Although the reason this fellow offers for being late is obviously lame an he comes across as a bit whiney, the responses that follow from "professional" chefs are indicative of a pervasive kitchen culture that I can only describe as bullying. Like the chef he works for, instead of offering the constructive advice he asks for, the "pros" here choose to berate him further.
This kind of behavior is so familiar, so pervasive in this industry. So few understand how expensive and counter-productive it is. It takes 3 months of full time work to properly train someone in just about any kind of production job.
If you as a chef, owner, or manager commit to hiring someone, why on earth would you choose to make that training period take longer and cost you more than it already does?
Teaching by intimidation does not work. This is not the army where you must break down a recruit's individuality so he can become part of an organized fighting unit. It's a kitchen where fine motor skills are taught and learned through repetitive practice.
Now, Damnprepcook, here's some useful advice-
Like Woody Allen once said, "Half of success is just showing up". Show up on time. My Dad, an Air Force Colonel, drilled into us-"If you give a damn about anything, show up 15 minutes early." A lot about your dedication and commitment to the job is communicated by when and how you arrive at the job site. If you walk in, put on an apron and get to work-that's good. If you show up, get a coffee, socialize with a wait or two, then stand around waiting to be told what to do, no pro will take that as anything but lack of interest and drive.
One thing you can do that will indicate your dedication to learning is to bring a small notebook with you and make notes about how the chef does things. Ask questions and make note of the answers. If you show you can repeat tomorrow what you were shown today. No, you might not have the muscle memory yet, but do what you can on your own to develop it-practice on celery at home. Watch YouTube videos on frenching lamb racks, quartering chickens and cleaning the silver skin off tenderloins.
Don't offer opinions, just do the work how it's done in the shop you're working for. Stand up straight, show up ready to go, keep your work place tidy and organized, clean up after others without being told to. Go above and beyond to make others' work easier and the same will eventually be afforded to you.
In your defense, you may be working for one big jerk of a chef-there are lots of them out there. Sometimes places, for whatever reason, have such high turnover that the chef just has to fill a job with a warm body to get through the day meanwhile, he's doing the majority of the work himself. You don't know what kind of pressure the guy may be under. Or, he might just be a mean ass drunk too. You just don't know.
Whatever it is, if you want to do kitchen work, develop as many skills on your own as you can. Develop as much of a photographic memory as you can (but notebooks help.) Keep your head down and apply yourself. Think of it as boot camp and do all you can to help the other members of your team.