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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Serving Intestines and Bowing a Lot

Mentioned at the end of the last post that I got a new part time job...

It lasted all of three days. That is THE definition of 三日坊主.



The place is a motsu-nabe restaurant, which means it specializes in serving intestines that customers cook themselves in a hot pot on the table. While their ad specified that they were hiring kitchen staff, apparently there's a lot of cross-over between kitchen and hall, and it takes less time to learn the table-waiting protocol than the kitchen duties. So my first few days were all serving. And it's the most Japanese-style restaurant you could imagine.

First, the Japanese language required is super polite: ALL 敬語、ALL THE TIME.

Every place I've worked until now, I've heard the other staff using what's called コンビニ敬語, convenience store polite Japanese. It's a lesser version, an incorrect version of Japanese politeness, the most famous example being: 〜になります。

Many times you'll hear waiters say this when they hand you your meal, let's say... yakisoba: 「 焼きそばになります; This becomes yakisoba.」

This is obviously wrong. Why will this become yakisoba? It already IS yakisoba, isn't it? Will Jasper, of now defunct NihongoJouzu fame said in a speech once that he liked to reply to this with a joke, asking: いつ? At exactly WHAT point will this become yakisoba? Brett and I liked to hold off on our joke. On the off chance that we had any uneaten remains on our plate, when we handed it back to be cleared, we'd say 「ゴミになります;This will become garbage.」

Hahaha.

Long story short, this is the first place I've worked where コンビニ敬語 was expressly forbidden. NEVER say 〜になります。ALWAYS say 〜でございます。The polite way to say "This IS yakisoba."

That in itself would've been NO problem. I was already in that habit from my previous job, where, even if other waiters were screwing it up, I liked to feel superior by always using the correct form. No, here was one of the problems.

The entire procedure for delivering the yakisoba:

1. Wait for the cook to bring out yakisoba and say "Here's the yakisoba for table 1."
2. Scream "はい!” in the genkiest voice you possibly can.
3. Pick up the yakisoba.
4. Scream "I'm taking the yakisoba to table 1," or literally "1番様に伺いいたします:I'm going to humbly inquire after the honorable table 1."
5. Take off your shoes.
6. Go to table 1.
7. Kneel outside the door.
8. Set the tray down on the floor.
9. Knock on the door.
10. Yell "I'm going to be rude and enter" (失礼いたします), but not in so loud a voice as to be disturbing to the customer.
11. Open the door.
12. Pick up the tray.
13. Enter the room.
14. Kneel inside the room.
15. Set down the tray.
16. Apologize for the delay and tell them you brought the yakisoba:「大変お待たせいたしました。焼きそばをお持ちいたしました。」
17. Take the yakisoba off the tray and place it on the table.
18. Explain how to eat the yakisoba to the customer.
19. Pick up the tray.
20. Say 「失礼いたしました、」 "I was rude to disturb you."
21. Leave the room.
22. Bow.
23. Close the door.
24. Head back to the kitchen.
25. Put on your shoes.
For me, the worst part of the whole ordeal (besides the fact that repeating it over a hundred times a night left my knees and back sore as hell) was number 17. EVERYONE knows how to eat.

Sure if you were delivering something rare, or novel to the table, the customers might want an explanation of how to eat it. But the staff at this restaurant is OBLIGATED to say, upon delivering gyoza (pot stickers), 「餃子をタレに付けて、お召し上がり下さい。」 "Please dip the gyoza in sauce and then eat it, honorably."

Half of the customers shrug this off. The other half look at you like, "Did you SERIOUSLY just tell me how to eat gyoza? I fucking know. Leave me alone."

Yelling and bowing and irrelevance aside, the whole experience was an exercise in arbitrariness.

I learned the word 補充 (ほじゅう;replenishment)which we had to do EVERY NIGHT for everything. If a customer had taken ONE spoon out of the jar of sesame seeds, that one spoon had to be replenished, even if there were still a full 3 cups of sesame seeds left in the jar.

When customers left a table, every item on the table had to be wiped with a rag. A specific rag. Blue for the gas stove on the table. Pink for the gyoza sauce bottle and sesame seed jar, as well as each one of the 6 separate menus. Yellow for the 座布団 (ざぶとん;seat cushions) and floor.

I also learned that some Japanese people don't realize that the word バッシング(busing, as in tables) comes from English. And at this restaurant, バッシング a table takes 20 minutes.

The procedure lists for doing things like greeting customers, taking and checking in reservations, and eating your own dinner after you clocked out were equally long and equally formal.

There were scripts for everything. Like how to tell a customer to take off their shoes, or to put on slippers before they went into the bathroom, WHICH bathroom to go into before you let them, even though the doors are clearly marked. In fact, if you see a customer who looks like they're headed to the bathroom, you have to ask them to confirm, and then go with them to the door.

On top of all of the annoying stuff like that, there were a handful of other deal-breakers.

1. Two of the three days I worked, were 9 hour shifts with only one 5 minute break.
2. It was only 700 yen an hour.
3. I was the only バイト who wasn't a young student. It was kind of embarrassing being 27 and still having to do that bullshit, especially since EVERY table I waited on asked me if I was a student, and I had to say "No."
4. It didn't look like I was gonna get to learn anything about the kitchen.

So, that's that. Back to the job search.

4 comments:

Amanda said...

700 yen an hour? That's terrible! Though I guess it would have been okay(ish) if you were at least able to learn in the kitchen.
Hope the next job goes better. :)

BilabialBoxing said...

This might sound weird, but I appreciate your clear and concise recognition and dealing with of obvious bullshit.

Defendership said...

Wow - even more ridiculous than I expected.

And all of that for motsu nabe, the grossest of the nabes. I guess they need the excessive politeness to offset the inherent horribleness of the food.

AngelinaMP said...

Just reading about it made me feel stressed and exhausted! Hope you find a place where you can actually use and enhance your skill. Good luck!