Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Trying to halt the perpetuation of ignorance

In lieu of any actual news, I'd like to reflect on some experiences I had at the restaurant last night (since this may prevent me from launching into a rant about the exponential rise of petrol prices lately).

I had quite a bad time of it for the first half of my night. I wasn't exactly on the ball myself (unusual, but it happens), but coupled with quite a lot of issues caused by other members of staff, things got a little stressed. A table of 10 thought their waiter was so rude that they asked for a new one (new waiter=moi). A group of 31 were seated by a host at tables that weren't even properly set yet. Trés embarassing. A table was seated an hour and a half before they were asked to move because we needed the table back (we have a two hour dining limit, which they were well entitled to). All issues that could have been avoided if staff actually cared about the customers/did their jobs correctly/weren't morons.

However, the night ended quite successfully. The big group left early and happy and my busser and I carried on resetting the section. We were almost finished when two women (Curly Hair and Straight Hair) came walking through the section carrying glasses of wine. I casually (stupidly) asked them how they were doing. My attempt to start a friendly conversation resulted in a massive spiel about everything that went wrong with their evening. I won't go into the specifics, but again most of the problems could have been avoided quite easily (see above).

I don't like having to apologise for other members of staff, but I did. I don't like listening to complaints, but I did (I am quite good at the empathy thing when I want to be). I don't mind talking to customers about how the restaurant runs, and where it could improve. What I really mind doing though, is listening to blatant ignorance being propagated.

Somehow we got onto the topic of where all the waiters were from. They came to the conclusion that it was only their Kiwi waiter that was rude (they were served by an Argentinian and an Englishman, and my busser is Welsh). Curly Hair looked at me and she said "You're not from here, are you?" (which I have heard a lot, but generally overseas). I said "Yes, I am actually." Curly Hair said (in a dismissive tone) "No, but you're not really from here." I repeated, "Yes, I am actually." Straight Hair stepped in at this point and said "You mean you were born here," which now that I think about it, is really rude as well. It implies that I'm still not entitled to say that I'm from here. I actually get that a lot when I'm overseas, people don't believe that I'm really from New Zealand. It is one of my pet hates, and I don't have that many. Those women were lucky I didn't launch into a spiel of my own about how long my family has been in New Zealand and how many generations we have been here for. I wonder how long exactly you have to have been in a country before you can say you're "from" there. I decided not to push the point, as they were valued customers and I assumed Curly Hair was somewhat tipsy. Straight Hair was reasonable, and we carried on having a decent conversation about the restaurant business.

Later on, my busser asked whether the women were locals or not. I told him that Curly Hair had come up from Taupo (a town a few hours south of Auckland). Now, for those international readers, Taupo is a Maori word, and I like to think that my Maori pronunciation is particularly good for someone who doesn't speak the language. Curly Hair proceeded to tell me, quite strongly, and repeatedly, that I was pronouncing it wrongly. I argued the point with her, because I do pronounce it correctly (something like toe-paw), whereas she (and many other Kiwis) says it tau-poe. Apparently because "that's the way it's always been" (i.e. amongst the average white population), that's the way I should say it. I was fuming. Luckily Straight Hair agreed with me, for the most part anyway. I couldn't look at Curly Hair for a good while. I respect peoples' rights to do things the comfortable and easy way, but to tell me I am wrong in making the effort to pronounce another language properly is just too much. I can't even imagine what it would have been like if one of our Maori waiters had been there ...

Let me just say that sometimes it is a pity that bitch-slapping of and yelling at customers are generally frowned upon. I can't even get away with obvious belittling. It really is called for sometimes.

On the plus side, one of my guests asked me what hospitality school I trained at, because I am "very good". I had to tell him that I have had no formal training, so he concluded (correctly) that I must be a fast learner as well. I also got lots of compliments about my haircut. Hooray.

1 comment:

patty said...

ohh ohh you have a great training..
you moved around the world and that is what made you so good in what you do...

love p