Sunday, December 10, 2006

Would you like some dignity with those mozarella sticks?

“Hey guys, how you doing today? That’s great, my name’s Mike and I’ll be your server tonight! Can I start you guys off with some drinks? Uh-huh. Did you want lemon in that? Mmmhmmm. Alright, well if you guys have any questions about the menu, let me know alright? Awesome!”

That just there was my spiel that I give to tables every time I greet them. After saying this I usually head to the kitchen, angrily grumbling to myself about the cheap bastards I’m currently waiting on. If there’s one thing that sends a waiter into a blinding rage, its water with lemon. That’s like coming into a whore house and telling the owner, “I’m just going to touch myself in the corner if that’s okay.” Alright, maybe it’s not like that. Anyway, after dropping off their free beverages, I usually am heard to remark:

“We all set to order over here guys or do you still need a few minutes?”

They usually need a few minutes. Fast forward four minutes later, let’s read on…

“We all set to order over here guys or do you still need a few minutes? Awesome, what can I get you? Uh-huh. Just the salad? You know you could always add on a…fine. Just salad for you sir. And for you ma’am? The same, great. Alright folks, I’ll put that right in for you. Let me know if I can get you anything else, alright? I can’t? Great.”

Let me just start by saying that everyone should have to wait tables at some point in their life. The more I come into contact with them, the more I realize that fellow or former waiters are truly the only human beings who “get it”. After, and only after, you’ve been a waiter, you’ve truly seen all that the human race has to offer; the pleasant ‘ribs-and-wine’ ups, the bland ‘burger-and-coke’ middles, and the unbearable ‘salad-and-ice-water-with-lemon’ lows. Now, this all may not sound so bad, you say? “I’m a big man, Mike, what’s wrong with you?” you ask. “You must be one of those pansy boys who doesn’t beat people up, play poker, ride motorcycles, and bench 350lb like me!” you continue. Consider this: you have to be nice to everybody. Not just like being a decent human being and ‘not peeing on their shoes’ nice, no sir. Since your income depends on it, you’ve got to put all your energy into constant smiling, high energy, and the dreaded awkward small talk. Above all, you’ve got to treat everybody like royalty, as if your whole world collapses around you if they’re not enjoying their Chicken and Cheese Mega-Ultra Queso Quesadilla. You want demeaning? You got demeaning…

I’ve been waiting tables for nearly three years, and I feel that I have most definitely changed as an individual in that span. Since clearly not everyone is able to become a waiter in their lifetime, I have attempted to compile a Power Point presentation that can reliably recreate the experience of waiting on tables, and the trials and tribulations that come with it all. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem possible to adequately perform a Power Point presentation in front of all potential Paper readers (though they could possibly all fit in my room). I suppose I could try to project a presentation on a giant screen over Edward’s Parade, but that’s just silly.

Ah, hell, I’ll do my best here…

I. The Truth About Eating Out (lolololollo1lol)
· I worked at a Ruby Tuesday’s, I suppose that would have been good to throw in there previously. Of course, Ruby Tuesday’s in a giant evil corporate chain, who just wants your money. Chili’s, TGI Friday’s, UNO’s, the list goes on; they all basically follow the same principles. Why do you think your waiters constantly ask if “You guys would like some gooey, greasy nachos” instead of “an appetizer”? That’s called putting the image in your head. Of course, as a waiter, I know that this suggestive selling technique never, ever works, arousing only strange confused looks from a guest.
· Oh right, customers have to be called guests. It’s wack. They’re giving us their money, they want to buy food from us, and we want their money. They’re customers. I guess this attempts some kind of “welcome to our home, dear friend” atmosphere, but it just fails.
· Most chain restaurants are constantly tuned in to the same radio station that plays the same forty songs on a loop for hours until forever. Now, if you enjoy hearing “Soak Up the Sun” every fifty minutes, then this may not be a problem for you. For the rest of us, twitching will ensue, and your waitering performance will be affected adversely. Other fine tunes that I’ve been force fed this summer thanks to Ruby Tuesday Radio include: Jason Mraz’s “Wordplay” – an “aural jerkoff” in every sense of the term; Jack Johnson’s song about “when we used to laugh” or something, I’ve usually fallen fast asleep by this point in the song; “Punk Rock 101” – by who the hell knows. Now, this song is interesting in that it tries to make the point that punk is irritating and obnoxious by being irritating and obnoxious; and a million Counting Crows sound-alikes who I’m willing to bet no one outside of the food service business has ever heard.
· Yes, when they’re not talking to you at your table, waiters are in the back, complaining about you. I mean, with any job, the employees are bound to bitch about the work and the customers (fine, guests….guestomers?), but seeing as all of our pay is determined by the kind of people we wait on, waiters have very short fuses. I swear, if Jesus was a waiter, he’d complain about you.
II. Tips For Aspiring Customers
· Don’t order “ice water with lemon”. I swear to God, just don’t do it. If you like water, order a bottle of water, it’ll taste better anyway. I know it’s irrational, but I’ve had ice waters with lemon ruin my day. Some say I just have a deeper psychological issue, but whatever. If you insist on ordering this free beverage, at least make it clear that you’re ordering it because you’re cheap. Don’t skip around that issue, because trust me, its going through the waiter’s head. At least by bringing it to the forefront, you invite perhaps a good hardy chuckle. But mostly, just don’t order water.
· Your waiter may seem like a robot, and it’s because, as I typed above, they all have programmed themselves to the same exact routine for every table. To be honest, if someone threw me a curve and responded to my “Hey guys, how’s it going” greeting, I would not know how to respond. A simple “Good, how are you?” would cause my head to explode. Luckily, it hasn’t happened yet.
III. What Tables to Avoid – Yes, there are certain types of tables that, as a waiter, you will want to avoid like soap on a European. Here are but a few:
· The Elderly – Don’t be fooled by their friendly demeanor, or by the fact that they remind you of your grandparents. Old people are just out in between Matlock’s and do not intend on spending any money. Sure, they’re cute as a button on a midget, but they are also under the false impression, like so many others, that you as a waiter are being paid a decent salary. Not so. Your $2.62 salary (before taxes) amounts to absolutely nothing, though I suppose in 1935 it was a lot of money. Either way, senior citizens will rarely go for more than the soup and a cup of tea, or just hot water (?!?!), leaving you with an eleven dollar check, a whopping 0.42 tip, and an amazingly deflated sense of self-esteem. And I just looked it up, $2.62 still wasn’t a lot of money in 1935.
Total Bill: $10.88
Gratuity: $0.42
· Teenage Girls – As in any walk of life, teenage girls together in one place are a force to be reckoned with, and as a waiter they can lead to some discouraging experiences. However, unlike the elderly, this group is almost never pleasant or friendly, making the whole experience completely demoralizing and reminding you of those uncomfortable high school memories you thought you had buried through years of drug abuse (er,…therapy). Naturally, they all order water with lemon. Then, they usually ask for the one thing that’s not on the menu, whine when I say we don’t have it, and continuously whine that “TGI Friday’s made them for us!” Then, one or two things could happen; they either order lots of expensive food or next to nothing. Either way, you come out with a well earned 4% tip, after taking ten minutes to split their checks only to have them all pay in cash (?!).
Total Bill: $8.85, $12.89, $9.34, and $10.43
Gratuity: $1.15, $0.11, $0.66, and -$0.43
· Large Women – Well, they’re large, they like to eat then right? That should rake in a wad of cash, right? No! Wrong! Contrary to popular belief, not all fat people enjoy highly salted butter encrusted deep friend dinner meals, especially those of the plus-sized female division. More often than not, these women believe that they need to diet, resulting in (you guessed it) water with lemon and salad. Trust me, prior to this realization I had some genuine heartbreaks after greeting tables containing at least one large women, her mousy husband, and their crayon throwing child. The wife decides the two of them should go on a diet together, even though the husband has no real need to diet. As a result, their bill usually maxes out at two waters and two salads. Oh, and the kid shares with them while gnawing on some Saltines that end up in a million pieces on the floor. Enjoy ‘em, kid!
Total Bill: $15.25
Gratuity: $ 1.75 (just to make it an even $17.00)
· Thin People – self explanatory
· Women Who Are Old Friends and Haven’t Seen Each Other In Years – I know it sounds like a freak case, but it happens quite a lot, quite a lot. If you see two women hug before they sit down, after you’ve gotten over the erotic intrigue of the situation, run as fast as you can to give that table away. Sure, they might order a full meal and perhaps a glass of wine, but they will be there for at least eight hours. Now, if you have any desire to leave work that night, this greatly hinders your progress. Long after you’ve gotten any other tables as you sweep up for the night, they will still be chatting it up about old times and “How little Frank is doing at the trombone” or “How little Suzie is doing in karate” or “What whores we were in college”. Even long after they’ve finally gotten the hint, they will leave an hour after closing time, allowing you to leave two hours after closing.
Total Bill: $24.50
Gratuity: $4.25
Ten Hours You’ll Never Get Back: Priceless
· Guys who look like they’re in hard core bands – If they have a lot of facial piercing, tattoos, badass purple hair dye, and talk about their band a lot, beware. A) Their appearances show a lack of good judgment. B) The fact that they’re in a band shows they have no money. C) The fact that they’re in a hardcore metal band shows they have no talent, thus no hope for money. Combining all of these elements should leave no surprise when they do not pay for their meal, or “dine and ditch” as Generation X calls it, or “really, really shitty” as I call it.
Total Bill: Something high
Gratuity: Gratuity?
· People With Peanut or Shellfish Allergies – They’re hard to spot at first, but these people will cause you quite a bit of needless effort with little to no payoff. Usually, you will be required to look up the recipe for the macaroni and cheese to find out if it contains any peanut products. Sure, it’s to keep them “alive”, but come on. They usually end up just eating the Tic Tacs they had in their purse.
Total Bill: $0.00
Gratuity: An angry mother’s complaints to the manager
· Minorities – A worst I could go on for books on this one, but let’s just say that “water” is one of first English words that most foreigners learn and “tip” is one of the last.
Total Bill: 58 Francs
Gratuity: 2 Yen
IV. What Tables to Wait On
Your Family or Friends – Hey, if they know you, they’ll have to tip you well or hear about it from you later, right? It’s a win-win situation. Unfortunately, this is the only sort of reliable table. Enjoy!
V. Conclusion
It takes patience to be a waiter. Patience and a lot of ironed shirts. Patience, a lot of ironed shirts, and a hell of a high tolerance for all kinds of people. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, a waitering job can break an individual down to a drooling, sneering, shadow of a man like the one who stands before you. Just remember kids, always tip you waiters and never order water with lemon. Your waiter just might remember you years later, your face popping up in the deepest of his worst nightmares as he prepares for you your water with lemon. He will wake up in the middle of the night screaming “Would you like bottled instead?!” much to the confusion of his roommate. To this day he will be plotting his sick, twisted revenge against those who have ordered water with lemon and/or under-tipped him. That moment will come, oh yes. But I mean, I’m not talking about myself.

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