I had been training as the new Assistant Manager of the restaurant for months and it had not been an easy transition. I was making far less money than I had been as a delivery driver and even with Heather’s income from The Fresh Market where she worked in the bakery, we were still living from week to week and struggling to make ends meet.
The restaurant had just installed a new computerized system that kept track of practically everything and with my being the only one with any real computer experience, it seemed that most of the employees, including the Manager, looked to me for answers on how to navigate the new technology.
The installation was a shake and bake operation where the system developer sent in a quick setup team that offered basic instructions before vanishing with only a technical support number left behind. I preferred to explore the operating system to find what I needed before dialing the lifeline and it impressed my co-workers. The only other person that had any computer experience at that time was the newly appointed Manager, who frequently enjoyed the use of his WebTV at home. Before that, all records were kept in log books and random sheets of paper stacked and stored around the office.
After everyone became comfortable with the new system, I developed a rotating schedule that not only gave our employees the full time hours they were looking for but offered each of them a full weekend off twice a month. I tried to explain how it would benefit all of us but the idea was quickly dismissed by the Manager. Joe was a great guy, real salt of the earth and as good as they come but he did not like change, especially that which involved new technology and decided the old tradition of manually writing out a schedule for all employees each week was the way to go.
By the end of my training period, I had the restaurant running like a well-oiled machine. Even the owner had complimented me on how far I had come… before introducing me to the new Operations Manager; the very same position that had been dangled before my eyes before I accepted the role of Assistant Manager.
Tony, the new Operations Manager, was a New York Italian that spent the majority of his time staring at women and making lascivious comments. I was in my late 20’s and to watch a man in his early 50’s with a porn star mustache and glossy bald head talk of sticking his tongue between the thighs of some sweet young thing was cringe worthy. It became absolutely disgusting when he stuck his tongue out and lapped at the air in an attempt to show me how he would handle the situation. I couldn’t understand why the owner would hire an oily old pervert but Tony was put in charge over all of us and it was his duty to discuss my promotion after the training period ended.
The two of us went into the office to talk privately. Just as the owner had done, Tony also complimented my work as I sat there thanking him while anxiously awaiting the good news. After all the accolades and praise, I was expecting something big from the previously promised “substantial bump in pay”. No longer would Heather and I have to choose between paying the rent or buying groceries. No longer would we be receiving phone calls from collection agencies or final notices on past due bills. Our financial worries were over… or so I thought. My reward after all that work and effort, months of training and teaching others was only worth an extra $0.50 in their eyes.
“What is that, some kind of introductory rate for completing training? How long before I get the real raise?”
Tony told me that was it. He said that $7.50 an hour was the best they could offer and I refused to believe it with the owner’s teenage son driving around in a brand new Mercedes-Benz. The cycle of thoughts made me furious and it was in that moment that I knew I had to get out of there. What a fool I must have been to ever think that a man who gave us fruit baskets as Christmas bonuses would ever offer fair wages for a job well done.
The meeting ended and I began looking for another job shortly thereafter. I received word from a friend of mine that a local waste oil company was looking for an Office Manager. I told him about my reservations still having a strong distaste of office politics in my mouth but he assured me that would not be the case. I agreed to meet with the owner and took the job before turning in my two week notice at the restaurant.
Tony was displeased with the news. I could see it all over his face while he bit down on and held his slimy tongue. He came back the next day and called me into the office again. He had spoken with the owner and they had decided to offer me a yearly salary of $24,000.00. It was nearly $10,000.00 more each year than that joke of a number they originally gave me and it may have been enough if that had been the original offer but it was a day late and a dollar short.
“I’ve already been offered more than that to start with the new company and its all first shift, Monday through Friday with weekends off.”
Tony lost his temper and turned bright red before shoving a stack of loose paperwork off of the desk to scatter around the room. “How can you manage an office when you can’t even keep this one clean?!” he snapped before storming out. Two, maybe three months later, Tony was found dead. From what I heard, he had a particularly hard night at the restaurant, went home and had a heart attack in his recliner. I felt bad for those who knew and loved him but in all honesty, with the amount of stress he was under, it didn’t come as a surprise. The restaurant went out of business shortly thereafter and I remember thinking that I got out of there just in time.