We knew what store I was to be assigned to in this golden city of the prairies (there were three of them in the city) so prior to moving out there we scoured the rental pages trying to find suitable accommodation close to work. We were very fortunate to find a split-level four-plex, only a short ten-minute walk from the restaurant. I was ecstatic. It looked like everything was falling into place. After a long journey we pulled into the crowded street and looked for a place reasonably close to our new home where we could park the moving van in preparation to unload. The landlord met us on site to welcome us and provide us with the keys. We unloaded the van and said goodbye to our non pastor truck driver and his son. It was with both joy and sadness that I watched them leave. The end of a chapter it would seem.
I still had a couple of days before I reported to work so after helping get things somewhat settled in I did the walk to the restaurant in order to scope it out. It was quick, easy, and the atmosphere of the restaurant seemed good. They did not know who I was yet and I enjoyed the obvious teamwork and fun atmosphere that was present. Excited to begin my new career, there was one last stop I needed to make before beginning my job. Given that we had moved so close to Christmas, all of the managers, along with the area manager were getting together in the city, at the head office’s suite, to have a Christmas party. I attended, full of enthusiasm and excitement for what lay ahead.
Apparently, there had been a change of plans. Head office required me to change store locations. The restaurant located in the heart of the city needed me to work there instead of the one located in suburban south where I was. The general manager had just given their notice – rather unexpectedly – and that left them short in what was their busiest location. Feeling very much in a place where I couldn’t say no, I agreed. I now needed to figure out how to get to this downtown location. It required a fifteen minute walk to a subway station, followed by an hour commute to one of the downtown stops and another ten minute walk to the restaurant. There was no parking for staff at this location and we only had one vehicle, which would make that quite difficult. With the commute added onto my work day, it meant that I was gone for almost twelve hours each day. This was not what I had signed up for.
In addition to this new routine, this restaurant had a distinctly different atmosphere to it. It was staffed with a younger staff, full of energy, full of life, full of ‘fuck-offs’, as they only looked forward to the party that night. The alcohol and drug usage in this restaurant was rampant. There was a distinct aloofness, disinterested, dispassionate, impervious, blasé, unsympathetic, callous feel about the place. In assisting the general manager, who had given their notice, in trying to understand a major inventory discrepancy in alcohol usage, (they were going through a lot more alcohol then they should have been), I opted to have a straight-forward talk with the head bartender. What I was met with was a defiant attitude where they admitted to not following the corporate recipes on preparing drinks, often adding more alcohol to them, “because that is what the other bars do”.
I took an opportunity to sit down with the outgoing general manager to raise my concerns with them. I was shocked at that conversation. They admitted to me that they were aware of these concerns and the fact that the serving staff and kitchen staff were in essence running the restaurant – hell be damned. This, of course, was the reason why they were leaving – they couldn’t take it any longer. They felt that corporate was not supportive of the situation because this restaurant was doing very well financially overall – generating a lot more sales then the other two locations. They ended the conversation with begging me to stay, assuring me that this wouldn’t be the case for me. I spent the hour long train ride home that day shaking my head in disbelief. What had I gotten myself into?
It wasn’t long afterwards that there was an area meeting, involving all of three of the restaurants and their management staff. We were meeting at the third restaurant, the one I hadn’t been to yet, which was located in the top eastern corner of the city. I opted to drive to this location, noting that it would take me close to two hours to commute there – one way. I arrived at this meeting, which resembled more like an after keg party then an actual corporate meeting. The assembled managers were more interested in sampling the newest drink offering from the bar then they were in the business component of the meeting. During one break I excused myself from the group and went to one corner of the restaurant to phone my wife, sharing with her my frustration with what I was experiencing.
“This is nothing like the atmosphere or work environment that I encountered back at the coast and so far everything I was promised has not happened,” I explained to my wife. “Nobody seems interested in running their businesses, but only in drinking and doing drugs. I am quite discouraged.” I added.
I needed to end my conversation with my wife because I was being approached by the head office staff.
“Let’s talk,” they motioned to me to sit down.
“Absolutely,” I replied, having just made up my mind as to what I was about to do.
“We are noticing that you don’t really fit in with the rest of the team,” they noted.
That was the only invitation that I needed. I then spent the next several minutes explaining in great detail what I had noticed, encountered, along with the broken promises made to me by them. In the end, they acknowledged that they had indeed broken promises to me and that it was clear that this was not going to work. On the spot they offered me a severance, although I had only been with them for maybe three months. Cheerfully, I gathered my things, said my goodbyes and left the restaurant, crossing the parking lot to my vehicle and drove home.
I arrived home earlier then my wife had anticipated and when she saw the giant smile on my face she knew something was up.
I took the next few minutes to explain what had happened, still with a giant smile on my face.
It would be a couple more days before the full impact of what had happened sunk in and I realized that I was now in this foreign province, in this foreign city, unemployed, and with a family to support.
I was no longer smiling.