1. Didn't you used to be taller?
2. What kind of soup is "soup du jour?"
3. Will this booth fit my cousin?
4. Does this soup look too soupy to you?
5. Is there a buffet? I don't see one.
1. Didn't you used to be taller?
2. What kind of soup is "soup du jour?"
3. Will this booth fit my cousin?
4. Does this soup look too soupy to you?
5. Is there a buffet? I don't see one.
An old, cranky, obnoxiously suited man sat in my section with a younger-but-still-old hooker. She looked like a man dressed as Grace Jones, and he looked like a corpse dressed as an old man. He was dismissive, rude, and impatient. I was alive with venom.
"Hello, how are..." I started.
"Blended margarita," he interrupted with a snap of his fingers. "She wants a blended margarita, right away, and I want uhm.....uh uh uh..."
"Let me race you to the end of that thought," I interrupted, "We don't do blended drinks."
"We don't have a blender," I replied.
"Why not?" he asked again.
"Because we don't do blended drinks."
Finally they settled on two glasses of wine.
"What's your finest appetizer, and not the most expensive?" he asked.
"The oysters," I replied, "they're the most expensive."
"Bring one of your finest appetizers, but not the damn oysters," he said. "She deserves the finest, got it?"
After enjoying the potato skins I selected, he decided on the pasta special. For her, he ordered a burger, extra well done, thrice-repeating the request for burger and bun only, not a damned thing else. Eventually the food arrived, and I was summoned to their table immediately and frantically as if I had information on their missing child.
"She hates this burger," he tells me.
"Yeah it's BORING!"
"I mean," she continued, searching, "...there's nothing even on it!!!!"
"Correct," I said, "because that's how he ordered it for you."
They asked for everything that normally comes on the burger on the side. Even after the condiments and toppings arrived, both their entrees remained untouched.
"We decided we probably shouldn't eat too much right now, ha ha ha ha..." he said with a nasty, pervy smile as he grabbed her hand and shifted in his seat. "You can box these up and find a homeless person, it will be the only nice thing they ever eat." They both laughed; poor people are so funny, LOL!
I dropped the bill.
"Did you give us happy hour prices?" he asked.
"Nope," I replied. "We don't do happy hour."
"Well you should," he replied. "I'd come back more often."
"I'll definitely note that," I said.
He paid, and they left to test his Viagra. On a $100 bill, he tipped me five goddamn dollars. She accidentally left her Louis Vuitton sunglasses, and I pocketed them for safe-keeping.
Shortly thereafter, I left the restaurant. I walked outside to a homeless man who was digging around our Dumpster.
I handed him the woman's sunglasses, and bid him a good afternoon.
One recent, busy, short-staffed lunch, the place was popping and we were on a wait. Two people called out sick, and our fearless manager was hostessing, managing, and taking the ire of our impatient guests.
Bob, an especially cranky elderly gentleman, was yelling at our manager when I passed the hostess stand. Of course I stood dead in my tracks to listen, as I simply adore confrontation on any level.
"That table! Over there! Is empty! I need to sit AT THAT TABLE AND NO ONE IS CLEANING IT!" he bellowed.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we're short-staffed," she tried patiently. "Give me two minutes, and we'll have that table ready for you."
"NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING!" he yelled. Now everyone was watching along with me (also note that my co-workers and I were scrambling and busting our asses).
Need I tell you in whose section sat the aforementioned dirty table? Right. So I greeted Bob several minutes after he was sat, establishing before I even arrived that I couldn't give a fuck about appeasing him. Also, I'm not particularly fond of any man who yells at women, so he could wait til the cleaning crew came in at night for all I cared.
"Hello sir," I said. "Anything to drink?"
I was expecting fireworks, a tirade for having kept him waiting, a shade of red only seen in gardens.
"Hello," he said calmly. "I'd like to try a taste of [points to house cab sauv] please."
I put the breaks on my bitchiness and returned shortly with the taster.
"This is great," he said after a sip. "I'll take a glass, and the cornbread, and a bowl of the tomato basil soup. Please."
I was confused. Thus far I could only chalk up his previous petulance to being hangry. He was perfectly polite. Until.
My co-worker approached me with a full glass of red. "Hey buddy, [Bob] said he ordered a glass of white wine," he told me. I seized the glass from his hand and did my signature saunter up to Bob.
"Hi, Sir, I hear we have a miscommunication with the wine?" I said in the same tone of voice as that bitch Elizabeth Banks.
"I thought I ordered a white wine?" he said.
"No sir," I said, "remember that red wine you tasted and liked? And remember it was red?"
"Look I'm sure I ordered incorrectly," he said defensively. "I just want a glass of white wine, okay?"
As someone who can toe the line between bad moods of "I feel bitchy, engage me" and "I'm really in pig shit, fuck off," I knew he was coming from the latter. So I let about a centimeter down from my guard, and we figured out which white wine he wanted.
After his meal, he thanked me, then leaned in for a question.
"Did I...order anything besides the soup and the cornbread?" he asked me, genuinely uncertain.
I felt that unwanted twinge in my throat, that thing that lets you know...ick...tears might be coming. I immediately flashed to a few minutes prior, when I was such a bitch about the wine. I didn't know if this man was perfectly fine, or dealing with some cruel struggle with his memory, but I felt...God I am not writing this because I want to come across positively........compassion.
I'll spare you the details, but for the rest of our time together, I treated him as I treat my generous and lovely regulars (you never hear about them, because BITTER waiter). He ordered an entree, read his newspaper, passed on dessert, and remained without incident.
He left me a four dollar tip on a $30 tab. And lest you think I am some softy, or that the next post on this blog is going to be "15 Reasons I Love My Customers - Number 9 Will Have You Adopting A Zimbabwean," I was just as annoyed and just as fuming as if this tip had come from anyone else.
But yeah, if he does return to my section, it's not like he'll remember leaving a bad tip, so it would be pointless to be short with him, so I'll probably just assume the disgusting display of (barf) kindness I mentioned earlier.
Today is my Friday, so here's a fresh, piping hot plate of Hell!
1. Oh the barbecue chicken flatbread comes with chicken?
2. You told us the features but are there, like, any specials?
3. Do you all do anything for Earth Day?
4. Do you all make the steak here?
5. Have you seen my daughter?
Rhonda and Walt, an absolutely bat shit insane elderly couple, made quite an entrance at the very end of a recent lunch shift. She entered first, on a scooter, and he followed, both hurriedly heading towards a booth of their choosing despite having never dined with us before (a booth in my section, of fucking course).
"Where's the veggie burgers, y'all got veggie burgers?" Walt asked as he strolled right past me. I soon suspected they'd saved up enough money recycling cans or stealing from vending machines to dine in a restaurant, because I can promise it's not a regular occurrence.
"Anything to drink?" I asked them.
"NO!!!!" Rhonda yelled as if I'd just asked to take a peak at her vagina. "Read me the menu."
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"Read me the menu," she said once more.
Looking at Walt for help, or at least a clue, I was discouraged when he just stared at his upside down menu for a second, turned it over, and offered no assistance at all.
"We have chicken. Burgers. Steaks? And fish." I said.
"What comes with the chicken?" she asked.
"What comes with the veggie burger?" Walt asked immediately after.
"What comes with the chicken?" she asked again.
Eyes rolled back, I rattled off the ingredients of our various chicken dishes, the main one including spinach and rice (important for later).
"What's this rice dish?" she asked, pointing to the menu she could now miraculously read.
"It's our Moroccan Rice, it's a vegetarian entr..."
"I WANT THE CHICKEN!" she yelled.
Walt continued staring at the menu. When I once again asked if they wanted something to drink, they both shook their puzzled heads "no." After about three minutes of being expected to wait while Walt perused, I snapped that I'd be back after dealing with my 15 other tables, and stormed off. I dealt with my newer guests, took care of their orders, and returned to the sanitarium.
"I WANT THE RICE INSTEAD!" Rhonda yelled. Walt ordered - wait for it - a veggie burger, with a cup of tomato soup as his choice of side.
The food arrived, and Rhonda waved her arms in the air at me like a Titanic survivor. I approached.
"WHERE'S THE CHICKEN?" she asked.
"WHERE ARE MY FRIES?" he asked immediately after.
"You ordered the rice," I reminded her.
"Noooooo I didn't," she said.
"You did," I said. "But if you want the chicken, we can get you the chicken."
"Where are my fries?!" Walt asked again.
"You asked for a cup of tomato soup as your side," I said. "Remember?"
"Yeah? So? A burger should come with fries," he informed me.
There's so much I left unsaid, so much that would have sailed right over the heads of these two, who were easily the dumbest people I've ever met. So instead, I found my calm, and as if I'd just watched a corporate training video on customer service, I gave a forced smile and said, "You know what? I am unsuccessful in achieving your guest satisfaction, my chief concern. One moment, please, while I grab our manager."
I stormed off and made our manager handle these two. Because I stood far away, glaring at them from the kitchen, I couldn't overhear their conversation. My manager told me they wanted 1) their chicken and veggie burger boxed up and 2) two free desserts because we "messed up" their orders. The manager said no to the latter.
Fortunately for me, because this was the tail end of lunch, I transferred Walt and Rhonda to one of the just-arrived dinner servers, pretending to apologize profusely. Thirty minutes later, after I'd completed my sidework and cash-out, I made my way through the parking structure. I said some expletives when I saw there was a rare amount of traffic to get out.
Turns out Walt and Rhonda were blocking both directions of traffic as he tried to reverse in his Buick; he'd been driving back into the parking structure instead of out.
Despite the understandable self-insinuation that I'm a bad server, I'm actually not. I'm competent enough to give great service; it all hinges on whether or not I like you, as defined by how reasonably polite+ you are. So when I receive bad tips for good service, I am rarely more angry. Like, cue the Kill Bill music, gritted teeth, clenched fists, fast walk, flared nostrils and rolled eyes (a.k.a. "The Works"). I feel betrayed, robbed of what's rightfully mine, wounded, and so, so cunty.
Earlier this week, I had three back-to-back incidents of offensive tips from nice-to-at-least-not-pissed-off people for great service. And they all left before I discovered my tips and had the chance to respond with some truly magical bitchery. Meet the offenders:
THE DUMB STUDIO EXEC
In between restaurant stints, I also served time as an assistant at one of the major T.V. networks. During that time, I often interacted with a tediously incompetent executive at an outside studio (let's say Sony, because it was). I served her and a gay friend who was a little too liberal with his gay-ze (though do I blame him?). She was polite, friendly, and not at all as stupid as she was on the phone years ago.
THE TIP: $6 on a $50 bill.
THE AFTERMATH: I was so furious that I drank straight gin.
THE NEEDY BUT POLITE ARMENIAN FAMILY OF EIGHT
They demanded a table that had just been emptied and stacked full of glasses and dessert plates. Once I brought their waters, they needed refills often. They ordered quickly and simply enough, and said "please" and "thank you" with each request. They weren't trashy or loud, and they even complimented my service to the General Manager.
THE TIP: $15 on a $150 bill.
THE AFTERMATH: I was so fucking furious that I drank straight gin.
Of these three precocious, polite teenage girls, only one ordered (a club sandwich and a Shirley Temple). The other two eventually asked if water was free. I gave them a pained "yes" and returned with two waters to hear, in unison from all three, "THANK YOU SO...MUCH!" The lone diner asked if I could break a $20 so she could "leave me some tip." They occupied my booth while we were on a wait for well over an hour after the token plate was cleared.
THE TIP: $1.00 on a $22.00 bill.
THE AFTERMATH: I was so goddamn fucking furious that I gin.
I suspect Wanda and LeRoy swam to our restaurant from their houseboat, or from the sewer, or from a river-filled part of Hell. They claimed they'd never been to our restaurant before, but after interacting with them, I suspected they'd never been to any restaurant before.
They entered the restaurant reeking of banana oil, sweat, and salt water. They did not bother to rinse the sand off their bodies. They did not bother to change out of their swimwear. They did not bother to slip off their flip flops in favor of actual shoes.
"WE WERE ON OUR BOAT TODAY," Wanda told everyone within earshot as the hostess sat her and her husband right by the bathrooms (you know, in my section).
This was at 6:05 p.m. (the time will become important as the story drags on).
"Hello, how are you tonight?" I asked.
"Do you have catfish?!" Wanda asked between smoker's cough fits.
"We don't..." I said with a tilted head full of pity. "Anything to drink?"
"Yeah maybe," Wanda said. She coughed. "We've never been here before, so now's your time to impress us and keep us coming back!"
"Is that so?" I asked. "Why don't I wow you with a drink first?"
"We'll....need.....a....a....moment," LeRoy decided to weigh in. He smelled like the inside of a bong.
I let them be for about five minutes, after which time they still hadn't decided on a drink.
"Can you do a 'Suicide?'" Wanda asked with a cackle.
"You mean...a Suicide, like where you mix everything from the soda fountain into one glass?" I asked with a curled lip and two flared nostrils. I hadn't heard someone request a Suicide since my attendance-enforced 1st grade baseball team went out for burgers and bullying after our games.
"Yeah!" Wanda cackled like Baby Jane. "I think that sounds fun!"
"I.........sure," I replied.
I asked LeRoy what he'd like to drink.
"You all do milkshakes?" LeRoy asked.
"We don't..." I said with a tilted head full of pity. LeRoy finally decided on a Sprite. The time was now 6:20.
I returned with the drinks, and in an effort to guarantee I'd hate her, Wanda downed her Suicide in one swift gulp.
She slammed the empty glass on the table. "REFILL!" she laughed (and coughed).
Thirty minutes later, at 7:00, Wanda and LeRoy were still undecided.
"I want fried fish," Wanda half-said, half-bragged. "Can I order fried fish?"
"Yes," I said. "Just not at this restaurant."
For another thirty minutes, Wanda and LeRoy summoned me over sporadically as they inquired about each and every menu item. They'd ask if a certain item was "good," and then stare suspiciously at me as I answered, as if I were failing a true-or-false test.
Finally, at 8:00, after almost two hours of questions and comments and enough soda refills to ensure Diabetes upon all of Texas, Wanda and LeRoy were ready to order. After asking about the salmon, the trout, the chicken, the steak, the burgers, the lobster roll, the pasta, the sandwiches, and the appetizers, Wanda ordered a side of spinach, and LeRoy ordered a cup of soup.
They took their time consuming their paltry selections, and Wanda kept threatening to order more food.
At 9:30, after three and a half unbearable hours and umpteen more Suicides and Sprites, Wanda asked for the bill, which barely amounted to $16. She paid eleven dollars in the worst dollar bills you've ever seen, like they'd been used as rat blankets. The remaining balance - as well as my fifty cent tip - was paid for in a cacophony of quarters, nickels and dimes.
I disinfected their table with a wash cloth, my soul with a shot of tequila, and my memory with a shot of vodka. Just for fun, I returned to my childhood and tried a Suicide. I spit it out immediately.
As I've mentioned before, our main chef is inflexible when it comes to modifying his most cherished dishes. And while some of the rules on what we can modify don't always make sense, I've warmed up to chef because we share the same disdain for most of our customers. I'm therefore happy to enforce his fussiness.
I greeted two ladies in my section. One was a warm, polite older woman. The other was her daughter, Ginger, a deliberately mousey, elfin-like creature with a very affected, soft, dainty voice. She's one of those people who speaks near-whisper to highlight how delicate she is. Her shtick quickly became grating.
"What may I bring you to drink?" I asked.
Ginger smiled weakly and whispered unintelligibly.
"Sorry, didn't quite catch that..." I said.
"I want a hot water with lemon," she said with feigned embarrassment.
I returned with their beverages, and they were ready to order. Mom chose the crab cake, and Ginger had some questions about the salmon.
"Hi, yes, uhm, okay, so, gosh, sorry to ask this..." I bit my lower lip and raised my eyebrows to suggest she put on her running shoes and get to the point.
"The salmon..." she said with pause as if I would need time to understand the context. "It comes with Brussel sprouts..."
I'll take "Facts I Already Know" for 200, please!
"I don't like Brussel sprouts," she said. "I'd rather do spinach instead, thanks."
She smiled and handed me her menu.
"Unfortunately we can't substitute the vegetable on the salmon," I explained. "It's part of the set-up, and it's already mixed in with the other ingredients."
She smiled, but revealed a glimmer of agitation.
"I don't understand that at all," she said with a tilted head.
"I'll go over it again," I said. "You can't substitute the spinach for the Brussel sprouts."
"I don't like Brussel sprouts," she said, her smile of annoyance growing a bit more indignant.
"You can order the salmon a la carte and add a side spinach salad, but the set-up for that entree comes with Brussel sprouts."
"Uhm, okay, uhm, will you...will you go ask the chef if he'll do this for me? Explain that I come here all the time?"
No, Galadriel, *I* come here all the time.
"I'll go ask, but I can already tell you the answer is 'no.'"
I found the chef giving some of the non-English speaking kitchen staff his review of a 5-star restaurant in Beverly Hills, recommending they "try it out sometime." I explained Ginger's request. Chef looked at me, pursed his lips, cocked his head to the side to study me, then resumed his restaurant review (Translation: Hell no).
I returned and informed Ginger that chef's rules still apply to the salmon. She set down her hot water, rested her forehead in her hands, took a deep breath, then looked at me.
"Just order my mom's food, okay, and I'll have some of hers, wow, I mean...."
"Okay," I said.
"Would you...would you let it be known that I won't be coming back here? Would you tell everyone?" she asked.
"...Everyone?" I repeated.
"Yes, everyone," she said. "This place isn't, you know, uhm, it isn't Spago or some place five star, I want spinach, I should get spinach..." I stared at her blankly as if I were in a live art performance. "So, yes, tell everyone I am never coming back."
"I'll tell everyone," I promised.
Bored, I sashayed to the back of the kitchen where half my co-workers were on break.
"Guys, I have some bad news," I said with committed delivery.
They gave me concerned looks.
"The lady at table 64 wants me to tell everyone that she's not coming back," I told them. They mostly ignored me.
I told the kitchen staff in my passable Spanish, and I interrupted the bartenders' sports talk to let them know.
Finally, I let the chef know. He smiled at me and said, "Please tell her we'll be so sad to have 999 customers a day instead of 1,000."
I returned to the table and informed Ginger that I told everyone.
"Well isn't anyone coming over here to apologize or to, you know, offer some incentive to maybe come back someday?" she asked.
"Not really," I replied. "One last dessert?"
Ginger and her mother left shortly thereafter. I still can't believe I'll never see her again, but that's just one of the many perks pains of the job.
We're located close enough to Brentwood to be a popular lunch spot for rich, bitchy women. They complain, they fuss, they become indignant when told, "No, your dog may not sit on the table."
One recent Wednesday afternoon, five Brentwood BFFs insisted on sitting at a window-side table in my section. I'd already been sat with two parties at the same time, a fact the hostess mentioned to the BFFs to convince them to sit elsewhere.
"Uhm, no, we want to sit there," one of them said dismissively.
Thus they were sat in my section, and thus they waited and waited and waited for me to greet them.
I approached with a loose smile and asked for drink orders. Instead of acknowledging or answering me, the five women continued having five completely different conversations at each other.
Minutes later, Helen, the condescending ringleader, waived me over with raised eyebrows and a fake smile full of pig fat and chemicals.
"Yeah, hi, you're the server?" she asked.
No, I'm the host. We wear aprons and carry trays and serve tables and stand anywhere except the host stand.
"I believe I am," I replied. And with that...
"I'll have the cobb salad. No dressing. No bacon. Avocado on the side," Charlana said.
"I'll also have the cobb salad, but with dressing on the side, extra bacon, no egg, romaine lettuce only," Carlotta said.
"I'll also have the cobb salad, but no dressing, just lemon and olive oil, no bacon, no avocado, no egg," Mary Joan said.
"I'll also have the cobb salad, but with balsamic vinaigrette instead of lemon vinagrette, no bleu cheese, goat cheese instead, no bacon," Suzebeth said.
"And I'll also have the cobb salad, but with light dressing, no bacon, no egg, no bleu cheese, no tomato," Helen said.
They each ordered a water - some with ice, some without - and a Diet Coke.
"Should we ask him to lower the blinds?" Carlotta asked as if I were nowhere near. The others thought this over, and I knew a request might be coming. So, off I pranced.
Shortly thereafter, the salads arrived in all their gutted glory. I gave the ladies a few minutes, waiting for a break in their conversing and cackling, yet one never came, so I gently performed a quality check to see if everything was as tediously requested. I asked how everything was. They paused briefly, stared up at me like I'd just asked which way to Narnia, said nothing, and then resumed conversing and cackling.
As I cleared the table, each of them asked me to box up her salad despite the pittance remaining on each plate.
Helen handed me her plate, scowled, and said, "Excuse me? I said light dressing? But there was the normal amount of dressing on my salad? I could barely eat it!"
"Awww..." I half-said as I removed her almost empty plate to box up its remaining leaves. "You should have told me when I asked how everything was, I would have been happy to have the kitchen remake it for you!"
Off I pranced.
When I returned and set down the to-go boxes, Helen put her hand on my arm.
"Excuse me? When someone says they could barely eat their meal, the correct response is 'Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry,' not 'There's nothing I can do, you should have told me earlier.'"
I looked her straight in the eyes, inhaled, fake-smiled, and said, "Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry."
I dropped the bill.
Off I pranced.
"I need an iced tea, and I need it constantly full," Ted warned me, interrupting my introductory "Hello, how are..."
"Neat," I said, switching tones from polite to perturbed.
"And I'm waiting for two more people," he said.
"I wondered what those two extra menus and empty seats were doing there!" I said. I returned with an iced tea, which, in a show of dominance, Ted chugged in one sip. "More iced tea," he said.
Ted, a suit-and-tie-clad businessman, went through five iced teas before the rest of his party arrived. They were both nondescript, polite people in business casual. They did not require unreasonable refills.
They quickly ordered their salads and resumed discussing business, a dialogue that Ted led in his increasingly caffeinated state. Every two minutes, he flashed his fingers in the air, his symbol for "more iced tea."
Later, as I was speaking with the guests directly next to Ted, he flashed his fingers at me. I ignored him. He flashed his fingers again. I ignored him.
"Excuse me, when you're done chit-chatting?" he interrupted. "Just give me a pitcher of tea?"
I glared daggers at him, turned away, and then walked to the back of the restaurant. I found a spare pitcher - one that was maybe clean - and filled it with iced tea. Without a word, I set the pitcher down directly in front of Ted.
"Good, maybe now I..." he began.
"Anything else?" I cut him off.
"Just the bill."
Minutes later, as I cleared the table and claimed my generous $7 tip on a $60 bill, I noticed Ted's glass was empty. The pitcher was full, his symbol for "I'm not thirsty; just an asshole."