Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 10 from France: Café Le Pré

Shaboom sends us her update from Paris:

I woke up out of breath. The panic had already set in. I knew I'd be spending the rest of the day PRETENDING to be a waitress. I haven't done this since... um... college?

But the sun was out, which is rare in "winter" so I took it as a good sign.

I donned my all black attire, grabbed my big, red bag and walked out the door as Obsessed! was coming down the street from the bakery with fresh bread. If he only would have shown up a few minutes earlier. Damn.

I walked to the train station, up and down lots of stairs. I switched trains at Châtelet Les Halles, up and down and up and down lots of stairs. I got to my destination, up and down and up and down lots of stairs.

As I was coming up the stairs onto the street and began to see light of day, I almost started hyperventilating. WHY WAS I SO NERVOUS?! It's waitressing for crying out loud! "I can do this. I can do this." I chanted silently.

My stomach felt strange too so I dashed into a Starbucks that magically materialized at the mouth of the Metro exit and bought a Venti Vanilla Skinny Latte at 140º F (my old LA drink which I never indulge in over here because a.) there are much better places to get coffee and b.) they charge you about $9 USD.)

Also, I needed a receipt in order to get the door lock code for the bathroom which I desperately needed because a.) I needed to make sure I hadn't started my period and/or take care of that issue and b.) I didn't think I'd make a very good impression if I arrived at the trial day of potentially my new job and within 5 minutes stunk up their ladies room shrugging my shoulders I WASN'T ME the entire way through.

BTW: Because I've lost all this weight (still can't believe it) and I haven't worked in a few years, I have no clothes budget and nothing I currently own fits. I was wearing black pants I bought in 1999 that are 4 sizes too big, a different shade of black cute top, yet another shade of black sweater, and yet another shade of black silk blend blazer from the days of yore which is an XL with another shade of black scarf. Don't even get me started on the shoes - black sneakers I found in our hallway as I was about to leave the house. I don't know who they belong to - Vapors or Mali, I'm assuming, and no they weren't really my size. Excellent choice for being on my feet all day. I'm a freaking genius, I know.

I got to the café with time to spare and spent a half an hour getting the walk-through and familiarizing myself with the computer system before they served us our staff meal. The café manager instructed the most senior waitress to sit and eat with me. Without saying a word, she obviously refused as she disappeared for the next hour with no explanation. At least I wasn't getting dissed in the middle of the high school cafeteria, although now that I think about it, I will probably have that type of nightmare tonight when (IF) I go to sleep.

I forced myself to eat mounds of toasted goat cheese (barf barf VOMIT) because I was starving. I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it. Happy thoughts! Rainbows and lollipops. Lalalalalaaaa.

I tried to take those 30 minutes to memorize as best I could their menu so that when customers ordered, I had to do as little guess work as possible. I wasn't allowed to write down orders and as the French language is so complex, ham is rarely ever called ham. If it's prepared one way, it's called one thing. Prepared another way, it has a completely different name.

With French cuisine being vast and intricate, there are a zillion ways to prepare each and every thing and each time it has a different name. I was dreading standing at a four-top where each person ordered something different that a.) I was not familiar with, b.) wouldn't be able to write down, c.) sounded like a bunch of syllables that I then had to memorize until I could make it to the computer by which point I hopefully hadn't forgotten the string of syllables and could somehow find the corresponding menu item from the list without totally screwing everything up.

Furthermore, I prayed that the string of syllables wouldn't be something where I'd have to return to the table asking "And how would you like that cooked?" or "Would you prefer a salad or potatoes?" and additionally "What kind of potatoes?" etc. I imagined 4 trips back and forth from the computer to the table PER PERSON. I thought I was going to faint and it took everything I could muster up in the form of courage to not run for the hills.

At the end of the day, I didn't screw up any orders. I didn't break anything. I didn't drop anything. I didn't faint. I didn't piss anyone off. I didn't make any mistakes. I didn't seem like too much of a dumb-dumb, although I think one of my 19 year old colleagues may have thought I was a little dense when she was explaining how to set the table. All in all, I was pretty proud of myself.

After my shift, I chatted with the manager and she promised she would call tomorrow to set up my schedule and that I should take the menu home to memorize. Right before I left, it somehow came out how old I am and that I have waaaayyyy more experience than I listed on my résumé.

My French girlfriends say she's not going to call because she's probably nervous that I'm trying to take her job. Apparently that's how it works over here. I guess we'll see tomorrow.

(I'm sure it doesn't help that by the end of the day, not only did I look like a homeless person who had stolen all of my clothes in different shades of black, but I was hobbling around in someone else's shoes...)

$52 USD in salary AND tips (I'm thinking that maybe I don't care if she never calls.)
$9 USD Starbucks coffee
$9 USD metro fares
$70 USD (SHUT UP I KNOW) waitress apron

It cost me $36 USD to have an "ideal" French waitressing experience. I should turn this into a theme park!


  1. I really think you should write a book on your experiences bc this sounds so Bridget Jones Diary'ish. Love it. And when you do write that book I will be the first to buy...

  2. Thanks, Pen and View. Does that mean I end up with Colin Firth or Hugh Grant?