Most of the interesting things today happened at Red Lobster. Tom let me out of work early today, which was sort of good, so I could get to Red Lobster for my orientation a little early. The orientation was supposed to start at 3pm, and I get out of work at 2pm, and he let me out early. This was good so I could get some lunch, but I didn’t get lunch. It was raining slightly and I decided to ride to Red Lobster and hang out inside while I waited. Once at Red Lobster, the rain let up, so I hung out on the metal debris by the train tracks that run behind Red Lobster. Later, the rain started again and I moved back to the parking lot at the restaurant. I stood under a tree, which I had chained my bike to, for about twenty minutes until employees from the restaurant noticed me and I think I started to make them nervous. I went inside and camped the lobby.

A nervous kid was the host, and he seemed to be aggravated even more by me sitting in his lobby unmoving for twenty minutes. He tried to talk to me a few times, but I made it fairly clear I had no intentions of talking to him. Generally, I’m pleasant to strangers, but he was nervous and it made me feel better to capitalize on this. He paced around the lobby, wiped down the lobster tank, walked around some more holding some menus, opened the doors for some “guests” walking out, paced the lobby, checked the bathrooms, looked at his podium, tried not to look at me, paced around a bit.

This was getting pretty old until one of the other people who was there for orientation showed up. I’m a little disappointed with myself that I can’t remember her name, she plays a pretty important role in this post, since she served as my companion for the orientation process. It turns out that the manager was expecting us at 3:30, while we were expecting this deal to kick off at 3:00. The third orientee (is that a word) was the only person who was properly informed. So this girl and me spent a half hour or so chatting about this and that, she’s in college, did a fairly good job of hiding that she has no real concrete idea of what she wants do with college and, likely, her life by extension, told me about her want of an iPod, some of her musical tastes, asked me what I liked to do for fun… The best part of the conversation went something like this:

Her: Don’t you just hate the hiring process here? Me: Seems ok to me. Her: It didn’t drive you nuts that they interview you three times? Me: I only had one.

(I’d barely call it an “interview” as well, it was mainly me and Justin BSing about kitchen life)

Her: Hrm. Well what about that test? Jeeze. Me: Test? Her: They didn’t give you a test? Me: Um… No. What was it like? Her: Have you ever taken the SAT? Me: No. Her: It’s like that. Lots of bubbles to fill in, if rock is to sand, then tree is to… Me: Ahha. Her: I can’t believe that you didn’t get three interviews and a test. You’re lucky. Me: I think maybe my experience helped out with that.

This retort seemed to annoy her a bit. Like I was talking down to her or something. Later on, during the actual orientation part, Stephen (not me) told me that he expected a lot out of me in the kitchen considering my background, and I noticed the girl sort of look at me, maybe she was thinking “He wasn’t BSing”.

Most of the orientation was filling out paper work. Tax information and such. I helped that girl with her withholdings and she said “Where would I be without you?” I hope she doesn’t run her whole life on the reliance of complete strangers.

GM Stephen told us some funny stories about Red Lobster. My favorite was the story about how corporate decided that Red Lobster didn’t have enough items on it’s menu for vegetarians, so it put an item on the menu that had a special marinara and they thought “Why not make it organic too?” so they called their supplier and their supplier couldn’t do it, so they talked to Hunts and Hunts said they could. Then Hunts calls back and says “We can’t do it. America doesn’t produce enough organic tomatoes to fill this order,” Red Lobster responded by pumping a bunch of money into tomato farms so they’d switch to organically grown tomatoes. Now Red Lobster has all the organic tomatoes it needs for the special marinara, and a month or so later, that item is pulled off the menu.

GM Stephen also told us about three guys that came back from Mardi Gras during our “sexual harassment policy” part of the orientation. He said that three of his employees went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and one came back Monday, one Tuesday, and one Wednesday. Each one of them came back with pictures, each one of them including pictures of girls “earning beads” (as GM Stephen put it). GM Stephen told us that on Monday he fired someone. On Tuesday he fired someone. And on Wednesday he fired someone.

He told us lots of stories that were funny. Included in those stories is the obvious thing that it’s a lot easier to get fired from Red Lobster than it is from Maria’s. I’ve done some messed up stuff at Maria’s that would have got me fired for like four different reasons at once at Red Lobster.

What almost shaped up to be the most embarrassing moment of my day was this: GM Stephen started to tell us about “hiring from Starlight Industries”. Starlight is a mental health sort of thing. I’m not really sure how to define it properly, but basically Starlight puts people who are mentally retarded or developmentally disabled into jobs. In previous jobs, when people talked about “hiring from Starlight” it was a joke. GM Stephen told us about that and I was about a half second to toss in a quip about stupid kids when I realized this wasn’t a joke. So I nearly made myself look completely insensitive to MR/DD folk, which I actually am. Anyway, it got a bit worse. He told us about a guy who works there named Jamie. Jamie is one of the Starlight hires, GM Stephen went on to tell us that he is one of his most favorite people in his whole career in restaurants. Jamie serves the restaurant with general cleaning duties. He has worked at Red Lobster for nine years and has missed two days. GM Stephen told me about one of those days and I almost laughed out loud at first, and then at the end of the story I thought I’d cry right there.

One of the days that Jamie missed, he had actually came in, but Red Lobster sent him home. Why? His mom died. This is where I almost cracked up laughing.

Jamie didn’t want to leave. He said he wanted to be with his family (meaning Red Lobster). This is where I almost cried.

Tomorrow, Katie comes home, and I get to spend my break between shifts with her, but unfortunately I’m not really sure how the After Work Katie Time is going to work out. We’ve got a party of FIFTY at 9:00pm. Parties that big linger and don’t order for at least a half hour after they walk in, which they’re never on time either. I’m not getting out of there a minute before eleven, and probably closer to midnight… sigh