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evolution of a new hire.

24 Feb

Holy fuck, it’s been so long since I’ve written on here that I forgot my username.

Something really interesting about the restaurant business is that I totally loathe new people. They make me want to puke, for the most part. Occasionally there’s one with a personality or a magical air about him/her and I don’t want to punch him/her. But as a general rule of thumb, I wait :

  • 2 days to speak to a new hire
  • 5 days to make eye contact with the new hire
  • 10 days to smile at the horrible jokes the new hire keeps making to try and impress me
  • 2 weeks to joke around within earshot of the new hire (although never directly to them so they don’t get the wrong idea)
  • 3 weeks for simultaneous smiling and eye contact (although not everyone ever gets to this point, I’m extremely selective at this stage).
  • 4 weeks to ask the new hire any personal questions, such as “what’s your name again?” and “how was your weekend?”

Once we’ve conquered these hurdles, we’re good to go. Unless you give me a nickname prematurely. If you develop a pet name before we have worked at least 20 shifts together and you have told me how much you love country music and we have bonded over that fact, you suck and I hate you eternally.

This post is dedicated to the fuckin’ waiter who keeps calling me Shelbs. I’m going to fire you tomorrow, just so you know.

waitress kidnapping for dummies.

14 Nov

Something funny about the restaurant business is that oftentimes when you go out to dinner, you get something at a competitor’s establishment that you really really want to steal for your own place. Tonight the particular thing to which I refer is a chick. Me, Harry and Ryan went on a date to a local steak place to celebrate the most fucked up 2 weeks of business ever, ever, ever, and at some point between the bread basket and dessert, we realized that our service was really great. The ensuing conversation wound up something like….

Me: I want our waitress.

Harry: So give her your number.

Me: Well do you want her?

Harry: I don’t answer trick questions.

Me: I’m not going to give her my number if you don’t want her.

Harry: Why don’t you ask Ryan if he wants her? I don’t feel comfortable with this situation.

Me: Ryan, do you want her?

Ryan: I’m not going to answer that question either.

Me: Well if you guys don’t want our waitress then I’m not giving her my number.

Harry: Give her your number.

Me: OH YOU THINK SHE’S PRETTIER THAN ME?? I THOUGHT YOU SAID I WA S SOOO BEAUTIFUL BUT NOW I KNOW THAT IT WAS ALL A LIE!!! 

Just kidding, I didn’t say that last part. I’m not a crazy bitch, yo. But we did all decide that it was a little awkward to give her my card, seeing as we were the last people to leave the restaurant and why would she want to come work for callous, insensitive-to-fellow-industry-folk pricks like us. So I left my blog card and maybe she’ll stumble upon this post and realize that it’s about her and figure out what restaurant I own and come running to me with open eyes and say “YES SHELBY, I WANT YOU TOO!” and we will live happily ever after forever and ever or at least until she gets a really good summer internship at Citi and has to leave to live in the NYU dorms.

Or (and this is 98% likely) the waitress hastily wiped the table, pushed the card on the floor and peaced out of that joint. Tomorrow one of my disgruntled customers (perhaps the one who trashed me on many many social media platforms this week, but don’t worry, we’ll get to that soon….) will pick it up on the floor when she goes there for lunch and read the post that is about her and somehow figure out my nearly-impossible-to-decipher true identity and hire a hitman, or worse, bombard me with 1 star and 0 star Yelp! reviews. THE HORROR!!!!

Sometimes you have to steal a server. It’s a catch 22, because they’re hard to attract – you need good ones to get more good ones. Otherwise you’re forced to do things like train them and manage them. No good restaurant manager wants to train or manage her servers, it’s a colossal waste of time. There’s so much more to be done, like beer inventory and figuring out what to have for lunch. It’s also fairly not nice to do to the establishment from which you’re stealing, but let’s face it – your place is better than theirs. Like way better.

Anyway, If we don’t hear from the waitress by Thursday Ryan and I are going to attempt the far less interesting  “open invitation to join our team” super fake smile business card handoff. BORIINNGGGGGG but far more effective.

My personal favorite approach to kidnapping another restaurant’s fabulous waiter is simple physical force. Usually by the time you’ve tied them up and then taken a little van ride and then cut the ropes, you’re totally bonded and pretty much BFFs. This has only worked once, but look how far Harry and I have come!!!

a jew walks into a bar…

25 Oct

So today I found out that one of my new waitresses is a Jew and it was like big, shiny, dreidel-shaped fireworks going off when we made the connection. Because something maybe you don’t know about the restaurant business is that it isn’t necessarily overflowing with Hannukahs. It’s mostly you Christmases with your Lent and your pasta and your admirable height and athletic prowess. Perhaps it’s due to the manual labor, or maybe the fact that it requires working on the Sabbath, but for whatever reason, we’re in short supply when it comes to strapping on an apron and dishing out burgers. And when we find each other it’s just magical. Nearly as magical as when you discover that your camp bunk mate is best friends with her brother’s intern in a game of Jewish Geography (vocab of the day: Jewish Geography is the game you play to see how many Jews you have in common. Like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon but with the guy who asked you to the Purim Carnival instead of Tom Hanks). Now there are THREE JEWS AT WORK! It’s so very very very exciting. It’s nearly a minyan!

The reason that I knew she was Jewish is because she told my liquor rep that she looked familiar and asked if she had ever been a camp counselor.

Rule #1 for identifying a Jew (especially in this neck of the woods, not sure what it’s like in Michigan or whatever, where there are camps for Christian people and Mormons and shit): Camp. Not sports camp, just regular camp. There’s a serious difference and if you don’t know what it is, then you aren’t one of us.

Here are some other Tribal Traits:

  • We love love love rainbow cookies
  • We find many forms of fish (smoked, canned, gefilted, Swedish) both tasty and acceptable.
  • We have had at least one form of elective plastic surgery.
  • It is said what we do not enjoy giving blow jobs. I have figured out that this is most likely an urban legend. I wasn’t positive until today when a Tribal customer said the word “vagina” really really really loud, and if the prude Jewess ever existed, I assure you she’s long gone.
  • We don’t accept flowers whilst mourning a loved one, unless it is of t the Edible Arrangement variety. However, we much prefer rainbow cookies.

    My shiksa doppelgänger Nicole en route to a Shiva call. Thanks to me she has the perfect form of condolence! YUM!

  • We all play tennis or golf. Or got a Tiffany’s box for our Bat Mitzvah. Or all of the above.
  • We never wear the same outfit twice to temple. Or anywhere.
  • We all fear picking up a penny on the floor because we’ll be ridiculed for being “typical,” but we absolutely cannot resist a quarter.
  • We are all extra religious when it comes to leaving work early for holidays, buying new dresses for parties and eating at our mother-in-law’s house for a holiday.
  • We use the fact that we can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery as our reason for not getting inked, when in actuality we’re just really scared of pain.
  • We are all connected to Billy Joel in some way.

Interestingly, if I had used “they” instead of “we” on this list, you’d be totally accusing me of being a prejudiced whore (I threw in whore because I discussed oral sex and that’s not ladylike at all). Lucky for us I had a Bat Mitzvah so the same exact shit now comes off as educational.

Like seriously what’s the deal with this. Why is it that we can stereotype ourselves but not others??? My professor from college wrote this book or two or three and won some serious (Pulitzer Prize) acclaim. And it’s like basically just Spanglish and bitches. And it’s like, wait. Hold up, ese. I can totally write Spanglish and bitches! Where the fuck is my Pulitzer? Or at least where is like a paid advertiser on my blog? I asked a Spanish guy at the restaurant how much credibility I’d have writing a piece of fiction about a Guatemalan dude and you know what he said? NONE! Like, it’s fiction, Spanish guy! Am I not entitled to spout out stereotypes as though they’re complete truths even if I have pretty much no exposure to the private lives of Latinos except for Mexican Poker with the line cooks when I was in high school? Why do I have to stick with my people??? Have we not established that the highlight of our existence is colorful pastries and misshapen chunks of ground fish and ???? THAT IS BORING!

 A chick I know (FROM CAMP, HOW’S THAT FOR IRONY???) started writing this blog about her adventures around the boroughs wearing an afro wig and it’s catching a lot, like a LOT, of slack for being racist and [other mean words] and ignorant towards the deep cultural history of the fro, dating back to slavery. If she were a black chick (wait, do I really need to clarify that she’s white? I did just tell you that we went to camp together, did I not?) people would be singing her praises for talking about something REAL. But here’s someone thinking out of the box, and delving into someone else’s stereotypes for a change. Because honestly? Writing about the underworld of the New York Area Jew gets real old real fast (oh who are we kidding, it doesn’t get old because we’ve got botox for that). So kudos to you, Michelle Joni, for being bold enough to participate in some cliché other than bagels on visiting day.

Speaking of stereotypes, I miss Charlie so much. I have like no Asians in my life now except these random customers and some kid in my babygirl’s nursery school class who dresses way too well (no offense Chaz but he’s giving you a run for your money). And there’s this gay hole in my heart to boot! Now when hot guys come into the restaurant, I have nobody to talk to about it except Harry, and that gets like super awkward.

insiders guide to the fuck-ups serving your dinner.

24 Sep

Something really special about the restaurant business is the colorful nature of the people who inhabit it. As a girl who grew up in the restaurant business, (and stupidly stayed in it) I have had the pleasure of working with no less than 75,000 different people, most of whom were so fucking odd that I didn’t dare make eye contact with them just in case they were actually zombies or aliens who were going to take over my brain and make me behave like them.

No other industry in the world seems to appeal to such a huge collection of vagabond delinquents (other than reality TV and surfing). Staff at the restaurant is so transient that my mom, who literally does the payroll every single week, doesn’t know any of my employees. If I were her, I’d find that fact comforting, especially based on the history of people who have survived the elite hiring process in our places.

For example….

1. The Normal Person. I can literally count the number of normal people who have worked for my family on less than four fingers. Both of them are my Facebook friends and it probably isn’t you. Note: I’m not counting college kids because frankly they’re smart to learn something legitimately valuable like how to open a bottle of wine properly or how to cut lemons in a wheel and a wedge. Consider it continuing their education. Plus when they can’t get a “sociology” job upon graduation it won’t matter because they’ll already have a source of income and then they can eventually fall into one of these other categories.

2. The Theif. This employee comes so frequently, and in so many shapes and forms that it should be a multiple choice question on the job application. And it shouldn’t be “Do you steal?” it should be “What do you steal?” The Thief ranges from just your general salt and pepper shaker pilferer to your all out cash heisting crafty fucker. Then there are those in the middle. The cook who has stocked his entire house (and his cousins’ houses) with dinner service for 13, complete with every type of glassware, silverware and dishware that has ever been brought through the doors. There’s the tip adjuster who doctors inflated numbers at the expense of the customer (we’re unfortunately too good at catching those thieves at this point). There’s the busboy who steals a customer’s iPhone and the police come a few weeks later to arrest him because it turns out you can track that shit, ya damn moron. And who can forget the waitress who does her grocery shopping in the walk-in and smuggles it out in a duffel bag sized purse.

3. The False Identity. This chick can’t claim unemployment after you fire her because SHE DOESN’T EXIST. That being said, it doesn’t really matter because she’s already collecting unemployment under her real name. The job at your place was just a bonus income. Oh, and every Spanish speaking dude is not named Jose. Sorry Spanish guys, we’re beginning to catch on to that.

4. The Nazi. As a Jew, it’s difficult for me to relate to hating Jews (other than when I go to lunch at the Miracle Mile). But apparently this is the case for some people. Occasionally these some people get jobs at restaurants. And sometimes these restaurants are owned by Jews. Specifically me. It’s a funny thing, dealing with a prejudiced asswad who seems to truly believe that under my new bangs are a set of horns, or that I’m cheap by default and that’s why we have a policy where you can’t just bring home a gallon of milk or bottle of Goose from work whenever you feel like it. Oddly enough the Nazi never seems to stay long. His loss, the restaurant is fucking packed on Christmas Day.

5. The Felon. It wasn’t this guy’s fault. He swears. He was just holding those bags of weed for one of his friends, and he seriously thought it was dried oregano for a cooking thing. And it also wasn’t his fault that he failed his drug test seven times, it was his friend’s birthday one night and then he ate like a shit ton of poppyseed bagels and there’s something weird about his new toothpaste so seriously, it wasn’t his fault. One of the best qualities of the Felon is that he literally has to come to work, because the other option is jail, and he really doesn’t like going to jail for more than one night at a time. One Famous Felon from yesteryear got so many DWIs that he was on the front cover of the newspaper and is currently on the run from police in 3 states. It’s a shame, he was a fun guy to have at work. We’re still pen pals on email, his humor translates well when written.

6. The Alcoholic. Turns out the bar isn’t just for customers! Some restaurant employees are really just in it for the vino. At 11am. In a pint glass. Key characteristics of the alcoholic is that you run into them at 7-11 between shifts buying a 40 oz. beer and pouring it into a Big Gulp cup. Or that the taxi driver that picks her up at the end of her shift knows her name. Or that the nice police guy comes in for a coffee and whispers in your ear “That one is trouble. Picked her up last week for offering some guys blowjobs in the parking lot at the crack bar across the street,” and she stumbles over to him and asks him if she can play with his taser gun anyway.

7. The Heterophobe. I think I’ve made it abundantly clear over the past however many months that we’ve been getting to know me that I’m a lover of gays, specifically Charlie (formerly known as Gay Asian Waiter but now he’s all fancy and wears a tie and works 9-5 and shit) and my sister sister and this ginger I know and random other people who haven’t come out of the closet yet even though they SERIOUSLY NEED TO. But what’s interesting is that not all of the gays love the straights.  So many people have worked for my family who accuse everyone from us to the customers to the gay busboy that we dislike them because of their sexual persuasion. “Um, no, Dude,” we’ve been forced to say. “We hate you because you’re standing over the customer while you apply your chapstick in the mirror behind their table for like ten minutes.” The restaurant business is really quite conducive to many different sexual orientations. As long as you’re willing to strap one on (an apron, you perv! Get your head out of the gutter!) we’ll pretty much let you go to town on our customers. But sometimes I feel the same way about gay servers as I do about Harry (a Christmas) marrying me (a Hannukah) – Just in it for the jokes.

Anyway, we’re hiring if you’re interested. Heads up though, we check references.

the continuing saga of how cheesecake factory is destroying my life.

4 Sep

Today was like any other day, in that I went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch and my kid was the one jumping on the booth and pressing her face up against the glass, leaving tongue trails of avocado in her wake. And shocker shocker, it was a totally shitty experience.

Ok, well not the company. That part was exceptional today, because in addition to my Energizer Bunny of a daughter and my mommy, my good friend from sleepaway camp joined us. Bari has a new baby herself, so she was really quite non-judgemental when my babygirl did things like spit tomatoes all over my iPhone or eat her boogers. Just kidding, her kid is only like a few weeks old and he doesn’t do nasty shit other than poop in the bathtub and that he really can’t even control. Probably Bari thinks I’m literally the opposite of mother of the year, but really there’s no way to comprehend the Terrible Twos unless you’re in the midst of it. Sort of like a hurricane. Or armed robbery. Or acid trip. Or intestinal parasite.

Anyway, let’s not dwell on my mediocre parenting skills. Instead we should worry about the nightmare that is Cheesecake Factory. Like for instance, when dealing with the issue of lunch, when did it become a luxury to get utensils? Guess how many people we had to ask for a fork and knife while we all salivated over the bread and butter (not my babygirl, she chowed down on those  butter packets like they were covered in chocolate). Three! Three people! It was painful. The worst part of it was that we were sitting right next to a wait station and I so badly wanted to set the fucking table myself but since Bari was there I didn’t want to act inappropriate, because Bari is like totally demure and ladylike. She didn’t coin the term “crapalicious” or anything. A few minutes later, the 3 of us were passed out on the table TOTALLY FAMISHED AND WASTING AWAY AND ALMOST DYING FROM LACK OF CARBS when this waitress chick cruised by and was like “hey, do you guys want silverware?”

“No thanks,” I told her coyly waving her away. “We went to Medieval Times the other day and we’re like so over forks. Yes we want forks, bitch!”

A little while later after my babygirl had successfully eaten the cloth napkins and learned how to spell, the food had still not arrived. We flagged down our waitress to ask her what was taking so long. “Um, YOU,” she said, pointing her finger so close to Bari’s face that if she sported a large schnoz she would have gotten hit. “You ordered the turkey burger and that’s what we’re waiting for.” My mom and I were so pissed at Bari that we made her sit next to my kid.

Seven hours later (I’m not even exaggerating because time with a 2-year-old is like dog years – it just adds up faster) we got our food. Well, me and my mom and my babygirl got her food. Bari, not so much. The manager dude came over (I can’t keep track if this is the same guy as the last 8 times, but he was equally as douchey). He knelt down at the table, which is a huge pet peeve unless I’m six-years-old and we’re at fucking Friendly’s. “Heyyyyyy, really sorryyyyyy about the wait.” (I’ve been watching Finding Nemo every morning, so apparently this manager sounds like that turtle surfer dude in the East Australian Current, the EAC.) “Your turkey burger is actually done. We’re just waiting for the fries.”

We tried to figure out how to deal with this information. Bari was very nice. I ignored him because I already had my food so what the hell did I care? My mom stared at him quizzically, secretly thanking the lord that her manager doesn’t kneel at tables. Then again she’s preggo, so that could go horribly wrong if she did. The turkey burger finally arrived, but Señor Kneeling Dude lingered for like way too long. Did he want to pull up a chair? Did he want to see if we chew with our mouths open? Did he want me and Bari to break out into our famous “Rent” duet where one of us plays the part of Mark and one of us plays the part of Everyone Else? The answer is a mystery, but at least we’re all on the same page that Cheesecake Factory blows. Except for the cheesecake. And the menu. And the portion size vs. the price. And the general convenience. But seriously, I’m glad it’s not my restaurant. Who wants to make millions of dollars off a mediocre operation anyway? I’d much rather have a mediocre operation and be broke.

This evening, after I had finally settled down from the horrifying Cheesecake experience, I opened my doggy bag to heat up my babygirl’s grilled cheese  and corn succotash (she filled up on butter packets and a little bit of bread and a daiquiri) only to find that they didn’t put it in the fucking container. It was empty. Like empty. Empty like my heart, and my kid’s stomach. I was forced to feed her some questionable cheese and two cans of tuna fish, because I really need to go food shopping and she was too hungry to wait.

another day, another doily.

22 Aug

Today was my first day back at work after spending 3 luxurious days in Amish Country with the fam (Just in case you’ve been frantically searching for some new entries, it was virtually impossible because my babygirl had to listen to Spotify on my phone and watch Yo Gabba Gabba on my iPad, literally cockblocking me from technology and FORCING me to read September issues of fashion magazines while I sat in the back seat of my father-in-law’s pickup truck ignoring the kids.

It was just your average Wednesday workday, with normal things happening from dusk ’til dawn. These things included:

  1. I used my trusty pink tool kit. Today it was to disassemble an easel chalkboard and hang the two sides on the wall so that I can have a fancy craft beer list. I used the following tools: level, phillips head, tape measure, (I had to take the one off my keychain because as I’ve mentioned in the past, some asshole fucking stole my pink one and now it clashes with the rest of my tools and it’s bullshit) pencil stuck behind my ear. And when I went to Home Depot to pick up what I needed and some chick who worked there asked if I needed help finding something I just looked at her like “I built this place, bitch” and rolled my eyes at her, shooed her away and continued shopping. Like, who does she think I am? Someone who can’t navigate a hardware superstore? COME ON.
  2. I chatted it up with my shrink. Subject matter today ranged from the high quality mac & cheese that one of my competitors concocts to my having the maturity level of an old tween to me being sad that I didn’t get to go on more roller coasters at Hersheypark. We also discussed how good I am at throwing parties in barns and how I should be accepting of Harry even if he’s sometimes annoying, because I’m sometimes annoying too.
  3. I ate my weight in carbohydrates. Charlie has been like starving himself and doing some ridiculous workout video (I think it’s with that sexy guy Richard Simmons but I’m not sure. Just kidding. It’s Insanity. Give Charlie some credit) and he’s got this crazy will power, and I think that every time he tells me that he’s getting harder abs and bigger arms, I eat one entire birthday cake. It’s like, I look at how motivated he is, and instead of feeling inspired to get my heart rate above 45 for more than 22 seconds, I give in to the fact that I’m a mom with a station wagon and only medium good looks and an overgrown haircut and I console myself with sugar and then I feel like I’m on top of the world. Being thin is not as great as a short stack of homemade chocolate chip pancakes with Trader Joe’s organic butter and whipped topping.
  4. I googled shit. I’m in the midst of planning a party for someone who wants a real rustic theme, so I needed to find this old-soda-crates-and-shit store upstate that I once drove past when I was planning my wedding. So I used the Google street view thing and proceeded to spend 2 hours taking a “driving tour” of Kingston NY. Exhilarating to say the least. Other things I googled today: curiosity shops in Brooklyn, Prince Harry uncensored, “wagon wheel mason jar,” cool beer.

In addition to normal things happening, weird things also happened.

  1. 7 customers asked for 7 different checks. Normally this situation would be normal, but today was an exception because the group was ALL DUDES. They were old dudes, so that makes it a little more normal, but they all ordered pretty much the same thing (burger, water) so why did they need separate checks? Why couldn’t they just split the check? And why couldn’t one of them use cash? How many miles are you getting with a hamburger? The highlight of their meal was that one of the old dudes insisted that a little old(er than them) lady at a nearby table give him a hug goodbye.
  2. Pandora played 5 BEATLES SONGS IN A ROW. Look. I’m as big a Beatles fan as the next guy. So don’t think I don’t appreciate hearing a little bit of Taxman and Octopus’s Garden. But I wholeheartedly LOATHE hearing the same artist two times in a row (and five? a lyrical tragedy) when I’m listening to a mix. After the 3rd song I said “If they play another Beatles song in this hour I’m taking the Pandora and throwing it in the dumpster and we’re listening to my Spotify mixes. Pandora’s being a real asshole.” And sure enough, they played again. So out went the Human Genome Project, but not in the dumpster because frankly I’m super scared that there will be a raccoon out there and I’ll be all alone and trapped in the fence and I’ll get rabies and die and honestly proper disposal of my music thingy isn’t worth it. I just threw it out the back door.
  3. I shot a thing of watermelon Italian Ices all over my face. This actually happened at home, because apparently whilst we were frolicking in the meadow with the Amish folk, my freezer decided to crap out on me and turn the entire contents into garbage-o. So for some reason it was near my face and for some other reason I squeezed it, yada yada yada, watermelon ices up my nose.
  4. A food critic called me out. At some point in time, I informed the restaurant reviewer  at a local popular newspaper of ours that I recognize her voice anywhere as a result of our occasional gossip sessions about the industry. I told her this because she’s a regular customer and I didn’t want her to think that she had to wear a wig and fake mustache every time she came in because I don’t know her by sight, only sound. However she called today and caught me off guard, and so for some reason I played really really dumb and didn’t acknowledge that I knew it was her and she CALLED ME OUT BIGTIME and now she hates me and I’m never going to get press again and the restaurant is going to go out of business and I’m going to have to sell my computer in order to make my mortgage payment and I won’t be able to keep up with CNN and therefore won’t be able to have a normal conversation with anyone and will become a recluse and write an epic novel that I am too ashamed to publish and it will come out of the woodwork long after I am dead and be published and win the Pulitzer but it will be too late because my babygirl will already be totally fucked up and socially awkward and have hippie children that she home schools in her trailer and won’t give a speech to accept the award on my dead behalf so they’ll revoke it.
  5. A child magician left a note on a doily for one of my waiters. See?

Another day, another doily.

how to make a waitress hate your guts. (part 3)

26 Jul

Now that I’m all settled back in at work, I’m beginning to remember what sets the restaurant business apart from most other businesses. It’s hungry cranky fuckers like you and me who inadvertently cause strife in the lives of waiters and waitresses. Since it’s been a bit of time since we last discussed this topic, let us review some of the many annoyances restaurant people incur on a day-to-day basis:

  • Let your child scream at the top of their lungs
  • Ignore the server
  • Fill up on complimentary starches & cancel your food order
  • Order soft drinks before being sat at a table
  • Send food back to the kitchen for changes that can be made by you (i.e. no bun on your burger)
  • Start a sentence with “I never really complain but…”
  • Never be satisfied with the climate in the dining room.
  • Think that an 18% tip is impressive.
  • Be gluten free*

Ok, now that we’ve reviewed, let’s move on to some more stuff that makes us want to smack you silly and ask you to please shut the fuck up. Tonight the theme is “shit that directly applies to me as the owner/manager/hostess.” Because in an odd turn of events, I’m more focused on myself tonight than on other people. When you finish passing out from the shock of this rare narcissistic behavior, kindly adjust how you act in the following situations:

  • Accuse me of being a liar. Sometimes people call to make a reservation and insist that last time they were here they sat at a round table, but the truth of the matter is that they’re totally totally mistaken. We don’t have round tables. Breaking the news to them is always difficult because the customer is always right (Oh shit, now I’m lying to you!). And most of the time, when I break the news to them that they cannot have a round table because I don’t have a saw that cuts in a perfect circle, they accuse me of lying to them and ask to speak to the manager. “But I’m the owner,” I tell them and they respond by insisting that the last time they ate here they 100% sat at a round table. As a loving, caring, beautiful owner, I vow to you as my customer that I have no need to lie to you unless it is a fake phone call because you’re talking my ear off and I have someone more interesting than you sitting at the bar waiting for me.
  • Feed yourself whilst chatting with me. Let’s make a deal, folks. I promise you that I will not conversate with you once your meal hits the table, if you promise me that you will not flag me down and insist that I listen to your granddaughter’s wedding plans while you spew your jambalaya in my face. I typically love the outfits I wear to work, and don’t need any food particle accessories to accent them. If you need to ask me or your server for something, PUT THE FORK DOWN. Swallow whatever it is you’re chewing, take a sip of water if you need to, breathe for a second, and then ask for what you need, and then when I’m at a safe distance, pick the fork back up and continue on your culinary journey.
  • Complain at the end of your meal. This one confuses me on a multitude of levels. First, why did you just eat something you didn’t like? This isn’t your mom’s dining room table, you are paying for a meal. So this means that if you hate something, you aren’t forced to eat it. Second, there is no way for me to identify the problem if you have left no evidence of it. Frankly, the conclusion we’ve pretty much made about people who complain at the end of a fully consumed meal is that they really just want something for free. And that makes us want to do less for you because we hate your grubby guts. If you truly don’t like something, complaining off the bat is a win-win situation – you get to eat something that doesn’t make you want to puke and we get feedback on a dish that we may not otherwise know needs altering.
  • Never acknowledge me even though we see each other 2 – 4 times a week. I see many of my customers far more than I see all of my friends and family combined. The vast majority of these people hug and kiss me and/or Harry (people have their favorites, most of the time being me unless they’re a tween or a 50-year-old divorcé). But then there are these few super special asswads who just won’t give us the time of day. Seriously, even though you’re a regular customer and I try to be friendly and wave and grin and say hello and accommodate your entire family’s needs (she can’t have gluten, he can’t have meat or rice or milk or nuts or yeast or sunshine, I can’t have french fries unless they were fried in the oil of a chicken named Steve, my daughter doesn’t speak so you have to look into her brain and figure out her order…) you still never crack a smile or acknowledge that we’ve ever seen each other before. A long time ago, before I could immediately fact check on Google, I got a memo that it takes more energy to frown than to smile. Did you not get this memo as well? Why can’t you just be friendly and nice? Is eye contact seriously that much of a challenge when it comes to loser blue collar workers like me? Were your parents this grumpy and they passed it on to you and your wife?? Am I not pretty enough for you? I think we all know this is not the case… but what I’m really getting at is that you should be nice to the owner of the restaurants you frequent. I promise, we come in very very very handy.
  • Bathroom? This word is neither a sentence nor a question. Kindly try to expand on this thought when you’re asking me where the toilets are located. I totally understand that we are in a world where we no longer use the uber-long forms of the words “you” and “are” when we type, but looking at me and saying “bathroom” is really kind of gross-a-roo. I totally empathize with you that you’ve gotta pee or poo. But it just takes 2 more syllables (“Where’s the”) to eradicate this grammatical disaster. If you say “Excuse me” or “Thanks” or heaven forbid “Thank you,” you can bet your ass that I’m throwing some major cred your way. Expect a free bottle of wine at the very least.

If you think that I’m done letting you know what bothers restaurant people about you, you’re sadly mistaken. So don’t worry, if nothing over the course of this series has applied to you, there’s always tomorrow….

*Sidebar: This whole gluten free thing is getting worse and worse. It started out that the people were just irritating. But now I’m convinced that there is a direct correlation between wheat consumption and brain cells. I received a phone call yesterday from a Gluten Free chick who was looking to come in for dinner. I explained that we accommodate all gluten free diets. “Are you sure?” I told her that I was sure. “So you mean I can get a burger without a roll?”

“No,” I told her. “I’ve made an error. It is not possible for you to purchase a hamburger unless it is attached to a roll. We are experimenting with a new cooking technique wherein we bake our bread with beef patties attached to it, and it becomes so sticky in the process that it is scientifically impossible to remove the meat from the roll. Deepest apologies.”

Just kidding. What I really said was “You gluten people are getting dumber by the second, aren’t you?”

ode to my cranky bitch waitress and my gay asian waiter.

16 Jun

Tomorrow marks the end of an era, because it is the last time that Charlie, Nicole and I will ever work together. They’ve both moved on to greener pastures (that’s not a death reference, is it?) and gotten themselves career-building jobs that smartly have nothing to do with the restaurant business. Yes, it’s possible that both of them will fail miserably and come crawling back, begging for their old schedule and maybe a couple of extra shifts to cover the newly acquired rent that they have to pay since they prematurely moved out of their cheap/free/relative-owned housing before deciding if they were good enough at their fancy pants job to hack it. But chances are that this is it (since it’s actually not possible at all that they’ll fail seeing as Charlie and Nicole are perfectly suited and prepared [by me] to go off into the world and leave their mark). Gone is the banter between the three of us about which new server looks like a ho. Gone are the days of sorting and classifying gossip. Gone are the arguments, the trash talking about each other and then denying it, the photo sessions at random bars, the laughter, the tears…. um wait, I’m not the gay one? Oh yeah. I forgot. What I’m trying to say is that it’s really weird that they’re not gonna be at work with me, and that nobody who I’ve been close with in recent years is left on the payroll, and everyone is new and irritating, and once again I’ve been left all alone (with my regular husband and work husband and the rest of the staff. But you know what I mean).

Today Nicole and I were eating lunch and she asked me “How do you feel about the Sophomore Class?” I wish this new group of servers was only the sophomore class. I surpassed the Super Seniors before my Bat Mitzvah was over. When you hear people talking about the turnover rate at restaurants, you forget that some people aren’t going anywhere. I’m that people.

This isn’t the first time that a staff has turned over nearly completely and left me starting over, learning lessons, vowing to never get attached ever ever ever again. It has always happened and it always will.

The vicious cycle.

One day there’s this group of tightknit homies who spend all of their time at work, and often out of work, together. And then the next day, two quit, one got fired, one went away to school and suddenly you’re left with one or two lonely veterans and a bunch of new annoying people. And then the annoying people start to grow on you, and the conversations begin to be a little more casual, and then they’re taking place at a bar after work, and then at the beach on your day off, and then one more time, like clockwork, they’re off to the next stop on their resumé.

Sometimes it’s on good terms, and you say you’re going to keep in close touch. You meet up once or twice, but your schedules are conflicting. Suddenly you see photos of their kids on Facebook and they’re graduating elementary, then middle, then high school and all you can write is “Wow. Time sure does fly. Hope you’re well…”

Most of the time, probably 85%, the terms are not okay. It’s an abrupt firing or “I quit!” and suddenly the people who you came to trust and learned to be yourself around turn into dark versions of themselves in your eyes, and vice versa. And then, as quick as they filled out their application in the first place, they no longer exist in your world (until you start writing a blog, of course).

The fact of the matter is, the type of work relationship I have with my buddies could be my last. Charlie and Nicole started at the restaurant before they could legally drink. They were kids who were trying to make some cash after classes ended.  I was just a little bit older than them, and I wasn’t married and I didn’t have kids or a mortgage payment. I watched the Disney Channel. But things have changed. I’ve graduated to ABC Family and have things like responsibilities and life insurance policies and a firmer grasp on my temper. Charlie went through 75,000 hairstyles and bottles of hair product and is this confident and motivated Asian braniac (who still can’t drive). Nicole had nightly near-fist fights with Harry for rolling her eyes too much (now this only happens like 2 times a week instead of 5). They have both offered me their shoulders to lean on so many times that I long ago stopped doubting whether they truly cared or were just trying to get the best shifts. But now when I hire servers who are too young to drink, I’m way too old to have anything in common with them (except my occasional Disney Channel marathons). They don’t even know who the Stone Temple Pilots are. Forget that, they consider “Friends” historical television.

When I was 8 years old I looked up at the servers at my parents’ first restaurant and thought that I’d never get to be so tall or be talented enough to carry a tray. Then I learned how to wait tables and all I wanted was to be invited to hang out with them after work. By the time I went to college I was the epicenter of the social scene, making friends with all the wrong employees and learning my lesson over and over again by getting ditched and used. Now I’ve outgrown them, and I’m one of the moms, tsk-ing in the corner at how careless and lazy all these kids are. Oh, and somewhere in there I met Harry. He was the first person who ever stuck around (other than this Salvadorian Herman who has technically known me the longest, as in since I was like 10) and I think I scored pretty fuckin’ big. I spent so much of my childhood and young adulthood feeling constantly alone, and now suddenly there’s someone handsome sharing all the gains and losses with me. Because even though he won’t admit it, and maybe he doesn’t even realize, Harry is really really really gonna miss Nicole.

the official Shelbytown FIELD GUIDE TO WAITERS (part 4)

10 Jun

So as we’ve been discussing, restaurant servers come from oodles of walks of life. Tonight, numbers 16-20.

16. The Mom – No restaurant on earth would survive without her. She keeps the peace, lends a shoulder to cry on, gossips smartly and wears high waisted pants so that she’s easily recognizable. She carries a calendar which is full of vital events such as meet the teacher night and the middle school orchestra concert. If she works a double she absolutely must leave by 3 to take her kids off the bus and get them settled in with their homework before she can come back to work the dinner shift. She is never ever ever too sick to work. She also never has problems of her own, although if you’re bitching to her about some way in which your life is horrible, (which every employee does on an hourly basis) she can find a personal way to relate to you and make you feel a billion times better. If you call The Mom to pick up a shift in a pinch, she will be waiting for her kid to finish up at the dentist and will let you know when he’s done.

17. The Ass Kisser – This guy laughs at your jokes when nobody else does (because they really aren’t funny) and he always thinks your hair looks great. If you say jump, he’s already hanging from the rafters. You have all the same hobbies – he totally loves country music! And little kids! And He thanks you for helping him carry plates to his table, even though its your job. He also thanks you for pouring a water for yourself when you’re thirsty. And then he thanks you for being named after a cool car. And then he thanks you for giving him his job and providing such a meaningful life for him and his family. Then he comes up with a loving pet name to call you based on one of your funny funny funny jokes that “really stuck with him.” At a certain point you have to tell him that you’re aware that he’s kissing your ass, and really need it to stop before you throw up from all the kindness. The Ass Kisser branches off at this point to:

17a. The Fake – Once you call him out, you both suddenly have nothing in common. If you call him to pick up a shift in a pinch he screens the call and waits thirteen hours to get back to you.

17b. The Genuinely Nauseatingly Nice Person – They’re just awesome, you keep trying to see through them but it isn’t working. Months pass. You keep treading lightly, waiting for this solid rock of a server to crumble but it doesn’t happen. You promote him to manager and make him your work husband. You never call him to pick up a shift in a pinch because he already does so much for you.

18. The Bod – This guy comes straight from the gym to work, and consequently smells like he just came from the gym. His solution, since he is concerned only with being hot and glistening like the sun, is to spray himself down with lemon pledge, concentrating mainly in the armpit areas but getting to the upper chest for some sparkle. He checks his face in any reflective surface he can get his eye on, including the brass beer tower and the window in front of the table that he’s taking an order off of. It is for this reason that he very rarely gets a table’s order correct, and as a result makes little-to-no money per shift. But luckily he lives with his mom and dad and all he eats is chicken breast and protein shakes and water, so it doesn’t cost him a lot to sustain his lifestyle. Just a phone bill and a gym membership for this Bod. He is constantly dripping blood here and there because he’s in a secret fight club in the back of a Zumba and pilates studio. If you call the Bod to pick up a shift in a pinch, he will have pulled a muscle in his groin and not be able to move except to go to the gym. So no work for him.

19. The Struggling Artist – This girl plays the guitar in an all Asian rock band that sings 70s covers, and also aspires to be a world famous graffiti artist. Her waitressing job is by far the least important aspect of her life. In fact, she’s usually unaware she’s even in the building while she’s working. She’s constantly writing lyrics on her server pad and mixing it up with orders. This results in many many many of her songs being about food, particularly salad modifications. She never works Thursday or Saturday because she has weekly gigs at the library and some dive bar. She has twelve piercings, only two of which are in her ears. The others range from her eyebrow to her nose to her clitoris to her lip. She changes them frequently to match her mood. She has been known to walk away from a table who she felt to be “uninspiring” and hand it off to the Ass Kisser. If you call the Struggling Artist to pick up a shift in a pinch, you will soon remember that she doesn’t believe in things like telephones. You can page her or write to her on MySpace if you really need to get in touch.

20. The Smartest Person in the History of the World – This person has a degree in philosophy from a highly acclaimed university, yet spends his days and nights asking people if they want fries with that. I mean, don’t get them wrong – they can be doing anything they feel like, they just choose to bring people extra lemon for their water. What those sucker customers don’t know is that the Smartest Person in the History of the World is serving them, and psychoanalyzing their every move, most likely silently accusing them of being stupid and inferior dredges of the earth. He will test you on every fact imaginable until he can find a subject that he knows more about you on. This can be something as broad as history, or specific as the shifting demographic of Long Island prostitutes. He gets into heated arguments with bar customers over political events and shakes his head in disgust if you are unfamiliar with the metaphors in The Great Gatsby. If you call him to pick up a shift in a pinch, he’ll come right over after he finishes reading the chapter of Ulysses he’s on at the bookstore coffeeshop.

 

OK, I think I’m out of servers. Perhaps at some point soon we’ll move on to cooks and hostesses and bartenders. Until then, make sure you tip your waiter, chances are he needs to buy drugs, booze and hookers, and you’re his only hope.

the official shelbytown FIELD GUIDE TO WAITERS (part 3)

8 Jun

Over the past few nights we’ve been exploring the various types of waiters that you might find yourself flagging down to get a refill on your coffee. Tonight, five more wonderful waiters and their most distinguishing traits. But first, a review of the first ten:

  1. the boomerang
  2. the serial dater
  3. the weed dealer
  4. the Jappy college student
  5. the recently financially independent college student
  6. the spanish guy who got promoted from busboy
  7. the shift hijacker
  8. the shift extinguisher
  9. the lifer
  10. the occasionally emotionally unstable rock

OK, let us continue…..

11. The Cougar Hunter – This kid was a too skinny and social misfit when he got to high school so he got an after school job bussing tables at a restaurant and he started going to the gym with his buddies, because his time wasn’t consumed with things like girls and parties. This led to a major boost in self-confidence and now he walks around the restaurant with his arms bulging out of his shirt telling every female employee or customer over 40 that she looks hot in her capri pants and asking them if they want to go to Chili’s for drinks after work. As a result of the highly mediocre treatment he received by girls his own age, he now rebels by bedding every mature woman he can get his hands on – and there are many. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t enjoy when there’s a good Cougar Hunter around. First of all, I’m getting up there in years and being hit on by a little hottie makes me feel young again. And second, all the old bag waitresses who generally look like shit really start taking more pride in their appearance. And looks are everything. The Cougar Hunter’s uniform is wrinkled every single day. If you call him to pick up a shift in a pinch, he will decline, but roll over and ask the 50-year-old bartender if she can do it.

12. The Owner’s Friend’s Kid – Occasionally these kids are top notch employees who truly care about the business, come to work on time and live up to their parents’ gloating. OK, that’s actually never happened. Frankly, they’re lazy – I mean, come on. Their parents had to get them a job. They come to work 5 minutes late every single shift but their parents come for dinner every single time they work and spend boatloads of money so it’s ok. The owner’s friend’s kid has little common sense and they meddle in your business because they think they’re privy to family-sensitive information, but there’s nothing you can really do about any of it because you don’t want to do anything to spoil the owner’s relationship. Some friends know their kids are slow/ugly/obnoxious/lazy but others put on the blinders. You want to suggest to some of these people that their kid might be better suited at a far more equal opportunity employer, but instead you’re stuck with them until they quit/get arrested/get off of academic probation and go back to Wisconsin. The owner’s friend’s kid wears white socks with his black uniform everyday even though you have told him 35 times to stop. You don’t call the owner’s friend’s kid to come in if you’re in a pinch because it’s essentially the same as having nobody there.

13. The Owner’s Kid’s Friend – This server has pretty decent work ethic, because the owner’s kid isn’t gonna settle for some loser who doesn’t care about the place. But they also know how to have a good time. The owner’s kid’s friend and the owner’s kid have been known to break into the restaurant after hours and make chocolate chip pancakes, setting off the burglar alarm in the process. Over the years, the owner’s kid’s friend has become totally comfortable in the building, and no longer does useless things like side work and paying for food and wearing the correct uniform. If the owner’s kid’s friend messes up an order and it gets sent back to the kitchen, he eats it outside before it can even get cold. Sometimes it’s really hard to be the owner’s kid’s friend because they don’t get all the gossip that everyone else gets, such as who is looking for a new job and who’s stealing liquor, because they know at this point that he’s the house tattletale. But then again, the perks of being the owner’s kid’s friend (free booze, perfect schedule, big spenders) far outweigh missing out on a little gossip. The owner’s kid’s friend made up his own uniform a few years ago, but it works so you don’t say anything. You don’t need to call the owner’s kid’s friend to pick up a shift in a pinch because the owner’s kid is already on the phone with him, and she’ll just ask him herself.

14. The Summer Help – These guys are usually nerds, because a smart manager will hire the summer applicant who diligently applies in March during spring break. So the Cancun spring breakers who would typically be more fun to work with but are busy getting laid and sunburnt get passed over for pale virgins who play the viola and go to animated movies in costume at midnight on opening night. The summer help can’t work Monday through Friday during lunch because they’re taking summer classes at community college so that they stay fresh in the cranium. As the summer progresses, they start socializing with the Jappy College Student, the Weed Dealer and the Recently Financially Independent College Student, and suddenly they’re covered in tattoos, switching their major to performance art and drinking a bottle of wine before they can even get out of bed in the morning. If you call the Summer Help in a pinch before July 4th weekend, they’ll be there in an instant. But anytime after that they’ll be laying hungover on the beach waiting until the sun sets again so they can get the party started again.

15. The Cat Lady – A self described spinster, the cat lady just can’t find a man ever since the late 80s when she split up from her husband. She busies herself by perpetuating clearly false rumors about her fellow coworkers and feeding stray cats in the back of the parking lot on her lunch breaks. She is a chain smoker, loves herself a stiff drink and is a complete bitch to customers who don’t pay her the respect that she’s due. If there’s a handsome middle aged man in the house, she develops a sort of swagger in the ass region that is only matched by the best of burlesque dancers. The Cat Lady always has a clean apron and freshly applied lipstick. If you call her in a pinch to pick up a shift she will complain that she has far too much to do to, and that if we absolutely cannot find anyone else then she guesses she’ll come in.