Monday, January 5, 2009

Oh to be paid to be beautiful

This is the night of the 3rd. New years has passed, the madness is over, but half of Johannesburg is still in Cape Town, as are half the celebrities.

I started my evening with a fairly standard section. One table that seats 14 people and two 2 seater tables. This is a pretty good section actually, right up until you realise that at 9pm the 14 seater is leaving, an extra table is being added and 20 people are being seated there.

I try desperately to get the early seating to bugger off, they know they only have a limited amount of time, as they only booked that afternoon. They are still slow to leave. Finally I get them off the table, and the booking arrives. I havent yet got enough glasses on the table, but the manager seats them anyway. They are clearly middle eastern. The host of the table turns to look at me, an expression of obvious disdain on his face.

'This.... (he waves at the table) ... is not good enough. The service is rediculous. The Sheikh is going to be at this table!' He then turns to the trainee (male) that I have shadowing me for the evening, and says to him, 'sort this out'.

Another waitress comes over to me with a look of horror on her face. 'You serving 'The Bastard'? Oh dear. Ok, hun, this is what you do. You smile, accept the crap. I will have a gin and tonic, double, in the back area for you to sip on, and just grin and bear it. He is an absolute C**T but he tips.'

With this information in mind, I sip my G&T and return to the fray. As I am hurriedly placing glasses on the table a dark skinned Arab man arrives with a bevy of beautiful women on his arm. 3 are Russian, 2 local, and as they sit down The Bastard answers the phone.

"Yes, they have arrived..... Yes, I am happy, they are very beautiful... of course, I will let you know if there are any problems..." he says, looking the women over one by one as they sit down and sharing a wink with the man, whom we now know to be the Sheikh.

With this transaction completed, he starts giving me wine orders, which I rush to collect. As I speed back into the restaurant, a man touches my arm, and very politely asks me if I can give him some directions, holding out a piece of paper with a street name on it. I start to explain where it is as rapidly as possible, knowing that The Bastard will be tapping his feet imperiously, but as I look up I realise that the man I am talking to is Richard Branson. Against every anti-celebrity bone in my body, I start to blush. Luckily I am able to keep talking as if nothing has changed, and manage to keep going with the directions. He thanks me, then pauses and asks me the inevitable question.

"So what is an English girl doing working in a restaurant in Cape Town?"

I explain that I am indeed South African, and that I just have a habit of picking up accents where I live, having just returned from the UK. And then apologise and tell him that I am sorry to cut him short, but that I am in the middle of a wine order. He rapidly apologises for keeping me, and I run on to deliver the wine.

As soon as the wine is delivered, I go back to the service area and have another sip on my G&T at which point the other waitress comes in and looks at me, and we both simultaneously have a girly moment including holding each others arms and bouncing up and down squeeling 'Richard Branson was here!' I am not a celebrity follower. I am not even that impressed by famous people, but for some reason Richard Branson tickles the heart of almost any woman. The richest good looking man out there. Its definitely worth noticing...

Anyway, the evening continues much as before, tables get served, my two seater tables keep asking me for gossipy updates on the going ons of The Bastards table, and the Bastard continues to live up to his nick name. I grit my teeth and continue, thinking of the money to get me through.

Finally the end of their meal approaches, the bill is asked for, but as I walk outside with it one of the other members of the party intercepts me, and says he would like to pay the bill himself.

'Has service been added?' he asks me.
'Yes, 10% service sir," I reply. Normally at this point very rich people add on another 5/10%.
'Thats fine', he says, and waits for me to put the black American Express through on the machine. Damn Damn damn fuck and damn. The Bastard #2.

I did, however, see him slip a few R200 notes into the hands of one of the 'ladies' for hire. I think I may be in the wrong industry. All she did was sit there and look sultry.

I can do sultry...

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year Madness

I always work new years. Its one of those things. I figure, why go out and spend loads of money on a night that essentially means nothing, when I can work and earn money instead?
I really wish I hadnt worked last night. Although, if I hadnt, I couldnt have laughed about it today.

I worked a double shift. This means that I started work at 10am, and fully expected to only be finished work at 4am. It didnt quite turn out that way but I was expecting a long and draining day. I was also determined to make it as fun and stress free as possible. However, I forgot the most important part. This is my life. When is it ever dull?

The day shift passed with no major stress. Half of the country is in Cape Town right now so finding parking near the beach was frigheningly hard, but I managed ok. Customers were great, mostly tourists. I made some decent cash and was looking forward to the evening shift. Me and another waitress (the only other lone female staff member) took our break at the same time and decided (maybe not wisely) that a pre-madness cocktail was a good idea. We headed back to work at about 6pm, and helped finish setting up, admittedly slightly drunkenly. The official new years eve bookings only started at 9pm so the place had quite a few people standing around having cocktails (I would like to mention at this point that the weather was GORGEOUS!) when a policeman came in and asked to check our liquor licence. Instantly all the staff vanished, and all the managers suddenly decided for the first time that they would acknowledge the fact that the head chef is the senior member of management. Why? Because every one of us knows that the liquor licence doesnt exist.

I wasnt actually supposed to know, but as a personal licence holder (the only way you can sell alcohol in the UK is to have a licence holder on the property), I make a habit of checking licences. The licence on display in our restaurant is for another branch of the company, in another city.

Instantly all alcohol sales had to stop. All the customers were told that the bar was closed, and all the staff informed that on this New Years eve, in the middle of summer, the hottest spot in Cape Town, which is booked to overflowing, could not sell alcohol.

The staff greeted this information with hilarity. Right up to the point that the policeman walked out the front door and the manager ran around telling us all that we were basically going to continue ignoring the law. Now, I should really have walked out, if I was a nice law abiding citizen. On the other hand, new years eve money is not to be sniffed at, and frankly, I am not the most law abiding of citizens. Screw it, I was gonna work anyway. The interesting point here is that it IS legal to give alcohol away. So naturally, us staff just taking the drinks we wanted for the evening was essentially the most legal thing we did all night. Right?

The evening progressed with the usual madness and insatiny, swearing and barely restrained punches, right up until my 24 seater table asked to pay. Individually. I nearly screamed at all of them, but managed to restrain myself, as they were obligingly paying before they started dancing and getting down to some really serious illegal drinking.

In a suprisingly short space of time, the restaurant empied and the duties were done. It was time to leave and only 2am. I headed over to a friends place, where stragglers were still drinking by the fire outside, and talking rubbish amongst themselves, had a drink, and headed home. Except that as I walked outside I discovered that my car had been broken into, the window smashed, and the bag which contained my nicest dress, and my brand new shoes (which I had packed in the event that I was let off work early) had been stolen. Also in the bag had been a Christian Dior bag, full of Dior makeup that a regular customer had given me. The fact that she gave it to me was more important to me than the fact that it was Dior. And now its gone.

Happy fucking New Year.

I was pretty bleak about the whole thing. I have calmed now, and the events of last night were suffiently amusing that I have moved on. I shall relate them to you in due course. They include rich Sheiks, high class prostitutes, and Richard Branson. Stay tuned.