I started working in the restaurant industry three years ago to help pay for my undergraduate degree back home in California. It was a small family owned sushi place, no big deal—mostly college students sake-bombing and a few locals. Fast forward to NYC last fall, where I started working at a pricey steak house frequented by mid-level professionals in Union Square.
I once had the restaurant’s general manager direct me to the restroom so that I could “put on more makeup.” We called the GM several things behind his back, but the descriptions that come to mind are slimy and scumbag. He fancied himself a former boxer, actor, and all around player, but in reality, as a bartender once noted, “He’s a loser.” With enough grease in his hair to shine a shoe or two. He frequently touched the other hostess and me: a small hand on the back, rubbing on my shoulders, dancing around. The thing about touching your employees when you’re the boss, well, its not because you’re a touchy-feely person. Don’t play dumb. Touches aren’t the same for everyone and the power dynamic between the boss/employee is too great to be ignored.
So what do you do in these situations? It’s $12 an hour. I’m not exactly rolling in dough and it’s not like there aren’t new restaurant openings every other week in New York. People—the staff, the owner— notice and talk when the general manager is a jerk. And I’ve got a mouthy-mouth. Jobs are replaceable. My dignity, less so. You’d be surprised the number of happily-married men who are eager to drop off business cards (in my cleavage) on a Tuesday night.
It’s funny how your line of comfort shifts according to situations. I expect yuppie Union Square bar frequenters to be scummy, sure, but I don’t have to take it from my work environment. In fact, I refuse to. It’s taken me a bit, but I learned where my lines are for work and I expect others to respect them, too.