We are going on vacation at the end of the week. It’s only eight days but it’s also the first real one we’ve had since moving back to California. We have had some two or three-day camping trips since we moved back here to the Napa Valley, but unless there is Room Service involved, it really doesn’t count as a vacation. I enjoy camping, sort of, but the preparation and packing usually takes twice as long as the actual time spent at the Campground. Planning the menus, packing the wine and beer (and it’s never enough of either, no matter how much you bring…) plus the cookware, lanterns, stove, tent, sleeping bags, etc; and we can’t just eat beans and weenies when we go, oh no, we have to be the ultimate envy of all campers, everywhere, in terms of food and beverages. The point of camping is to get “back to nature” and experience the Great Outdoors like the pioneers that first laid eyes on it, way back in eighteen-whatever. In truth, the “Great Outdoors”, to me, is where the car is parked. “Roughing it” is TV without a DVR; and I doubt that the pioneers had air mattresses and non-stick cookware, or ate smoked salmon omelets for their breakfasts. If the Donner Party had packed a little Truffle Oil and some Kosher Salt, there may have only been one of them left when all was said and done. So our first “real vacation” is looming. The preparation of the house, and of my crew at work are the real chores this time.
At home, I have what I like to think of as a “casual” style of housekeeping. My wife is a dynamo when it comes to cleaning and I love her for it, but I am a slob. If it wasn’t for her, I would be one of those people you see on the TV news that, after their body is discovered, have six guys in white Haz-Mat suits removing 30 bags of crap from their hovel. I think that’s the main reason my wife invites dinner or overnight guests, to inspire me to periodically clean and organize shit. I am always envious when we go to a friend’s for dinner and their house is spotless and has those little soaps shaped like flowers in the bathroom; and the towels that are so fluffy and clean you use the toilet paper to dry your hands because you don’t want to disturb this museum piece of a bathroom. Why can’t I live like this? We Virgos really like things clean and organized, but we just hate cleaning and organizing. Then I realize that our house looks like that when we have company coming, too, and maybe we are not seeing the real picture. If Donna Reed had not been on TV every week, would her house look like that? Or would she and Carl Betz be sitting around in their underwear drinking Pabst Tall Boys all day?
So we purged the house and cleaned both cars this past weekend. We have secured a house sitter to feed and pet our kitty so he won’t have any abandonment issues. The homestead will be secure while we are gone and hopefully still be fairly clean when we get back. Now it’s on to the prep at work.
We have been open almost a year at the restaurant, and the crew on the whole is performing admirably. The original group is still fairly intact. We have dumped some dead weight and added a couple of new hires that are working out extremely well. Plus the fact that everyone has gotten better at their job and are completely at home with the physical environment; so we are able to do more with less personnel. I feel pretty good about leaving the kids on their own as most of them have good work ethics and take pride in their jobs
So for the past couple of weekends I have been “practicing” not being there. I have intentionally been removing myself from being much of a factor during the dinner service. I have tried to be just a host, seating the room and then trolling the tables and schmoozing the guests. This is an uncomfortable, but necessary bit of preparation for me. I need to know that the place is able to fly on it’s own, whether I like it or not. The good news is the staff does just fine without me invading their stations to take orders and clear tables. The bad news, for my ego, is also that they do just fine. Is this the quandary of a good manager? Good leadership, I guess, is a little worrisome when it comes to job security. It was also disheartening when I put down what I do on a daily basis in the form of a written guide for my fill-in. Not only was it not as thick as War And Peace, it wasn’t even as thick as the comic book version. I could have titled it “Management for Dummies, (Abridged Version)”. I can almost hear Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks singing “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?” The pool bar beckons.