Sunday, February 17, 2008

I say goodbye to the Circus, almost!

I'm now into my 4th week with Cirque du Soleil and I'm wondering if it will be my last even though the stay in San Jose has another 4 weeks to run. The truth is that I actually gave my notice after the 1st week. I don't have a problem with being told what to do by people who may have less experience than I do. I have, from time to time, worked for agencies that specialise in food service employment and have been sent out on assignments where I was over-qualified for the position that I was filling, but I was paid the same whatever the work, so I did the work as instructed just like everybody else. But I have always expected to be treated with respect and courtesy whether the employer knew my background or not. Being talked down to occasionally comes with the territory and you simply have to accept that with good grace.

One afternoon during that 1st week Nathan handed me some beef bones and asked me to start a beef stock. So I roasted the bones to give them some color then threw them in a pot with the basics: coarse-chopped onion, celery and carrot, covered them with cold water, brought it to a boil, turned it down to a simmer and left it on the stove. As far as I'm concerned, good stock should simmer for several hours and I was due to leave soon so I left it in Nathan's hands.

The next day Nathan handed me a container of chicken scraps and asked me to make chicken stock, then he said "Don't do what you did yesterday and take it off the stove and leave it in a corner without telling anybody." Not, "Did you...?" or "Do you know who...?" So I wasted no time in telling him that I hadn't done it and his response was "Well, somebody did." The implication of that was clear enough to me: he didn't believe me.

One of my responsibilities is to keep the lunch line stocked and refreshed throughout the lunch period which runs from 12:00 to 5:00. With 5 or 6 different items that can be an almost constant task when it's busy. When things slow down, less so, but periodically, even if there's little traffic, items start to look a little old and dried out and have to be replaced. So, on one occasion, I had just changed out 2 or 3 items and paused to take stock of what I might need next when Nathan came around the corner and said "It's not cool to be standing around doing nothing. There's plenty of work that needs to be done." This happened twice.

So after 3 or 4 days of this, my working day fell into a certain pattern. For the first 5 hours or so I worked with LuAnn who is a pleasure to work with: good-natured with a sense of humor and no need to browbeat or patronise. With LuAnn the work gets done with energy and enthusiasm. Then Nathan arrives and the change in atmosphere is palpable, and I'm not the only one who feels it. 2 other members of the temporary staff (Cirquadors as we are called) have described the same experience. There is tension and edginess in the air and the primary motivation is to avoid the sharp edge of Nathan's personality. It is an uncomfortable environment, not conducive to getting the best out of people, regardless of their talents.

So at the end of my Saturday shift I told Cynda that she needed to find a replacement for me, that I enjoyed working with her, with LuAnn and Karine, but Nathan was an ass; arrogant, patronising and sometimes downright insulting and they couldn't pay me enough to take that kind of crap.

She wasn't pleased, but I agreed to work through the following week to give her time to find a replacement. She asked me to inform the Manpower people, who have an office on site to manage the 150 or so temps who work for Cirque at any given time. By the time I got to their office, Cynda had already been and gone, so they knew that I had given notice. We sat down and I gave them my reasons which they understood, but they asked me to reconsider on the understanding that the situation would be dealt with. Not wanting to be a hard-ass I agreed to give it one more try, with the proviso that if there was one more instance of that kind of unacceptable treatment I would be out the door. They accepted that and I headed home with 2 days off to look forward to and the prospect of an interesting Wednesday when I returned to work.

The first 5 hours on Wednesday were, as usual, fun-filled but productive. When Nathan showed up I was on the look-out for some kind of reaction, either some attempt to apologise for "hurting my feelings" (which would hardly have done the matter justice) or maybe even some kind of retaliation but...nothing! He was polite though not exactly friendly, he didn't bother me, he didn't ask me to do anything for him, he pretty much left me to get on with whatever work LuAnn had for me, and I've made sure every day since then that I have plenty of prep to do in the afternoons. I can't honestly say that I'm enjoying this assignment, but in the absence of a really good excuse to leave, I can't, in good conscience, just quit. Mind you, one day last week, I got 2 phone calls on the same day from 2 different people asking me how soon I was going to be done with the Circus because they both had work for me to do. Both are in the process of opening new restaurants and want me to run their kitchens. So now I have a dilemma. Which way do I jump? and how soon? Both propositions appeal to me in different ways. One is from a friend and former boss who I know well, and his menu is more appealing, Mediterranean with Persian influences (he's Persian) but the commute is longer than I really care for. The other is closer, a couple who own a German bakery and who want to create a European-style cafe, with a strong German flavor. Both are anxious to move forward. I need to make a decision by Friday. Stay tuned!


dubaibilly said...

Hey bud, sounds like things ain't going too well right now. This Nathan sound like a bit of a tosser. If he isn't bothering you right now then that ain't too bad, but you got to wonder when he's gonna start again. Me I'd jump ship - you don't owe them anything and they will ditch you quick enough when they move on, it isn't as if they are going to take you with them. Move to the German couple is my advice (for what it's worth) - they sound quite cool.

Good to see us go through against Athletico Madrid but the league is beginning to look dicey again.

dubaibilly said...

Hello mate,

You have just been tagged by the literary meme here.