Everyone wants greasy food and beer after a football game. If you own a restaurant, you love this simple fact. If you work in one, you hate it. Except for the tips, that’s always nice.
It was on one of these nights that we ran out of bread. Our boss had screwed up again, which meant the assistant manager had to rush out to a local bakery and design a workaround to get us through the night.
She was quick and innovative. Our boss didn’t care, though. He came in late and hungover.
He wanted us to warm up some cookies in the oven, to nurse his upset stomach and aching head. We tried to ask him to wait, since the oven was full of food for patrons.
But he really needed those cookies. “I think some carbs will give me some energy.” So we wrapped a cookie up in wax paper and threw it on top of a pizza for a few minutes.
While the rest of us busted our asses to feed the post-game rush, he sat there telling drinking stories — including one about a girl he’d met. “Look, I even scored her phone number.” Then he looked down at his huge cookie and asked us if this was a good idea.
He wanted us to do our jobs, listen to his drinking stories, and also reassure him it was okay to nurse a hangover with a cookie, that it wasn’t going to make him fat before his date.
We did all of that, knowing what would happen if any of us ever showed up for work in that kind of state. Maybe he got away with that behavior because he was white, a tried and true bro, or because he once belonged to the biggest fraternity in a big college town.
Or maybe he just had that boyish charm.
When you break it all down, it doesn’t matter. There’s too many people like this in the world to take them all on one at a time. Collective action helps. Still, on any given day, I’m dealing with a boss like this. Sometimes, it’s a man. Other times, it’s a woman.
Part of me wonders that if we ever do achieve complete fairness in the world, we’ll still have people like my old boss who just get away with stuff.
The world just expects less from some people, and more from you. That’s okay. It’s better to be the kind of person the world expects more from. Don’t complain about it. Don’t run from it.
Accept your role. You’re going about life the right way, and people notice. If you don’t get as many compliments, maybe it’s because you project the confidence that tells people you don’t need them.
The day after the hungover cookie incident, I started coming down with a cold and forgot to clock in for my shift. The assistant manager said she would adjust my time sheet, which isn’t that hard.
Later, the boss came down and gave me a lecture about responsibility. “Even if you’re sick, you have to clock in,” he said. “That’s part of being an effective employee.” So I lost about three hours of pay.
On his way up the stairs, he stopped and turned around. For a second, I thought he might have a change of heart.
Instead, he told me that Brad couldn’t come in that night. “So you’re going to have to work the grill and the salad line.”
“Okay,” I said. If you understand what goes into a real Greek salad, then you can imagine the curses in my head.
The world expected more from me on that night, like usual. But I handled it. Even if my boss didn’t appreciate me, Brad did. My other coworkers did too. Even if they didn’t say so all the time, they trusted me to keep my shit together. To them, I was never a liability.
Still, everyone gets overwhelmed. Everyone feels under-appreciated at times, no matter how much ass they kick.
But think about this.
Maybe people are always asking you for help or advice because they look up to you. Maybe people are always bragging around you, because they see you as someone worth impressing.
Your ex-husband or shitty coworker might act like a child because they rely on you to do their job, and you do it.
Maybe you’re given more work because you can handle it. That doesn’t mean you simply accept more work. But you should do that work and worry about the recognition later.
It’s good to be someone the world expects a lot from. It’s a sign that you can handle it. The world usually asks for a lot before it gives a lot.
Of course, sometimes the world really does expect too much. That’s when you need different strategies. You have to set boundaries. You have to manage and moderate people’s expectations.
You have to find another job, where you’re appreciated.
You have to keep your cool, and let some things fall apart because they needed to, even if you could’ve saved them. Other times, you have to endure and bide your time. But you yourself can’t fall apart. The world’s not going to allow that. No matter how bad life gets, you can’t be the one who shows up hungover, asking people to bake you cookies.