Lyle's Blog

Going Toastal

Monday, April 27, 2009

I drove in early Sunday morning. As I drove into the partially full lot, I figured that I would get some paperwork done before jumping in to the day. When I kissed Judy goodbye, she told me that she wanted to clean the house a little and take a shower before joining me. "See you around noon.", I joked as I left her in bed.

Just a few minutes after opening some bills, Trin texted me a short quick text....we are packed. I quickly came inside and began to access the situation. One of the girls told me that we needed someone at the door as one group of diners had just walked by the line at the door and grabbed a table right after leaving eaters stood up. So, I placed myself at the greeter podium and began to take names. After getting all there on the list, I quickly called Cindy who was in the back room to see how far away that she was. She told me that she was at Safeway and would be there in just minutes. I told her just how busy we were and to be prepared to just jump in.

The three busboys walked in the door together a few minutes early and I put them all to work immediately. I had the greeter start sitting a group in the back room and instructed her busser to get their drinks as we began the busiest Sunday that we have had this month.

Without Judy, I bounced between the front and sorting out dishes in the waitress station and I must admit feeling the pressure of the day a little more than usual as a line began to build at the door and the tickets seemed to come up all at the same time at the pass bar. The two cooks in the kitchen were performing great and were shortly joined by a third that completed the team. Casey showed up shortly there after and the whole group was complete. Five waitstaff, Five cooks (Three on line, one prep, and one baker), Three dishers, three bussers, the cashier, and me. Two of them being my kids, Casey and Trin. Trin is filling in for our cashier, Kara who recently gave birth to her first child. Kara is a great kid of whom all love both customer and crew and I know that she will make an awesome mother.

The pressure was intense until Judy joined us around ten or so and she quickly relieved me in the waitress station freeing me to help out in other parts of the floor. I noticed that the cook responsible for the toast was struggling a little with that part so I jumped into the line and began running the toaster and attempting to bring them back to speed.

Toast has always been and continues to be a problem when we are the busiest of which I have talked about before. Often times, if someone does not get their toast in time, the are much more critical of the rest of their plate. Seemingly something so simple becomes one of the hardest parts of getting the completed plate out. I scanned the many tickets on the line and began to stack up the various breads, while dropping them in the top of the conveyor toaster, pulling the finished product out of the bottom, buttering, slicing, and placing them in the pass bar in somewhat of an order. Standing over the toaster with the heat of it hitting me in the face, I got a unique needed glimpse of what our cooks go through in their entire shift. When the busy crew on the floor complain about not having enough air conditioning, these cooks must work over hot grills, fryers, and that glowing toaster while having only a swamp cooler to cool them down. And with the nights dropping below freezing, I have had to turn off the water to the same thus hampering their cool even more. During busy days like today, Judy does her best at keeping them cool by keeping their drinks going and almost always spiffing them a smoothie during the middle of the hardest times.

As soon as I had completed the stack of bread in front of me, there seemed to be another group of tickets ready for more. This went on for what seemed to be an hour or so before I was able to bring them up to the latest ticket on the long line along the bottom of the pass bar. I then left the kitchen with a unique appreciation for our cooks at a time that I must sit down and look at their much needed raises that they deserved back in January but we were not able to give because of that stinking minimum wage law that I have complained about before.

I then jumped back into the other areas as the busy time lasted until around just after noon when the last rush arrived from what we lovingly call the second service rush. Even after that, it remained steady until after one or so before we were able to reduce some of the staff. I retreated back to the office, finished off the bills, completed Saturdays receipts, and watched the last of Bulls / Celtics game as it went in to double overtime. Casey came out to let me know that our lunch was ready. He watched with me and soon, Judy was at the door. She smiled as she saw we were both watching the game and told us that she was not going to wait for us even though we told her that their was only seconds left in the game. She knows better. With the game over, Casey and I joined her at the counter for very needed refreshment. I sometimes don't realize how hungry I get until I sit down to eat. Today was one of those days.

After lunch and with the crew reducing down, I jumped in my van to run a variety of chores including the bank, office supplies, cell phone store, and picking up some candy for the counter. At the cell phone store, the cashier noticed my hat and asked me if I worked at Jake's. "Yes", I returned. "I just love that place!", she explained. "Thanks", I answered as she rang up my purchase. "Do you cook there?", she asked. My mind went back to my time over the toaster earlier that day. "Yes", I answered, "And sometimes, I clean the bathrooms, or wait tables, or run the register.". She stopped and looked at me with a funny look. "I own the place.", I said feeling very proud of that statement but trying not to brag as I am fully aware of the fact of it's popularity is not all me but a crew that works very hard. She then began to tell me of all of the dishes that she loved. I told her of my newest item that I am working on called the Lava Burger which is basically a stuffed burger having the cheese and other items in the middle instead of on top. "Yum", she said, "I am going to have to try that one.".

I arrived back just in time to help the crew finish off the day, set the alarm, and lock up the place. As I walked around the building double checking the locks, turning off lights, and insuring heated items were off, I was overwhelmed once more with the fact that this business was now mine. Five years have gone by since I first was informed of the coming doom of the truck stop. Five long but very short years. I hope never to lose the gratefulness of what this community and this crew has done in keeping this business alive.

I went home and sat out back with Judy for a few minutes before retreating to the TV room, putting my feet up, dropping my head, and napping until Casey joined me with a pizza for supper while we watched the Blazers lose a close one in Houston. Shortly thereafter, I pulled myself to bed.

I remember sometime during the busy times of the day, talking to a man at the counter who asked me who wrote this blog. He said that he enjoyed reading the perspective from the inside of the business. I thanked him and told him that I would probably write on my hour that I had just had over the toaster in the kitchen. I then went on to tell him that usually one of two things needed to happen for me to write in the blog. Either I was inspired by an event or I just couldn't sleep because of thoughts of the day. That is my reason tonight and since I feel the tired coming back on, I will retire again to my bed and make ready for a new day.

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