Posts Tagged ‘Waiter’

Job Hunt Mach 2

Posted: January 26, 2013 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Me & Mine
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I am the 81st down from the right

I am the 81st down from the right

Like millions of my fellow Americans, I am out of work…again. A few years ago my employer of 17 years and I engaged in an F Bomb exchange which excused me from the ranks of the employed for a couple years. Do I regret our four letter word rock opera? Yes and no, but it is spilled milk now. I felt slightly vindicated when I put an “I Hate Pigs” bumper sticker on his BMW to celebrate my one year anniversary away from the job. I actually ran into him during the holidays this year. We shook hands and were cordial to one another.

I have landed 3 jobs since then. One where the owner took an instant and intense dislike to me. Not much one can do about that. (I once asked my former employer “What the Fuck is your problem with me?’, and we know how that worked out.) The general manager hired me and on my first night of training I was introduced to the owner. I extended my hand to him and he gave me a look of utter and complete disgust. I was actually impressed as I have been working on that look for over 20 years. Well played, Sir! It was a facial expression reserved for finding a hair in your food and it was depressing. I thought I was finally turning the corner, only to have a job dangled in front of me and ripped away after 4 hours. I felt a little better after noticing that this place has a “Help Wanted” sign in their window every week. It seems the owner takes an instant and intense dislike to lots of applicants. Finally! It’s not me, it’s you.

"Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac. Do be a lamb and fetch me one."

“Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac.
Do be a lamb and fetch me one.”

The second job was at a posh and stuffy four star restaurant. I’m not posh or stuffy. (I’m…puffy.) They wear white dinner jackets. I’m more of a leather jacket kind of guy. I lasted 3 whole weeks on the job. It wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t for them. I’m accustomed to fast, turn and burn bar tending. This place demanded that each drink take half an hour to lovingly construct. The drinks were excellent and the man who designed them is world renowned. I just wasn’t the right man for a place that wanted a 28.5 millimeter lemon twist to rim the glass 6 and 1/2 times counter clockwise, while whistling Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, and precisely measuring 16 ingredients to craft a gin and tonic. I’ve checked the want ads; this place is always looking for staff as well. So, I got that going for me . . . which is useless.

Finally, I landed a job at an Irish pub in my neighborhood. I really liked my job. I liked my co-workers, I liked my bosses, I liked the customers, and those who I didn’t care for so much provided me with some fantastic material for my writing and comedy. It was never extremely busy, but I was working again, making money and going to school… what I like to call “having some semblance of a life” I was doing well and considered myself lucky.

I was at this job for a year…almost exactly a year. I spent the slow summer months anxiously awaiting the lucrative football season in Fall. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, during the first football game of the season, while traversing three little steps in the pub, I felt a sickening pop above the heel of my left foot. Apparently the warranty on my Achilles tendon had just expired. I would be in a cast for the next 3 months. With the exception of McLimpy’s Tavern on E 14th St, no one was hiring staff members in casts so I spent that time catching up on “PARQUE ALEGRIA” my favorite Spanish language soap opera, applying fat from various comfort foods to my thighs, butt and stomach, and fighting my very own version of the Hundred Years War with the New York State Workers Compensation Board and my employer’s insurance company; Apathy Mutual of Hoboken. “We Truly Pretend to Care”

After I recovered, I discovered that my job was not waiting for my triumphant return. My boss told me to bring a note from a doctor and then promptly stopped returning my phone calls and had always “just stepped out” whenever I stepped in. My (former?) co-workers greeted me with a slightly embarrassed humble-mumble-chumbles. People don’t get fired anymore…they become more of an Orwellian “un-person” or more accurately an unemployed person. New York is an “employment at will” state, meaning a company will fire you if so inclined. And it seemed my boss was SO inclined.

It was back to the job hunt for the boy.

"Hi, my name is...."  "YOU'RE HIRED!!!"

“Hi, my name is….” “YOU’RE HIRED!!!”

Had I learned anything during my first crack at being a man of leisure? Yes. I learned that the job market sucks, that many bar owners prefer breasts to experience, I learned that I had gotten spoiled having the same job for 17 years. However, I am a firm believer that we cultivate a great deal of our own luck. The more I am out there, the better my chances of experiencing some good timing or luck. I am also glad that it is winter. The cold weather has added to my motivation in terms of not having to relocate from my apartment to a refrigerator box with a breakfast nook out by where the buses don’t run. Plus, I don’t show up to open calls and interviews drenched in sweat. It’s a bummer to call and thank someone for an interview and have them say “Oh yeah, you’re that sweaty guy, I remember you, Uh, we’ll let you know” I can just imagine some manager writing “Too sweaty” on my soggy resume. Yuck.

Sometimes I go out and just drop resumes off in various neighborhoods with good street traffic and lots of bars and restaurants. I shower, shave and. dress to resemble a responsible and productive member of society. I zip into places and ask “Hi, is there a manager I could possibly drop my resume off with?” Some people are nice. They take my resume, smile and wish me luck. Others are just overtly unpleasant. Last week a haughty Maître’s D sneered ‘”You can leave it” (meaning my resume),” as if it took every fiber of his being to not follow this with “But really, we shant be calling you back.” Lots of hostesses have an utterly charming, smelling-a-fart facial expression when I swing by to drop off a resume and speak to the (never present) manager. Aren’t these women hired to be the “face” of the venue? When did friendliness and basic politeness leave this job description? Should a hostess act as a deterrent? “Sorry to interrupt your texting Ms. Evangelista, I know it’s a lot to ask, but would you be a dove and take my resume, lie about passing it along to the manager and maybe even smile? Judging by your demeanor, you’d think I shambled in here bleeding profusely from both ears and barking in an inappropriately loud voice “Hey toots, where’s the crapper in this joint?”

"Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs."

“Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs.”

This time around I seem to be getting more call backs and interviews, which is encouraging. The first time around I could literally go weeks without hearing back from anyone. Of course, I have been to 3 interviews in 2 weeks where the interviewers were incredibly rude and cold. This makes no sense to me. I can understand seeing someone for the first time and deciding that this isn’t the person you had in mind for the job. As much as we like to deny it, we do judge books by their covers, but it’s a good business strategy to paste a smile on one’s face, shake hands, ask a couple questions and muster a friendly “Thanks, We’ll let you know.” Really, the entire industry is based on acting pleasant and nice to people, and especially being able to fake it. Plus, it would be too easy for someone less well-adjusted than I to take offense and call the Heath Department or leave a review on sites like Yelp or Urban Spoon with fictitious tales of rat droppings in the ceviche, food poisoning or rude staff. Plus, you called me. I am merely showing up to an interview that you requested, Smiley.

I step into some places and immediately realize that I stand no chance whatsoever of working there. Lots of Irish pubs only hire illegal Irish aliens, I’ve tried to fake an accent, but I always blow it by humming “Danny Boy” and making some ridiculous reference to Irish Spring soap or Lucky Charms cereal. Other places have nothing but Charlie’s Angel’s rejects struggling with the intricacies of a vodka and tonic. I’m not young and fabulous, so I don’t even bother with chic lounges or trendy nightclubs. I make it a point not to go to places that wont let me in.

The NYC service industry is a unique microcosm. Many places want head shots, bi-lingual a plus and all kinds of other criteria. “A strong background in Northern Italian wines preferred” (For McGinty’s Pub?) This becomes a slippery slope. I think people expect us to embellish, exaggerate and..OK….OK, lie on our resumes and during interviews, but one can’t go too far with this. We’d be found out day one, embarrassed and fired….and being unemployed is embarrassing enough. There was a coffee shop in Union Square that only hired Brazilian models. Another place designed as a honky-tonk that only hired models with a special cocktail dyslexia. “I’ll have a Red Stripe please.” 25 minutes later she would produce a glass of red wine. If you decided to stay and try for a second round, she’d bring Johnny Walker Red. These are the people who are getting the jobs. Yeah, life’s fair.

Maybe I should apply

Maybe I should apply

Years ago I went into a bar in the Village to use of their bathroom. Since there is an unwritten law that people are not allowed to use restrooms without a purchase, I bought a glass of wine that I really didn’t want. It was officially a gay bar (Something cleverly named The Dude Ranch), but in neighborhoods like the East Village, the lines between gay and straight became blurred. People went were they liked the music or the prices. The bartender that day was a swishy, middle aged gay man who was balding with a pot belly. His appearance was decidedly un-fabulous. Still, as I drank my wine and he held court with the handful of customers who were there, I quickly realized he was really funny, engaging and warm. I ended up staying for two more glasses of wine because I had nowhere to be, and we were all having a good time. It dawned on me that this terrific bartender wouldn’t stand a chance of getting a job at 99% of the gay bars in the city. They’d laugh at him and make bitter, queeny jokes about his weight or appearance the second he walked out the door. Then they’d promptly hire the Chelsoid gym rat with no personality, no experience, but who had stapled a beautifully photo-shopped and shirtless photograph of his fabulous self to his misspelled resume.

My point is that the resume my mommy thinks is “Very nice honey” with legitimate experience and references can matter very little. There are many places that are always hiring. They only want the beautiful people working for them. In this economy, the owner of the corner gin mill gets to act like Steve Rubell from Studio 54. I have worked with some very good looking people, and some of them were crackerjack staff members. Yet, sadly it is all too common to find a pretty, yet aloof bartender busily text messaging while hapless patrons wave $20 bills at them in a futile attempt to get the bartender to actually tend to the bar. Eventually, after updating their Facebook status with “My job sucks”, they glance over at the customer, roll their eyes, slam down a bottle of Budweiser in front of them and fetch their change without a word of thanks. Or, when someone orders a scotch and soda, they tilt their pretty little heads and ask “What’s in that?”

Having a resume; it makes me feel all grown-up. I look over my references and continuity and feel proud of myself. Another thing that gives me minor internal hissy fits is when an interviewer takes my resume and wants me to fill out an application. I had thought that the point of a resume is to save time on things like applications. Of course, we can’t roll our eyes when we are handed an application. We have to be cheerful and act as if we were given one off those huge checks from Publisher’s Clearing House. “Oh, goody-gumdrops! You mean I get to hand write everything that is already typed neatly on the paper I just gave you on to a whole new piece of paper?” I loathe these modern redundancies, like when we punch in our account numbers when calling our cable company, and then being asked for the same number 40 minutes later when we finally reach a human being.

It is an employer’s market. I read ads of what they are seeking and it is an extensive laundry list of sacrifice and dedication for the privilege of working for someone. Under “compensation” there is usually a single euphemistic business-speak word “competitive”. Translation: as little as we are able to get away with. Some companies at least try to be creative “Work with a first rate team who are able to think outside of the box.” Well, I suppose that does sweeten the sub-minimum wage pay. While I was working I would look over resumes other people had dropped off. I was also always nice to perspective applicants. It was not uncommon to come across people with Master’s Degrees and Ph.D.’s looking to wait tables and schlep drinks. This made me feel better, while also scaring me a little. I remember showing up to an open call at a popular hotel years ago. I had shown up 20 minutes early, only to join a line of applicants that looked like one of the black and white photos from The Great Depression. In line were stunningly beautiful and handsome young men and women holding professionally designed resumes in sexy binders. They wore beautifully tailored, designer clothes and seemed so sure of themselves. These are the people I am competing with, and many of them are more educated, younger, better looking and possibly more desperate than I am. Personally, if I was in a position to hire, I’d exploit any and all desperation. “Well, you’re certainly qualified; but would you be willing to give me a foot massage and to address me as ‘Most Exalted Daddy Pants’? And by the way, how are you at ‘thinking outside the box?” Looking eager and upbeat takes energy too, more energy than one might think. This made me understand why people stop looking for work after a year or year and a half. It’s tantamount to being pumped up in the locker room for the big game, yet week after week getting slaughtered on the field. The job hunt can be exceptionally draining and soul sucking. It’s hard to keep from taking rejection and a lack of response personally.

Be it ever so crumbled....There's no place like home.

Be it ever so crumbled….There’s no place like home.

I’ll get another job sooner or later, hopefully sooner as my landlord is a little funny about my bringing in partial rent payments in rolled up pennies and nickels and saying “I’ll try to get the rest of it to you next week.”

Clouseau

Losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, salt, or Romanian women, taking a class…these are the standard New Year’s resolutions. I avoid the gym for the first couple weeks in January. That’s about how long it takes most people’s resolve to start to subside. I’d be lying if I said I was any better. When God was handing out tenacity and self-control, I was in the Twinkie line…chain smoking and drinking a beer.

There is one thing I would like many of my fellow human beings to resolve to do in the new year, and to please, please, PLEASE in the name of everything holy, try to stick with it. I want people to strive to find a clue…to think…and to exercise and develop common sense! Intelligence and stupidity can come in many forms. Some people are just dumb. They have low IQs, their brain is a rickety old elevator powered by an elderly and underfed gerbil. I have written to my elected officials to ask if we could work out some kind of federal ID program for the double digit IQs folks out there…Nothing mean spirited or intrusive…maybe a forehead tattoo. Just so we know who were dealing with before we are ordering ice cream, choosing a window at the DMV or getting in line at Radio Shack.

I’m not talking about the intellectually stupid. Their brain power or lack thereof is not their fault. I’m talking about those of average or better intelligence who do mind bogglingly stupid things, regularly. These are college grads, with important pieces of paper and letters after their name, who still haven’t figured out the geometrical intricacies of parking their shopping cart across a grocery store aisle as opposed to to the side of it. I can’t for the life of me relate to this thought process…and I’ve tried. It made my head hurt. They don’t pull their cars into the opposite lane to avoid traffic do they? (Well, sometimes they actually do, which is sad) The reason they don’t is because there is an obvious risk involved. Maybe instead of stopping, heaving a loud sigh and glaring angrily at people who clog our shopping aisles up, we should back our cart up 10 or 20 feet, and then charge our cart at theirs going top speed and BASH. Organic range free eggs and Newman’s Diet Caesar dressing everywhere, and possibly (hopefully) the offending party gets a minor injury and has to pay for and clean up everything broken. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to silently hand these people a bill and a mop?

Today I asked my best friend what she thought might happen if I asked these people why they did such a clueless thing. We both agreed that no matter how politely I asked that it probably wouldn’t go over too well. “Excuse me miss, I’m a writer and I have been working on a piece about super markets and human behavior. I noticed you placed your cart across the aisle while you debate your tuna options. The Bumble Bee solid white is on sale, by the way, over by the register. I love that stuff. Ever put scallions in your tuna salad? No? Oh give it a try, it’s lovely. Anyhoo… getting back to your cart…my question, and I gather by the 4 or 5 other shoppers here waiting for you, theirs as well, is . . .um. . .Why?” My best friend and I agreed that there isn’t a polite enough preface to any question that points out someone’s cluelessness. We conversed a bit longer until she closed with our standard “Honey, I love you very, very much…but you exhaust me.” Awww.

I have a friend; Robert, who is not stupid. When there is something he wants or needs, he is incredibly intelligent, tenacious and resourceful. But there are far too many moments where he is maddeningly obtuse and certain things he does, repeatedly and chronically are simply unacceptable. Lateness, for example…he is regularly up to an hour or an hour and a half late…doesn’t care who he keeps waiting, how much he screws things up or what they miss out on…he is going to be late. What makes me, his other friends, family, employers etc. want to beat him about the head and face with large pieces of lumber are his explanations.

“The train was late.” or “There was traffic.” I have tried to question him in regards to these excuses slowly and methodically, so that maybe, just maybe he will see that his excuses are not only lame, but that they insult one’s intelligence.

“The train was late.”
“The train, huh?”
“Yep.”
“How long does it take you to get here using the train?”
“I dunno…maybe 30 or 40 minutes.”
“Uh huh, and you’re 90 minutes late.”
“Yeah?”
“So, you left half an hour before you were supposed to meet me?”
“Uh, I left 15 minutes before I was supposed to meet you.”
“So, you were going to be late and you knew it?”
“I guess.”
“You guess.”

I pause here and put the beer bottle I am becoming very tempted to hit him with out of my immediate reach.

“You take the train every day, right? A couple times a day even?”
“Yeah.”
“And, does it seem like the train is usually sitting in the station awaiting your arrival? Has that ever happened, or do you find that usually you have to wait, 10, 15 or 20 minutes for the train to pull into the station?”
“Uh, what do you mean?”
“I mean that sane people, people who think make allowances for the inevitable bullshit that happens with public transportation.”
“How am I supposed to know if the train is going to be late or bypass stations?”
“By living in the city for over 35 years and figuring out the painfully obvious law of averages.” I say wondering exactly how quickly I can grab the bottle and hit him with it.
“What are you so pissed off about? I’m here aren’t I?”
“Yeah…an hour and a half late.”
“So?”

Robert, a college educated man, a creative man with good taste capable of brilliant conversations about art, politics, history and current events has not been able, in his 45 years on earth to figure out that rush hour is between 7-10 am and 4-6 pm and that there will be traffic that slows things down. Would a severe beating help? I think of how dog owners when housebreaking a new pup shove their faces into their doggies flop and swat them on the bottom with a rolled up newspaper…and lo and behold…the dog makes the connection in a week or three. I guess the question is, what do I shove Robert’s face into? My watch? More importantly, what do I beat him with?

Doesn’t everyone have a Robert or two in their lives?

My inspiration for this piece has to do with my freelance catering business. I have a small business I am trying to get off the ground where I provide catering, bar staff, servers, party planning and DJs. Naturally nights like New Year’s Eve and Halloween are busy nights. Yet people feel the need to try to book with me 24-48 hours prior to the big night. People who work in the service/ hospitality business, contrary to what seems to be popular opinion; don’t sit staring at their phones and begging them to ring on Dec 29th.

Since this is business I refrain from making comments about being the sharpest crayon in the box.

I think what we need to do as a society is to develop a system for a polite indication of gross and willful derpitude. A gesture would work well here. No, not my favorite of my fingers…Something polite, remember? Maybe we could look into the eyes of the offending party and gently tap the side of our heads while smiling sympathetically and kindly.

I wonder what, if anything would work.

It may be futile, but I’m going to keep trying, dammit!

A couple of years ago Steve, a wise co-worker and friend, took me aside and laid down some tough love on yours truly. Said tough love consisted of explaining, in no uncertain terms, that I complain entirely too much and that despite how funny and entertaining I thought my complaints were after I surrounded them with well thought quips and one liners…no one…ab-so-lute-ly NO one wanted to hear them. He went on, mercilessly explaining that perhaps my frustrations at work just might have something to do with my perpetual litany of complaint and griping. Miserable griping begets misery? Who’da thunk it?

“Dude, you call one of our bosses “Darth Vader”, Steve chided. He often prefaced his “You-Need-To-Listen” statements with “Dude”. I listened and said a few “Yeah, but”s. Yet, as far as he was concerned, this was not open to debate. I left our little pow wow angry and muttering, which is ironic as the whole conversation seemed to be about my anger and mutterings.

As I calmed down, despite the “Dude” preface, I began to see the wisdom in his words. I did complain entirely too much. Maybe my complaints weren’t quite as hilarious and entertaining as I thought they were. While discussing my employer’s rather unfair and unfriendly treatment of me, he brought up another point. “You think all that shit you say doesn’t get back to them? Dude, they’re not stupid.” This too was true. There were two bosses. One, a cheap, miserable, black, gay man who had issues with being black, issues with being gay and issues with being a man. He didn’t seem to mind being cheap and miserable, so he had that going for him…which was nice. He was just smart and educated enough to realize how limited his intelligence actually was. Or maybe not. Isn’t it maddening how stupid people never seem to understand how dense they are??? My other boss was a cheap, drug addicted, megalomaniacal, narcissistic prince of a man who actually typed “New York Real Estate Guru” beneath his smug photo on Facebook. Yeah Mr. Trump, last time I checked owning 3 small buildings doesn’t catapult you into the guru gang. You’re Mr. Roper. OK?

But Steve was right, neither of them were entirely stupid….not even the stupid one. In fact, the guy wearing the “I’m

I think mine is the second one down, on the left.

With Stupid” t-shirt should probably be flanking their angry little employee who wasn’t getting ahead and couldn’t figure out why. I realized that other friends and co-workers had tried to tell me to reel it in, and I had been too busy trying to think up clever insults to pay any heed. When I said “Hi” to my boss and he walked by ignoring me, I chalked it up to his being a Supreme Douchebag. What did I expect? One of his employees spent an inordinate amount of time running him down behind his back every chance he got. Sure, he was and is a Supreme Douchebag…but I certainly couldn’t expect a hug and a raise for my behavior. After years of therapy, one of the nuggets I came away with was “You can’t control how others behave, you can only control how YOU behave.” Therapy Wisdom Nuggets are VERY expensive by the way. One doesn’t saunter into Dr Jungenfreud’s office and get a 6 piece.

I turned it around. I even took some of my co-workers aside and apologized to them for my constant griping. They were taken aback, but I think and hope they appreciated it. From then on I shut my trap. My bosses were cheap ingrates, but they were still my bosses and at the end of the day, it was their place and they could do whatever they wanted. I learned to shrug my shoulders and say “Well, what can you do?” and “I don’t agree with it, but it’s their place and they can do what they want.” My bosses never noticed the change, but my co-workers did. About a year later “The Guru” and I had an exchange and I left after an F-bomb or three. I had a tough time finding a new job for the next year and a half. In retrospect it isn’t how I wanted to leave my job of 17 years. However, I’m not so arrogant as to dismiss my role in the demise of our working relationship. So it goes.

Scary combo in a few ways.

I’m now at a new job which I like and am very grateful for. My new employers say things like “Thank You.” and “That’s a good idea.” which was something I never heard at my previous job. It’s not perfect, but once again without the aid of dear old Steve I am taking a look at myself when it comes to my not getting ahead. Now I no longer go on and on with a litany of complaint. I preface my statements with how much I like my job. My newest revelation of self-discovery is that I go through life thinking up and rehearsing clever remarks in regards to the aspects of my job that somehow, all too often emerge from my mouth. Another thing that keeps me from getting ahead is my temper who is the Cisco to my big mouth’s Pancho. I am 42 now and my brain still hasn’t developed much in the way of editing software. Here’s the routine. A customer acts like an asshole. I say something or roll my eyes, I get in trouble and stew over the injustice of it all. Sure I’m not in the wrong…but I’m not winning or getting ahead. Once again, it is time to learn to shut my mouth.

As I biked to work, I started to think of this new philosophy. Now, God has a warped sense of humor. He has made both Sarah Palin and Paris Hilton’s dog best selling authors while I get rejection form letters from MAD and Cracked magazines. He was listening intently to my inner dialogue and decided to have a little fun. He warmed things up by sending 7 high school kids in to be my first customers of the day. I knew they were going to suck. My spidey sense told me so. They all ordered water, which I have a rather unreasonably strong aversion to. The way I see it, fetching water for people is more work, with no money. I tried to have a good attitude and to be friendly with them. It was a no-go. They were horrible teenagers and I was a dorky middle aged guy trying to be cool (God when did this happen to me? I used to be cool.) One of them even made fun of me. I think. He made some remark that I didn’t quite catch and his girlfriend started giggling. Their bill (with the water) came to $90 and they left me a $4 tip. Well, fuck you with a chainsaw, you seven reminders of my poor life choices. It’s funny how we know something is going to happen, and yet we still get angry about it when it does. “I knew you were going to say/do that!” ex-girlfriends have said to me prior to a fight. “Well, if you were expecting it, then why are you surprised and angry?” I’d answer. Is it any wonder I’m single? It’s just a weird nuance of humanity. We know something is going to suck, yet despite our accurate forecast, we still get angry and frustrated. Shouldn’t we bask in satisfaction of our pre-knowledge of the impending suckitude? Nope. That’s not how it works. We’re going to dread going to the DMV, we’re going to wait in line for 3 hours only to be informed by the inevitable, apathetic GED wielding Sheniqua or Mabel that we’ve been in the wrong line…”NEXT!!!”.

“Hey, Ashley. I just tipped the old dude like, less than 5%”
“Oh, Brandon. You rock so hard.”

I think the Teen Torture Power Hour at work was a bit of karmic backlash from my youth. Every pay day my friend Josh and I would cash the paychecks from our dish washing and prep cook jobs when we were 15 and 16 and trot on down to Friendly’s restaurant in our home town to look for trainee waitresses to torment. The hunting was made easier because the poor girls had to wear a tag that read “Trainee” where it would normally say “Alice” or “Flo” We’d order like wise asses “Hey Trainee, can I have a heavy breathing Spanish omelet and hold the side effects” or “I see you have something on your menu called the “Friendly Frank” sounds a bit like a child molester doesn’t it?” Then we’d write something crude and juvenile on the check after paying. “Care to join us after for a warm cheese enema?” or “Ever dip you nipples in the hot fudge for your boyfriend? The difference is we tipped well. We worked in the industry and understood these things.

In addition to their contempt and sub 5% tip (Oh, I forgot to mention prior to the lousy tip, two of them had asked for change of a fifty dollar bill. Injury is just so much more satisfying with a healthy dose of insult heaped upon it) one of the kids had inquired about renting our upstairs function room for a birthday party. I knew my boss would ask me to work that party. An afternoon of fetching sodas for My-Super-Sweet-Sixteen rejects as they ridiculed the middle aged angry man behind the bar. They’d ask for alcoholic drinks and make stupid jokes while I’d have to refuse, pick up after them and hold my tongue. One of my grievances at work is the quality of private parties I end up working. If two parties are scheduled for the week…one is a bachelor party of generous, hard drinking, fun guys with special guest stars the Swedish Olympic Blow Job Team and a one time original line up Guns-N-Roses reunion and the other is an AA meeting for those over the age of 70 who have coupons…I will end up tending bar at the latter.

I know God was messing with me, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of one of my patented mushroom cloud meltdowns of sarcasm and remarks. I noted that I was already thinking of remarks. This is how I am wired and where I need the most rewiring. I wrote about it to a small degree in another piece awhile back called “The Douchebag Option“. I didn’t say word one. I pasted a smile on my face and shut my yap. I resisted the urge to inform my boss, who had just given the youngsters a grand tour of our function room for the impending birthday on October 3rd, that I won’t be available that day as I’d be doing something infinitely more satisfying like giving myself paper cuts on my tongue and gargling with tobacco sauce.

It’s a small victory…very small…but at least I am trying.

5am at The Tune

Posted: June 7, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Three days off babies…That’s right THREE…count em, one…two and one more…three! Saturday, Sunday and that’s not all…Monday too.

I slept on my first day off, woke up had a great meal from a Greek place delivered, and then crawled back into bed for my sloth marathon. I woke up late (or early) and watched a movie about a serial killer with Judd Nelson and Tom Arnold. Interesting as Tom Arnold makes a pretty fair villain…maybe it’s that hateable face of his.

At 5 I wanted yum yums, so I put on some clothes and plodded down to the Neptune Diner. It was Sunday morning and the sun was coming up. Bottles and other casualties from the prior Saturday night littered the streets. I walked up and over the elevated subway station and used it to cross the busy boulevard. On the steps there was a half full nip bottle of Dewar’s scotch. It seemed odd to me that anyone could be so drunk as to not finish such a miniscule amount of Scotch. Not to worry, some homeless fellow with a penchant for spirits would happen along and consider himself lucky with such a find. There was a young man trying to pee discreetly in a corner just by the stairwell. His girlfriend was at the bottom of the stairs giggling at him, as he was about as discreet as Michael Jordan at a Klan meeting (wearing his Chicago Bulls gear of course and not the traditional robes…I’m sure there are a few tall Klansmen)

Half the sign of the Neptune Diner was burned out so that it read “TUNE DINER” I liked that for some reason. Seemed like something out of a film.

The diner was packed, save for the counter which was almost empty. I took a seat a couple stools down from an interesting looking guy who was reading a book. Most of the patrons of the diner were people who had struck out at the various bars, lounges and nightclubs in the area. The table behind me was full of Ed Hardy clad Jersey Shore clones who were taking out their frustrations on the hapless waiter by changing their order every 5 seconds and chiming in while he tried to take orders from their friends. As a writer, I feel the right to eavesdrop…especially on stupid and or entertaining people.

“Let me get da cheeseburger.”
“Oh yeah, I want dat too.”
“So, two cheeseburgers?” asked the waiter
“Whut’re you gittin?”
“A cheeseburger.”
“Huh?”
“A fuckin CHEESE-burger.”
“Yo, you got chicken fingers?”
“Yes.” replied the waiter with more patience than I have ever possessed in my entire life.
“Lemme git some.”
“So, you want a cheeseburger with the chicken fingers?”
“Uhhhhhhhh”
“You got buffalo wings?” He had found a picture of them on the menu and was pointing to it, but his reading was at a pre-school level so he had to check. I hate when customers do this. They see something on the menu or could look, but they just have to ask. It takes every fiber of my being not to respond to them with dripping sarcasm.

Clueless customer: “What kinda beer you got?”
Me, in my dreams: “Let’s see (gently taking the menu from them) hmmm…oh, here it is…Page One…”Beer List”
Clueless customer: “Do you have Corona?”
Me, in my dreams: “I’ll need to check, may I see your menu again…lets see….Amstel, Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light.. ahhh here it is under the C’s Corona. You know, we should probably give people a list of everything we have…kinda like a menu.”

Anyhoo…back to the Jersey Shore.

“Hey, uh I don’t wanna cheeseburger no more, I want brekfist.”
“Do you still want the chicken fingers?”
“Uhhhhhh…”
“Do you got buffalo wings?”
“Can I get a coke?”
“Let me get a Sprite.”
“No, gimme da cheeseburger…sorry boss.”
“Dat come in a can or a bottle? I don’t like no canned shit.”
“Can I have your fries?”
“No.”
“You got buffalo wings?”
“Do dey come wit fries?”

You get the picture.

My seat at the counter had a view of the kitchen door. Waiters and bussers were hustling to and fro. In the kitchen I saw the waiter that the Gow hates. We came in for yums once months ago and he waited on us. He pestered us with useless and more importantly unwarranted trivia. I liked that he was trying to be friendly, but I understood why the Gow wasn’t crazy about him. The issue The Gow took with this man was that he passed “friendly” and went deep and long into being a pest. He was still rambling on and on about this and that as we tried to eat our meals. So out of politeness we felt the need to gesture, smile and nod our heads with our mouths full. “Dum Buvemteem empurr…you dun fay” (Translation: The Byzantine Empire? You don’t say.) I suppose it was a bit much, and he looks like James “The Ragin Cajun” Carvell.

“Ya know, originallly baklava was made with pistachios… “

My waiter was a friendly Mexican fellow in his ill fitting diner uniform (black pants, white shirt, black vest and tie) For some reason no one’s uniform fits properly at the Tune. Maybe it’s the staff’s way of stinking it to the man. I ordered my standard coronary special with a side of stroke, and a large orange juice…because the glass of orange juice does away with all the bodily harm the heart attack breakfast causes.

I flipped through the latest issue of Men’s Health magazine which I like to read while drinking alcohol, smoking and eating potato chips, or in this case a greasy breakfast. My food came out in no time at all. My corned beef hash resembled an alien autopsy (I know cause I watch SyFy), but I ate it anyway….at least it tasted like corned beef hash. My eggs were not over easy…they were over hard…is that the right term? They were over done and the yolk was cooked too much. My English muffin was late. I didn’t want to be a pesky customer especially since these poor guys were dealing with Vinny, Tony, Joe-Joe, Cheech and The Situation at the next table. However, there is a method in which I consume my heart attack breakfasts, and the tardy English muffin and over-cooked eggs were messing with this.

First, I look at the breakfast and do roll call to make sure everything is there…Eggs? Check. Sausage? Check. French Fries? Check. Corned Beef Hash? Check. English Muffin…currently absent. Then, I poke the yolk of the eggs and dip my MIA english muffin in them. Then I consume, in order, english muffin dipped in eggs, corned beef hash mixed with yolk, remaining eggs and then I alternate between sausage and my fries, which I use to mop up the last bit of yolk. Yolk ratio is very important which was why my over done eggs were so disappointing.This breakfast was throwing my routine off. I wasn’t going to complain about the eggs, despite my disappointment. Being a waiter, it takes nothing less than finding a gangrenous toenail in my quiche to send something back. Luckily, when my waiter arrived with my english muffin he asked how everything was and I sheepishly told him my eggs were a little over done. He went to get me some new eggs which I appreciated. He also asked if I wanted jelly for my english muffin.

“Yeah” I said “KY” (I’m such a wit)
“Um, we have apple, grape and strawberry.” He answered
“No thanks.”

While I waited, two big girls dressed to the nines were coming from the ladies room. They too had been clubbing but like the Jersey Shore clones hadn’t hooked up either. They looked like nice girls though…pretty dresses and benevolent faces. I smiled at them and they smiled back. The Jersey Shore Bonehead Brigade started to make comments about them. “Check out Tons- o-Fun over dere huh huh huh”. Men get so bitter after buying drinks for disinterested women all night. Frankly, as a waiter I get bitter about women accepting drinks from men they are disinterested in…but that’s the topic for another rant. The ironic thing was these girls would have nothing to do with the missing links who were now discussing whether or not buffalo wings were imported from Buffalo NY.

“I’m tellin ya, it’s like New York Cheesecake…you can’t call em Buffalo wings unless they come from Buffalo.”
“Naw, it’s cause they served ’em at Buffalo Bills games.”

My new eggs arrived lickety split and now I could eat my breakfast how I like to. While eating, I listened to the waiters discuss their customers. There was a bored looking security guard at the door of the Tune. My guess is that the place has seen it’s share of Friday and Saturday night drunken brawls with the post nightclub crowd. I got to thinking about how hard these waiters and waitresses must work and how much money they make. Diners in NYC are not cheap. Still, I wondered how many people stiffed them or under tipped. Again, because I’m a waiter; in addition to seldom if never sending anything back, I always over tip. Yet my 25 plus percent tip was only $5. This guy would have to wait on 30 people who were over tipping like me just to make $150, and that’s before tipping out the busboys and probably the bored security guard. Owners like when the waiters and bartenders tip out the other staff members. It saves them having to actually give a raise. This doesn’t include the demanding customers who under tip or stiff the poor waiter altogether. Also the demanding or cerebrally challenged customers like my friends in the table behind me keep a waiter or waitress from other tables and their tip can suffer that way too. They don’t get a break to sit down until things are quiet which can more often than not be several hours, and the cherry on the top is that they have to pay for their ill-fitting uniforms. They have my respect and my sympathy. The best I can do to counter act this is to be friendly, polite, say “thank you”, know what the hell I want within 45 minutes and tip well.

I missed eating with The Gow at our diner. She always lets me finish off her fries and I get to tease her about the waiter she hates.”Hey, there’s your buddy, want me to call him over? Maybe he can tell us about the history of the western omelet or something equally interesting.” She’s a good sport about it. We do crossword puzzles. I look through the Sunday papers and draw mustaches and underarm hair on the Macy’s underwear models and look through the circulars at things I want or need. Then she orders the baklava to go and leaves most of it in my fridge, and like her fries…I get to finish that too.

I finished up my meal, paid the check, tipped and thanked my waiter and off I went to Dunkin’ Donuts where they got my coffee order right…perfectly right…well it was a full moon after all.

Full moon, NY, wee hours, perfect coffee. Even for a curmudgeon, life has its wonderful moments.

Just Thinkin'

Just Thinkin'

Something about the supermarket, bus stations, the subway, doctor’s waiting rooms, the gym and the laundromat gets my creative juices flowing. Perhaps it is taking part in something with the general public. I am back from a stop at the supermarket and lo and behold I am now inspired. I got to thinking about way back when, before cell phones when it was socially acceptable, in the event of a pressing matter or emergency to ask a person on a pay phone politely “Are you going to be long?” It was a way to test the waters, or to nudge someone along, without being rude. I suppose “Are you going to be long” is still used in some social situations. People say it at the gym.  “Can I work through?” they say when someone is resting between sets, yet occupying one of the coveted workout benches. I never ask if I can work through. I just make several dozen impatient glances at the person I am waiting for. How dare they use the bench I wanted to use at that moment? Actually, I am reasonably patient with people working out. It’s the people who sit on the benches and text message, that I fantasize about braining with one of the 25 lb dumbbells and immediately after taking a bow to the thunderous applause of the rest of the room.

I guess it isn’t appropriate to ask someone in or entering a bathroom if they’re going to be long, although I seem to remember people asking if they can go before me when they feel there might be an impending accident. It is leaps and bounds more socially acceptable for a person to ask if they can go first when it’s “#1”, than when it’s “#2”.  Numero Dos is almost always a tricky situation. I am close to and fond of my current roommate, but even I; Mr Potty Humor would feel awkward telling her “You better go first.” if I had to lay some cable. Leaving a bathroom after a particularly noxious boom- boom when someone is waiting to use it after you is never an easy situation and almost always lacking in couth.  It’s interesting to note that my cat Chong often has intestinal callings when I am on the throne reading a book and Lamaze breathing…but Chong and I share a special level of closeness and familiarity. His sandbox is 2 feet in front of my toilet.  Maybe our crapping together is some kind of feline bonding ritual that I have been lucky enough to be invited to. But I digress . . .

Nothing to worry about here, I'm not a patient man.

Nothing to worry about here, I'm not a patient man.

Back to the supermarket and the consistent source of inspiration it is to me…I got the idea while scouting a check out line to join. I must say, I have the world’s worst instincts in these matters. I know better, but I guess I am a hopeless romantic. I always think that this time, the little old lady with the four items won’t take more than 45 minutes in line, and I step in behind her, hopeful, wide eyed and moments away from inevitable disappointment. You’d think I would have learned by now, but apparently I have not.  Wouldn’t things be better if it were socially acceptable to ask the person in line in front of you; “Pardon me, but are you going to be an absolutely oblivious and clueless pain in the ass?” Then the little old woman, mother of 6, or whatever room temp IQ person would turn and say “Oh yes, I’m going to be a tremendous  pain in the ass. I plan to argue with the cashier about the price of every other item. I have coupons here in my purse, but I’m not sure where in my purse and at least half of them have expired. I am going to wait until the cashier has scanned every item prior to snapping out of my stupor and paying for my purchase…via check. I will have to ask the date and who do I make the check out to, because surely it can’t be the same entity I made last weeks check out to. For a finale, I will stand back as the cashier bags my groceries, because God forbid I should help or do it myself. Then I will take another 20 minutes to pick the bags up and move along. Sometimes to keep things fresh I leave the line and go looking for something I forgot, giving you the chance to share looks of disgust with the cashier.”

After that onslaught of painfully refreshing honesty, I’d thank them kindly and find another line to get into. In my careful research over the years, I have determined that a thoughtful, intelligent person with many items to check out takes the same amount of time as a clueless person or annoying old lady with only a few items. Maybe I get in these lines out of some subconscious need to be annoyed which, would speak volumes as to what a poorly adjusted little man I am.

This kind of blunt yet time saving honesty could be used in many different contexts. Of course I instantly thought of my own job, waiting tables. As I do so a smile is creeping across my bitterness lined face and I think of a party of eight coming in to my restaurant…

Me: “Hi folks, are you here for dinner?”

Dad: “Yes.”

Me: (gathering menus) “How many?”

Dad and Mom: (in unison) “Eight.”

Me: “Eight…ok, if you’ll just follow me..”  I lead the large party toward the dining room before I turn and say.  “Oh I’m sorry, I forgot to ask…do you people suck?  I see you’ve brought an infant in with you, so I’m inclined to think that you do, but I just wanted to make sure.”

Dad: “Oh goodness yes. We suck tremendously.”

Mom: (nodding) “Yes,  you will need to get drunk tonight after dealing with us. We’re a nightmare. First the baby is going to scream throughout the meal. We’re used to it, but other good customers will get up and leave.”

Small Child. Age 4: “I’m going to run around and get underfoot, I will also knock things over which neither me nor my parents will pick up.”

Young Teen Girl:  “I’m going to be a spoiled little princess brat with a lousy attitude. I will make disgusted faces at every dish you bring and I will be text messaging throughout the meal, ignoring you when you ask if you can take my plate or if I’d like another soda.”

Grandmother: “I’m going to complain about the temperature.”

Grandfather: “I’m going to complain about the prices.”

Mother: “I’m going to be staring at the menu 5 minutes after everyone else has ordered, I will ask you questions that I could find the answers to by looking at the menu…oh, and I’d like my water refilled 9 times.”

Uncle: “I’m an inappropriate and mean drunk. I will be making bad jokes throughout dinner and repeat them until you’ll have to placate me with your well practiced waiters fake laugh.”Baby: Screeches.  My nose begins to bleed.

Dad: “Oh, and I never leave more than a $5 tip regardless of the cost of the meal.”

Older Teen Daughter: “I’m going to mumble my order and not touch my food.”Baby: Screeches louder just in case someone 10 blocks away might have missed the first screech. Mom smiles. Mothers are the only creatures in the universe who can tolerate the glass shattering screeching of babies.

Grandfather: “My daughter has been known to write lengthy emails of complaint, filled with lies and warped exaggerations to the owner that will get you in trouble.”

Mother: (nodding) “So don’t forget to keep that water glass full sonny boy.”

Grandmother: “It’s cold.”

Uncle: “Can I get a Jack and Coke…easy on the coke…haha…didja hear me? I said easy on the coke…get it, easy on the coke…Regardless I will complain about the amount of alcohol in every drink.”

Grandmother: “Why is it so cold?”

Me: “OK folks, right this way, let me get the new server for you.  They need to be initiated in a trial by fire.

If only…

Yeah, that's me . . . surfing the web . . . . . . . . Why? . . . . . . What's so funny?

 
Like many people I spend an inordinate amount of time on-line, checking out sites, blogs, clips and the like.  I am critical of others with poor cell phone and text etiquette, but to be fair, I’m probably just as much of a media junkie in my own way.  I routinely bore others with things I have discovered on YouTube. I describe the clips terribly and tell whomever is politely listening that they just “have to check it out”. Then I give them the obscure subject matter to type into the search bar. Sometimes I even write it down for them, because the random idiocy that I find entertaining and amusing must be shared. Cookie Monster making cookies with Martha Stewart, giggling husbands giving dutch ovens to their poor wives, and Beaker flipping Scrooge the finger in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Check them out, they’re awesome!
 
Another site I frequent is Yelp.com.  When you think about it, it’s a strange name for a website.  A ‘yelp’ is a cry of pain or a noise an animal would make.  Seems an odd name for a site that posts reviews about stores, restaurants and bars. Maybe I should start a public review site called “Ewwwww.com.”  It could be a site for miserable little turnips like myself to rant and rave about whatever is annoying or disturbing them on any given day. Misery does love company.
 
Yelp is designed to be the ideal resource where one can find the right place to grab a perfect pint of Guinness in any particular neighborhood, where the spicy Thai food is, and where the bartenders are “hot but really unfriendly.”  I’m such a major attention and ranting ho, that I have written many a review on Yelp.  I want others to enjoy and frequent the places that I like and to boycott and stink bomb the various bistros and diners where the waitress might have rolled her eyes at me, or where it took 3 minutes and 42 seconds to get me the mayonnaise I had to ask for twice. (Yes, I am embarrassed to admit that I do, on occasion, time these things)
 
Another interesting phenomena are the “Yelp Haters.”  You’ll be browsing Yelp looking for the best eggs benedict in Goat Testes, Oklahoma and you’ll come across a place with 4 and a half stars. You begin to check out the reviews.  “Loved it!”  “Best I’ve even had!” and…then, like a cockroach on a wedding cake, there will be a 1 star review. Yelp doesn’t have a no stars rating (and believe me, many of us wish there was, and far too often preface our Negative Nancy reviews with “I wish Yelp had a zero stars rating”)  You click on the review and it’s entirely too long, but you dive in anyway. There are different varieties of the Yelp Hater Reviews. Some people had their evening ruined by getting a cup of coffee without a saucer, and dammit, someone is going to pay.  Other haters feel the need to preface their diatribe with a 5 page essay on how “I was on my cell phone y’know, and the hostess like totally told me to move in a snotty way, so I like asked to see the manager, and she was like “oh really? and I was like “yeah really”, so the manager came and he was like. “Can I help you” and I was like Um YEAH”…”
 
Yelp is also a source of many interesting contemporary social statements if you read between the lines.  People want their concerns and grievances to be heard and addressed. In the modern age, companies (especially major corporations) don’t give an ounce of monkey puke about the concerns and issues of their customers.  If they did, a human being would answer their phones and resolve things in a timely manner rather than having to press one for English y numero dos para español.  “Your call is very important to us.” is the new “The check’s in the mail”.  The check was never in the mail and our call is of little to no importance to the company or to “Mary” or “Bob” in India, despite what they tell you.
 
Yelp shows us what is important to the modern man.  It also goes to show what is important to nearly everyone and what matters to a select few.  Sure there are plenty of us poor folks out there, but isn’t it just a little petty to take the time to inform John Q. Public that if you walk 6 blocks east and 18 blocks up town to Bar X that you get 10 buffalo wings to an order instead of the life changing insult of 9, and that the Heineken is .25 cents cheaper, plus the bartenders are really hot and friendly.
 
Of course I am something of a pro with various insights into most areas of the service industry.  I can differentiate between the legitimacy of scrambled eggs taking 40 minutes and ripping on some poor wage slave because my water glass wasn’t refilled 67 times.  I’ve cooked, schlepped drinks and waited tables before. I have a love/hate thing with the Yelp Haters.  Part of me recognizes them as “my people”, and I want to look them up, give them a hug and take them out for some decent Pad Thai…another part of me wants to hunt them down and handcuff them to a Starbucks or McDonald’s counter until they develop an appreciation for what service industry workers must contend with 40 or more hours per week.  It has been said many times before that everyone should spend a year working in restaurants so they’d know how to behave in them.  6 months in the kitchen and 6 more months on the floor.  I suppose the same could be said for many jobs. The general public unleashes their frustrations indiscriminately after all, but I simply refuse to spend 6 months being a meter maid.  I’d prefer to assume that it’s a tough job, yet that meter maids regularly eat their young.
 
Many people are simply unaware that the drink they felt was weak or the beer that was warm is very often not the fault of the bartender, but that of an owner going through their monthly “I’m being robbed blind” tirades. As I have mentioned before in another piece, the servers often suffer financially at the hands of a slow or disorganized kitchen staff. I have taken pains to avoid this with elaborate lies about the chef going into labor while placing the parsley garnish on their catch-of-the-day.
 

 

"V for Veal Parmesan! . . . that was slightly over cooked"

In a weird little way, writing reviews on Yelp is wielding power that some of us simply aren’t ready for. It’s like Peter Parker said in regards to being Spiderman “With great power, comes great responsibility”.  People can get fired over these reviews,  Others income can change drastically. In addition to this, one’s reviews say a great deal about the reviewer.  I certainly have no interest in hanging out with someone who 1 stars every pizza parlor in Lower Manhattan. They just don’t strike me as an upbeat kind of person. I once looked back on my reviews on Yelp and saw far too many negative ones. I didn’t want to be that guy. Surely there were places that I liked. I bounced back on Yelp and banged out some 4 and 5 star gushing reviews about my favorite places. They deserved it every bit as much as the falafel joint on Avenue A that never gives me enough tahini and skimps on the napkins. Then, being the mildly obsessive fool that I am, I felt my reviews were too polarizing. Too many 4 and 5 stars on one side and too many one star (I wish they’d let me give zero stars) reviews on the other side. That made things difficult for me, as I had to think of the many places I’d been where things were mediocre. I eventually came to the conclusion that mediocrity shouldn’t be reviewed. It simply isn’t deserving. Mediocre places need to commit to excellence or sucking.

 
I have learned the hard way that people don’t take the incessant bitching of miserable people very seriously. “Beware the fury of a patient man” is a favorite expression of mine. It’s true. I will listen to my positive friends complaints and grievances more seriously than those of the Grouchy Greg variety. Grouchy Greg, never has anything good to say.  If someone is a generally positive person and they felt the need for griping, then there must be some legitimacy there.
 
So my advice to Yelpers all across the land…pay no attention to the single bad review among the many positives. Then write to the grump in question and tell them to use Yelp more responsibly.  I have done my best to wield the Yelp scalpel wisely. Sure, I have made a few digs at people who got my goat.  Last week I noticed that two of the places I have rubbished in scathing reviews came to a bad end. One place burned down (No, I didn’t do it. I will write nasty reviews, but generally draw the line with arson)  One must carefully consider when they are in the hospitality industry when they rip a rival place a new one.  If someone or more accurately some place went above and beyond the call of douchebaggery, I will ask my friends to hop on Yelp and tear into them.  Some owners and managers keep a close eye on their Yelp reviews and even contact negative posters. It’s a good way to do business to my way of thinking. The owner of the place that burned down, to his credit, contacted me almost immediately and asked to meet with me.  It was a nice touch I thought, however he never addressed the issues I took with the restaurant, instead blaming a perfectly pleasant hostess with poor command of the English language. It would be too easy for someone to read a hatchet piece of mine and turn the tables on me at my job.  The anonymous medium of the internet brings out the desk top tough guy, but some people deserve to be ripped on, so on special occasions I will ask a friend to inform the general public about various culinary sewers who have not treated me in a way befitting a customer or more often an applicant.
 
I also have to admit that I have used Yelp in a purely selfish manner. I have reviewed myself as the greatest thing waiting tables since Flo twanged “kiss mah grits” on Alice.  It’s strictly precautionary I assure you. Something to offset the inevitable one star reviews I will get when I inform a customer that they have my restaurant confused with one of those places where the customer is always right.
 
Last weekend was rough. I worked Friday night and Sunday brunch. It was busy at work, but the very worst kind of busy. One of my favorite pearls of wisdom in regards to restaurant/bar work is “It’s never the quantity of the customers, it’s the quality.” So true. To date I have had pretty terrific customers for the most part. I have written of some of the more difficult clientele, but that’s just comedic license. Who wants to read about a nice couple who ordered the scrod and tipped 21%? In all of these pieces I have included that on the whole I’ve been pretty happy with my customers. They have been friendly, generous tippers and pleasant to wait on and converse with.
 
Last weekend was the exact opposite. Friday night started with a party of three who had little to no personality and tremendous difficulty in figuring out a 15% tip.  I got $1.50 on a $23 check. “Gee thanks folks, you really shouldn’t have, oh wait… ha ha,  you didn’t”  I assure you, the crappy tip wasn’t my fault as all they had were some glasses of wine. The rest of the night was full of people who sucked for a variety of reasons. Camping out at a table and running me ragged over an order of buffalo wings and two diet coke’s.  “Can you change the channel, I want to watch the game?”  “Can you change it back now I want to see the news?”  “Is this diet coke?  It tastes sweet.”  “Now it tastes like diet coke but it’s flat.”  Then they stuck change in the guest check book to insure they wouldn’t break the 12% tip barrier. I picked up the book and the change went everywhere.  “Sorry about the change.” said Mr. Diet Coke. You’re not sorry. You’re a douchebag who just got reminded of their douchebaggery by having a poor waiter pick up the nickels and dimes you put in a booklet made for credit cards and bills. You get the picture. Sure, there were some nice people, but they were lost in the mix among the soul sucking cheapskates.
 
Sunday took the lousy weekend’s cake though. The cooks screwed up two of my orders, one in a major way.  One family called me over to point out that the burger I had just served them was raw. Not undercooked, not rare…raw. What was worse was that the man had taken a bite of the all beef patty, special E. coli sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. I felt bad and got the man a fresh beer on the house.  Later he and I talked about the neighborhood and the local restaurants. He was quite pleasant despite having just bitten into a rude shock of a burger. In all likelihood, he and his family wont be back though. My restaurant had one chance to make a first impression and the one we just made with the burger tartar surprise sucked rather mightily. He also had two children with him and his wife. A little boy and an infant daughter. They were well behaved kids and the little girl was as cute as a bug, but like most small kids they made a huge mess. 
 

How could you not think this is cute? Cause I have to pick up the drooled upon biproducts

Some parenting book has decreed every single parent must bring a small baggie full of cheerios for their little ones when they go out. Now, the infants don’t eat the cheerios. They drool and slobber on them and spew them out all over their table, hi-chair and floor for the benefit of their sub minimum wage server or busser to contend with. I have taken pains not to have children, doesn’t that mean that the people who have children and enjoy the tax benefits should be the ones picking up the droolios? Some parents call out “Oh, they made a mess, I’m so sorry.”  They just aren’t sorry enough to pick up after their larvae. I had a couple of “families” that day and many of the kids were whiny, messy little brats. The parents were too busy on their smart phones to actually be bothered with something as mundane as parenting.  I wrote a piece not too long ago about my thoughts on children, families and family restaurants (I’m not a fan), so I’ll spare you revisiting the topic. It’s a bummer when the kitchen screws things up for a server.  It’s a sad fact of the industry, but people take their frustrations out via their tip. A steak they felt was medium when they ordered medium rare, the beer seemed a trifle warm,  the music was too loud, or their meal came before they finished their appetizer…. It’s coming out of your end Mabel. I understand if a server is at fault, and often we are…but I wish people would consider the source.

 
The rest of that Sunday just got worse, climaxing with a table of hipsters. I hate hipsters. I always have. They are cheap, pretentious, snotty, rude, inconsistent in their attitudes and beliefs, and they are generally a pain in the ass. They are the human equivalent of pubic lice in my beloved New York City. It’s not that I don’t get the anti-fashion, anti-subculture stance, it’s that I do get it… and it’s lame, low frequency and weak. Commit to a subculture. Be a punk, a skinhead, a hippie, a leather daddy with handlebar mustache, be a bull dyke or a gangsta rap thug. They are all infinitely more interesting than hipsters who are, in my opinion, just yuppies pretending to be poor for a couple of years with appalling taste in beer and music.
 
Stand for something with anger, vandalism, humor, or wit…not bored, apathetic miles from funny irony.  I’d rather deal with people who are mad at the world, or disgusted with it.  I’ll even take someone who is idealistic over one who is perpetually and snottily bored with everything.  I abhor cheapness. I just hate it, especially cheapness at the expense of the others (in this case, me).  I briefly worked at a bar with $20 cocktails. That’s just foreign and wasteful to me, so I don’t go to, nor can I afford to go to, such places. The difference is I don’t complain to a bartender because they charge .50 cents more for a Heineken than the place down the road. Hipsters are generally full of shit and hypocrites, but this is lost on them.  Hell, everyone is full of shit to some degree, but hipsters roll and wallow in it like little pigs in their faux precious, ironic Yanni “vintage” t-shirts and John Deere hats that cost $50 and look so chic and used. I’ve never met people so thoroughly convinced of how cool (or “deck” as the wee hip children of Williamsburg call it) they are, yet without one sense of the absurd irony that goes into the ever so carefully crafted anti-fashion look. I’m still praying for the skinheads to make another comeback. Working class ideals, a simple working class look, soulful ska and angry oi music, plus they’d generally delight in beating the crap out of hipsters.

Image from stephenmalkmus.com

 

The hipsters arrived in two pairs. The first was a young couple who looked about one promotion away from yuppiedom. They weren’t too annoying. They began with the ultimate hipster cliche of asking me what was the cheapest thing available to them. They had to ask, they couldn’t, you know, read the menu. They wanted me to earn the lousy tip they planned to give me. We had one beer on special and I also informed them that happy hour would begin in thirty minutes. Later they were joined by two guys.  A young black man with dreads and a zitty faced white kid with scraggly hair and one of those mustaches that weaselly guys and 15 year old boys are so fond of. Of course they too wanted to know what was the cheapest thing on the menu. They made me repeat the Happy Hour options several times so that I could stand and wait for them to order while they discussed the merits and pitfalls of Pabst Blue Ribbon vs Bud Light Draft. Such aficionados. Naturally they ordered PBR, that’s just what hipsters drink.
 
Happy hour coincided with the changing of the brunch menu. The early football games were ending and the afternoon games were beginning. The hipsters sipped their beers and ordered buffalo wings. Then they decided that the view of the games they wanted was not ideal near the bar so they got up and moved to the dining room. I cleaned their former table, and apparently the games they wanted to see were not on in the dining room. So, they asked the owner to change the stations just for them. We have over 10 TVs in the establishment with a direct TV sports package. Changing the channels generally requires an advanced degree from MIT and is not as simple as a point and press on a remote control. They asked for menus but couldn’t make up their minds within an hour. This didn’t stop them from calling me over and asking me questions about the cheapest appetizers every 5 minutes. Yes, it was on the menu, but what fun is that when you can make someone hop to and translate for you? After about a half an hour and 5 channel changes, the weaselly one decided he was cold and wanted to leave the dining room and go back to the bar. His friends were comfortable and the girl who was with them said that if she “didn’t have a problem with the cold, then it wasn’t that cold.”  This just made weasel boy sulk and eventually storm off to the front. They asked if I would mind if they moved again. I “joked” that it didn’t really matter if I minded, and that I had serious doubts that this was in any way a factor in their decision. So, they got up and took a new table at the bar. Another table for me to clean up. Thanks guys.
 

Now the dread locked hipster wanted nachos. He asked what they were like and I described them as “busy”; meaning there is a lot going on with our nachos, chili, beans, jalapeno’s, cheese, sour cream guacamole and salsa. Of course he couldn’t just order them or not order them…he had to have me return to their table (their third table) to

Four...no wait...THREE hipster douchebags! AH AH AH

answer more questions about the nachos, all the while bringing them more PBRs. They also committed another common faux pas, not exclusive to hipsters, but an oldie and a goldie with many types of annoying customers. They would order two beers, which I’d bring and then order another when I arrived, then when I brought the third beer, they’dorder one more. “What’s the matter, Sesame Street wasn’t sponsored by the number ‘4’ this week?” Eventually, dreadlocks ordered the nachos with extra cheese which I brought to him with extra plates so they could share. I’d forgotten to bring them napkins, so in all fairness I had hit a sour note as a server that day. Hey, fuck em. They messed up not one, not two but three tables and they were New York Jets fans which to me is unforgivable.

 
My day was coming to an end and I hadn’t made much money. Just then a party of 8 walked in and I had to take them. It was my turn to be seated, and I needed the money. The bummer was it was 20 minutes before the end of my shift, which meant I was staying longer whether I wanted to or not. I had 4 parties to finish with before I could go home and call my editor and best bud Gow with my epic tales of trench warfare on the working class front lines. Gow was a waitress for years and she understands.These things aren’t as easy to discuss with a non-veteran of the restaurant grind. One party was a nice couple who were having a couple of beers and sharing an order of calamari. (Yes, the really fried variety) Not much money for me, but not a ton of work either, and they were a pleasure to serve and talk to. I had another table of two guys who had been there for a couple hours. First they had burgers and bloody marys and now they were nursing beers watching the games on TV. They were pleasant too, and low maitenance. The third party was the party of 8 who had just sat down, but they seemed nice and I joked around with them as they ordered drinks. Rounding out the batting order were the hipsters. The couple and the two guys finished up, paid and left. The new party was running me rather ragged with drink orders. They had been moving into a new apartment all day and were hungry and thirsty.  I didn’t mind. Heavy drinkers generally equal heavy tippers and as I said before they were nice. Plus, they were running up quite a bill that just might salvage a day full of slim pickings.
 
The hipsters, of course, were still being annoying. After changing tables three times and having the owner switch from this game to that, they weren’t even watching the games. Finally they asked for the check…separate checks. God forbid a Hipster would pick up a tab for their friends. I’ve never seen it in all my years in the business. Old ladies never pick up a check either. They all want separate checks that they can scrutinize with the zeal of an IRS auditor with OCD before finally digging into their ancient change purses and calculating an 8% tip.
 
I checked on my big party who were settling in and being nice as could be. They inhaled the appetizers I’d brought and were drinking pretty heavily, which was keeping me busy. I don’t fault a big party for ordering more drinks every time I drop some off.  It just puts fire ants in my boxer briefs when people are ordering another round of the same thing and force me to make 4 trips rather than one.
 
I returned to the Hipsters table and saw dreadlocks peering at his check intently. Any waiter, Maître d’ or bartender knows that look. It’s a patented expression of a trifling cheapskate who is going to argue about this or that. “You charged me $3 for extra cheese.” he said with a tone more fitting for “You set fire to my house after sleeping with my girlfriend and spitting on my grandmother”.  I explained that I didn’t set the prices.

Arguing with the waiter over the bill has been around longer than I have. Doesn't mean I have to like it.

“There wasn’t extra cheese on it either” he continued. I countered that there was extra cheese on it, and I saw it.  He gave up taking that route. He went on to explain that $3 was entirely too much for extra cheese. I reminded him again that I don’t set the prices for the establishment. Anyone who may think he had a point would generally not bat an eye at paying $1 more for cheese on a burger and that’s just one or two slices of cheese. “How about ONE dollar?” He suggested. I told him for the third time that I do not set the prices for the restaurant. “Two dollars.” He tried again. Now he was arguing with me over 100 pennies. A dollar. An amount of money he wouldn’t even get angry about or notice if he had lost. Then he tried to demand that it be taken off his bill and that I should have told him that it was going to be a whopping $3 more. I informed him that I could not take anything off the bill, that one of the owners had to go into the computer system to do that, and at present none of the owners was available. He told me that $3 made the difference between him coming back to our restaurant or not returning. I thought silently to myself that if a measly $3 would keep him and his friends from running me ragged and pestering me, then it was the best bargain I’d heard in ages. Finally I reached in my back pocket, pulled out my wallet and took three singles and placed them on the table. Gow later told me that she thought this was a bit of an “F-You” to Ziggy Marley. After we discussed her theory I could see her point, but I honestly hadn’t meant it as such. Believe me, next to coin collecting and film; f-bombing people is a major hobby of mine. I just wanted the PBR and Nacho auction to end. $3 may have been enough for this trifling Lenny Kravitz wanna-be to take a stand, but after 8 going on 9 hours of being on my feet continually, drooling baby’s, their slobbered on cheerios, apologizing for raw burgers and profusely thanking others for lousy tips, I just wanted them to leave so I could finish up with my big table and go home.

 
He looked at the three singles on the table and said nothing. My mother later said it wasn’t so much of an “F-You” as it was a dismissal. That sounded more accurate in how I meant it to be perceived. I was dismissing him. Sure he got his way, but not though his powers of persuasion, or what he deemed to be a serious financial slap in the face. He took an inordinate amount of time to actually sign his credit card slip and I had to return to his table 3 more times. I’d like to think he was unsatisfied with the outcome of ‘The great $3 extra cheese debate and auction of 2011’, but what could he say? He got his precious $3. I think he wanted an admission from me that the restaurant’s proprietors were indeed price gouging in regards to cheese, and for me to acknowledge that I was on cloud nine at the prospect that we may have avoided his boycotting our establishment. Eventually they left, and good riddance. I kind of do hope they come back. There are lots of ways I can get back at them and make it look unintentional.  My days of tampering with the food and drinks of disagreeable customers are long since gone.  But a savvy waiter has plenty of tricks up their sleeve to ensure a trying and unpleasant dining experience while making it look completely undevised.
 
Things were smoother with the big party although the kitchen botched one of the orders. They had made a swordfish steak prior to the other entrees and it was cold when I served it. An old lady in the party called me over to inform me her granddaughter’s swordfish was “freezing cold.”  I’ve noticed that customers feel the need for vast exaggerations when addressing an issue. “Could you warm this up?” wouldn’t do. Customers often have similar exaggerated complaints with things such as the restaurant’s temperature. If it’s 72 degrees, they will shiver uncontrollably and put their coats on prior to asking if you could turn up the heat, and if it is 73 degrees they will fan themselves dramatically with menus before asking “Is the AC even on?”  The old woman was a bit of a mean drunk and barked “Where’s my wine?” at me a couple of times during my numerous drink runs. But, there were 8 of them and the other 7 were pretty pleasant. 1 bad apple in a basket of 8 isn’t a bad ratio in life to my way of thinking.
 
They paid and left a so-so tip, maybe 17%. It was a fair amount of work, but it could have been worse. They could have stiffed me. They could have been hipsters.
 

Yippee, I finally have a job!  I am working at a new pub/restaurant as a waiter.  I had originally applied to be a bartender, but those coveted positions were filled before I even dropped off my resume. (That’ll teach me to sleep ’til the crack of noon every day.) The owner said that bartending might be in the cards for me in the future, and in the meantime I have a job.  I am once again a productive member of society, which sadly isn’t all it is cracked up to be. 

Over the years I have been employed in literally every aspect of restaurant and bar work.  Naturally, I have the least amount of experience in serving.  I am looking at this position as a stepping stone.  The place is brand spanking new so there are many kinks to iron out and the dining room hasn’t been busy enough for one to earn a living.  This is coupled with the owners over staffing for the first 2 or 3 weeks.  It doesn’t take an MIT mathematics professor to figure out 5-6 parties over the course of an 8 hour shift split up by three servers and 2 of those parties are elderly ladies… well the formula goes something like this  A+ BC(x) multiplied by the average dinner check with tax and an above average gratuity = I’m still fucking broke.  

I am broke.  I am unable to pay the people I owe money to and the people who owe money to me seem to be in the same boat. (Little, crowded lifeboats with HMS Titanic scrawled on the sides, filled only with women, children and the occasional cross dresser.) Of course, I am working hard, struggling and juggling while my mind imagines the elaborate and decadent weekends in Atlantic City being enjoyed by those who owe me money.  This is the thought process when you’re an overall negative person with a vivid imagination who can’t afford cigarettes.

While the bitch ball is still in my court I will add that I have to wear a uniform of sorts for this job.  Black dress shirt, Black Pants (Not jeans) Black Shoes (Not sneakers) and a Dress Belt (this does Not include my No Fat Chicks belt buckle).  All of the ‘nots’ were stressed emphatically by the owner.  I hate shoes.  I hate pants,  I hate tucking in my shirt. But I like wearing black. It’s slimming and attracts the ladies who have No Fat Dudes belt buckles. I’m batting 2 out of 5 which is about what I have come to expect in life being the bitter and miserable little turnip than I am. 

I have faith in the new job.  Things are already picking up a little bit and the shifts are not so overstaffed as some people have been let go or quit.  I had expected to go 6-8 weeks without making any real money.  The owners are paying me well (allow me to clarify. I am being paid well for a waiter. . . I am in a truly sad place when I think $5 an hour is being paid “well”) and I get a nice meal every time I work along with a cocktail at the end of my shift. I generally like my co-workers.  The two owners have been pleasant and encouraging.  I suppose it is best for me to start off slowly so I can get used to the restaurants computer system and have the time to give exceptionally attentive service to the few customers I have had.
 
For the most part, my customers have been nice, friendly and reasonably low maintenance people. The tips I have received average a little over 20%. I am trying my best to be pleasant, patient, engaging and hospitable. I think I’m doing OK. Of course, as you may have gathered by the title of this piece, there have been some notable exceptions.
 
I thought I’d take a few minutes to write about these exceptions. As annoying, rude or petty as they may be, these encounters usually make for entertaining and comedic tales.  Let me begin by saying; before anyone who may read this decides to comment on my attitude, tell me what my job is, or offer up suggestions on how to be a better server… save it.  Anyone who has waited tables for more than a month will relate and empathize, and those who take issue with service industry workers grievances have generally never spent an hour of their life serving the general public and are usually the very kind of rude, petty, trifling and high maintenance assholes that this piece is about.  Here are a few of my Negative Nancy observations on my less than favorite customers to date.
 

Ladies who lunch?

 
Three Old Ladies Having Brunch:  This happened last Sunday.  It was my karmic backlash for an incident in the prior week.  As things have not been busy the servers have been rotating the customers that come in.  It’s a catch as catch can gamble, but it’s the fairest system at the moment.  It was my turn for the next table and I noticed one of the owners helping an elderly woman up the stairs. He was also calling over to my co-worker to please wait on her.  I was saved!  The old bag didn’t disappoint. She complained about everything (including the other customers. “Are they old enough to drink?” she asked, pointing at some young people watching football and having a nice brunch) She took forever to order, to eat, to vacate the table, and of course she inquired as to senior citizen discounts and what she might get for free or at a reduced price and then for an encore she tipped terribly. Having averted waiting on that week’s coffin dodger I teased my unfortunate co-worker over the course of the day.  But, as we all know by now, the universe often has a way of evening things out.  The very next week, it was my turn again when the witches from Macbeth came hobbling in, looking to ruin some server’s afternoon, and that server was me. 

I seated the trio and brought them menus, which at our restaurant are large, wood framed and heavy.  That got the complaint avalanche started for the afternoon.

“These are so heavy.” they clucked.

 “Would you like something from the bar?” I asked smiling. 

(I thought maybe a mix of alcohol, coffee and whatever 60 plus medications they were taking might loosen them up, or cause a heart attack and then. I’d get some hard drinking, heavy tipping EMTs in there to raise my tip average a bit.)

“We get a drink with this brunch.”  they informed me  

AND coffee or tea.” 

Old ladies seem to feel a need to let others know what they have coming to them. Often with old age, comes pettiness, and with pettiness comes demanding behavior.  (I know you get you get a drink you dried up old crone.) They ordered Bloody Marys which, as I suggested to the restaurants owners, we make ‘a la carte’ especially for Saturday and Sunday brunch.  Make a standard Blood Mary mix and then doctor it to the customer’s specs, more spicy, less spicy, more horseradish etc…  I asked how they would like their drinks.

“Not too spicy.” barked one of them. 
 
“Mine either.” echoed another. 

The third one was older than the other two and I had to repeat everything I said to her 5 times, with her friends echoing what I said from the third time on.   I brought their drinks and of course they weren’t ready to order. (Old ladies don’t just order.  They must preface with questions, dietary concerns and other commentary.)

“Do you have sugar free syrup?” 
 
“No, I’m sorry we don’t.” 
 
“Well you should. Why don’t you?” 

(“Well  Ma’am, just last week I was saying to the owners that if we raised prices and got rid of the sugar free syrup we’d have fewer annoying, old Depends Commandos coming in and he thought that was a capital idea” I thought to myself.) 

The elderly also seem to have a running contest of seeing how many times they can get a server to return to their table, and the Golden Girls were going for the record with me.   I brought one her Challah French Toast. 

“I didn’t order fruit on it!” she snapped at me, while pointing at her plate with exaggerated disgust, as if I had just served her a dish of cat turds garnished with dead flies.  The menu clearly states that it comes with strawberry and banana slices. 

“Would you like me to bring it back?” I asked. 

“I didn’t order fruit on it.”  She snapped again. 

“I understand that miss.” I replied. 

“What would you like me to do?  “You can take the little pieces of strawberry off, or I can get you a new order.  What would you like me to do?” 

“But, I didn’t order fruit. I ordered bacon!” 

Old people are also a suspicious lot.  “That’s how they get ya.” was a favorite expression of my grandparents when explaining to their grandson the many tricks of evil sales people and waitresses bulking up a bill 25 cents at a time.  “They try to pour bottled water before you can say ‘no’. That’s how they get ya”.  (I’m not trying to “get ya” granny, I’m trying to get ya out of here in the hopes that customers bellow the century mark might occupy this table instead.)

Now her friends started to translate for her. In fairness I should say that one of the old dust bags was rolling her eyes at her friend.  I guessed the one arguing with me didn’t play well with others at the home, and that I wasn’t the only instance of nit picking that the other two had endured from Grandma Strawberry. 

“How long is it going to take?” she barked.

“I honestly don’t know.” I answered with saccharine sweetness while silently calculating… 5-10 minutes for the chef to prepare new French Toast (sans fruit) and another two minutes for me to take the order to the basement, sneeze and/or fart on it, laugh, regain my composure and bring it to Frau Bag apologizing profusely

Eventually she opted to move the dreaded strawberries off the French Toast and on to the side of her plate and then she dismissed me with a wave of her hand. I loathe that gesture.  (“Oh, were you finished with me Ma’am? Perhaps I can polish your walker while you dine.”)  It occurred to me that her bitching took 5 times longer than it did to flick the bits of fruit off of the bread and this seemed like terrible time management for such a prime candidate for a stroke.  With my luck she’d have the stroke just before paying for her meal and under tipping me.  I’ve seen them pull that before.  That’s how they get ya. 

The rest of their meal went smoothly and one of the old biddies even said she loved her strawberry pancakes.  They tipped reasonably well for elderly women (maybe a hint over 15%)  The brunches are not expensive ($9-$12 including coffee and a drink) so the tips aren’t amazing.  The best hope is to get a group in to watch a good and close football game and order lots of beer and appetizers, in addition to a quick turnover of the cheapy brunch customers. One always tries for a mix. 

My next adventure in serving was on a Tuesday morning

Fried . . . . Really Fried

Crazy White Wine Swilling Alcoholic With Brown Teeth:  The restaurant opens at 11 am for lunch and a slightly crazy woman with brown teeth came in and ordered white wine.  She asked for a menu, looked it over, and then gave it back to me.  She ordered another wine, (It was now 11:05 am) asked to see a menu again, looked it over again and then asked about some of the menu items. 

“How are the crab cakes?” she asked. 

“They’re OK.” I replied.   

Honestly I thought they were a bit pricey given the portions;  2 tiny crab cakes with lots of avocado garnish. I suggested the house favorite, spicy fried calamari. 

“Where does it say that”?  She asked.

I pointed to “Spicy Fried Calamari” on the menu. 

“OK, I’ll have that…and another glass of wine.” 

I put in her order and brought it over to her when it was ready.  A couple minutes later I returned to check on her progress.  She had picked at the calamari, but wasn’t really putting it away.  I asked if something was wrong. 

“It’s just really fried” she said.

“Yes, it says ‘Spicy Fried Calamari’ on the menu; did you not want it fried?”  I asked. 

“Well, not this fried.  This is really fried”

She couldn’t seem to stop herself from repeating and enunciating this is R-e-e-eallly, Fri-i-i-ied

“OK” I said “but it does say ‘Spicy Fried Calamari’ on the menu, how did you want it?” 

“I’m used to it almost raw” she said, “This is really fried”  

“Do you mean it’s over done?” I suggested?

“No… yes… I mean… it’s just really fried” 

‘Really Fried’ I thought to myself…a bit like your brain after your 625th acid trip?’  I couldn’t take her saying “really fried” again, so I asked if she’d like something else.  She said she’d like the chili.  I went to the owner and asked him to remove the (fried, r-e-e-e-eally fr-i-i-ied) calamari from her bill.  He glanced over to her and saw that she was now eating the calamari. “What’s wrong with it?” He asked me.  I imitated her voice “It’s just really fried” The owner I was speaking to is from Ireland. “It sez fowkin ‘fried’ on the fowkin menya!”  I shrugged as if to say. “What can you do?”  He went onto the computer system to remove the calamari and said “Teek the pleat aweefromer”.  As I went over to get the plate, she changed her mind and said she’d like it to go.  I told her it had been removed from the bill. 

“Oh, well you can put it back on the bill and I’ll take it home.” She said. 

“Are you sure?” I asked her. 

“Oh yes.  I don’t mean to be a pain.” she explained.

“You’re not being a pain; I just want to be certain that you get what you want”. 

She wasn’t being a pain.  She had passed being a pain half an hour ago and was now firmly in annoying psychosis territory. I went and put the spicy (really fried) calamari back on her bill and brought her chili which is served with tortilla chips.  The chips caused a bit of a dilemma for her, and we discussed whether or not she wanted them for ten minutes with even more explanations that she “didn’t want to be a pain”.  She was also now on her fifth glass of wine that morning. Her only other request was for some sour cream to go with her chili which she mixed in and then didn’t eat. I was dreading her calling me back over and whining to me that “This sour cream is really sour.” I was a good little waiter and asked if there was anything wrong with the chili, and mercifully she didn’t complain or send it back, she just asked to have it wrapped up along with her other dish.  She then made several calls on her cell and I can only assume that she fervently tried not to be a pain to whomever she was speaking.  I brought her check and she tipped me extravagantly (60%)  I thought later that although this was very generous (or crazy) of her, I would have rather not gone through the ordeal and made less money.  I found out later she pulled this Marx Brothers routine again on two other waiters over the next week.  The theory among the staff is that she either has emotional problems or suffers from seizures (she had a black eye supposedly from falling down the next time she came in, although I can’t help but wonder if she got it from a less than patient waiter or waitress). 

As I said earlier, I have had some great customers too.  One older lady ordered a glass of wine while she was waiting for her friends who were celebrating a birthday.  She gave me $20 and told me to keep the change ($13) with a smile and a wink.  Later her friends joined her and they were all sweet and brassy old broads.  The birthday girl reminded me a bit of my godmother and Aunt Helen who doesn’t wear makeup, dresses and styles her hair on the mannish side, but is a very sweet person.
 

The Jerk

 
Rude Salesman Having Lunch With A Colleague: I also had one of the guys from the opticians office across the street come in twice in one afternoon.  The first time, he had lunch with clients. He was really friendly and tipped over 20%.  The second time, he joined two guys who had just finished lunch. They only had coffee and water in the dining room while they discussed business.  Their bill came to a whopping $4, which he paid and then gave me $15 and a pat on the back.  The two who had just finished lunch ordered chili and filet mignon steak tips. The chili comes garnished with tomato, onion and cilantro salsa…a very small amount. 
 
“Whut’s dis shit?” one of the men asked me, pointing at the garnish when I brought their food. 

“Whut’s dis shit?”   Really?  REALLY?  You address people like that? 

His companion apologized for him saying “He doesn’t like anything with any flavor.”  I smiled and said subserviently “Well, he’s a grown man, he just wants what he wants.”  Inwardly I was wondering if this man had to apologize for his companion’s antics at every business lunch they went to.  I’d seen it before; one person in a group whose behavior is almost always an embarrassment to the others.  This rude creep is the sort who thinks he is better than anyone who’s services he employs; waiters, bartenders, dry cleaners, baristas, hotel maids, etc.  Of course this is easy to do when one has the prestigious career of selling contact lenses. Keep reaching for the sky Skippy. 

Miserable Grouch: There is another semi regular that comes in for drinks a few times a week.  He ordered food once, ate all of it, and when I asked how his burger was he snarled

“Well, it wasn’t the best burger I ever had.” 

I asked what the problem was. (I didn’t really care, but I think I’m supposed to pretend that I do.)  He spent an inordinate amount of time telling me how every single aspect of his burger and fries wasn’t up to par, after eating the entire thing.  He now comes back fairly often so that he can tell anyone who will listen about the burger nightmare that has apparently scarred him for life.

 My final, recent pet peeve is when people come in, and I greet them with a big smile and a “Hi, how are you doing today?”  They look directly at me, make a slightly snotty facial expression and don’t reply.  Maybe someone can explain this to me as it has happened several times and not just to me, but to my fellow servers and bartenders as well.  I have heard some people complain that being greeted by retail or service workers seems insincere to them. In all honesty I’m just trying to start things off on a positive note.  I figure you’re spending your money to have a pleasant experience. In addition to this I want to have as pleasant an experience as possible serving you.  If a person wishes to be left alone, there are polite and obvious ways to make that understood.  Here’s a notion. Don’t acknowledge me if you have no intention of replying. Pretend you didn’t hear me. Save your snotty looks for your friends and family who are more accustomed to your chronic assholery.
 
Oh well. As I keep saying, most of my customers are very pleasant and I suppose dealing with the public, especially in the hopes of getting a tip, one has to develop a thick skin.  My friend Gow used to be a server and told me horror stories of hordes of church goers coming for breakfast, running the servers ragged and then leaving “prayer cards” in lieu of a tip.  At least I’m not dealing with that kind of malarkey.