It started off as any normal Saturday afternoon... Cafe is full of people. Blender is going full tilt. Food is flying out of the bake case and we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Like I said, this is completely normal for a Saturday afternoon.
Usually around 5 o'clock we get a lull before our next rush around 7 when people start going to the movies and parking themselves in the cafe to enjoy a caffeinated beverage before their cinematic adventures begin. Yesterday.... the lull was null. It was nonstop. By the time my break time rolled around I was out of breath and *sweating*.
So I took my break which was really more of a bitch and moan session with one of my coworkers and returned an hour later only to find a long line and the beginnings of a night of hell. We were running out of things left and right... whipped cream, cookies, cold brew concentrate, espresso... it was insane. I felt like I was running on my hands and my brain had officially left the building. Restocking food and making more whipped cream, running (literally) to get change, restocking milk, trying to keep up with the mess in the cafe... (Just an aside here: Pick up your damn books, bring me your dirty dishes and stop spilling stuff and not telling anyone! It's rude!) Our once dead cafe had turned into a circus of movie-goers and first daters, old fuddy duddies and laptop aficionados. By 8 p.m. we were headed for a train wreck. Food was pulled for the next day, some of the dishes were clean (because my coworker is a rockstar) and that was IT.
Closing tasks for a cafe are more than you would imagine... condiment bar needs to be restocked, sweeping and mopping need to occur, everything needs to be wiped down, food waste needs to be recorded, trash cans need to be changed out and the sad thing is that every time we would do this an hour later everything had to be done AGAIN. It was like we were closing and reclosing over and over again. The problem was... there were only two of us and between the onslaught of customers and our patience levels dropping way below zero, stress was reaching epic levels and there was no end in sight.
9 p.m.: WTF!?
Closings tasks completed: one. (out of about 30)
Customers in line: seven.
Workers scheduled: one.
So I did what any good manager would do.... I called a time OUT! Blew my whistle and said... no. I called our service manager over and told her my other person is staying until ten. I can not handle a constant line of customers and be expected to close this cafe by 10:30. It's not happening. No way. No how. *bullhorn*
So we devised a plan.... my other server would stay with me until 10 (and he graciously offered to stay because leaving would be like throwing me to the lions with steak hanging off my ass) and plowed through the rest of the night.
9:30 p.m.: WTF!?
Closing tasks completed: one.
Customers in line: five.
Blended drinks ordered: five.
Espresso machine: sleepy.
A member of the book floor comes over to help us try and achieve the impossible... closing the cafe in one hour with absolutely NOTHING done. I write an apology to the opener explaining this insane situation and hope and pray that she understands. We continue steaming, blending, getting ice, restocking food, restocking fridges, and trying with all of our might to not throw knives at asshole customers asking asshole questions... like "do you have espresso?" FOR SERIOUS, PEOPLE!? We wasted 4 oz. of decaf all day. That's it. We were brewing half pots of decaf all night and were continuously running out. Usually we brew a quarter batch and dump it down the drain an hour and a half later. I have never in my almost 5 years of this business seen anything like I saw last night. It was pure and utter chaos.
So now there are three of us scrambling to clean. Closing announcements begin at 9:30 to explain the new store hours, cleaning and scrubbing and trash duties are in full force along with the blending, steaming, restocking and other madness.
We closed at ten with stragglers still collecting their possessions in the cafe and had completed exactly three closing tasks. My rock star server leaves for the night and I have a half hour to work a miracle. Me and the awesome book floor volunteer manage to clean dishes, empty most of the trash, wipe down all the counters, clean the espresso machine, fill coffee urns with hot water, sweep the cafe, stock the condiment bar, wipe down the bake case, record the food waste, leave a love note and the bell strikes 10:30. I felt horrible. The cafe was clean on the outside but an utter disaster on the inside. But with no leniency on our strict hours (that I had already gone over for the week) there was no saving it. I had to leave.
My adrenaline was so high that when I finally made it to my car talking/walking a million miles per minute, I sat down in the driver's seat and realized my whole body was vibrating. Literally shaking. I couldn't control my feet, my hands were like little back massagers with brand new batteries, and my head was spinning. So I took a deep breath, started the car, threw on the radio and began my journey home.
I arrived home to a bottle of my favorite wine and my roommate talking to me at warp speed about a house that we are looking at renting. I finally flipped my shit, gave her the look of death said "I need you to be quiet and leave me alone for 10 minutes so I can decompress. My heart rate is above normal and I can't understand the words that are coming out of your mouth." My facebook was going ape shit bananas with messages, comments, wordscraper turns and holy crap I was overstimulated.
Deep breath. 10 minutes of peace and half a glass of wine later, and finally my body was responding to the relaxation signals. I couldn't even think about the night without my heart rate spiking and me getting paranoid about the reaction of the opening staff. I felt like a jerk.
I finally calmed down and consoled myself with the wise words of Dane Cook...
The situation was a cluster fuck, but.... I did my best. And that's all they can expect.