I applied for a job this week. I’m out of work right now, and things are getting pretty lean. I decided to swallow my pride and see about working at a corporate place, a place I knew would have job security and union protection and proximity to home and predictable hours to trade for a pretty crappy hourly wage. I can do this, I told myself. I made myself believe I could just let go and put in the hours and do this ridiculously simple job and come home and sleep well at night. And the people in charge of hiring were super-stoked to have someone with my experience level apply. They actually sort of gamed the system to get me into their process, because their job posting had expired a few days earlier. But I did end up in the pipeline. High fives all around.
After a lengthy online application process, including a “survey” which took over an hour to complete, with questions like “describe a situation in which it would not be good to work too quickly and efficiently,” I was then granted a phone interview, which asked many of those same survey questions, and a lot of other questions that could have and should have been answered by my application and by the resume I attached to the online application.
Then I was granted an in-store interview. I was whisked to their skybox of an office.
I was dismayed that it was sort of dingy and dusty and cluttered. But then I reminded myself that many restaurant offices are cluttered and neglected because they rarely see the light of day and literally are never open to public view.
Their copier/printer combo wasn’t working. I was greeted with a legal pad full of questions written out in longhand, including that same question about under what circumstances it would not be good to work too quickly and efficiently. I’m pretty sure I answered it differently each of the three times it was asked of me.
When the interview was over: Surprise! They wanted me to do a “try-out,” to decorate a pre-frosted cake in their kitchen on the spur of the moment, with no direction and no parameters given. Just, “Here’s a cake. Decorate it.” OK, I thought. Actually, that’s fair. I’d been blathering all week about my decorating skills. I’d sent them a link to my Facebook gallery of cakes and desserts (“Sorry, we can’t see this because no one in our store can access Facebook”). So, money, meet mouth.
I was dropped off at the cake station by the hiring manager. “After this, you and I are done!” she said brightly. More prophetic words were never spoken.
I introduced myself to some of the other workers while I washed my hands and donned gloves. We chatted about television shows and other innocuous things while I took the plastic cover off my try-out cake. I was handed three piping bags full of florescent bucket frosting: one with a decorating tip, one with no tip and one with a V cut into the plastic tip (“That’s your leaf tip,” said one lady). She gestured towards a station with buckets full of frosting bags that were crusted with days-old frosting, and full of hard frosting crumbs at the bottom, where the exposed tips rested. “Use whatever you like out of there.”
Standing in a mystery pool of murky water, I tried my best to make this cake a masterpiece, but things weren’t going too well. My borders were awesome but my writing and vines and flowers weren’t all they should have been. I kept trying to imagine myself working there happily for less than $9 an hour. I couldn’t.
Finally, I put the plastic dome back over the cake and told them I was done, and it was nice to meet them. When I got home, I asked some friends if I’d just been too snobby, and they all basically said, “No, you have to have standards. Thank you for having standards.”
I let management know the following day not to waste their time ordering my uniform or scheduling me for orientation, and why. They didn’t take it well (I got scolded via return email), but that’s not my problem. I’m sorry I’m poor right now, but I sure am glad I have standards.
I’m happy to christen 2016 the “Year of Having Standards.” Happy New Year! And if you hear of any open positions …you know what to do. •
Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro, Café Lou Lou, Marketplace @ Theater Square and Fontleroy’s.