The Lucky Break

 

Today I take you back to February of 2011.  I was 24 years old, and even though I was a successful District Manager for a Dunkin Donuts Franchise in the suburbs of Rochester, I was enjoying the twenties lifestyle so much, that I had to work two other part-time jobs to support it and that box of a studio apartment that I passed out in.  Once in a while.

I had just found out that I was going to be a father and I hadn’t quite figured out what my next move was.  Like I said, I was working two other part-time jobs.  One being a bar back and cook at a local sports bar,  I was a bit overqualified for that position but I really enjoyed working there and for the couple that owned it.  And the other was a stint on the line at my current full service restaurant company.

I was hired with the company for the first time in late 2004 and though I had transferred and left employment from this company on three separate occasions, I always seemed to wash back on their shores in a moment of need.  Whether it was their need or my need depended on the situation.

Now, when it comes to my career.  I always have seemed to be in the right place at the right time.  “God protects fools and drunks” Anthony Bourdain once said.  And this occasion was no exception

 

Shortly after returning to life on the line that January, I remember how pissed off I was when I was scheduled against my availability to work the garde manger station on random Sunday afternoon.  That’s just a fancy term used to make a salad preparer sound more important, which these days depending on your restaurants concept can be very important.

Sunday afternoons were not in my availability and I sure as hell hadn’t worked that salad station in years.  Hell, I didn’t have a clue what half the preparations were.   But I showed up for the shift without complaint like the good soldier I was.   And there he was.

The “he” I’m referring to was none other that the Monopoly Man himself, the Regional Director.  He indeed bore a striking resemblance to Rich Uncle Pennybags from the famous board game and today he was going to change my life.

He and I locked eyes immediately.  Did the GM schedule me on this shift on purpose so that I would be here when he was here?  If so…well played sir.  I had worked with this RD before in many different restaurant locations and we had a great history, but I hadn’t seen him since I had left to gain management experience with another company.

And after hearing about what I had been up to lately and my son on the way, he inquired if I would be interested in getting into full service management.

The rest is history.  I few rides east,7795fdea050dd0849fbdf50e7bd76fc8--luck-of-the-irish-irish-luck to Syracuse in the winter for interviews and assessments, my POS Lincoln barely making the journey, and it was a done deal.  I relocated to Syracuse in March for Manager Training and my climb up the corporate ladder had begun.

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Left to carry on. 

I learned yesterday that one of the servers that I worked with a long time ago passed away after a battle with cancer.

Feels like only yesterday that I heard that she was having health issues.

While I didn’t know her well,  I remember how she made me feel.  She could brighten your day with a warm smile or a kind word.    She always asked me to cook for her and she would always make a big deal about my ability because she knew how good that made me feel.

I went to here Facebook page and I read all the kind words, memories, and condolences from friends and family that had a similar experience with her.

You  could tell that she lived a wonderful life.  Wife, mother of 4, and grandmother.

It’s one of the moments when you are so happy that their suffering is over and the real sadness is for all those that are left to carry on without her.

“I’m not crying because I feel so sorry for you.  I’m crying for me”  Toby Keith.

Subject To Change Without Notice

As I left the hospital today, Liam and I took a ride around my hometown of Utica.  

A strange realization came over me as I the panaroma of my previous years flew past my car windows, that I won’t be spending very much time here now that Grandma has passed and my other grandma moved closer to my mom.  

“All my joys all my sorrow’s”

I spent 15 years here and a lot of my memories  have not with stood the test of time.  

The Piano workshop where I spent 10 years learning to play…now I pizza shop. 

The dentist office where Dr. Haddad practiced…now Utica Paint Company

The Video to Roll, now a Chinese Restaurant.  

Remember DZ Discovery Zone?…Sumo Hibachi.  

“Like at the bottom of the restaurant menu states, ‘Subject to change without notice'” Last Night at The Lobster.  

It’s all a distraction anyway.  It avoid  what I should be talking about.  

For another day perhaps.

The Snooze Button – A Chapter From the Franchise Years.

I’ve recently been having an dysfunctional relationship with my snooze button.  Mainly from all the work I been putting in and my unrealistic wake up time expectations.  It reminds me of another time in my life where I would be hitting the snooze button more times than I should.  That time for different reasons.

It’s late 2010,  I’m working as a District Manager of Dunkin Donuts putting in at least 80 hours a week for the last 12 months also going through two break ups that year which both ended very badly.  I was coming to the end of my rope.

The hiring practices where very strange at this franchise, where as, I didn’t have anything to do with the hiring of my direct report store managers, that was the Director of Ops job.  But I was responsible for recruiting, hiring, and firing of all hourly crew members.  I was also called upon to fire managers more often than I care to remember.

If you read my article Leaving the Franchise, you learned that I was getting paid peanuts.  So you can imagine what we had to offer  store managers…let alone hourly employees.  When it came to quality employees I didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to through it out of.   I did have a few hard working, trustworthy individuals but  they  soon were corrupted or would leave for green pasture.

You could say I was a glorified babysitter…unable in any case to get my manager to uphold any kind of standards.  I spent the day running around  putting out fires, firing employees for theft, trying to keep the trains on the tracks.  Then when my bakers failed to show up I would spend the night filling and frosting then driving the racks of donuts to all the locations.  “Time to Make the Donuts”.  I could feel my relationship with my boss and owner quickly souring.

This is where the snooze button came in.  I dreaded getting up in the morning.  I would just lie there paralyzed.  Eerily reminiscent of what  Anthony Bourdain wrote in Kitchen Confidential, when is was used as a rachet man. “I hoped that if I stayed in bed a little later, showed up a little later.  Maybe, just maybe, it would be me that got fired this time.  That I wouldn’t have to do this anymore.  That his whole terrible business would end.”. 

I had not yet learned good organizational or management skills.  

Like in Bourdain’s case.  This would soon pass.  I would take a part time job back in full service in the beginning of 2011.  Now with middle management experience under my belt and a little luck.    My life would soon change forever.

April Recap Part 1

Prayer III

Lord, I am not perfect by a long shot.

I confess to you that. 

But I work hard everyday 

And I hope that you hear me. 

In my heart I mean well

But it you’ll help me to grow

Then what I have in my heart

Will begin to show

What a difference a month makes.   Seasons change and at the end of March I was not feeling very good about things.  Even thought about giving up the whole project, but I stuck with it. “If I quit however…It will last forever”.

In April, I was able to get outside more as well as reach to more people in my life.

Let’s see how I did on my resolutions.

 

Pick up the phone

I’m horrible at picking up a ringing cell phone, returning text messages, and answering emails.  I’ve spent so many recent years turned in on my self.  Detaching from everything  and focusing on my work and kids, that I nearly completely shut out the rest of the world.  In the end that didn’t make me very happy.  One of the main reasons for the project.

I set out this month to pick up the phone when a familiar name pops up, reach out to my friends and family on a more regular basis, returning requests for my attention by the end of the day.

It wasn’t easy nor did I do it perfectly but as my wife put it , “you’re more connected to the world”.

 

 

Don’t expect Praise or Appreciation

As a spouse, it is natural to over value your contribution.   I’ve learned that it’s not productive to fish for compliments for any and all chores  or projects completed.   “,Just do them.”  And be happy knowing that you did your part within the household.  Praise feels so much better when its natural.

 

Things go the same for work.  I listed “recognition” as one of values that I desire the most. Like Gretchen, I love my “gold stars”.   I tend to get put out when they aren’t shutting my name from the rooftops.  I did my best to just focus on putting 120% effort at work whether or not I got praise from my higher ups.  In the end…I received a rare hand written card from the CEO,. Thank myself and my team for all the great results​ we have been getting.  

Good things come to those who wait I guess.

 

 

Work on your Core

I’ve never regularly worked on my mid section in my life.   I’ve ran.  I’ve lifted weights for my upper body but I’ve never done a plank in my life.  

Started at zero and got up to holding one plank for 2 min 30 seconds.  I had plans to shoot for 5 mins but I found it’s better to focus on doing one minute planks well while remaining still the entire time.   Those newbees know what I’m talking about.  You start shaking and rattling if your not fit.  I will tell you my recurring back problem have almost disappeared.  

Syracuse University Hill & Dad

My day break wandering led me to the Syracuse University Hill at 6am this morning.  The only people roaming the streets at this hour are police officers, doctors, and nurses.     If you read my Happy Memories  article from a couple weeks ago, you will remember how we can often associate places and objects with memories from our past.   I associate Syracuse University with my dad.   

The student body as well as the entire community “bleeds orange” for it’s fanatical support of the schools basketball time, but there was a time where, in my opinion, the spirit of the football team was just a strong.  

My dad and I were part of the dedicated fan base.  Not missing a game for a good 7 or 8 years from the mid 90s to the early 2000s.   We would make our way up the steep hill.   Past the Sheraton Hotel ( I always thought the “S” on the side of the building stood for Syracuse), tip the man playing the guitar and dancing (still plays there), enter gate M of the Carrier Dome, and find our perfect seats just off the 50 yard line.  

I know I said “M” but this was a better shot…I thought. 

We had three seats so we would usually have company whether it be my great uncle Gerald, my Mom, or one of my Dad’s Buddies.  But it was my Dad that always made it a memorable experience.   

I don’t think there was a louder spectator in the sea of 50,000 plus fans, (yes, there was a time where that many people went to see these games) his voice so strained that he could barely talk for two days after.   I know in my early years I drove him nuts, more worried about what was on the score board or what the mascots we’re doing.  But as I got older and began playing football myself, we really grew to enjoy the experience together.   I still remember him pulling me early from Saturday practice so we could make the 12pm kickoff time.  

I think he appreciated the time away from his hectic life to just be himself.   He embodied the idea of work ethic and given his upbringing, he was adopted and lost his dad at 3 years old, and his military background.   He was very strict and firm with everyone he encountered, including me.  It wasn’t until I became a man that I grew to fully understand what drove him.  

As we got older and our lives got more complicated, we stopped going to the games.  My dad’s work schedule got crazy, Syracuse’s team quality diminished, and finally when he and my mom split we all found ourselves with very different lives.  

My relationship with my dad is certainly very different than it was in those days.   Even though we don’t see each other as much as we like, I know I can pick up the phone as talk to him man to man.   I consider him a friend.  I am who I am largely in part of his influence.  

“26 years in the deepest darkest jungle, and I still became my father.” Robin Williams, Jumanji. 

Thanks for the memories o’le man.  Wouldn’t trade them for anything.  

I try at every opportunity to create similar bonds with my boys.

Happy Birthday Grandma

I always found it befitting that Easter would fall on my Grandma’s birthday who would be 94 this year.   Devote Catholic faith running through her veins,  she would go all out of Easter; Italians cookies, frosted sweet bread, and the holiday ham.  

We would head to  the especially longer mass across the street from her house then all her brothers and sisters that lived close would come over.  Followed by cousins, neices, and nephews, children, grand children, and finally great grand children.   

Her home was always open to those she loved or those in need.  I lived in her home more days than any other dwelling in various points of my life.  

My grandma…Lived her whole life in Utica and lived and entire life of love for her family.  

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”  Charles Dickens

Happy Birthday Gram.