Life: August 2007 Archives

Customer Service

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I have worked in restaurants since I was twelve, working various jobs and have learned what is important to customers when they enter a restaurant – the feeling that they are being taken care of and are important to that establishment.

This shouldn’t be a great revelation. I’m certainly not parting any wisdom upon anyone who also has worked in any aspect of the restaurant – from the cooks to the dishwashers to the barback to the waiters to the bartenders – the customer is what comes first, and –within reason- should be always attended properly. I’ve worked in greasy spoon diners, chain-restaurants, and family owned establishments. The mantra has always been the same.

I also think that by working in such a profession, it also gives me a different attitude when I am the customer. I rarely get upset with wait staff, especially if they are very busy. I usually don’t send back food to the kitchen, I will speak to the manager afterwards about it. I will always tip 20%, unless I got unsatisfactory service and will tip 15% (I don’t agree with 0% tip, everyone can have a bad night), and then speak to the manager or owner about it after my meal.

Some employees don’t care. They are just there, making the shift pay and expect their tip – instead of working for it. Some make honest to goodness mistakes, and they need to respond appropriately to correct the error.

Case in point is a local restaurant a few blocks my condo. I’m not going to call it out on my blog, but lets just say it is a Hoboken-owned business, with about 3-4 wait staff and about 20 tables inside and outside. They get very busy, especially for brunch, and often have people waiting outside for tables very often on the weekends.

I have been there for brunch about twelve times in the last four months. The wait staff are in their early 20’s and nice enough. The owner is a nice guy, I’ve chatted with him a few times. The food they have isn’t terribly expensive, it’s close to my home and I like what they serve.

The only problem I have had lately is that the service has been spotty. Most days I get there, I don’t have a major problem. But here’s what happened last week.

I got to the restaurant, and it was 80% full. No one was outside, and one of the waiters handed me a menu and told me I could sit anywhere. So I grabbed a paper, sat down, mulled over the menu for a moment, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

No one approached me. I watched other people get served. I watched the same waiter to told me to sit, talk to the table next to me for a good five minutes. I read my paper while this was going on, and thinking, “Surely someone will come up to me soon.”

No one did....read what happens next...

The Art Of Boredom

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If you were someone close to me, you would know that I have been very bored at my corporate job. Extremely bored. I was getting to a point where I was starting to think about what I was going to do next. Leave my job? That just wasn't terribly practical, since I have a mortgage now, and do actually enjoy many of the benefits of "Corporation X".

Some of the benefits were a good salary (taking into consideration workload + effort = salary), decent benefits (healthcare, 401K, and free perks) and reputation (working here for 13 years - I know a shitload of people, know the internal system better than most people, and just have a hard-working reputation with many department employees and heads of departments).

It's hard for me to just walk away from that.

But it's also hard for me to work just anywhere. As a child I was diagnosed in 1977 with hyperactivity. At the time, doctors didn't call it "Attention Deficit Disorder", or ADD. They just told my parents to keep me off sugar and also suggested a new drug called "Ritalin".

My parents knew of another child on Ritalin, and they didn't like what it did to him. It made him like a zombie. They knew I could be a bit out of control, but used discipline, love and patience instead of turning to drugs to "fix" me.

I was never fixed, I still had to live with this my whole life and I did figure out a few tricks to make my life easier.

One trick I learned, was in high school, when I studied a subject that I didn't like.

In classes that I enjoyed (literature, history, social sciences)- I always got "A's" and "B+'s". I wasn't just passionate about the subject, I would immerse myself in it. I would find that my intense curiousity, coupled with desire to learn would just make everything easy.

In classes that I dreaded (math, physics) I would just fail. I would grow bored and sketch in my notebook for 45 minutes. Stare out the window. Do ANYTHING to occupy my mind with something interesting. It was like pulling teeth to sit in these classes. I would squirm in my chair, and daydream.

I soon learned that if I broke up studying for a subject - 30 minutes studying, then 15 minutes of "breaks" (like bouncing a ball off a wall), I was able to beat my concentration issues and focus on the subject at hand. I found that I could trick my brain - keeping my interest fresh in the subject by just breaking up a 2 hour study period into a 3 hour period, with four 15 minute breaks.

Life today isn't much different for me, when working in corporate life.

If I am at Corporation X and working on something I enjoy - i'm on fire. I also do very well when I have a job that has many, many tasks, with me constantly engaged. I'm much better working on a variety of jobs, and I excelled when I worked in the technical support department, because everytime i'd pick up the phone I had a different task to troubleshoot. It kept me fresh and interested, but the downside was that I hated getting angry customers on the phone. I eventually hated that job, only because by the end of the day I would be drained of all energy. I was happy to leave that department and try something new.

I worked in various departments, learning new things. But, like my personality...I would grow bored if it wasn't something that I felt was interesting and challenging.

The department that i'm in now was a good fit for me, it presented itself in an odd way - the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of the company, at the time, asked me to transfer in to the department, because they needed a boost from someone that had my background. I was flattered and excited to contribute. Things were good...but I think my growth got derailed a bit. The COO left the company. Her plan for me was in her head, i'm sure, and a new COO was never replaced! They just had department heads reporting to a CEO, instead of a COO.

I languished a bit, and even got into some management reponsibility. I quickly realized that management was really hard if you weren't a great "people person". I'm not great at that. I'm more like a military guy - do what I say, get the job done. It works with some people, but other people felt I was abrasive. I was removed from doing that after about a year, which I had mixed feelings on. Part of me wanted to be in a leadership role, but another part just was happy to be left alone and troubleshoot by myself.

Ok, so why am I writing all this?

Looks like another change in my life. Starting on Monday i'm switching roles, moving to the downtown Network Operations Center (NOC), and my life is taking another direction for the better. I worked in the uptown NOC before, and know a lot of the people i'm working with. The work I will be doing is more technical, but also very varied, which is something that my hyperactive head needs. They suggested that I would need to start up with getting my CCNA (which I did start to study for just before I switched to my current department).

It's a big move. I think it is also a good opportunity, with exposure to a lot of technical development, which is good for my value to Corporation X - and not to mention my resume if I were ever to leave. Also at our Corporation, people don't move around so much, lots of people just sit in the same department for years and years - and become a dinosaur. They know what they know, but don't learn new things and don't enhance their self worth. I feel like this will be something that will make me even more well rounded and also jumpstart my interest in coming to work again.

One cool thing is that my new office is its near Christopher Street. My commute each day will be walking to the PATH (which is like 5 minutes), taking it from Hoboken to Christopher Street (1 stop - 7 minutes), and walking 5 minutes to the office on West Street. I'm very, very excited about that alone - since my current commute takes from 45 minutes to an hour to get uptown (Hoboken to 34th and then the subway uptown).

I'm excited for the change, looking forward to something different. This may also affect the blog a bit, since my updates might be not as frequent - it was always easier to pen my thoughts when I was sitting bored at work.

Quid Pro Quo

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I woke up this morning at 5am, with a booming sound, which I first thought was a bomb.

That's the thing that sucks about living in a post 9-11 world. I'd hear thunder as a kid, and it was just thunder.

I hear these sounds now, roused from a slumber and the first thing I think is, "Was that a bomb?"

I guess score one for the terrorists.

When my alarm went off, and I was getting ready for work I got a text message, "Get ur canoe this am" from Matt.

I step outside, and get to see my new waterfront property:
080807a.JPG

Yesterday there was a report on NJ.com about NJ Transit investing $10 million in a new sewer system on Observer Highway, which should alleviate this flooding. Only issue I have is that no one - NO ONE - does anything in Hoboken for generousity. Its pure "Quid Pro Quo" - This for that.

Those that have been watching City Hall know that NJ Transit has been jonesing to build new Newport-sized buildings near the rail yard for mixed use residential/commercial occupancy. The citizens are completely against this, and some of the newer members of City Hall have opposed such construction by NJ Transit.

I just hope something happens soon.

Steal My Idea: IPod & Cookbooks

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Edited to add: Hey looks like it's already invented. :(

Ok, here's my current million dollar idea.

I get them all the time.

One of my biggest issues is food. I'm a finicky eater. Just very picky when it comes to what I like and I would, at times, simply not eat, even when hungry, than eat something i'm not in the "mood" for.

With my gym routine back in full effect, i'm cooking for myself more. Nothing super fancy, but there's only so many times I want steak. Last night I made chicken fajitas. It turned out very well, and was simple to make. I wanted to make a fajita marinade with the chicken and decided to wing it. I used to get the chicken stir fry kit from Fresh Direct. It's great, but the problem with Fresh Direct is that basically everything you buy is fresh and goes bad in 3 days.

That doesn't work for me very well. Like I said, i'm picky with food. I don't know what I will want to eat tonight. I will know in about 6 hours what i'm in the mood for. I have friends who cook up entire batches of chicken on Sunday and eat it everyday for lunch with their brown rice. Every. Day.

That would be like a death sentence for me. I'm a fan of variety. I certainly have my favorite foods: Chicken with Broccoli, Virginia Baked Ham, Filet Mignon steak (medium rare) and of course: LAMB!

Inside joke on the "Lamb".

Anyhow, what does this have to do with my topic idea? Ok, somehow take a cookbook and then make it an iPod file. Let's say i'm at the gym. I'm are coming home and want to make something fresh and delicious.

Open the iPod, go to "Cookbook" choose type: "Chicken", and skim thru the recipies. Look over the ingredients and on my way home, I shop at the food store (or I may have some of the ingredients at home).

Often I find that I get home from the gym and then going BACK out to shop for food sucks. Like I wrote yesterday once I get home, the motivation drains from me.

But if, on my way back, I knew EXACTLY the portions I needed to buy, then i'm set.

Oh, I forgot to mention - i'm not a cook that can just throw items into a pan and make something great. I'm excellent if you give me a recipe that has portions & temperature settings & times. My ex-roommates can attest to my recipe prowess.

So why don't *I* make this idea millions for myself?

Oh, i'm the typical Aquarius. I dream up these ideas. For all I know this one could be in existance (i'm fully expecting someone to post a comment: "ALREADY INVENTED!")

And for the record, someone came up with my dog rental idea in San Fran.

Editied to Add #2: Ok, the idea above is a cookware maker for your ipod - basically add your recipies to an IPod...now if I can come up with a bunch of great recipies and sell those....millions....well, ok maybe not millions...

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