Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Apropos of not very much...

Camila works as a hostess in the restaurant of an upscale hotel. I mentioned that she tells me what happens every day – thought I’d write down how her shift went today (Boxing Day)...

6am: Bryan drops Camila off at the hotel. James, the waiter, who usually arrives at 5:30am isn’t there. Camila starts doing the setup herself.

6:25: Restaurant opens in 5 minutes. Camila and the chef, Angel, are still setting up the buffet. Still no James.

6:26: Bellhop Zeke comes into the kitchen to tell Camila that she has customers already. She thinks he’s joking, but he’s not. She takes them coffee and menus and says their waiter will be with them shortly. She hopes this may actually turn out to be true.

6:35: James still AWOL, customers are ready, chef tells Camila she’ll have to take the order. She has learned some of the menu by osmosis, and the customers are waiting, so...
English is C’s second language, and the customers’ as well. The stars have stubbornly failed to align to produce a convenient synchronicity whereby Camila and the customers share a first language – hers is Spanish and theirs is apparently Hindi, or possibly Urdu – but she smiles her friendliest and asks them what they would like.
The man orders an omelette – so far, so good; Camila writes it down on her makeshift waiter’s pad (a piece of notepaper from the hostess’ station). Then the woman points to something on the menu called “choice of danish with cream cheese or fruit”.

Camila has no idea what “danish” is, but she smiles and takes the order, and asks the chef. Angel is pretty sure danish is a bread thing, but since it's not an order that ever finds its way back to the kitchen – the waiters just get it themselves – he’s guessing wildly as well. He gives C a plate to take to the customer.

6:45: The husband’s omelette is a success, but the wife indicates that a flat roll with cream cheese on the side isn’t exactly what she ordered.

6:46: Camila tells Angel he’ll need to talk to the customer. He does his best (with less English than Camila), but fails to convince her that a roll with cream cheese is the hotel’s version of a Danish. As the husband tucks into his omelette, Camila offers the wife fruit from the buffet, anything she can think of. The customer says never mind, she’s not really hungry anyway. Camila says she’s very sorry that the chef doesn’t know how to make “danish.”

6:55am: Customers are ready to leave. Camila has no waiter’s charge pad to write up a bill for them. Other hotel staff are sympathetic, but similarly lack a charge pad. Finally Camila says to Angel “How about we give them their breakfast free because of the problem with this “danish” thing?” Angel agrees it seems like a good idea.

7am: Camila tells the customers their breakfast is on the house, and apologizes for not being able to produce the mysterious “danish”. Customers are all smiles and go away happy.

7:05: James finally arrives. He shows Camila what a danish is. He asks if the customer left a tip, and generously offers to let Camila keep it if so.

7:06 – 9am: No customers.

9:01: The Korean Lady arrives. She is always neat and well-groomed, and always wearing the same clothes. She arrives by bus, but sometimes she brings a rollaway suitcase and appears to be a hotel guest. She’s very very thin, with long black hair; Eric, the busboy, thinks she’s a witch.
KL sometimes likes to make conversation, and since today she’s the only table, Camila chats with her.
The KL’s topic of choice ranges wildly, and changes in an instant. Today she asks what Camila thinks of Princess Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and also how many nights “the senator” stays at the hotel. Camila says she’s not really sure. She asks what nationality Camila is; upon learning that she is Mexican, she asks “Do you have family in London?” KL says that sometimes people can impersonate you, get plastic surgery to look like you, learn to sign your name, etc. Camila allows that this is probably so.
The KL never seems that tightly tied to the same reality as those around her, but out of the blue she says “Are you wearing Victoria’s Secret?” Camila says “Yes, how did you know?” KL smiles enigmatically and says nothing.

9:10 – 11:30: KL eats a mountain of fruit from the buffet, occasionally laughing at her own private jokes. She finally leaves when the restaurant closes at 11:30. For the first time ever, she leaves a tip ($2), which James gives to Camila.

12pm: Two tables the entire morning. Camila helps clean up, clocks out, and goes home.

7 Comments:

At Wed Dec 27, 09:56:00 PM PST, Blogger Happy Mask Saleswoman said...

Your blog is usually interesting, but I have to say, this post was absolutely riveting. You'e outdone yourself once again.
Bravo! Encore!

 
At Thu Dec 28, 12:04:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

I detect sarcasm. I wonder who you would have learned that from...

 
At Thu Dec 28, 03:58:00 PM PST, Blogger blogball said...

Well at least there was the Victoria’s Secret Part.

 
At Thu Dec 28, 06:55:00 PM PST, Blogger si said...

ditto to hms' comment -- more interesting/riveting than usual. :)

must say, it does sound like camila to make the very best out of a pretty crappy situation(s). at least it makes fodder for blogging -- riveting blogging, mind you...

 
At Fri Dec 29, 02:17:00 AM PST, Blogger anya ransuns aka Roxy said...

I can't tell if the other people are being sarcastic or not, but [NOT SARCASTIC]This blog post WAS riveting.[/NOT SARCASTIC]. Seriously, I was extremely nervous about James not showing up and I was very worried that the people might be mean to Camila...and augh, the agony of not knowing what the people were talking about....I'm glad about how it turned out. It could have been so much worse. I'm mad at James, though. The Korean lady also sounds quite fascinating.

 
At Fri Dec 29, 10:50:00 AM PST, Blogger jay aitch said...

Bryan, please greet Camila for us and also little 'you know who.' Me being a grandma and all....

 
At Sat Jan 06, 01:40:00 PM PST, Blogger si said...

okay, i'll say it here too (are you getting the idea that i don't want to do work, which is the reason i'm in the office -- not supposed to be blog-commenting). this post wasn't really as boring as i may have implied/teased you with. you've had others much more boring! (how's that? did i make it better??) ;-)

actually, i found myself very interested in the story's outcome ("where the heck WAS james, anyway?", i was wondering). the way you write, you can make the trials and tribulations of looking up a phone number fascinating...

 

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