Friday, May 11, 2012

Pressure cooker

No, I haven't written anything in the Empoprise-BI business blog, or any of my other blogs, in the last few days. I'm involved in three major projects at work, and my brain has been pretty much incapable of conceptualizing or writing blog posts on top of that.

But it could be worse. I could be a short-order cook.

To make it as a short-order cook, you must be able to keep a half-dozen orders in your head while cracking eggs, flipping pancakes, working the counter, and refilling coffee cups.

And at a restaurant like the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Md., the orders come in verbally, not on a ticket.

Chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled with sausage, order of french fries, rye toast — they're small tasks. On a busy day, though, they add up to a tough job for Shawn Swinson.

"My first month here, I was ready to walk out the door," he said.

Asked what it feels like when he's in the middle of rush hour, Swinson said, "Like you're in an insane asylum. It's almost unbearable."

Swinson has learned to handle the pressure. He's an island of calm, even when the orders are flying. But Swinson's boss, manager Frank Long, says very few people can keep up without losing their cool.

"It's singularly the most difficult job in this type of operation," Long said. "Four cooks. Five waitresses. Bus staff. Host. Getting them in and out."

Speed and accuracy are at a premium — especially when the customers are multitasking, too. Lunchtime is the worst, Long said.

"People may have an errand to run. Maybe go to the bank and pick up dry cleaning, and eat. All within an hour, whatever time they have."

So the next time that I'm sitting at my desk, working in a (mostly) climate-controlled office, dealing with emails that arrive every few minutes...

I need to remember that it could be worse.
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