Wendy employees a restaurant staff of three that usually rotate in one person shifts. The first starts promptly at 7. It’s is usually Nero or Bonnie. They serve breakfast and clean the restaurant from the previous night, which basically means removing the mountain of sand that was tracked in. I have met both women on previous visits, neither speak a lick of English, but my Spanish vocabulary has improved enough that now I can usually get what I want for breakfast.
I have written about Nero in the past, she has been around since I first came to the Playa Magante. Even though she has not always been working at the playa, she always seemed to show up briefly during my visits there. Three years ago when the place was closed, she came in the mornings and made breakfast for Ginger, The Earl, Honey and I and then would go home. Last year I had not seen her at all, Ahole did not hire her when he built his theme park. Then on the last day we stayed at the Playa de los Piritas, there she was! Sitting at the pizza celebration next to Rock and Stream at the conclusion of the Siege at Los Gringos. Nero has now been re-employed by Wendy and does the majority of cooking when Wendy is busy.
Bonnie showed up on my third visit to the playa working for Patrick. Unlike every other Dominican I have met, Bonnie rushes everywhere. She rushes in the door when she arrives, she rushes across the compound when she brings you coffee, she rushes to get the laundry started, the woman just likes to rush! She even waves hello in a rushed way, you know, the wave that goes so fast that it could dislocate your wrist. It is so the contrary to the pace of her compatriots, that it is amusing just to sit and watch. Bonnie is in charge of readying the rooms for any incoming guests, this is not because she is a superior cleaner but because she once worked for the Bahia Principe resort a few kilometres down the road, and can do towel art. She is very friendly when she speaks to you but you always get the impression she needs to rush off to do something else.
The last of the restaurant staff is a young girl maybe 16 years-old. Maybe 25, I can never tell. She came in most days around lunch unless it was raining, in which case it was just Wendy from lunchtime on. Bonnie and Nero are full-time, the young girl appeared to be more of a part-time-call-in type of employee. If the sun was shining or the cabanas were full, she seemed to be there and stayed until dinner was served. My first impression was that she only served tables and had to be told when to do that. Most of her time seemed to be spent with her face buried in her cell phone. As a spectator/customer I watched her and was unimpressed with just about everything I saw. She watched and let everyone else around her work and showed no motivation to actually earn her pay. Lack of any work ethic in the young is not just a Dominican thing, I see the same thing in the young workforce in Canada too!! “When do I get to go home” seems to be the most pressing question on their minds from the time they arrive on the job. This young girl appeared to be of this meld. So since none of us, but Wendy, knew her name I simply referred to her as “Useless”. So Wendy’s restaurant staff consisted of Nero, Bonnie and ‘Useless’.
Now I know that is harsh (it’s my father in me), but it is what I did and I have to own it. I made a mistake and let a first impression over-ride what I was actually seeing. ‘Useless’ wasn’t useless, she was just tentative about dealing with customers that may not speak to her in Spanish. The first day I saw her work up close was a very busy day and the entire staff was present, including ‘Tequila Wendy’ (see my next post). She was low person on the totem pole and I think she was mostly trying to stay out of the way. Over the next few days I got to see her under a more relaxed atmosphere and found myself wavering on my negative name reference. She was just as capable as the other two women and when it was just her and Wendy she did not always need to be told what to do.
My opinion of ‘Useless’ took a full 180 one night when the couple with the faux-Parker appeared for dinner (they had found lodging down the beach, which is another story). The young boy had just recently found his legs and he toddled everywhere. At least one of the parents always had to leave the table to watch over the youngster, since attempting to stop him was pointless and would only cause tears. Everything is open in the restaurant, so there was no area that the boy couldn’t get to and being barely a year and some change, the world is full of nothing but wonder, that needed to be explored… constantly!!
That evening ‘Useless’ served the meal to the couple and after only a few bites of food the little man started out on another expedition about the restaurant. I watched as the mother took a quick bite of food, her first I think, and start to rise. I then saw ‘Useless’ pocket her cell phone and step in to intercept the boy as he was about to enter the cooking area. She scooped him up and spoke quietly to him, then rather than return him to the mother who had sat back down, took the young man on a tour of the kitchen area. She allowed him to see everything from a safe distance. The toddler would point and she would take him where he wanted to go allowing both parents to eat their meal. The kid was happy as a clam to be held by this young girl, who made sure that she stayed within the sight of the parents as they ate. When they had finished eating, she returned the boy to his mother’s arms. She cleared the dishes and when she returned to see if they wished coffee or another drink the boy left his mother’s lap, stood and extended his arms to ‘Useless’ which is universal 1 year-old language for “pick me up.” Even I had to laugh along with the parents and the young girl, who dutifully picked the young boy up and held him.
My first impression of ‘Useless’ from a distance had been way off the mark and in being so harsh in my criticism of the young woman I had been wrong. Service styles and standards are different in the Dominican Republic to those in North America. They are more casual and laid back than I personally feel is acceptable but having a vested interest in what goes on I need to lighten up a tad. After all, everyone but the staff is on a holiday at the beach, and time is not the same when you are trying to relax. Unlike like last year where we sat with empty glasses waiting to order a meal from Captain Ahole, the customers were not ignored indefinitely and seemed satisfied with what went on.
The cell phone in hand thing drives me nuts but it is something I see everywhere I go, not just in the Dominican Republic but virtually everywhere in Canada. I have a tendency to blame the young for this conduct but in truth all the staff did the same thing including Wendy. Even if this is becoming commonplace around the world, when you are a customer in need of service and look up to see your server engaged in a some sort of cyber communication you tend to get angry. In a small operation that needs every customer it can get this habit needs to be curtailed. I can do little about it now but in the future I will try to address it in the most diplomatic way possible. At least I didn’t see any of the staff taking ‘selfies’.
Over the years there have been many faces that have come and gone from the restaurant on the Playa Magante, some I know by name and some I never have. Carmelo is gone, seems he was on the wrong side of last year’s shipwreck. He has been replaced by Papo who was the previous part-time guard (didn’t know his name until this year) and there is now a new part-time night watchman (really? I’ll pick his name up next year). But it is nice when you only visit once a year and certain people, and certain dogs, are still there. The familiarity is comforting, like coming home and seeing old friends. Jobs are not plentiful in the Magante area so the chances are that next year I will see the same people working at the Playa Paraiso en Magante when I return… including Rosaura, who is no longer Useless.