I rarely suffer headaches during a shift (mostly because I keep my flask overflowing for such situations), but a recent table of seven sassy sisters celebrating a birthday nearly drove me to an aneurysm.
I knew they'd be trouble when it took them 10 minutes to find a "suitable" table.
"Uhm, this table is too small," I heard one say to the hostess.
"Yeah, uhm, and that one needs to be cleaned," I heard another say to her friend.
Finally they were sat in my section. I downed the remnants of my flask like a hooker about to sleep with George Hamilton and greeted my customers.
"How is everyone doing this evening?" I said, mildly buzzed.
"Hiiii there!" chirped the ringleader. "I'm LaKeesha, and it's my birthday, so we need to feel extra special tonight!"
And like that, my buzz died.
"Ok," I said.
"First of all, we'd like a pitcher of margaritas," she said. "Happy hour margaritas."
I braced myself for the umpteenth rendition of "Sorry, Happy Hour Isn't Available In My Section" and said:
"Sorry, happy hour isn't available in my section."
"Oh," LaKeesha said. "But it's my birthday and that's what I want. So..."
Oh really? So birthdays are a big deal, huh? Let's suppose for a minute it were my birthday and I walked into your place of employment...let's say the DMV...and I said, "LaKeesha, it's my birthday. And I want you to make ME feel special," Would you behave any differently towards me? No. So if being fussed over is important to you on this day like every other day, I suggest hiring a clown for your next party.
"Sorry. Not an option. What would you all like to drink instead?"
"Uhmmm," LaSheeka's friend (we'll call her "Latte") said. "You need to go tell a manager it's her birthday and get a Happy Hour pitcher."
"Can't wait," I said.
I told our lovably and equally indifferent manager about the request. I watched from afar in euphoric bliss as he reiterated what I had just said.
I went back to the table.
"We're ready to order," Latte said, very displeased.
I collected the seven food orders and turned them into the kitchen. To retaliate against our no-happy-hour ruling, five of the seven did not order cocktails.
The food arrived. Minutes later, I was summoned to the table. And for the first time in my restaurant "career," each and every entree was sent back to the kitchen because not one of the ladies liked her entree.
"This ground beef is ground too small."
"I thought there'd be more fried shrimp than this."
Just as I thought my head would spin 360 degrees, an additional EIGHTH person joined the party! This meant "automatic gratuity," which is currently one of the sexiest things someone can say to me.
Before my mouth could form a full grin I had the manager add the tip. I couldn't wait for this to upset my guests.
Latte informed me, again, that it was LaKeesha's birthday.
"So what do you do for birthdays?" she asked.
(Anyone who knows me knows I've given the following response before. And I didn't hesitate to use it again.)
"I usually get drunk and embarrass myself in public," I said. "What do YOU do for birthdays?""
Latte was not amused. She told me to bring out a festive (free) dessert, candles, and sing "Happy Birthday."
"That last part won't happen," I said. "We don't sing here."
"Dang you all don't do ANYTHING special on birthdays, huh?" she said.
"On the contrary!" I said. "We bring out the finest free dessert you'll ever eat."
I delivered the cheaply mad sundae. And the bill. And that's where our story takes a turn for the worse.
Latte took the helm and meticulously scrutinized the bill. She asked the hostess for three menus so that she and the rest of the payment committee could ensure they'd been fairly charged.
Nearly 30 minutes later...
Latte approached me at the computer. My fellow servers were bracing themselves for a showdown. Fortunately I'd just popped a Xanax so all was calm, all was bright.
"Yeah, we have a lot of problems with this bill," Latte said.
"First of all, we were still charged for some of the entrees we didn't like."
"Oh? Let's take a look."
Latte and I studied the bill. I pointed to this:
"You see underneath the entrees, where it says "Comp Food" and then has a negative price?" That means we took those items off your bill," I said.
"Then why is it even still on the bill?" Latte asked.
"Because those items were still made and for inventory purposes we need to keep track. Don't worry, it doesn't affect you in any way."
"Ok," she said suspiciously, as if I'd just pulled a Machiavellian fast one on her. She reported back to the group and they continued their study of the bill. Latte approached me again.
"We didn't order an iced tea or a banana split" she said. "I think you brought out the wrong bill."
"Correct," I said. "No one ordered an iced tea. But your friend ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, and your other friend ordered two splits of champagne."
Latte once again retreated to her dining guests and reported. Second later, she was back for more.
"My friend ordered soup with her entree. It's only supposed to be $2.25 to add on a cup."
"Yes, exactly," I said. "It's only $2.25 to add on a cup of soup. A bowl, however, is $4.70. Your friend ordered a bowl."
Latte left and once again returned.
"Don't you all give some sort of Birthday Discount?"
"Yes, we do," I said. And reminded her of:
And before Latte could sit down again, she pointed at
Of course not! In fact, let's reverse that charge and I'll pay you a "Privilege Fee." After all, it's not everyday I get to wait on the Birthday Princess and her demanding band of bitches!
Defeated, Latte returned to her friends. She, LaKeesha and company then turned on one another as they discussed who should pay what. LaKeesha didn't hesitate to throw in, "It's my birthday so I'm not paying a thing!"
Nearly 10 minutes later, they finally left, $5.00 short of what they actually owed. Tempted as I was to chase them to their cars/bus stops, I couldn't bear the thought of exacerbating an already splitting headache. I might have had the last laugh in terms of not submitting to their birthday demands, but more than any opponent I've faced in my service days, they left a mark.
My head throbs just reliving it.