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!

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.

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