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Friday, May 27, 2011

My "mid-life crisis"( the last man I dated)

My girlfriend asked me today how do I manage to have such an "exciting" (her expression) life.
"I don't know" I replied. "It's always the same: I start out good and then something happens". It's true,scout's honour!..LOL..
But seriously, first off, not all that "excitement" is a good thing and most of it I neither wanted nor invited-I just found myself in it,as it was.
Take,for instance, a few weeks ago. I went to see my friends in Hawkes Bay. Very small place and nothing ever happens in there.
There I was, enjoying my friend's hospitality and his amazing cooking. Minding my own business. What could possibly happen,right?
Well,ready?
 Within 24 hours, absolutely unrelated to each other:
1.Found out one of my other really good friends took her power games a step too far,called her on it, lost a friendship. Just like that.
2.Received an email ( although much appreciated and long-overdue as far as clarity,honesty and finality goes) that effectively dashed any and all hopes I might have had for a relationship with someone.
3.Found out my accountant did NOT, in fact,prepare my taxes (I thought they were done a month ago and were waiting for me to sign). Fired him and had to look for another one in a hurry.
4.Received another email from Wellington court clerk saying that application I filed for divorce 3 days ago (I was there IN PERSON, mind, and clerk went over the whole thing before collecting the fee) is "incomplete" and I need to go back to the courthouse and swear out another statement.
5.Yet another email was supplied by my soon-to-be-truly-ex-husband stating that my application for a dismissal of the tax case in US was denied-which means I have to fork over quite a bit more money.
6.Was told by an attorney that I will have to file yet another court case (as Dispute Tribunal is not an option,apparently) in order to try and get 11K I've loaned someone, back. AND the defendant will have to be served with the subpoena "in person"-apparently that's the only way (she lives in Auckland and I really,REALLY don't want to see her again-thank God, it could be done through a third party).
Pheww... Just remembering all that makes me dizzy... But that's exactly it: "excitement" just happens to me.
I really wish it didn't.
But I digress... Right, my midlife crisis.
It was May of 2008. I lived in Napier. I've read an article about this new restaurant that just opened a few months ago-inside the old church building. It was owned by an American woman with, apparently, a lot of money, as it was really nicely done up. In the article, the owner was quoted saying that she is promoting "American" concept of service and encourages tipping. I thought  it would be a great place to work.
In all honesty, that restaurant and it's owner require a whole separate chapter: just to give you an idea, in 2 years the place went through 21 Managers and 11 Head Chefs and countless (I really did loose count) floor staff and lower-ranking chefs (commis,de parte,etc). Yeah, Karen (the owner) was quite something.

The first day I worked in that restaurant, a young guy caught my eye. He was a "runner" (he delivered food from the kitchen to the tables).
Adam (that was his name) was tall and lanky. Quite good looking. He was also very young-only 19 years old.
As days went by, I found him very capable as far as work was concerned-he was quick on his feet and seem to want to learn more.
I started training him as FOH waiter. He was catching on pretty quickly:before long I was able to assign him his own station.
Naturally, we talked a lot during the training and I found him interesting-he made me look at things from different,un-expected angles. Little did I know that he was under influence of variety of recreational drugs most of the time (that's why conversations would be so deep at times and other times he could barely manage to answer a simple question).
He told me about his girlfriend-apparently, they were together for a couple of years.
There was some attraction between us and he flirted with me mildly.
I was disillusioned,disappointed and deeply dissatisfied with both my then-husband and my married life. I was bored,as well.This whole "adventure" was exciting and it made working in that place bearable.
One day, when my husband was away in US for 3 weeks, I called Adam on a Monday (restaurant was closed, so we were both off) and asked him if he was free and wanted to pop into my house for dinner. He said, sure, he would love to, but could he bring his girlfriend along?
I was disappointed-that's not what I had in mind, but, that's what they say:"In for a penny, in for a pound". I told him to bring the girlfriend along-I like a challenge.
They turned up right on time: Francesca (the girlfriend) was really young and pretty. She looked just like a little doll. We had dinner and talked -mostly Adam and I-about hospitality business. That visit lasted for over 5 hours: we just talked and talked and Francesca was getting increasingly annoyed. Finally, she practically dragged Adam away.
Few more weeks passed and I got Adam a part-time job in another restaurant, where I worked on weekends. Yes, I had a plan (don't I always :).
That restaurant was a wedding venue and us,servers, did everything start to finish: we set the room up, served the food, cleared everything and "broke the room down" (folded and put away the tables, stacked the chairs,etc). That meant we usually finished really late (or,rather,early)-about 2-3am.
When everything was put away and everyone left or went to bed (the place is a lodge and the owner lives on the premises), I asked Adam if he'd like to have a drink with me in the dining room. We were the only ones there. We talked for what seemed like ages ( over an hour) and then he walked me to my car. And yes, there was a kiss. It was actually very nice: soft and tender and he wasn't trying to grab me and put his hands everywhere. He also said all the right things, like "I could kiss you all night"..LOL.. I later found out he was quite a little womanizer and constantly cheated on his girlfriend.
That was it-just a kiss, nothing else.
The next day all of us, the Church restaurant employees, were going on a road trip to Auckland. It was all-expense paid by the owner, as the Head Chef was competing in there and she was sure he'd win, so she took all of us to cheer for him (he took silver, to her chagrin).
Karen put us up in Langham Hotel (yes,that's right, nothing but the best). Management and supervisors (I was in that category) were supposed to stay two in each room. I paid Karen to have a room all to myself.
Again, I had a plan :).
Adam was staying on the same floor with the the bunch of guys. They ended up going out until really late,and got drunk and stoned. Nothing happened during that trip, except him and I going shopping for a bra for me and a pair of lacy panties for his girlfriend-yip,that's right. I've said it before: I am twisted.
When we got back to Napier, the flirting continued. I also  found out bit by bit  just how troubled Adam was. I've met his parents (I was introduced as his co-worker/supervisor, of course).
According to his Mum's tearful story, Adam was such a "good" boy (aren't they all, when they are sleeping) until he discovered drugs at age 16. He started missing school,hanging out with the "bad crowd" and, although quite capable academically, letting his grades slip.
He was arrested twice for drunk driving. Although he went off to the Uni (Wellington), that only lasted about 8 months, as he was partying hard and doing more drugs than studying. He went for counselling (briefly), but it didn't help.
He came back home, had a seasonal job and, when that ended, went on the benefit. That's how he found himself working for the Church restaurant-benefit office sent him there.
He still lived at home, did not contribute anything to the household and his parents just about had it with him: they were ready to lock him out.
He seemed to be improving a bit,though: trying to get his driving license back, showing up for work. He still drunk a lot and did drugs, but seemed to hold it together.
Adam told me that he "just gets bored". He freely admitted that his parents always managed to get him out of trouble, so he really didn't know how to provide for himself or worried too much about his future.
Couple of times he didn't show up for work and didn't call. Yes, guilty as charged, as if on cue, I got him out of trouble.
That restaurant was a hard place to work,mostly because the owners, who never worked in restaurant or owned one before,insisted on running everything hands-on and "their way".
They created truly impossible situations, where we (employees) had to "think on our feet" to "make it happen". As I have a lot of "American" experience, where we are used to handling "volume" and still maintain proper standards (NZ does not have "professional","career" servers/waiters to speak of-they are mostly high-school/Uni kids trying to make some money) , I was treated differently by the owners. I was given a lot of "room" as far as staff decisions were concerned. I vouched for Adam and gave the owners my personal guarantee. And he let me down time after time.
But we had fun playing all kinds of games:he was great entertainment value.
For instance, knowing his womanizing ways, I would challenge him: we pick a young cute girl from the restaurant staff and both try to hit on her. Whomever got her to bed first, would get treated to a lunch by the other.
Honestly, I never did take those girls all the way. Once I kissed them and knew they were willing to jump in bed with me, I always stopped: they were way too young and I didn't want to mess with their heads.
Adam, however, didn't have any such  problems: he slept with them every chance he got. He even broke up with his girlfriend for a while.
Adam's birthday rolled around and I bought him quite expensive watch (he didn't have one). I forgot that Napier was a very small town. Adam told his girlfriend that his Mum gave him the watch. Few weeks later girlfriend's mate, who sold me the watch, saw it on Adam's wrist and remembered selling it to me-she told Francesca immediately.
The dynamic between me and Francesca turned into a separate entertaining episode. She would text me, asking why I gave Adam expensive presents and why am I hanging out with him so much and I (being much older and more experienced) would not take the bait. I'd just tell her that I gave him the present because it was his birthday. And stop at that-I would not engage into any other discussions. She would still text me from time to time , but was getting really frustrated with my non-committal "nothing" answers. She had quite a potty mouth on her,that one..LOL..
In a twisted way we (Francesca and I ) collaborated sometimes. Like one time, when we were all at a party, I just wanted to mess with Francesca's head and she wanted to mess with Adam's. So I was flirting with HER in front of him and she was acting like she's into it (she wasn't,really,at all). She even sat on my lap! When I was ready to leave, I tried to give her a little kiss, but she turned her cheek instead.
I went home and straight to bed. Apparently, Adam didn't take the whole episode so well. He had a row with Francesca and the next day at work was acting uncooperative until the end of the shift, when I asked him what was wrong and he just lost it: he practically screamed at me, saying that Francesca is not a lesbian and she is his missus. His true (very unattractive,ugly,typical male) nature showed when he kept telling me that Francesca is "his" and she will always want "his dick" and she "belongs to him" and is "his property".
 I was not impressed. If he'd told me that he loved her and was hurt by what I've done, it would've been different...
Then one day Adam got arrested for driving drunk again: it was his third time before he even turned 20 and he just barely got his license back and bought a car. We all knew there was a good possibility that he'd go to prison. He was really scared.
He was about to get fired as well-he went AWOL for 5 days after the arrest and no one (including his parents) knew where he was. He did not call in at work.
In order for him to try and get a lighter sentence, he had to have a job, to prove that he was trying to improve.
I pleaded with restaurant's General Manager-no dice. Shaye (he is, actually, really great guy and awesome manager) simply had it with Adam-he wanted nothing to do with him anymore.
 I liked Shaye and respected him, but I told him that I will go over his head and get Karen to keep Adam on.
He wished me good luck.
I got my way, but at a price: Karen told me I would have to quit the Lodge and work at the Church full time,especially weekends. She worded it all very nicely, saying that I seem to be the only one able to influence and control Adam (yeah,right-no one could control him) and he clearly needed constant supervision.
Courts in NZ take long time to process cases: Adam was "remanded" twice, which means he was a free man for the next 3 months.
I got him to go see a counsellor, as well,and paid for it (so he can show the court during sentencing that he is really trying).
Few days after X-Mas we were working late and I gave Adam a lift home. We got out of the car and stood in front of his place talking. I asked him if I could have my "late X-Mas" kiss. He obliged (such an obedient boy he was when he wanted to be..LOL..). This time, though, he wasn't letting me go. The kiss was getting more and more passionate and he was gently nudging me towards the house. His hands were everywhere.
I didn't mind. We went into his bedroom and continued for a while. Then he excused himself to go to the bathroom. I just sat on the bed, fully dressed: I wanted to wait and see. When he came back, he waisted no time: we were naked and at it in under a minute. Sex wasn't awful, but it was nothing to write home about,either. It was over pretty quick. He actually asked me how I found his "performance". Of course, I said all the right things.
I've got Adan trained as a bartender and he was doing alright for a while. His girlfriend didn't really want him to work at the Church,though (because,although we both vehemently denied it, she suspected something was going on). Francesca tried to sabotage his employment every chance she got.
One Sunday, when he slept at her house,she instigated a huge fight, broke his phone and then, after he's gone to sleep, turned off the alarm. He did not wake up and, consequently, did not call or show up for work.
Karen had a meeting with me: Adam was on a very shaky ground.
I decided to be proactive and went looking for another job: for him and for me. I found it relatively quickly in a rather upscale winery-restaurant.
They agreed to take Adam on straight away and I was going to give a proper notice at the Church and start in a month.
In a few weeks Adam's sentencing rolled around. It was a shock: judge did give him a Home Detention sentence, BUT Adam had exactly one hour from that point to get home where officers would be waiting for him to put the ankle monitoring bracelet on! That's after 3 months of letting him go free and do whatever he wanted! You'd think they'd give him few days to get his affairs in order.
According to the terms of his sentence, he was not allowed to leave the house beyond the front yard, except to go to work, but that was just the problem: the work situation had to be arranged before he was allowed to go there: there had to be a meeting with his probation officer, his schedule had to be submitted a week in advance, a "black box" was to be installed in the work place to restrict the perimeter of his movements...
That would take days and he was rostered to work the next day and he only started there 2 weeks ago-they were not aware of his impending Home D.
I tried to talk to the management of that restaurant, but after some deliberations they informed me that they are not prepared to take all that on for a brand new employee who hasn't proved his value yet.
I was back at square one.
Off I went to Paul (Karen's husband)-they run the Church together. I pleaded a really good case. I told him that it would be such a waste for a young healthy person to sit at home all day and play with his PlayStation when he could be gainfully employed paying taxes. I told him that Adam would be a model employee, because he would be ever so grateful for this opportunity,etc,etc.
Paul promised to take my case to Karen. We had a meeting the next day (one thing I have to give Karen: she definitely does things "American" way-swift with no time waisting).
Karen told me she is prepared to hire Adam back and comply with all the Home D requirements, but I have to stay on as well ( I saw that one coming a mile away) and he absolutely had to be on his best behaviour. She also implied in a very round-about way that he would have to snitch on his fellow employees. That's Karen's preferred method of management: divide and concor and make everyone paranoid,looking over their shoulder,snitching on everyone else. She would have done splendidly for herself during Stalin's years in power in Russia :/
And so we were both back at Karen's employ.
It didn't last.
About 3 weeks into it,there was a big (about 180 people) function at the Church. Adam was bar tending. Right at the beginning of his shift he cut his finger slicing limes, quite badly. He wrapped it in cloth and continued working. At some point during the night he went into the kitchen to look for the first aid kit. Karen was passing through and saw him there.
Side note: Karen drinks. She drinks a lot. To a point where she has to be practically dragged from the restaurant sometimes. When drunk, she gets unreasonable and abusive with staff. She needs to be "handled".
That night Karen was well on her way to a happy oblivion. She had a go at Adam. He was having none of it. They ended up in a screaming match and he called he a "drunk" and told her to go "sleep it off". I tried to interfere, but he was white with rage and told me to"Let him handle it". I knew there was no stopping him.
He ended up being fired on the spot, escorted from the grounds, his parole officer was emailed right then and there with the notice of termination of employment.
I knew it was truly the end. There was no way Adam would ever be employed by Karen again.
At the time, he was living with 2 other flatmates and  had to come up with rent, utilities,etc. He couldn't move back to his parent's house, because Home Detention rules would not allow him.
He  was unemployed and with no means of support.
On his behalf, I went to benefits office and, to my immense surprise, they actually put him on a benefit!
I was buying his groceries every week and every Wednesday would come over and take him for his weekly check-in with parole officer-he didn't have a car and couldn't drive anyway (suspended license), plus he would never wake up on his own at 9 am. I also got Karen to pay him some money in exchange for signing "non-disclosure" agreement regarding the circumstances of his dismissal.
I've spent quite a few late nights at his place, having a couple of drinks and talking. Some of those conversations were quite unforgettable. As I've said before:he made me see things from really unexpected angles.
We've gone to bed a couple more times (literally, two). I've lent him some money (which he never paid back).
Towards the end of his Home D sentence, I got him a job washing dishes at my friend's restaurant. That place is a very small, boutique, ultra fine dining. The friend who owns it is amazingly talented Chef and his wife managers the place. They treat their employees like a family (truly) and now, 2 years later, I know it became a turning point for Adam. Although I don't keep in touch with him (we had a falling out shortly after I got him that job), I was told that he has really cleaned up his act: no more drugs,going to school and generally is a different,better person.
When him and I had the argument that proved to be the last conversation between us (I was asking to borrow his car after I've wrecked mine and he flatly refused), I walked away from his house and I knew that I was well and truly over men in general. Incidentally, it was 3 days after I told my husband to hit the road.
No, women are not always better and they are, definitely, much more complex and harder to deal with, but I still am willing to take a lot of grief from them and forgive them a lot.
With men I simply run out of compassion.
To give an example, when I meet a woman, we are on ground zero: I don't form any opinions until I get to know her a little bit.
When I meet a man, he is on ground "minus 20" with me. It would have to be some kind of guy to dig his way from 20 to zero and then higher.
I don't do it consciously: it just the way it is.

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