I have been working as a food server off and on since I was fourteen and it never gets any less interesting. This is not about fine dining, its about the flip side of the industry working in the trenches of the massive national restaurant chains. Laugh or cry, people!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Storm Large 8 MILES WIDE music video

Vagina Warrior

On a personal note…

My boyfriend and I each have a teenaged son. We took both them and their respective girlfriends to a local college production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

If you get a chance to see this outrageous show with its positive feminist message, take everyone you know! We got our tickets for $5 each and were treated to a full evening of entertainment. Not only that, but the girls (not having been raised by us), had never before been exposed to this type of progressive feminism and they had an awesome time!

I was a little worried about them being embarrassed – the show is not in any way pornographic, but it does feature some frank discussion of explicit material.

One monologue is dedicated to reclaiming the “C word” and the Vagina Warrior who performs it urges the audience, “Come on, say it with me! C***! C***! C***! You can say it! It’s OK! C***!”

It’s funny and silly and empowering in a way that’s difficult to understand unless you’ve seen your sons screaming the word in a dark theater full of women laughing and crying at the same time. It’s even better when their girlfriends are doing the same thing. It’s the best thing in the world when they go from that to complete stillness and silence so they can hear the statistics about violence against women in the following monologue.

When we left the theater, they were all eating chocolate vagina popsicles and wearing the lapel pins I bought for them. The boys got “Made in Vagina” and the girls got “Vagina Warrior.”

In the parking lot, my son said to me, “Mom that was really awesome. I just wish they would have said all that sad stuff at the beginning and then switched to the funny stuff in the second half, cuz I’m still thinking about it. I didn’t know all that bad stuff happened so much.”

It took me a minute to respond because I had a huge lump in my throat. “Well son, I guess they think no one would come back after intermission if all they talked about was the sad stuff in the first half. The idea is that we’ll think about both. We’ll be both entertained and horrified and we won’t forget.”

He stopped right in the parking lot to give me a big hug and thanked me for taking him. Then his girlfriend hugged me. Then my boyfriend’s son hugged me and his girlfriend hugged me. In the car on the way home, the boys sang songs from the show. Mainly Storm Large’s rendition of “My Vagina is 8 Miles Wide.”

And you really can’t ask for more than that, can you? And I didn’t really think there would be much more, but I got it anyway.

I logged on to FaceBook the next day and the kids were all writing comments about it. I’m paraphrasing here, but my son’s girlfriend said,

“Why do we indulge in so much hatred and negativity? Why do we shun those we don’t understand just because they aren’t like us? Be it color, religion, or sex/sexual orientation, I won’t judge you! I am a vagina warrior!”

Vagina Warrior n. – someone who has suffered or witnessed violence, grieved it, transformed it, and then does extraordinary work to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else in their community.

Working for You is Like Non-Consensual Anal

The boss is having a little trouble with his food cost and he’s pretty sure the servers are entirely responsible for this. Not because he thinks we’re giving shit away for free. Not because he thinks we’re ringing orders improperly. Not because he thinks the cooks are making us personal meals on the sly.

He thinks we’re taking home food in our purses.

The servers keep their purses on a shelf in full view of the surveillance camera. Or at least, we used to. Now we’re not allowed to keep our purses in the pantry. It’s been suggested we leave them at home, put them in the break room, or lock them in our cars. Not only that, but we can’t keep anything of a personal nature in the pantry at all anymore. No cell phones, no keys, and no beverages.

Here’s what I’m thinking:
What if I lock my purse in my car and put my keys in the break room where we don’t have a surveillance camera? And what if another employee then takes my keys outside and steals my purse out of my car? Or what if they slip a roofie into my unsupervised beverage and then make me steal my own purse?

It doesn’t matter. The point is this is a completely stupid fucking idea. I don’t tell you to leave your asshole wallet in the break room and I don’t want you telling me to put my purse in an unsecure location. What about my bank cards? Ibuprofen? Cold medicine because I have to work when I’m sick?

WHAT ABOUT TAMPONS??!!?? I’m seriously supposed to go to my car to get a tampon in my “free time?”

Not only that, but if the point is to prevent me from putting steaks in my purse, why would you have me move it closer to the walk-in coolers and further from the surveillance camera?

Did your mother have any children that lived?

And do you really think I should just trust my personal belongings to the kitchen employees who do the prep work at a table right outside the break room door? I love me some hard-working Mexicans but passing a background check with a fake name doesn’t entitle you to free access to my check book.

UPDATE: I actually wrote this several weeks ago but I was too pissed to elaborate. Any attempt at discussing an alternative with my GM went nowhere. He would not consider installing lockers in the break room or allowing the servers to keep their purses in the pantry but submit to voluntary purse searches upon leaving the premises. We all started hiding our purses under a bench seat close to the ordering system in the dining room.

He continued to attempt to borrow from the servers the type of items we routinely keep in our purses – like cold medicine and Ibuprofen because the cheap asshole never buys his own. Once he was trying to call a server in to cover a shift and she wouldn’t answer so he asked me to text her from my phone… which I’m not allowed to bring in the building. Dumbass.

And then… Divine Justice sent directly from above.

My GM had his car broken into in our parking lot.

They did not steal his purse because as far as I know, he doesn’t carry one.

But they stole a bunch of other shit.

He stopped talking to us about purses and we started keeping them on the shelf under the surveillance camera again.

I wish I had thought of breaking into his car. I would have done it 3 months ago.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Server Dreams

I don’t have server dreams all the time. It mostly happens when I’ve been working too many double shifts.

I dream about getting the refills out to my tables a lot. Usually there is a mob of servers lined up at the pop machine and when it’s my turn, the Coke runs out and I have to go change it. I dream about arguing with the cooks and not being able to find stuff I need.

I’ve known for a long time I talk in my sleep about work. “I have to get the orange juice out to table 12!” Recently, I’ve also taken to walking in my sleep when I’m in the weeds. My boyfriend is a light sleeper so luckily he usually wakes me up by asking me what I’m doing or where I’m going.

So last night I was in the weeds. You know the story. Attention hogs, new tables, new beverages, food dying in the window, the list goes on and on.

I was running to the pantry to make a salad I forgot to take out when I heard my boyfriend ask, “Where are you going?”

I woke abruptly and realized I was I was in our hallway and apparently on my way to our kitchen. At home. “Umm… I thought I had to make a dinner salad for work,” I replied sheepishly.

“Well,” he said calmly, “you know I like bleu cheese with extra croutons.”

I’m waiting tables in my sleep and you’re seriously ordering food from me?

The nerve.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What a Deal!

We are running a special that includes a full dinner, beverage & dessert for under $12. This amount of food would usually run closer to $17 per person and it really is a pretty great deal for the guest.

On the assumption that most people tip based on a percentage of their bill, servers do generally try to up-sell drinks and dessert, thereby increasing the amount of the check and hopefully the tip. Did I mention the servers make the desserts here?

Believe me that I know very well how rough the economy is right now. I would definitely take advantage of a special like this. I looked, and I did mention the servers make the desserts here. Servers generally make $4.35 per hour, far less than minimum wage.

With regular pricing, two people with this meal would have a check total of around $35.00. A twenty percent tip would be $7.00. With the special pricing, two people eat this amount of food and end up with a check total under $25.

If customers don’t understand tipping or don’t care about it, sometimes they think it’s cool to leave two bucks on the table (less than 10%).

This is after I’ve jostled other servers out of the way to get to the beverage station and dessert station and almost always have had to run to the back for more clean napkins, chilled plates, and chilled forks, only to bring your desserts and find that you need refills again or that you’ve changed your mind and would now like the to-go box I offered you earlier.

Generally while I’ve been heating up your fudge or your caramel or your slice of pie or hand-dipping and mixing your chocolate malt with extra whipped topping, food has come up for my other tables and new tables are being seated in my section.

Choosing to leave a dollar per person regardless of the labor or service rendered isn’t exactly fair, people. I have bills too and I don’t eat out if I can’t afford to tip.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dear Readers - Pages

Dear Readers,

This blog is a recent work in progress.

I’ve just enabled the “pages” aspect of my blog.

Expect to be disappointed if you check them out now.

I plan to have a full cast on there, but I have to be careful.

I want you to know these people as I know them – not actually know them.

Patience, infidels.

- Pancake Grrrl ( more GROWL than Girl…)

Waitress “C” Threw up in the Trash Can Next to Me

I’m not kidding.

C was so sick and trying to make it through a shift that she tossed her cookies in a trash can right next to me. What was going around?

H1N1, that’s what.

Another server had to rush her child to the emergency room the previous week. The manager on duty asked her if she could try to cover her shift while she was en route to the hospital. Her boy is only six years old and he has so much damage to his lungs that he will be a permanent asthmatic for all of his days….

There is no sympathy among the management at our restaurant.

You had better be here.

They don’t care if you could infect every person in this city.

They don’t care if you need to take care of a sick child.

They don’t care if you have a fever.

They don’t care if you have time or are well enough to make the required phone calls to cover your shift.

Recall we don’t get paid for sick time.

They don’t care.

When C threw up in the trash can next to me.

I offered to do her side-work and roll her silverware.

The MOD said, “I need you on the floor. She can do it.”

They really, really don’t care.


You know, this kind of shit happens all the time with the right (wrong) type of individual. I really, really don’t appreciate it when I’m almost done with a very long shift with my shiftless GM. And yet…

When I have all of my side work done and all I have to do is take care of a few late afternoon tables and wait for my relief to come in, it should be easy. And yet…

Someone always has to fuck it up, don’t they?

There is a certain breed of individual out there. Maybe they have been burned by other servers. Maybe the scars are still healing. Maybe it’s permanent. Like permanent brain damage, an affliction they will never be free of.

Last table of the day. They look normal. Good hygiene, average clothing, middle-aged. It should be fine. It begins so normally.

They want a Coke and an iced tea with no lemon. I thought the gentleman emphasized the NO lemon a little more than necessary, but I forgive him. We don’t know each other yet. He has no idea if I understand simple instructions. I know I’m getting a little tired, kinda winding down towards the end of my shift. Maybe I need to work on looking like I’m really paying attention, even though this is a simple request. Maybe he has some kind of citrus allergy and he just wants me to know it’s important.

I bring their beverages and ask if they are ready to place their order.

The lady begins, but she is so hesitant to ask for what she wants, I have trouble at first understanding what she is so worried about. It turns out she wants to substitute crispy chicken instead of grilled chicken on a sandwich. “Um, well, I was just wondering…if I could ask you…would it be alright…could I have…”

It takes so long to get it out; I’m completely relieved to tell her yes.

I turn to the gentleman, naturally assuming his order will be easy. It’s the law of averages and it works for me all the time. If one half of the couple is timid and has a difficult time ordering, the other half is authoritative and succinct, which is basically easy for me. Tell me what you want, I will bring it to you exactly as you require.

And that is how he started out – right before he took it to crazy town (CT).

CT: I’ll have the Patty Melt, well done, with fries.

Me: You got it! Patty Melt, well done, with fries. I’ll get that started for you!

CT: Hold on.

Me: (half turned to leave) Yes?

CT: I want that Patty Melt WELL DONE!

Me: Ok, no problem! Well done on the Patty Melt! (turning to leave again)


He’s red-faced, pointing his finger at me, shaking it in my face as though I’m a naughty puppy that shit on the floor.

Me: Yes, sir. I know what well done means. I’ll take care of it. (I’m trying to keep my reply short and simple and I’m hoping to Christ he’ll calm the fuck down.)

It works.

CT: Ok, well, alright but, the last two places I ordered well done at, it came out medium.

Me: I’ll make sure the cook knows. It’ll be fine, I promise.

And it was.

I told my favorite Mexican the “well done guy” was crazy. I shook my finger at him and re-enacted the whole bullshit drama with him. He pretended to come after me to kill me with a kitchen knife. “No!” I cried, “At least kill him FIRST!” We laughed our asses off and I hope Crazy Town heard us making fun of him.

Mister, are you fucking crazy?

I don’t know how you treat the women in your personal life, but we don’t know each other. I’m not your wife, or your mother, or most of all, you daughter. In fact, you don’t know me at all.

I could be anyone.

Remember that.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Update for Your Kid Belongs in a Psych Ward

Oh man, this is so awesome. Father of the Year is a regular customer now!

I wrote about this Twat-Waffle in my first post ever. To briefly recap, he ate a wet turkey sandwich and talked on the phone while his kid threw a full on screaming temper tantrum under the table. See my earlier posts for the full story – this guy is a real piece of work!

He came in with his kids again last night and it went pretty much like last time. Except his crazy kid was so loud, he actually got up and sat at a different table so he could hear his phone conversation. Who does this? His daughter used the opportunity to eat a bunch of jelly packets and squirt the tiny buckets of coffee creamer all over the window by their booth.

Anyway, it was dinner time and we were busy. I told him we needed the table for other guests and made sure the host seated that one next. Why did I say that if it wasn’t actually true? I guess it seems rude for me to tell an asshole like this the truth.

This isn’t your house. We don’t like you or your kid. You suck at eating out and you’re a shitty tipper. We’re not babysitters. Every guest in the dining room hates your guts. I hope one of them is calling Child Protective Services on you right now. When your daughter ends up in prison later, it will probably be the first time anyone ever made her follow a rule. If she wasn’t so positively scary, I would offer her a free kitten just to fuck with you. You can’t leave a crazy bitch like that unattended in the dining room. You are clearly not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, so your call can wait until your child is under control. Hang up the goddamn phone and take care of your own kids.


Ahhhh... the relief of getting it out of my system!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Over-Nurturing in Public

I have said before that I don’t appreciate it when you tell me you’re ready and you actually are not.

Here’s another thing I really don’t appreciate:

It seems the dynamic between older couples is a little different from what I’m comfortable with. The women want to treat their dinner experience as if they are preparing the meal themselves, at home. They want to make sure their husband (H) gets exactly what he wants and they want to be very involved with this decision, to the point where the wives (W) begin to interfere with me doing my job. It goes a little something like this…

Me: Are you ready to order?

H: I’ll have the roast beef dinner.

W: Are you sure you want the roast beef? You had that last time.
They have turkey...

H: Yes, I want the roast beef.

Me: Ok, great! You get to choose two dinner sides from this list.

H: I’ll have the rice and the green beans.

W: The rice? Are you sure? They have baked potatoes.

H: Yes, I’ll have the rice.

Me: Ok, got it! Roast beef with rice and green beans.

W: The green beans? You had green beans yesterday.
Do you want carrots? You like carrots...

H: I want the green beans.

W: Do you want a salad instead? You like the salad here.

H: I’ll have the roast beef with rice and green beans.

Me: And what would YOU like, Ma’am?

W: Are you sure you don’t want the mashed potatoes?
You like the gravy here…

Please don’t argue with your husband about his dinner choices. Believe me, if he loved you before you sat down, he will love you after he is allowed to choose his own food. You are driving me crazy and you know who you are.

Please Don’t Hump the Waitress

People, I cannot emphasize this point enough: DON’T TOUCH ME.

This is my job. I don’t love you and you are not my friend. I am doing my best to maintain my professionalism and dignity and I do not want you to touch me. Do not be lured into a false sense of security by the uniform. I am an individual that you DO NOT KNOW.

That said…

We have a regular who brings her mother in every Saturday for brunch. The daughter is in her sixties, the mother in her eighties. They are both crazy as shithouse rats.

It seems the mother (M) insists on paying for the meal and then dictates to the daughter (D) what items are acceptable to order. They argue viscously over content and price and it takes about twenty goddamn minutes for them to come to terms. I have not waited on them since the day D groped me in the dining room against my will.

Let me walk you through it:

First, the nerve-wracking twenty minute decision time. I am fucking busy. If you have to ask me the price of beverages, you can’t afford them. Also, you cannot share beverages that have bottomless refills. The charge applies to each person drinking said beverage. You are welcome to order one iced tea and drink out of the same glass but I’m charging you for two on your bill. Get real. But I digress…

After much negotiation, the three of us finally settled on the chicken strip dinner with a senior discount ($8), hot water with a lemon ($0), and iced water with a lemon (also $0). They want it plated separately, which I will do because I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

They get two side choices and they want a baked potato, even though it is lunch time and baked potatoes are not technically available for another 4 hours. After much discussion and argument, I decide to microwave a potato for them myself because I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

They want to share a tiny dinner salad because they are too cheap to pay for a second one and D wants me to plate this separately as well. When I hesitate to agree, M says, “Oh, don’t worry about that. Just bring me an extra plate and I’ll split it for us.”

“NO!” D almost screams and then realizes the sane guests around her are staring and my mouth is hanging open in shock. She grabs my forearm and squeezes urgently, hissing, “I don’t want her touching my food.” I agree to split the salad because again, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I need to get away. I have an 8-top and three other booths that aren’t crazy and I want this over with so I can make some money.

I head away from the crazies to enter their order. It is necessary to cross the entire dining room because my section today is in the backwater. I’m almost there when I hear D yelling after me above the buzz of conversations between 100 other guests. “AND WE MIGHT ORDER DESSERT LATER!” I keep walking without turning around, as if she could be talking to someone else. Ok bitch. Like I need to know right now what you might do later. Let’s just try to get through lunch.

Lunch is a nightmare. After finally delivering their meal, which I plated separately for no extra charge, they changed their minds about a bunch of shit one item at a time.

M wants hot tea now, regardless of price. But she only wants one cup and she wants me to ask a manager if I can make an exception to the rule on their bill. I say I will and then don’t because I already know the answer and have explained bottomless beverages to this bitch 3 times since she got here.

D wants more lemons. I bring them.

Now D wants more napkins, even though they still have unused extra napkins from a previous trip to the table. I bring them.

M wants a fresh cup because her hot tea got cold sitting there. I bring a fresh cup.

M wants a glass of OJ, but she wants to order it in a child’s cup and be charged accordingly. I bring her a kid’s OJ and put a charge on her bill for an adult’s small OJ. I don’t make the rules.

M wants pancakes now, but she doesn’t want to pay for a senior’s side of cakes ($4) because “she just wants a taste.” I order her a single pancake ($1.50).

When I bring it to the table, she eyes the maple syrup disdainfully. “I only eat pancakes with applesauce.” She wants me to bring her a side of applesauce to eat on her pancake in lieu of syrup and not charge her. I bring her a side of applesauce and put it on her bill.

They argue the entire time. Every trip to the table to see if they need anything else takes me forever because they want to discuss their needs while I stand there. They are almost impossible to get away from. I hate them.

They barely eat anything. They camp at my table all the way through lunch rush. After an hour and a half, they want me to box all of their crap to go. And they each want their own boxes. I’m not doing that. We don’t even offer to box leftovers here. We just drop off the boxes and you do it yourself. Because I don’t suck, I often help my guests with this task table-side, especially my older regulars. Our plates are very heavy and if you are nice, I will help you. I’m not helping these bitches anymore. I have run out of goodwill.

I remember the scream across the dining room and ask if they have saved any room for dessert. M gives me a shrewd look, like I’m trying to trick her. “Is it FREE?” she asks me loudly. I’ve had it.


She doesn’t give a fuck and she’s not embarrassed, which disappoints me.

She pays the bill and receives $6.37 in change. I already know what’s going to happen. I try not to look, but I have a fucked up calculator in my waitress brain. I know for a fact that she just put the $5 in her purse and left me $1.37 for the tip.

In the amount of time they sat at my table, I could easily have made $15 at this booth alone. That doesn’t take into account the money I’ve lost at my other tables because these crazy bitches needed so much shit, so many times.

The daughter is standing, trying to gather coats and purses and to-go boxes. I wish them an enjoyable afternoon and turn to walk away, relieved it is finally over.

I feel D grab my hips from behind, forcefully jerking my body back against hers. She wraps her arms around my waist and whisper-screams in my ear “Don’t let her see!”

She thrusts her left hand into my apron pocket, which incidentally is located directly in front of my pussy. I have no idea what just happened and I’m not sticking around to find out. I pull away from her (she is incredibly strong for a 60-year old woman), and get out of the dining room as fast as I can.

For a minute, I’m scared to check my pocket. Did an old crazy bitch just slip me her phone number? A note of apology? What could it be? It seemed so urgent.

It was $2.

You hear me, people?

That’s right.

I was just groped by an old woman for $2.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Anonymous Postings

Sorry everyone - the anonymous postings are by me but I was having a little trouble making sure my real name doesn't show up on any posts. I have it figured out now and you can contact me by posting comments or emailing me at pancakegrrrl@gmail.com

Got Grrrl Trouble?

MOD:   Do you know you forgot the French dressing for table #23?
Me:      Can you get it?  I’m in the weeds.
MOD:   Sure, but… is everything ok?  You only have two tables.
MOD:   Uh…
Me:      I’m having a really shitty period, ok?  I’ve had the same monster cramp for ten minutes and I can barely feel my left leg, so can you take out the fucking French dressing for the fucking salad at the fuckface table OR NOT?!?!
MOD:   Ok, but after that outburst I’m not sure I believe this red-looking sauce is actually salad dressing.  Should I just pretend I know for sure?
Me:      You should buy some fucking Luminol and come play hide-n-seek in the parking lot.  I’m going outside to smoke.

You Almost Got to Keep Those

Today I had a four-top order dessert during a busy lunch. That is not a problem.  I don’t mind getting desserts for my guests.  I want to.  It makes my guest check higher, increases the amount of service I have provided, makes the dining out experience more rewarding, etc,. It generally means a larger tip because the guest is not in a hurry to get back to work – they are enjoying themselves.

Today, I came back to a four-top with meticulously prepared desserts – a strawberry malt, a caramel sundae, and two slices of warm pie ala-mode to find a grumpy businessman halfway out of his booth with a shitty attitude.  “You almost got to keep those,” he said. 

I was stunned.  Things had been going so well.  They were witty, charming, and polite all through lunch.  I didn’t understand why he seemed so irritated.

“Excuse me?” I replied.

“You almost got to keep those,” he said.  “We thought you weren’t coming back.”

FYI not all restaurants have the kitchen make or plate desserts. Where I work, the servers make the deserts including the hand-dipped shakes.  So if your four-top all orders different desserts during a busy lunch rush, I will probably not be back with those in less than ten minutes. 

When I do show up with dessert, it’s pretty shitty to tell me, “You almost got to keep those.  We thought you were never coming back.” 

Really, that’s what you thought?  You thought I just took your order with a smile and never intended on coming back to your table?  Where would I go?  Did you think my private helicopter picked me up to whisk me away to my private island?  Or did you actually see me delivering food to other tables, getting refills, bringing people their checks, entering orders into the computer system, seating new people, and running the cash register?

I diplomatically replied, “I’m sorry you thought I wasn’t coming back.  The servers prepare the desserts here and I brought them as soon as I could. I apologize for any inconvenience.”

He grudgingly settled back into his booth and ate all of his $4 dessert.  He left me a grand total of 10%, which was probably a write-off as a business expense.  I wonder what he does for a living.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do You Have a Red Straw?

All of the chains like the one I work at are family-friendly.  We all have high chairs, booster seats, kid menus, kid cups… and in our case, different colored straws for the kids to fight over.  I’ve seen kids actually hit each other to get the blue straw.  Sometimes they lunge at me to get the handful of straws so they can choose their own color.  Sometimes they scream at each other (You know red is MY favorite color, not yours!).  Sometimes they cry when they have to drink out of the wrong color. 

Sometimes their parents leave the table to come request a different colored straw for them.

I personally don’t think this kind of indulgent bullshit makes it any easier to eat out with your children.  I’m actually used to it now, so when parents leave the table to come talk to me while I’m trying to enter their order, I assume it’s about changing straw colors.  So when I saw this strange one approaching, I automatically checked my pocket to ensure my assortment was there.

Her:     Do you have any other straws?  (She’s holding a yellow straw)

Me:      Yes.  Do you need a different color?

Her:     Well… Do you have any red straws?

Me:      Yes I do.  Here you go! (I hand her a red straw)

Her:     Well…  I’m actually looking for a straw exactly like this one (she holds up the red straw to show me), except its smaller and thinner and slanted on the end and bendy.  (She makes intense eye contact to make sure I understand her description and that I am taking her request seriously).

Me:      That sounds like a juice box straw.

Her:     Sort of.  Do you have any straws like that?

Me:      As far as I know, those only come on juice boxes.

Her:     Well, usually.  I just thought you might have some…

Me:      I’m sorry; we don’t have juice boxes or juice box straws.

Her:     (Dejected) Um… ok then. 

She heads back to her table of screaming heathens with her shoulders slumped.

  I turn to the server next to me and say, “Do you have any of those bionic straws that drink the beverage for you?  Or could you maybe clock out on break and go to the grocery store to buy me a juice box?  Or maybe you could just steal the straw off one and bring it to me?”

Other Server:   Maybe you could just offer to BREAST FEED her son and save yourself a trip.


Monday, February 21, 2011

We're Going to Share That

One of my favorite couples was in tonight.  And when I say “favorite,” I mean they really are not.  These people are seriously crazy.  I started waiting on them about six months ago and I remember everything about them.

With many of my regulars, this is a compliment.  They are pleasant to be around, specific about what they would like, I reciprocate accordingly, and they leave me tips in the 30% range because I remember the details.  It works well for all of us.

These are not they type of regular I am referring to.  These people are seriously strange and I remember them for being strange.  They are an older couple and the first time I waited on them, they brought in two teenagers who were obviously their grandsons.  They made them order water and then split 2 breakfasts between the four of them. 

I’m not saying its bad to be frugal, but its embarrassing in a public dining situation when its obviously the main thing you care about.  I have never seen those kids with them again and I understand their viewpoint.  Why offer to take your grandkids out to eat and then put them through that?

Well, of course there is more to it.

They always share.  Sometimes it takes them 15 minutes to agree on what single item they will share.  They question me about these menu items extensively and seriously.  I answer in the exact same spirit, when I have time.  I understand it is their money to spend how they choose and with the restaurant they choose.  We do not charge for splitting plates but I always have the cook split and plate their entrée right down the middle so they will enjoy their meal without having to spoon half of their food onto the extra plate we provide free of charge.

They have questions about coupons. 
  1. Can they use a coupon and still get a senior discount?  (No, this is considered two discounts and you can only use one). 
  2. Can they use an expired coupon? (No, we do not accept expired coupons.)
  3. Can they use a coupon on a special we are running? (No, this is already a discounted item).

In the end, if they have coupons, they choose to use them even if another discount would be more advantageous.  Every time, no matter how I explain it to them.  So I don’t explain price differences to them anymore, I simply tell them if their coupon applies or not accordingly.  When it comes to coupons, they are not strange for using them, but for being obsessive about using them.

And again, of course there is still more to the story.

They always order water.  Lots of people just ask for water.  That’s OK.  Plenty of people just drink water when they eat out.  I do it too and I don’t really have a problem with it.  They want their water in a large glass with a slice of lemon and no ice, no straw.  OK, but aren’t we getting pretty specific for a free beverage I can’t even put on your bill?  It’s difficult to convey, but the way they say it when they order, I feel like I might mess up something right from the get-go.  And we’re still on water.

When they finally come to a consensus about the entrée they will be sharing, the gentleman always gives me a meaningful look and says, “We need extra napkins.”  Again, its difficult to convey, but he says it accusingly, as if I have already neglected him in some way.

Here’s the super-weird thing.  If a guest has good table manners, they often place the napkin in their lap or on their knee.  If they know they’ve ordered something messy or know they are usually messy, they might ask for another.

This couple spreads their first napkin (the one their flatware is rolled in) out on the table where their plate will go.  Like a placemat, only it unfolds into a giant square shape instead of the traditional rectangular placemat most of us are used to seeing.  They sit across from one another and their giant, paper-thin napkin-placemats overlap.  I can think of no reason to do this. 

As far as I can tell, and believe me I have thought about this, the placemat napkin serves no purpose other than to set their plate on while they eat and use the extra napkins I’ve brought to wipe their fingers/faces on.  I’m not kidding.  They seem to want extraneous napkins to rest the plates on.  And before you say it, they are not resting their flatware on this extra placemat napkin to prevent it from touching the table… I’ve checked.  And by the way, if you are so worried about the germs in the establishment where you are eating that you cannot allow the flatware to touch the table, you might be in the wrong place.

But again, that’s not what this couple is doing.  They seem to not want their plates to touch the table… I have met plenty of obsessive-compulsives, but a couple completely in-synch about this kind of weird shit…. Only one.

I Love Mexican Line Cooks

You might hear a lot of people complain about illegal immigrants in this country, but you won’t hear a lot of that from the wait staff in a busy restaurant.

I really love the Mexican line cooks where I work.  I am completely blown away by their ability to work two jobs and have families and hold up under pressure.  I have seen them come in for their shift and hit the ground running after working a complete shift at their other job.  They are rarely mean-spirited no matter how exhausted they must be.

These guys blow me away with their work ethic.  They try to come to work no matter what.  If they can’t come to work, they get one of their buddies to cover for them without being asked.  One time, one of our best guys had to go out of town for a family emergency and a Mexican we had never met showed up with his apron and hat to cover his shift.

I once had another server come get me because the Mexican working on the line wouldn’t respond to her request.  When I went to try, I couldn’t get his attention either.  I stepped around the line to get her extra sauce myself and discovered he was standing over the grill flipping pancakes while perfectly asleep. I had to shake his shoulder to wake him up. How tired does a man have to be before he cooks in his sleep?  Amazing.

Some of them speak English beautifully and understand the language better than a lot of us.  Some of them barely understand anything we say and seem to have been taught to memorize how to read the tickets rather than comprehend the intricacies of the English language.  I have acted out pantomimes to explain complicated tickets and more often than not gotten exactly what I ordered.

I come from a working class family in an era when America still manufactured our own goods.  I remember my father coming home from work filthy and red-eyed and barely able to stay awake to wash up for dinner.  He used to fall asleep in his chair while I unlaced his boots. 

I don’t know a lot of guys who work like that anymore.  Guys who work as many hours as they can no matter the hourly rate.  Uneducated men who appreciate the opportunity to work in whatever capacity they can.  People can say a lot of things about illegal immigrants but you can’t question their work ethic. 

Who among you would risk your life walking through a desert for three days with no food or water to make minimum wage working 18 hour days six days a week?

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Meant to Order my Salad Without Tomato

You are not going to like this.  This is one of the things I’m truly an asshole about.

If you order a salad from me and you are already a picky asshole or just an asshole to me in general and you don’t think to ask me what comes on our dinner salads, you might just be shit out of luck.

I have eaten at a lot of restaurants and I’ve never encountered one where the salad was simply lettuce drowned in the dressing of my choice.

If you ask me for a dinner salad, I will gladly make and bring you one however you ask me to (to the best of my ability).

If you intended to have your dressing on the side… but forgot to say that, or if there are specific ingredients you intended to omit… but forgot to tell me.  Well, I just hope you didn’t catch me on one of those nights.

If your idea of a salad is iceberg lettuce drowned in ranch dressing and nothing else and you expect me to pick through the lettuce mix for you and make this happen… You might be fucked.

If you don’t like cucumbers and you didn’t tell me, you might have to touch them.

For anything else you don’t like but didn’t specify, see above.

If you have made me very angry on a very irritating shift where nothing is going right and it seems to be mostly your fault, I will respond in a cheerful manner that you will have difficulty finding fault with.  This will hopefully irritate you as much as you have irritated me.

YOU:        I meant to order my salad without (insert ingredient).
ME:           Oh, that’s never a problem here.  You can order your salad however you like. Just let us know ahead of time and we’ll prepare it exactly as you prefer!

And then I walk away, leaving you with IT.  Sorry about your communication skills and your assholishness (a word I invented for you).

Why Did You Say You Were Ready?

Why did you say you were ready?
There is absolutely nothing like having a guest tell you they are ready to order and then leaving you standing there with your pen poised above the paper while they continue to silently read the menu.  It’s different if you have questions about the menu or you need help finding where the salad section is. 

It’s just strange to tell another person you are ready for them to do their job and then not allowing them to.  Servers are hopefully busy with other things – and even if they were not, I can’t imagine one of them enjoying watching you read your menu while simply standing there.  I also can’t imagine why you would enjoy that, but apparently some of you do. 

What if you told a doctor you were ready for your pelvic exam and then stood there with your hand of the button of your pants and then stood there some more.  I think they would assume you were not ready.  Or crazy, which is a real possibility. 

If you’re not ready, I really will come back.  It’s my job to come back.  It’s also my job to come back to the other tables I promised I would be back but instead I’m standing here watching you read your menu.

You have no idea the kind of random shit that runs through my mind watching you read your menu.

I can hear other tables being seated in my section.  Hopefully they are not crazy.

I wonder if the food is ready for my table where the baby is crying.  Hopefully they are not crazy.

I need to make salads for the table that ordered the grilled chicken breast.  I know it doesn’t take very long but I thought I had time to get the salad out first before I knew you were crazy.

I know the table that is halfway done with their food needs refills.  I told them I would be right back before I knew you were crazy.

I know the table that is almost done should be pre-bussed and offered dessert.  I thought I had time to do this before I knew you were crazy.

Bottom line:    I don’t want to watch you read your menu.  You are ready or not. I can take your order or do eight other things.  I hope you can read by yourself.  Help me.  Help me to help you.

Did You Really Think it was Just a Glass of Water?

Did you really think it was just a glass of water?

They check percentages at my restaurant to see how many beverages I’m actually selling.  We don’t have a bar, so I say a lot of things like…Would you like some fresh coffee?  Fresh-brewed iced tea? A cold Coke?  Lemonade?  It doesn’t always work and I really don’t think it’s my fault.  Some people come in with the intention of saving money on beverages, and I can’t control that.  You would not believe how specific water can be…

  1. I’ll have a very small glass of water with no ice.
  2. I’ll have a large glass of water with no ice.
  3. I’ll have an iced tea with no lemon and a large glass of ice water with four slices of lemon.
  4. I’ll have ice water with as many lemons as you’re allowed to bring me.
    1. Can you bring more sugar packets for the lemonade… errr…water?  
  5. I’ll have a small glass of water with only a few ice cubes.
  6. I’ll have a pot of hot water with lemon.
    1. Because I have my own tea bag
    2. Because I have Folgers singles and I don’t want to pay for coffee
  7. I’ll have ice water with lots of ice and an extra glass of ice.
    1. I’ll ad my own Crystal Lite
  8. I’ll have room-temperature water.
  9. I’ll have tap water mixed with hot water 50-50.
  10. I’ll have an ice water with lots of fruit in it.  Do you have any strawberries?

By the way, my restaurant’s policy is to serve water in the smallest glass we have with no lemon and no straw unless requested by the guest.  If management sees us serving up tall icy lemon waters with fancy straws, they sometimes question us like criminals.  I can’t believe they haven’t added some type of up-charge for fruit because of the amount of lemons we go through. 

I think the idea is that you’ll see all the delectable glasses of soda and iced tea at other tables and change your mind about your crappy small glass of water.  What actually usually happens is the server makes another trip to the table with a taller glass of water, lemon, and the expensive straw. Same price, same tip, extra time at a table with guests who are trying to save a little money on beverages.

I guess the moral of the story for me is, if you just want water, drink water.  Why are you being so specific about a free beverage?  Or if you want to be that specific, can you at least tip as if you’ve ordered a dry martini?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Your Kid Belongs in a Psych Ward

Mister, you and your child should have adjoining rooms reserved at the Sands Ward at Broadlawns Hospital just in case it ever gets worse than this.  Is that possible?

Last night, a child got under one of my tables and rolled around SCREAMING and kicking during our dinner rush.  And when I say child, I mean she was at least ten.  When I went to take their table’s order, I got as far as hello and she started barking orders at me.


Dad was on the phone and didn’t respond when I asked him if he was ready to order.  So, OK.  The sooner I get some food to this crazy kid, the sooner she can eat and exit my world.  I put their order in and brought the kid’s drinks and asked again if the dad was ready. 

He gave me an impatient look (I had interrupted his conversation) and asked the very important person on the other end of the line if he could call them back.  This takes longer than you might think.  “Mmm…OK, well the waitress is here and we were gonna have dinner and she wants to take my order, so….Yeah, no, I really want to talk to you about that, it’s definitely important, I just have to do this thing…Yeah, I’m gonna call you back…MmmHmm…Ok, Yeah, I’ll call you back.

 He had a lot of questions about the menu and kept me at his table for long minutes with questions about the turkey we put on our sandwiches, what kind of bread we use, if it’s toasted, if it has mayo, what we put on the salads and if we have fat-free salad dressing. 

While I tried to retain my composure and be professional, his kid was shouting her order at me again as loud as she could.  “I WANT A KID’S CHEESEBURGER WITH NOTHING ON IT, WITH FRENCH FRIES AND MY BROTHER WANTS A KID’S GRILLED CHEESE WITH FRUIT BUT HE ONLY WANTS GRAPES, AND WE BOTH WANT A SPRITE AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT MY DAD WANTS!!!”

We finally agreed on a turkey sandwich on wheat (from the senior menu) and a salad with fat-free dressing on the side and no tomato or croutons.  This is a $6 item for seniors only but I decide to let the manager fight with him about it.  I want them to leave.  While I’ve been trying to help him choose his fancy dinner, my entire section has filled up with new customers who will probably tip me if I can ever get away from this guy. 

I bring the attentive father an iced tea and all of the food for their table because it’s all ready by the time I go to the cooler to wash and prepare my own side of grapes-only fruit and make a dinner salad to his specifications and get beverages for the 9 new guests seated in my section whom would also like some service. 

When I get to their table, Crazy Child is now SCREAMING into the cell phone about what she does and doesn’t want to do and when she will or won’t do it.  I carefully set my tray where she can’t knock it over because she’s wildly waving her arms around while she “talks.” 

Father of the Year has a giant stack of mail and a picked-over ratty newspaper on the table in front of him.  Where the plates generally go.  Instead of moving his shit so I can deliver their food and be one step closer to being done with these people, he starts an argument with his daughter about getting off the phone so she can eat. 

I finally decide he intends for me to set his meal on the paper pile and do so.  And here is where the fun really starts.  “NO,” she screams, “YOU NEVER LET ME TALK!”  Then she chucks the phone at his head.  It bounces off and knocks his iced tea onto his pile of newspaper and mail and spills some on his sandwich plate while she crawls under the table and continues SCREAMING and trying to kick him.  I stand there with my most neutral face pasted on and wait to see what I’ll have to do to fix this. 

Incredibly, he calmly opens his phone and calls someone, pins the phone to his ear with one shoulder, stands and plucks his wet turkey sandwich off his plate and starts eating while standing next to the table.  Which she is under.  SCREAMING.  I definitely can’t fix this, mostly because I’m not a mental health professional or a police officer. 

Every guest in the dining room is staring at this table where the father is standing up eating a wet sandwich and talking on the phone while his crazy kid loses her fucking mind.  I notice the little brother, who is about four, is eating his grapes and quietly humming to himself while he plays with a toy car. Clearly, he must be autistic, completely traumatized, or from an entirely different gene pool, in order to be able to ignore this  

I decide to cut my losses.  I tell the father, loudly so he can hear me over the SCREAMING, his concerted chewing, and his phone conversation, “I will bring you a trash can and a towel so you can clean this up. 

He nods, no eye contact, murmuring into the phone and digs through the wet pile of paper to hand me a coupon for one free kid’s meal.

Is it over?  My new friends, it most decidedly is not.

Daddy was so distracted by all of the excitement that he forgot to pay his bill (less than $15).  The Manager on duty had to go out to their car in the parking lot (where they were arguing), and remind them.  He did not have his wallet.  And then…

They all three came back in the building and waited in the lobby for someone to bring his wallet.  It took about twenty minutes.  Little brother did his quiet humming and playing.  Daddy talked on his cell phone.  Crazy Child almost tipped over the Claw Machine.

Mister, you are so fucked.  We need a new work for fucked.