Friday, March 28, 2008

Employment Journal, Part III

Joan Crawford needs a job. Her name is Mildred Pierce; she's left her husband, and she can't bake enough pies to keep her bratty daughter Veda in piano lessons and expensive frocks. So Joan goes out to pound the pavements of Los Angeles, ending the day with only sore ankles to show for it. Four-inch pumps will do that to you. Joan does the only sensible thing, which is to go to a restaurant for a cup of tea. Spending money is the only remedy for feeling broke, after all. In the restaurant, waitresses are bickering. The place is so understaffed not even Eve Arden can control the chaos. "Can I have a job," Joan Crawford asks. No, she doesn't have any experience, but yes, she'll learn. And learn she does. After a short montage and voice-over she's made enough money to open Mildred's and hire Eve Arden to be her manager.

There are too many ways this could never happen today to enumerate, but most laughable is the thought of being hired to waitress in middle-age without any previous experience.

Although I knew I would get nowhere because I've never tended bar or waitstaffed, I decided to see what restaurant jobs might be available. For me, none. I decided not to lie, and was told everywhere I went that only the experienced need apply. This was as much the case at a diner as it was at a finer restaurant. After my fourth stop I decided to stop the ruse and began just going into places and telling managers that I'm a freelance journalist writing about the local economy and wondering how the downturn has effected staffing. Has turnover decreased? Have applications increased?

The good news is that, for those who are unemployed but who have restaurant experience, there are jobs to be had. About half of the ten places I visited yesterday are either hiring or taking applications. The bad news is that none of those positions would have paid particularly well, since all were in mid to low-priced places, all were for lunch shifts, and none were for more than a couple of shifts a week. Maybe a job like that would bring out the Mildred Pierce in some of us. I'm just glad that I don't have to spend 20 hours a week on my feet dealing with people and end up unable to pay my mortgage.

Turnover has decreased at finer establishments, according to my unscientific study. Those who have dinner shifts, frequent shifts, and who work at places where the tips are high are not switching jobs with the frequency that was seen until about a year ago. I was told applications are up at the higher-end restaurants, and that they were about the same everywhere else, except that those looking for work in the mid and lower priced places were coming in with more experience than is the norm. Make of all that what you will. I take it to mean that I'd lose my house before I'd find anything other than dishwasher or busperson.

By the way, I ended up staying for something to eat or drink at the last four places I visited. There's no better way to feel well-off than to spend money, after all.

2 comments:

J. Spike said...

Didn't George H.W. Bush blame us for HIS recession (to be fair started by Ray-Gun) on us the public not buying houses and cars?

Why do I ask questions I already know the answer to?

Its like I'm Rumsfeld.

Do we know where Bin Laden is? No. Do we wish we did? Sure.

Will I actually answer any questions you media types have? Hell No.

I hate to be the one to say it. BUT.... we have been in a recession and thanks to Uber Right Wing deregulation on saftey nets FDR's rebuilding put in place. We are about to see the NEXT GREAT DEPRESSION!

Anonymous said...

Great, Mr. Sunshine, rain on George W's parade.