The past two days have been interesting in an existential / machiavellian sort of way. I somehow managed to walk out on my job, certain that they'd never let me back in the place, and was asked to come back to work on the grounds that I have proven myself to be of good character- by walking out. Before you ruin your scalp by scratching your head and going, "Huh?!?", let me explain (long story!!!):

I work at TGI Friday's as a host (they wanted to hire me on as a hostess but I, being male, wasn't having any of that and took up the "host" position instead). To be perfectly honest, this is the first real resturant job I've ever had. I'm 28 and have never worked as a waiter, host, cook or any other shit-job that can be had in such places in the service industry- delivering pizzas doesn't count as a "resturant job," so don't quibble.

Anyway... Friday night, the 12th of October, was hell on Earth. We had homecoming for Vandy and a major college sports game on top of the usual Friday-night business (which is always hectic to begin with). To compound the situation of an expected hard night, we (the host and hostess) got shorted- there was supposed to be three of us that night, but one of the girls declined to show up and left us hanging without notice. Chaos ensued much the same way it would if- well... no, I won't go there.

So, people filed through the doors of Friday's like a torrential flood. It wasn't "steady" business by any sense of the imagination- it was all-out disorder. Me and my associate had enlisted the help of the manager, who did his outright best to help us out when he could, but being that he is the manager, he wasn't very much help. The servers got double- and then triple-seated, the cooks got in the weeds, the manager was running willy-nilly all over the place and we, the hosts, were doing our best to make sense of it all. Customers were faced with nothing less than a 15-minute wait all night long and on top of keeping the customers in order, we had to bus the tables once they became available. The servers pre-bussed as much as they could, but sometimes it was just impossible. Parties of people numbering as high as 20 crammed themselves into all sections of the place, which isn't exactly designed to handle the kind of volume we had that night.

At one point, the head cook, Jalon, as I ran some dirty dishes to the sink area, stopped me and began cussing me out for not giving him a menu count (how many menus are open, which lets him know roughly how many orders to expect in the next half-hour). To be honest, giving menu counts is almost a concilliatory measure from us hosts- a courtesy, if you will. It's the absolute lowest thing on our list of priorities and in the situation we had to deal with that night, it wasn't even a consideration.

I told Jalon that I would do the best that I could to supply him with a menu count ASAP, but not to expect it throughout the night since we were short-staffed and were running around like chickens with our heads cut off. He didn't take well to that and began insulting me with a fine litany of epithets that, at any other time, would seem almost lyrical. At that time, however, it only grated on my nerves. I decided not to let it get to me, though, and that to "turn the other cheek" was the best option. Note: My personal interpretation of the "turn the other cheek" parable can be described as so- If a person asks for a mile, you give them three, just for good measure and so that they have nothing to complain about when it's over except that you exceded their expectations (how criminal! Christ was a true Machiavellian before it even became "hip", if only you'd look at it for a while...).

SO! I made a concerted effort to provide menu counts, at great cost of time and efficiency to myself, until it no longer proved worthwhile and the asshole was still unhappy with the results. He began to verbally assault me for doing exactly what he asked for- every ten minutes. I finally stood my ground and asked him, "Just what the hell have I done to you that deserves this kind of treatment, pal? I haven't talked to you like this ever. It would be nice to extend the same courtesy and show me some respect."

To which he responded with another crass and yet beautific extemporisation about my heritage, background, sexual persuasion, intelligence and moral standing in general. I shrugged and left him, still yammering away at me like a stuttering, braying mule.

Thirty minutes later he was at it again, assaulting me with everything he's probably ever learned in the way of insults and even being creative with new ones that came to him off the top of his head. To this I merely remained stoic and continued to do my job, which was keeping those damn tables outside the kitchen clean.

The place got hit with another massive wave of human flotsom and chaos took on a whole new meaning for me. Everyone working that night was experiencing new levels of hell, up close and personal, but nearly all of us kept our heads about us- except Jalon, the head cook, who was still finding unique ways to insult me for not giving him those useless menu counts. I call them useless because, let's face it, it was a no-brainer that that particular night was going to be hectic with a capital H and menu counts would prove rather silly at any point.

I dropped my dirty dishes off to the dishwasher, got Jalon's attention and urged him to leave the kitchen for all of three minutes to take a look out on the floor and see what I had to deal with out there. He was not having any of that- God forbid that he might be proven to be acting like an asshole, right? So I shrugged once again and said, "Well, you're obviously aware of it then. That being the case, I should tell you that those people out there are my job. What I do back here isn't even a fraction of my duties. You're treating me like shit. The way I see it, you're the person who makes the stuff I have to clean up and that immediately puts you on my list of people to like right there with pond scum. If you'd had the presence of mind to treat me with respect I might have been more inclined to do as you asked. But now? All you'll get from me is maybe a sidelong glance. Learn to live with diappointment, asshole."

Boy did that set him off! He actually had to be physically restrained by his co-workers from leaving the kitchen just to fight me. He told me to leave "his" kitchen and not come back into it "or else." He also mentioned that I wasn't doing my job at all while mentioning a certain activity performed with my mother which sounds rather repugnant.

Inwardly, I heaved a sigh of relief. He did the magical thing: issued a threat. I riled myself up, shouted at him that I was indeed doing my job and that he was just too much of a dickhead to see it and then stormed out of the kitchen area to look for the manager who had been so kind to help us out all night long.

I tracked him down and said, "Jalon just threatened to engage me in a fight for not giving him menu counts. Apparently, he thinks giving him those counts is the only thing my job entails. He has, effectively, kicked me out of the kitchen. As you know, I have to go in there to bus tables."

Ani, the manager raised his eyebrows a mile high, knowing exactly what that meant. "What would you have me do?"

I snarled a grin at him. "Iron the situation out, now and within five minutes or you're going to be short one more host. Five minutes, Ani. I am a person before I am an employee and I will not be treated as anything less by anyone- especially a cook who revels in being ignorant."

"Which one was it again?"

"Jalon. You can't miss him. He's tall, black and generally pissed off at anything with a pulse." I glanced at my watch. "Time's ticking. Four minutes, thirty."

Ani zipped off to the kitchen. I could hear the shouts from the front door as Jalon and Ani vied for control of their own pissing match. The shouting continued past five minutes, so I grabbed my off-duty clothes, apologized to the unfortunate hostess working with me for leaving her in a lurch and then left- of course, I clocked out first. I mean, I do have some scruples. Ani's a good manager and doesn't deserve any more grief from me than is necessary- I did't want to waste any more of his time by forcing him to track down my time records and adjust accordingly... that would be more rudeness compounded by the rudeness of walking out on him.

I immediately headed off to Cafe Coco to unwind and do some reading- Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" is still thoroughly engaging. A few friends joined my table, but generally left me alone when I explained why I was off work so early and why I was so pissed off.

I stayed there until 11 AM the next morning, Saturday, having consumed more coffee than my body has a right to process. I was all but vibrating with caffeinated goodness at that point. I stopped by Friday's, which is practically next door to the Cafe, to talk to Burt, the general manager, and also to get my tip-out for the night before. I may have walked out, but by God I earned that tip-out!

I sat with Burt and he asked what's up. I said the following:

"Burt, before I am an employee or businessman, I am a man of honor. I live by my honor and my personal integrity. I walked out last night and I feel it is a point of honor for you to know why. I do not expect to get my job back, nor to I really want to ask for it, but one businessman to another, I feel it would be kind to let you know what happened last night." I proceeded to tell him the entire story and, when I finished, continued, "I understand that he was stressed and high-strung last night- we all were. I understand that he probably needed to vent, which is entirely okay with me. But I have my limits, you know? There are constructive and DEconstructive ways to vent and Jalon wasn't building anything but a temper. I kept my cool and tried my best not to raise my voice- succeeded in the former, failed in the latter. When I am compelled to raise my voice, Burt, I find that it's best for me to simply leave rather to wait for things to escalate to more unpleasantness. So I left. It sucked for all around, and I feel horrible for making anyone's life difficult, but I had to retain my personal dignity and honor. I just wanted to tell you that I was sorry for that."

Burt chewed on that for a moment and then looked me dead in the eye. "Jay, while I don't agree with your decision to leave last night and I think it was wrong because I'm the manager of this place, I gotta tell you something. It's amazing to me that you stuck it out as long as you did. If it was me, I would have left long before you did. I've been watching you work and you do work your ass off with no complaints. I don't want to lose you over this, so I'm going to ask you to continue to working for me. As for Jalon... well, this is something that's happened a few times before. Ani left me a note about it, explaining everything. Jalon will be warned today that if it happens again with you or with anyone else, his ass is gone for good. We've had enough of his shit. What he did last night and the way he treated you was absolutely wrong and you didn't deserve it. I'm sorry for that, I really am. That you came back here, just to explain your position to me, shows that you do have integrity and character. Those are the kinds of things I like my employees to show, and you've shown that in spades. You were scheduled to come in tonight at six- I hope you'll still be here."

I nodded soberly, tiredly. "I'll go home immediately and be here at six tonight. I should tell you, boss, that this job is way beneath my skill set-"

"I know," he said wryly. Yes, he's seen my resumé and even some of the design work I've done for various clients.

I went on. "But it's honest money and a fairly simple job. Most people succumb to the stress- I don't and won't. But what I will do is ensure that respect is afforded me when I give it to others. I am a big believer in the Golden Rule and I am a human being before anything else."

He nodded approvingly. "I completely understand and I can totally respect that. Actually, I encourage it. I'm glad you're working for me." He stood up, offered his hand and I shook it. He's an all right guy, as most bosses go. He doesn't get out in the trenches with us little folk, but he at least listens to them.

I promptly left, got home, went to sleep and woke back up at 5:30 PM Saturday, the 13th of October. I made it to work right on time, ready for another hellish night (the big Florida Tech/Georgia Tech game was on and promised to bring us much business). Jalon was working again, this time in a more subdued manner. He barked at no one and simply did his job- meek as a lamb. Ani, the manager from Friday, was working again, too. He pulled me aside to explain things:

All cooks and kitchen staff have been told to lay off the floor people once and for all. Any shit given to floor people will result in immediate termination.
Amanda, the hostess that I'd left to do last night's job alone, had broken down in tears after I left because of the task she had to deal with. I immediately felt like King Asshole when I heard that.
Jalon, in specific, has one week to get his act together or get another job. This is interesting because Jalon has been at that store for three years and he's never been put in this position before- all because someone bothered to call his bluff and walk out for the way he treated them and then came back to apologize for it.
I was forgiven for my walking out and even commended for it- apparently, it was the stuff of legend. No body had ever made Jalon look so bad in all his three years there, despite other people's best efforts to do so- and I did it in record time.

Through the course of the night I was visited by Amanda and I took the opportunity to apologize to her earnestly. I felt really bad about that and even worse when I heard that she'd cried because of it. WonkoDSane and his crew (added by the countenance of an out of town noder) stopped by for a few minutes, but I couldn't chat long... the place was hopping like a mad house all night and I simply couldn't take time out to be sociable.

So... anyway... that's the past two days for me... I have today, Sunday, off and I am going to spend it sleeping through most of it. I am exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually... rest sounds like a really, really good idea right now.