. What kind of a stupid, ungrateful idiot would I be not to do exactly that?

So I ordered tickets to a performance of Handel’s Messiah (highlights, anyway…through which I will presumably be able to stay awake.) I printed up a "Secret Santa" sign-up sheet for my crew at the café. Between bizarre rushes at work, I’ve been stringing beads and snowflakes on fishing line to hang in the windows. And I cut my own hours (why was I trying to put in seventy hours a week during the holidays…?) so that I might actually be in possession of one or two of my wits by the time That Day arrives.

A Merry Christmas… Let’s have one, shall we?