Sunday, January 21, 2007

Another Sunday

Hmmm… Another week of silence between posts.   I guess it goes without saying that the past seven days have been rough. But who am I to let something go without saying?

We had "weather" in the Pacific Northwest this week. Winter weather, to be precise. Snow, ice, frozen fog, sleet; you name it, we had it. Luckily, winter stayed at bay long enough to allow the café a decent business day on Monday; I wasn’t really expecting MLK Day to bring us a sales boost, but there it was.

The weather went sour on Tuesday. Ice and snow kept most sane Oregonians closeted safely in their homes for most of the rest of the week. And those who weren’t housebound by the weather were struck down by a couple of nasty germs that were making the rounds. I was "scheduled" to open only one day last week, but I ended up dragging my ass in there every day at 7:30 because one or the other opener was either sick or couldn’t make it down out of the hills to get to work. By the time this morning rolled around, I was desperate for one day where I didn’t have to set the damn alarm. I am NOT a morning person. Never have been. But small business owners do not get to pander to their own personal schedule preferences. And, wouldn’t you know? Since I fell into bed at 9:00 last night, I couldn’t sleep past 7:00 this morning. Sigh!

But, other than the rotten weather taking a bite out of our sales, and the circles under my eyes starting to take on the proportions of the rings of Saturn, the week was decent--

¯ Yesterday we said a fond farewell to the last useless cook left from the "previous administration." (Hey,,,he’s a nice kid. He gave me almost a month’s notice, he showed up every day between his notice and his last day… I wish him well. But I’m so glad he won’t be working for ME anymore!)

¯ My most recent hire is turning out to be quite the good little worker (at last, someone who doesn’t lean on counters and stare into space when there’s "nothing" to do!)

¯ Customers are starting to compliment MY cooking.

¯ And the whole atmosphere of the place is starting to improve. What a difference it makes to have employees who enjoy their jobs (as much as one can enjoy a job) and don’t act like they’re counting the seconds until they can bolt out the door!

On the down side, one continuing annoyance has been that my wi-fi at the café, for which I pay the exorbitant sum of $60 a month, was out most of the week. In spite of two house calls by the phone tech, and his spending a total of about five hours messing with it, it still doesn’t work. Maybe it’s time to fire the phone company and look into cable, or whatever else is out there. What was meant to be a service offered to build my customer base has turned into quite the opposite. Folks tend to get pissed off when you tout your wi-fi, and then they drag out their laptops and can’t connect. 

At home, I did manage to get one Christmas tree boxed up and put away. But the living room tree is still standing there in all its disheveled glory. I have two days this coming week when I don’t have to be at the café until noon. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be able to set aside a couple of those "free" hours to finish "de-Christmasifying" the indoor portion of my home.

I’m thinking the outdoor lights will have to wait until…Memorial Day?

Monday, January 8, 2007

Mastering the Technology of the 21st Century Workplace

I have a love/hate relationship with cel phones. On second thought, no I don’t. I just hate them.

I loathe ring tones. There you are, enveloped in the perfect ambience of a beautiful restaurant, with classical or jazz murmuring softly in the background, and out of nowhere the Notre Dame fight song starts jangling from somewhere. Or the Minute Waltz. Or the thumpa-thumpa-scream of Top 40 hip-hop. To be followed by someone, always one or two decibels louder than necessary, discoursing into their pocket-sized annoyance.

I abhor cel phone service and reception. Dropped calls and stutter-step conversations ("What? Are you still there? Can you hear me now?") make me want to heave the monumental nuisance through the nearest plate-glass window.

I hate people who talk on cel phones and try to drive. I am not an idiot, and I believe I have better-than-average hand-eye coordination skills, but even I have a hard time piloting a vehicle through traffic and carrying on a phone conversation. I shudder to think of how that combination of activities might be handled by those possessing lesser skills.

And, frankly, I’m annoyed and more than a little frightened by the fact that no one seems to be okay either alone with their own thoughts, or with the present company. There always has to be that tiny box attached to their ear. The antithesis of the still small voice. The uninvited guest who steals the engagement from the companion across the table.

In the last six months, I have found yet another thing to detest about cel phones. It has to do with trying to operate a small business in the dawning decade of the 21st century.

Back in the olden days, those good ole nineties, employees had homes, with phones that were attached to those homes in some way. And if you needed to speak to an employee, you could call her on that phone, and if she were home, she would answer it. And you could say, "Someone called in sick today. Could you please come to work?" And she would say, "Yes." Or, "No." But you would have your answer right away and could then move on to the next person on the list if necessary.

But now it’s 2007. And I own a business in a small town. With a miniscule labor pool. And none of my employees have permanent addresses, much less telephones attached to those places. They have cel phones. Which are sometimes turned on. But which, much more often, are not. At least, not any time before noon, when it comes to young twenty-somethings who have not yet tired of the novelty of being on their own, out of school, and able to party far into the wee hours any night of the week. And we won’t even talk about weekends.

And then there is that handy little feature of cel phones, where the number of the caller is conveniently displayed to the "callee" when the phone rings. Which gives callees the opportunity to choose to ignore calls from unwelcome callers. Like bosses, or their places of employment.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have hired the most sickly human beings in the county. And if an employee isn’t sick, some disaster has befallen a family member. Apparently, working at the Old Town Café brings down some kind of curse upon the relations of any unsuspecting unfortunate who accepts a position at my restaurant. Car crashes, diseases, multiple hospitalizations and deaths have been epidemic among my employees’ kin. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, almost without fail.

Those cel phones are damned convenient for calling in with the grisly details as to why Jane can’t come to work today. But somehow, the reception is all static and dropped calls when it comes to me trying to contact one of them to stand in for a fallen comrade.

Today, though…. Today I got just the teensiest bit of revenge.

One particular employee, the one who has hardly worked an entire week without calling in or going home "sick" at least once…finally hit the wall with me on Saturday. We had to call HER ten minutes past the start of her shift (and got, of course, her voice-mail) to try to ascertain where she was. Ten minutes later, she called back, obviously still in bed and obviously the worse for the night before. "I overslept." "Okay, so you’ll be here as soon as you can?" "Um, sure…."  Another ten minutes and the phone rang again. It was Little Miss Party-Hearty. "I’m sick. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it…"

So today, I made two phone calls. The first was to my accountant to arrange for a final paycheck. And the second was to Miss Party-Hearty. Her cel phone. It went immediately to message. And I fired her. Right there on her voice mail.

That is SO not the way to fire someone. I knew it. And I knew I should feel really bad about it.

But you know what?

I didn’t.

Shame on me.