Training Day

Before I ended up at my friend’s apartment at 5 p.m. yesterday, let me tell you about what transpired in the last 96 hours.

I’m a waitress twice a week at the guesthouse’s sister hotel’s (a “boutique hotel”…right) restaurant. I serve you breakfast and make you coffee on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. This is the first time in my life that I work as a waitress. How hard can it be, I think. Plus, I’m dead broke. I need money, in any way I can, because I really don’t want to become a prostitute.

Well, this past Monday, I was “trained” by Ricardo, a kid who has a perennial dark grey cloud raining over his head.  When I say “trained,” I mean he taught me NOTHING. Perhaps he’s some kind of Zen master, and there’s a lesson to be learned her: In knowing nothing you know everything, or something like that.

I just trailed behind him like a pathetic Cocker Spaniel every time he took an order.

I asked about how to fold the napkins, which by the way, looked like they had gone through the strong and agile hands of an origami Jedi master. I asked about using the credit card machine. I asked about how to handle tips put on credit cards, I asked about how to split a bill between several credit cards. I asked about morning cocktails, like mimosas and bellinis. I asked whether it’s my responsibility to wash dishes and utensils. I asked where the milk was located, where the cream was located, where the coffee beans were located. I asked about where the dishwasher liquid was located. I asked about cleaning tables, where the cleaning liquid was located, because I don’t see any.

He gave no answers. The kid is a misanthrope, he can’t help it. It’s a condition, I suppose.

My biggest concern, of course, was the shiny, stainless-steel industrial coffee machine in the kitchen. It has a German name and a million buttons on it, and next to each one, a cute icon of a coffee cup in all shapes, forms, and sizes with different “smoke” wavy lines coming out.

It’s all in German.

I don’t speak German. Neither does Ricardo.

I asked him repeatedly to teach me how to make coffee. All I got every time was:

“[Eye-roll] Shit, Pola, you take the ground coffee and just insert the thingy here into the thingy here and put two cups here and just press the red button here,” he points vaguely at a dashboard full of red buttons. Not one single button is not red. They’re all red.

“Which ONE?”

“[Exasperated sigh.] THIS one,” he says, pointing at the “one.” I take mental note.

“What do the other buttons do?”

“No idea, so don’t worry about it.”

“But what if they ask for a latte, a cappuccino, an espresso, a macchiato; I mean, how do I—”

“Listen, you need to chill, ok? If they ask for any of that, here’s the steamer,” he points at a phallic looking device, “and just add milk. Give them a little froth.”

“But there’s a huge difference between a latte and a cappuccino and a—”

“This is not a damn Starbucks. I don’t give a shit,” he leaves and goes outside to smoke.

I’m staring at that button. I already know this button will be my unraveling.

So that was all the training I received.

Before leaving at 11 a.m., Ricardo mumbles: “Just show up tomorrow, for your first day at 7:30 a.m.”

“But isn’t that when the restaurant is supposed to open? Shouldn’t I show up earlier than that? You know, to get the coffee machine ready?”

He sighs, looking at his wristwatch. “No one comes at 7:30 a.m. to have breakfast. They’re on vacation. They’re not going to get up early.”

“But what if they DO? I mean, what if they want to wake up early to take a tour of the Island, to visit the rainforest, to drive over to the Arecibo radio telescope and listen to radio static? What if—” I know I’m annoying him, but I need to know things. I NEED TO KNOW because I need to be ready for anything.

“[Dramatic sigh] They won’t. Trust me.”

I am dubious. My intuition is telling me there is something very wrong here, that someone (or something, like an alien visiting the SETI program at the Arecibo radio telescope) will show up at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast and ask for a very complicated coffee drink, and no one will be there. Worse, I won’t know how to make the alien that stupid coffee drink.

Ricardo leaves, and Yabdiel, the cook who has been quietly eating a grapefruit and observing my interactions with Ricardo, comes over.

“Ric strolls in at about 7:50 a.m. Maybe 8. Well, really 8ish.”


“In fact,” the cook continues, ignoring my high-pitched voice. “Since he has the keys to the restaurant, the cabrón makes me wait half an hour every day, sometimes even more. And I have to be in the kitchen at 7 a.m.”

“Shit,” I say, as compassionately as possible.

Yabdiel nods sadly and leaves, dragging his dirty chef hat with him.

He is only 22 years old.