So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Mindset adjustment pt 1

I had a weird mini-epiphany last night.

Let me preface this by saying that I’ve really been squeezed for money lately due to a confluence of events that have built up over the past year. Even this last 2 week period where the money has been great hasn’t allowed me to dig out of my hole. Also, I work in a restaurant that has a high PPA (per person average). In my restaurant, any table could be a homerun, even a deuce.

Anyway, you know how light you feel when your shift is going well, or you’re making a lot of money, or the shift is just flying by and you’re finished before you know it? Or how heavy, dull and surly you can feel when the opposite is true – you’re not making any money, the shift seems to be an uphill battle, you don’t get sat for the first hour or two, or you’re always in the weeds and just can’t cut yourself out of them, or you’ve just finished your last table after not making any money and they give you a new deuce that’s going to keep you there for another hour.

Well, it’s amazing how much motivation financial desperation will give you.

Last night was slow on the books. I was next to the closers, which means that I would be there until close to the end, but not as a closer. In order to give others tables, this almost assured that I’d only have a couple of tables to get started and I’d never really get rolling (in fact, they cut down from 10 servers to 8 servers before the shift even started and then they let another person go before dinner and another within the first hour).

So, anyway, I got two tables, one of which was a very annoying blonde doctor (found this out when she paid with her credit card) wheeling her suitcase directly from the airport. She didn’t want to sit where we tried to seat her, a most sensible smaller table. She immediately found our power section, and was offered a four top, but she choose an even bigger table that we usually use for 6 people. Well, no biggie really since we probably wouldn’t need it, but already she was on my bad side. Then she proceeded to be a real snobby bitch. No preamble – as soon as I gave her the menu, she wanted to know the specials (I guess water was a low priority). She wanted to know about a certain dish; how was it prepared, would she like it (I doubt anything would be good enough for you, I though, which turned out to be quite prescient on my part),  do we do it well? I never thought I’d have to go into so much detail over fucking veal picatta. Anyway, she ordered that and some spinach.

“Would you like that steamed, sautéed or creamed”?

“How is it sautéed”?

“We saute it in garlic and olive oil”.

“Do you do use butter”? (at this point, I want to strangle her already).

“No ma’am, we saute it in garlic and olive oil”.

“I’ll take it steamed”. I thought to myself, yuck. I don’t like steamed spinach because it’s very bland, but, so be it. Of course, at least you know what it’s going to taste like – it’s not like you can screw up steamed spinach or anything.

It’s really funny, when she came in, she refused to let us put her bag in the coat room. Her bag is sitting in the aisle and she’s perched at the very end of this pretty long booth. I was thinking that maybe she had chosen the table so that she could spread out and so some work, but no – the bag never opened and, I swear to god, she couldn’t have sat any closer to the aisle. She looked ridiculous sitting at this table. She made the attempt to look “busy” by calling a couple of people. I never actually saw her mouth move, so she was probably checking to see if she had gotten any messages in the past 30 seconds.

So, anyway, I brought her her salad.

“How is your salad”? Without looking up, she said, “OK”. You know, in that half-dismissive, “It’s just OK tone”. Normally, I would have inquired further, but she had already annoyed me. I think I’ll just take her words at face value. 

 When she was finished, I brought her entrée.

“Wow, that’s just swimming in sauce, isn’t it”? To her credit, it did seem to be particularly resplendent in sauce on this particular occasion.

I told her I’d take it to the back and have it “adjusted”. So I took it to the back and stood over a trash can and poured most of the sauce off.

When I did my first quality check after she had a chance to tuck into the meal, she pointed and the spinach and said, “I don’t like it. Give me green beans instead”.

“Steamed or sautéed”? She chose sautéed this time. Smart lady.

When I brought them after ordering them on the fly, I left her for a couple of minutes. I did my check back and she said, in a quite annoying tone, “Are your green beans always this al dente. I mean, I don’t like my beans overcooked or anything, but these are very al dente“.

“Yes ma’am, we serve our beans quite al dente“.

“Well, I mean, I like my beans al dente – I don’t like them overcooked”. Yes, you told me that already.

“Would you like me to have them cook them further”? Yeah, I guess I just have to ask, because apparently I’m in a feedback loop from hell.

After she broke the loop and said yes, I took them back to the back and microwaved them for 60 seconds. That did the trick. When I checked back with her, she said that they were “fine”. Not fine as in, “Boy, your ass is FINE”. Fine as in, “You can’t give me a reservation until 8:30? OK, FINE.

At the end of her meal, she wanted to know how far a certain hotel was (the hoity-toity hotel, mind you). When she said the name of the hotel, she pronounced it as a European would (it’s shares a name with a famous museum in another part of the world, but it’s actually pronounced as an American word). As much as I would have liked to have her pronounce it that way at the reservation desk, I wanted to have my own fun so I told her that it was actually pronounced the way it is. She seemed surprised and said, “Oh, I forgot where I was”.

Oh, snap! Nice riposte Mrs. Yep, we run around barefoot most of the time and when I cook in the trailer park that I live in, sometimes I have to borrow a hot plate from my cousin, who’s married to my sister and lives in the double wide next door.

Actually, it’s named for a very famous American landmark from the early 1800s that’s almost as old as said museum. I told her that it wasn’t pronounced as it was in the city of the great museum (showing her that I actually know the museum in question). Anyway, she asked me how far it was and I said 8 blocks.

“How far do would you say it was”?

“It’s about 8 blocks that way”, I replied, pointing in the general direction.

“Is it far”?

Oh dear, another loop. Yes, I get where you’re going with this. You want to know whether it’s within walking distance. Well, 8 blocks is 8 blocks. It’s probably a good 15-20 minutes hump, and there is a hill or two involved.

Of course, it’s about a 2 minute cab ride.

I briefly though about telling her that it was about a 7 minute stroll, but I really didn’t want to go to the trouble of drawing a map so I said, “Ma’am, it’s only a two minute cab ride. If you’re asking me if it’s walkable, I wouldn’t particularly want to do it dragging a suitcase coming right off a plane”.

That seemed to settle the matter.

I got the valet to get her a cab and I put her on her way.

Thanks for the $8.50 on $63. but that was predictable, especially when I saw the Dr. in front of her name.

Sadly, I’ve run out of time to finish my story this morning. So I’ve turned this into a two-parter. This isn’t just a rant post though – there’s a little philosophyin’ at the end of this. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

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