On Saturday I had the worst expo shift of my existence, which says quite a bit because I’ve had a great deal of not so great or absolutely terrible shifts as an expo. Fundamentally expediting is seen as an extraordinarily simple job. Basically I’m the authority of the kitchen. I make sure food comes out correctly, with the right sides, temped correctly, and I place the dishes in pivot order to ensure that the servers are able to place the food directly in front of the person who ordered it without having to ask who got what. Dishes being placed in the correct order, directly in front of the person who ordered it, is one of the points our servers are graded on when they get a mystery shopper at their table. It also decreases the likelihood of a stupid guest sending the server back to the kitchen saying they didn’t order something that they did. Oddly enough guests have a tendency to not recognize what they ordered when people auction the food off. By auction I mean they plainly call out the name of the dish for the guests to claim their food. Literally they say exactly what someone ordered and guests are still confused by that. Basically placing the food directly in front of the person makes it less likely that they’ll claim they didn’t order that dish. I also deal with any and all of the needs of every server, bartender, cook, and manager in the restaurant. Every single dish for every single person that walks in that restaurant goes through my hands before it ever hits the table. My cooks only deal with what food goes to their station in particular, my servers only deal with their own tables. I deal with every order, every ALLERGY (having to inform the cooks, changing my own gloves twenty times….) and every special instruction from every person that walks into the restaurant. When a server fucks up - they come to me to ensure that the issue gets fixed before the table ever knows that anything went wrong. When a server fucks up and it GOES to the table wrong, I either have to go back behind the line and prepare the dish or oversee that the dish is remade correctly.
Anyways - my manager came up to me on Saturday and began to list off which cooks would be working which station behind the line. Usually she leaves that up to me to figure out and by now I have most of my cooks schedules memorized. It became very clear to me that she was taking this extra step because she was about to tell me that I was about to work expo by myself on a Saturday night. Which is ASS because most days a high quality restaurant with a generally large guest expectancy has two expos working during the week/weekends. My restaurant can’t seem to wrap their head around that general rule so primarily I am by myself, the only exception to that being on the weekends because we get very busy and it’s just silly to expect one person to be able to handle both windows during a Saturday night. So there’s that.
Throughout the night I couldn’t seem to organize myself well enough to get ahead when I would go from one page of food to suddenly having 15 pages on both screens in a matter of two minutes. I was so overwhelmed and beyond that, grill was majorly fucking up all night. They kept plating things messily or incorrectly and I would either need to take the time to clean the plate up or would have to send the dish back all together because they put the wrong protein on something or down right COOKED the wrong protein so I would have to wait for them to completely remake the dish. Alongside that, my GM scolded my fry cook at the beginning of his shift so all night he was putting shit up wrong or slowly because he was nervous. My ticket times were horrendous all night and even I was managing to fuck up. Twice I sent out the wrong dish with the wrong order all together or I FORGOT to send an entire dish out! It was preposterous! These are such rookie mistakes that I should NOT and haven’t managed to make since I first started expediting. With all that being said, from the beginning of my night shift I was anxiety ridden. Half way through my shift I was beginning to feel like I was about to have a complete panic attack - shakes, tears and all and sure enough, it happened.
I burst into tears - which, in my opinion, is a lot better than not being able to make myself breathe for 10 - 20 minutes. My manager came up to me and she just obviously couldn’t handle seeing me cry, she sent me out for a cigarette straight away. By the end of the night I had begun to cry twice. I had tried so hard not to allow it to happen, I was trying so hard to keep it back, but everything just took over. Someone who doesn’t deal with this sort of thing cannot fathom what it is like. You can go up to a person having a panic attack and try to talk some sense into them, but most of the time there will be no logical thinking. Usually I can tell myself “this shift will end, no matter what you will go home tonight, this dinner rush will end,” or “it’s just food. It’s no big deal. It’s not worth your tears.” When I’m on the verge or in the middle of a panic attack, those aren’t my thoughts. My thoughts sound a little more like this…. “I can’t do this. It’s too much. I’ll never be able to get myself out of this. It’s never going to end. I’m never getting out of here. I want to go home. I want out. I can’t be here anymore… Get me out. I want out.” I start to feel very claustrophobic, as though the walls are closing in on me. I suddenly can’t catch my breath and then all of the sudden I’m a fucking weeping mess and I’m heaving for breath in the middle of a fucking cry fest. And all of this, mind you, is completely out of my control. I can’t change my mind set, I can’t change how I feel, and I can’t calm myself down. It’s terrifying not being able to control yourself.
By the end of my shift I just left as soon as my GM cut me. I didn’t do inventory or anything. I just clocked out and left. I was so upset. I texted my manager (the one I spoke of earlier) to apologize for my behavior and oddly enough she managed to make me feel a lot better. I also think I was able to make it a lot clearer that though I am sorry, I can’t control what happened. It just happens to me sometimes. She apologized for me being on expo by myself on a Saturday and said she loved me… all that. Honestly, it was the first time anyone as been able to calm me down like that since Bear left. I miss him so much because he was the ONE person who COULD talk sense into me while I was having a panic attack. He made all the little things that go wrong seem insignificant and small. The other manager tried to do that during my shift, but I couldn’t speak to her. That’s another fun thing - when I’m having a panic attack, I have a lot of trouble talking. I stutter and stumble over my words and will even lose my train of thought in the middle of a sentence.
So with all this being said, I very much applaud myself for doing what I do every day. I work in a stressful, hot, greasy, and disgusting industry. I deal with asshole coworkers and even worse guests, but I do it. Most people with anxiety like this don’t leave their houses. I do it. I get myself out of bed every day. I even drive myself to work. Driving was a huge anxiety issue with me, but I got my license and I do it nearly every day. If nothing else I am proud of myself for being able to act normal even though I’m NOT. Everyone has anxiety, but not every one feels it as soon as they wake up in the morning, not everyone looks at human interaction as though it is the worst thing to ever exist. I do and I still make myself do it. So regardless of the fact that I fucking lost my cool in the middle of a Saturday night dinner rush, I at least did it. I did it and I didn’t walk out. I didn’t run away.