Jasonspeak: Tales from an Innkeeper's crypt
Out of the frying pan into the fire
For those of you who are familiar with my Innkeeper tales, this piece is about Jason, but is very reminiscent of Kari. They are very much alike. You remember Kari, right?/ (Please don't hesitate to give me feedback.)
Chapter 16: Jasonspeak
Over the years, when I was operating the bed and breakfast, I continued to rely heavily on Sullivan University's Culinary Arts school for my employees. One of the last few years I was in business, right after the sale of the house and business fell though, I hired Sandra. She was a
chefing major and had two children, so she was good in the kitchen as well as with the housework.
Sandra had been there almost a year when she announced to me one day
“I’m pregnant,” looking at me soulfully with tears edging their way down her cheeks.
“I’m pregant” again in that small oh-what-have-I-gone-and-done voice.
“Sandra, you have two kids under three right now. What are you going to do with a third one?”
“I don’t know,” she groaned.
Of course, I was not only concerned about her and how she and her deadbeat husband were going to afford more kids, but the thought of looking for more help made me queasy with anxiety. It wasn't an easy process. It was bad enough that most of the students couldn't stay with me for more than a year or two. Graduation just kept rolling around and claiming them. But I was constantly interviewing and training new people.
One of the biggest problems was finding someone whose personality and work ethic would mesh with mine. I was a type A, OCD, perfectionist who ran her business like a drill Sargent. I had to have someone who could cook, clean, and was as detail oriented as I was. They needed to be somewhat laid back and able to tolerate work-intensive periods sometimes lasting up to five or six days in a row. And, of course, they had to deal with me...not easy.
And so, when I found Sandra, I was delighted. It takes months to train someone to carry out the operation as I would. My goal was to get them to the place where I could stay on the computer and write while they carried on in the kitchen and the guest rooms. Sandra had been with me almost a year when she laid the “pregnancy” ...on me.
“My mom is going to be so mad at me” she said.
Sandra’s mother had been very supportive, helping her with the kids she already had and financially, so I guess she would probably see this new development as more work for her and money out of her pocket. Also, she had been hoping that Sandra would divorce Jack who was always out of work and somewhat abusive.
“Why?” I asked, although I had a pretty good idea.
“She doesn’t want me to have more kids now.”
“Well, it’s too late to worry about that now. What are you going to do?”
“I’m gonna have it. I want more kids anyhow. I've always wanted three or four.”
“Okay, so what about work?” No beating around the bush here...I had to know.
“Well, you can put up another notice at the University, hire another person, and I’ll train them before I get to my ninth month.”
And so the search was on. I emailed my notice for more help to the school. It didn't take long for calls to start coming in. Thank God there was no problem getting responses; the problem would come later when I began the interview process. After 16 years, I had gotten pretty good, at screening applicants. My first interview was always on the phone. I could usually narrow the applicants down to around four or five. These were then the ones I would have come to the bed and breakfast for a more in-depth conversation.
Although I had hired two young men in the past, I usually hired women. They knew more about housework, laundry, shopping for groceries and supplies, and general organization of a household. However, this time most of my respondents were young men. And so, after a couple of interviews, I narrowed it down to two: Darian and Jason. I brought them both in for a day to see how they would do. I ended up hiring Jason.
Jason was an out of work musician who had studied photography in college. He met his wife there while both were working on Art degrees. He was laid back and appeared to possess a personality that would work well with both mine and Sandra’s.
I let Sandra begin training him. I was glad she could do it because it takes up so much of my time and is only one task in the many I have daily. Of course I still had to oversee what was going on because Sandra had never trained anyone before and there were days when she wasn't there that I had to work with him and continue the training. You may be surprised to find out that it takes six months to a year to fully train someone who has never worked in a bed and breakfast or hotel before.
It’s not just a matter of telling them to go in the kitchen and whip up some scrambled eggs with cheese, toast, and bacon. There is so much more. Besides we create dishes that are a lot more sophisticated and work intensive, like various kinds of omelets, quiches and frittatas, Grand Marnier french toast, and pears poached in White Zinfandel. But cooking is only a small part of the food operation. There’s also serving, setting up the dining room properly, menus, grocery shopping and selection, clean up, storage, and so on. Storage, for instance, is extremely important. If you don’t put your food, glasses, silverware and dishes away in the right place, the other staff members wont be able to do their job. They wont be able to find anything.
This also goes for supplies and cooking utinsils and linens. Can you imagine everyone running around looking for the toilet bowl cleaner because someone put it back in the wrong place? Or leaving the Kleenex off of the supply shopping list so we didn’t know to buy any more when we went shopping for supplies. That’s what started to happen with Jason. He simply couldn’t remember where everything went and, although instructed to do so, would forget to put whatever we were running out of on the shopping list which was pinned to the refrigerator with a magnet, in plain sight. This went on seemingly forever, even after he’d been here for 7 weeks.
Keeping everything restocked and refilled was almost too much for him. He just couldn't remember to do it. He’d fill a sugar bowel or put an extra roll of toilet paper in one of the bath rooms, but for get the other bathrooms and the hand soap, the teas in the dining room, the coffee beans, and on and on. till it drove me crazy. I had to go after him every time he was here and check his work, especially the refills. I made suggestions like keeping a list, focusing on the job at hand, putting yourself in the guest’s place and asking what would they need?
Not everyone works on the same day, so when either Sandra or I was in charge of operation we would frequently go to the linen closet to get sheets for one of the rooms and discover they weren't there. After searching all the storage areas, we’d find them in the wrong place or still in the washer or dryer. Or we’d be out of toilet bowl cleaner or creamers or couldn’t find the right spatula or whisk or knife. After a few weeks of this, I was starting to climb the walls. Was he ever going to “get it?”
I began pointing out the importance of organization emphasizing that when there was more than one person working in the same place, there had to be specific places where every single thing was kept. And that he absolutely had to put everything back in the right place, otherwise Sandra and I couldn't find stuff when he wasn't here. In fact, many times we had to call him on the phone and ask where the skinny metal spatula with the worn out yellow handle that I’d had for 35 years was. This mediating process became all consuming.
Jason, had been with me for several weeks, when I started loosing patience and began nagging him. Now, honestly, I’m normally not a nagger but I caught on to it real fast when logical discussion and suggestions for remembering didn't work. It got so every time he was here I spent at least an hour nagging and pointing out what he was doing wrong. I hated it. I was becoming the wicked witch of the Midwest. I knew this method usually did not work and I expected him to just walk out day. But I started escalating with every new event. I was becoming more and more abusive. I felt guilty and frustrated and frankly thought of firing him many times, but Sandra was pregnant and I didn’t want to go though the interview-hiring process again.
One day I noticed that a small pillow I kept on one of the beds was missing.
“Jason, where’s the pillow in room #4?”
“The little red, green, and black one I told you I made 16 years ago when I opened the bed and breakfast.”
“I have no idea.”
“Do you remember seeing it?” He’s been here for weeks and made this bed just about every time he was here.
“I’ve never seen it”
“How could you never have seen it? It’s always on this bed.”
Jason just stood there, like he always did when confronted with the obvious or the truth and looked at me with this blank stare.
“I’ll look for it.” he always said that when something was missing. But he would never find it.
Three days later, I noticed a beautiful light green blanket/throw was missing in room #3. Again, I asked Jason where it was. He said he didn’t know what I was talking about but would look for it. Of course, he never found it. There would be many things missing. And he wouldn't even remember having ever seen them. I started worrying he was drinking or on drugs.
As I pressed him to remember or find compensatory strategies to help him do so, the conversations took a strange turn. I would ask him a question and he would give me an answer to another question. This blew my mind. I was convinced he was hold up in his tiny apartment smoking pot every night and that it was affecting his brain.
One day the AAA man came to inspect my bed and breakfast in order to determine whether or not the place was clean, up to date, comfortable, and attractive. He always got down on his hands and knees in the guest rooms and checked for dust bunnies under the bed. He informed me that there was lots of dust under the bed in room #4. I had told Jason over and over to make sure he dusted under the bed, rearranged the ruffled curtains on the windows and changed the white coverlet and shams if there were dirty, but it hadn't made an impression on him.
Jason, did you check out the whole room thoroughly and dust under the bed?”
“Of course I always do that ” he would answer, looking at me like I was crazy to ask such a ridiculous question.
When the AAA man left, I had gotten down on my hands and knees in #4 and looked under the bed...no easy feat for me at 80 years old. Not only was there a group of dust bunnies nesting there but, low and behold, there was the little red, green and black pillow I had made 16 years ago.
Now that I knew where the pillow was, I was determined to find the throw. It had been several days since the guests in room #3 checked out. I decided to email one of them and ask if anyone had seen the green throw. She emailed me back almost immediately and told me one of the 6 girls, who had stayed in the suite for the week-end ,had stuffed the throw under the mattress of the roll-away she slept on to lift it up a bit under her head.
“Sorry, we forgot to tell you” she wrote. You’re sorry! You have no idea how sorry I am.
So I was the one to find both the pillow and the throw. Why did I need Jason? Oh yes, to take out the garbage, scrub the kitchen floor, and make the beds...all the things that were hard for me and pregnant Sandra to do. But I was not only doing my job, I was doing his too.
“I scoured the room thoroughly and couldn't find it” he told me.
“Did you look inside the roll-away? which we kept folded.
“Yes, I even put new sheets and pillow cases on it.”
His words echoed in my head as I read the email I’d gotten from my guest telling me the throw was under the mattress of the roll-away.
“Jason, did you look under the mattress?”
“Yes, of course” Oh yes of course
I had gotten to the point where I refused to just give him the information he needed or tell him the answers which would solve whatever problem loomed before him. I did this, not to torture him...although that sometimes seemed like a good idea, but to get him to think and learn to problem solve. Problem solving is extremely important in our business. We frequently come up against it.
I’ll be damned if I tell him where the pillow and the throw are. He’s gonna have to figure it out on his own
Ok, ok...so I gave him a few hints.
Having a conversation with Jason is like pulling teeth. When Jason talks to me, he always adds superfluous information so that by the time he gets to the end of the sentence, I have no idea what the subject was. The worst part though is the response you get when you ask him a question. Sometimes he just stands there with a blank expression on his face saying nothing...this could go on for a long time...it’s like he’s in a trance and can’t answer you. Other times, he answers your question with totally unrelated information. For example:
Me: “Jason, why is this sponge always so dirty?”
Jason: “It’s coming apart. I have to get a new one.”
Me: “What happened to the pillow off of the bed in room #4?”
Jason: “The sheets are in the hall.”
After these responses, I have to ask the question again ot break down his responses to try to figure out what he meant. This happens every single time he comes to work. I have pointed it out to him, but it doesn't seem to make one bit of difference. Since I have a master’s degree in learning disabilities and behavior disorders which covers all sorts of cognitive functioning, that’s the first place my mind goes for answers to why this keeps happening.
For me, it’s extremely frustrating. Sandra also started becoming annoyed because half the time she couldn’t find anything and the other half of time she couldn’t understand him. We started referring to his conversation as “Jasonspeak”.
The next day, he came to work 15 minutes late. When I asked him about it, he replied that he didn’t hear the alarm. I didn't freak me out but I was a little miffed because I wanted him to serve the breakfast I had made for my four guests, since my arthritic knees were killing me.
I made a list for the work I wanted him to and put it in order of what to do first, second, etc. He was supposed to do
room #2, then room #3 on the second floor. He came up and started working on the second floor in room #2. After a while, when I didn't hear him in #2 anymore, I went to see what was going on. He had not finished the room and he
was no where to be found. I walked into the back hall where #1 is, the room I was staying in, and saw that he had propped open my door for all to see inside. I never asked him to go into my room so I was perplexed and irritated. I leaned over the banister and called for him to come back up.
“Why did you go in my room and leave the door propped open? Anyone could walk in there and look around. My purse is sitting out on the settee.”
“I went in there to get the towels out of the bathroom.” he said.
“Why would you do that? I’m still using them.”
“So I could clean the room.”
“Why were you going to clean the room? #1 is not on the list and I’m staying in there. It doesn't need cleaning.”
O God! he's still at it . what is wrong with him?
“Jason, go down and get my towels and bring them up to my room. Now.”
He was gone for nearly 5 minutes, so I headed back down to the kitchen, sore knees and all, to see what the heck he was doing for so long, and if I was right about #1 not being on his to-do list.
Yep, I was right. He had started a new task and was pulling all the dirty laundry out of the basket onto the kitchen table.
“What are you doing? Where are my towels? Did you check out the list?
“Well, what does it say?”
“It says to clean #2 first, then #3”
“What about #1 Is it on the list?”
“Then why did you prop open the door to #1 and take out my clean towels?”
“I thought I should do the whole second floor.”
“Where did you get that idea?”
“I just thought...”
That's the trouble right there, Jason. Please, don't think .
“What’s the sense in my making out a list for you?”
I started to escalate again for the umpteenth time. but calmed myself down, knowing nothing I said was going to change anything. I left the kitchen after telling him to get the hell upstairs and finish #2. Then I sat down in my winged back chair and started deep breathing. What was I going to do? I guessed someone (“up there”) was testing me and had given me a challenge to overcome. So...I thought, I will find a way.
But I never did. I just held on until Sandra had her baby and started working full time again.