I Survived Being A Waitress

Submitted by Lanie [Last Name Omitted], server at Buca di Beppo restaurant in Encino, California to a bitter waitresses forum:

“Dear customers at tables 15-16:

I’m not sure if you remember me…I was your waitress last Monday night. I just wanted to drop you a quick letter to show my appreciation.

I was really thankful, customers at table 15-16, that rather than being the fourteen people for which you had made the reservation, you were in fact four adults and five small children. The way you managed to spread yourselves out to fill a ten top and a four top table rather than freeing up the four top was really quite a testament to the spirit of elbow room. Although you easily could have fit at one table, it was nice that you noticed how I, like so many of my fellow servers, often hate having tables used for things like paying customers when we could have a four top used for holding up slobbery crayons, diaper bags and shredded place mats.

Thank you for the workout I got fetching you four solid wood highchairs even though none of your children remained in them. It’s really nice to see children so active. I agree that more children could benefit from less TV and more running laps through a crowded restaurant. Way to help hone my reflexes as well; dodging children with a scalding hot plate of ravioli is great practice in case I ever decide to try out for Riverdance.

Thank you also for allowing your children to scream their heads off. Many people have never had the chance to experience what a whale call sounds like. But why am I telling you this? I can tell that you already realize the educational value of your offsprings’ squealing since you made no attempt to control it.

I’m sure we also see eye to eye about the Blue Man Group tribute your two-year-old was performing with six sets of silverware: dinner and a show!!

Thank you customers at table 15-16 for changing your infant’s dirty diaper at the table. I can’t even begin to tell you how tired I get of the smell of fresh garlic and basil. Rotten baby poop is really a nice change of pace during dinner. I’m sure table 13 only asked to be moved to another section because they were feeling overwhelmed by the cuteness of it all.

Lastly, I just wanted to let you know that I don’t hold the 11% tip against you. I was a little upset at first, but then I thought of all the money I’m saving by not having to get surgery since my tubes tied themselves in a knot.”

Lanie is my heroine of the day.

I have to say that dining with my (very young) nieces is, conversely, a pleasant experience because my brother and sister-in-law have trained them to behave politely in public, and do not allow them to run amok or scream in restaurants. Some parents understand. Also, remember: it isn’t the kids’ faults. They haven’t been taught how to behave. Reserve your stink-eye for the parents, and for kids who are darn well old enough to behave themselves properly but do not.

If you have ever worked as a server, you become very familiar with certain customer types.

“Who are you waiting on?

The Thirsty Jerk—-As much as you don’t want to deal with this customer you are continually forced into multiple visits back to the table to refill their glass. Often identified as you greet the table by asking the eternal question: “Are there free refills?” This coupled with a bad attitude results in one thirsty jerk.

The Struggling Comedian—-A particularly annoying chap who truly believes they are always on stage. They are tired of being shunned by friends and family at home and feel they’ve saved their best material for you. Are mainly driven by the possibility of a talent scout in the restaurant that might be interested in some dumb jokes that aren’t funny.

The Quick Orderer—-Frequently heard saying: “I knew what I wanted before I got here.” Or “That was easy, are you ready?” This beauty generally orders as they are sitting down or shortly after thereby forcing the other diners into a hurried ordering frenzy which often leads to something they don’t like. Their only chance is for you to rescue them with long drink times.

Grazed at the Bar–S/he dipped his or her nasty, dirty, unwashed fingers into the bartender’s drink garnish supplies tray and casually ate a pound of cherries, oranges, olives, and whatever else wasn’t nailed down. Do they offer to pay? They do not. The minute these people finally leave the bar to go sit down at their assigned table, the bartender is going to have to slice another pound of fruit or go down into the basement or up into the attic (restaurants always put stuff in the most inconvenient locations) to fetch more pearl onions and olives, and will also have to do so while slammed with customers, some of whom will get pissed they have to wait all of three minutes for another drink and will take it out on the bartender by not tipping worth a damn. Their server will also be delighted to hear that they aren’t hungry anymore and just want some bread or an appetizer.

The Low Talker/Mumbler—-Appear to be comfortable going through life with nobody being able to hear a single word they are saying. If, by chance, you happen to get the rare low talker/mumbler combination, I suggest nodding politely and ringing in the most popular dish on the menu since the odds are in your favor that that is what they ordered anyway.

The Modifier—-No doubt enjoyed games such as Rubik’s Cube and jigsaw puzzles when a child, this person gets a kick out of mixing and matching entrees, side orders, and sauces. Other than occasional harassment from the kitchen, they are generally not a real threat to your good mood. However, they often wonder why their “flounder marsala over lentils hold the garlic” doesn’t taste good. The all time best modification three years running: “house salad hold the lettuce”.

The Name Dropper—-Although many of these customers believe they have a resemblance to real movie stars, they’re about as famous as the 11-year-old who played the lead in my 6th grade rendition of Oliver. These faux stars and starlets will usually feel they are entitled to special privileges like preferred seating or VIP treatment from food servers. Yet, ultimately their true identity comes forth and we discover they are really the boss’s second cousin, twice removed, hairdresser’s neighbor.

The Lying Dieter—-Regardless of the chair screaming “help me!” when they sit down, this customer’s typical meal will include: fried calamari for starters, with fettuccini alfredo for the main course and carrot cake as a light dessert and invariably a Diet Coke to drink. Somehow in between scoffing the fresh mozzarella and ganosh cake they manage to ask for Sweet and Low, truly a sight to behold.

The Intolerable Intolerants—-These customers have decided to look death in the face and leave it up to their server to keep out any ingredients that may result in their demise. Food allergies ranging from dairy to shellfish to anything with seeds keep you guessing and usually lead to you not even ringing in the modification. The fun only really begins when 6 different people run your food to the table only to have the Intolerable Intolerant’s special dish get lost in the auction.

The Straggler—-Timing is everything with this punctual customer. What is first dismissed as a strange coincidence of a customer coming into the restaurant as you are about to eat your lunch, quickly becomes a regular nuisance that NASA can set their clocks by. Many believe they wait outside until 2:00p.m. exactly before coming through the door. Others feel they have people working on the inside to tell them precisely when the employees put their lunch orders in so as to have their opening of the door correspond exactly with my ass hitting the chair. Note: If they can’t make it in person, they will usually call around the same time.

The Campers—-Also known as the marathon munchers or squatters they love living up to their stereotype by taking no less than three hours to eat a Caesar salad and a bowl of pasta. Have no qualms about reminding the food server that they are in no rush tonight or that they’ll wait before giving you their entrée to ensure plenty of time. Short of sweeping under their table while they’re still there, there is not much that can be done about these all too powerful diners. The worst of the breed are just under the wire campers who feel that once they are seated they have us where they want us, keeping the restaurant open later than usual. Dropping a check with the meal may counteract this… or may not.”

I ran into all of the above, and some Very Special Customers that deserve their own list:

White Trash Lemonade Maker. Patron is too cheap to buy the Minute Maid Lemonade restaurant sells (for $2, in a BIG bottle). Instead, Patron runs server to death asking for (free) lemons, (free) sweetener-of-choice packets, and constant (free) refills on water.

200 Questions. Patrons peruse the menu and ask about every single entree and then decide to order, for two adults, one kid’s portion meal with Ice Water And Extra Lemon. And get annoyed when you point out that they cannot, as they are not, chronologically speaking anyway, children.

Church Group In Tour Bus. Your ‘tip’ will be TestaMints, Jesus Cards, Jack Chick tracts, and / or declarations that you will be prayed for enthusiastically…and NO MONEY. They are the WORST.

Ranch Dressing Dunkers. Table orders ranch dressing and pours it all over everything possible. Ranch dressing = no tip.

On The Side. So incredibly picky, they can’t have any two given ingredients in contact with each other. So concerned about portion size that they order the largest thing on the menu, have it parted out into 13 different components, then mix it alltogether into glop and eat every molecule.

Prom couples. They are so frequently cheap (out of ignorance, mostly, as it may be the first time they have ever gone to a restaurant on their own without adults) that one restaurant I worked for began a Prom Tip Tax policy. If a couple were under 25 and came in to our semi-formal restaurant with a flower tied to the girl’s wrist, a girl wearing a wearing floor-length satin ballgown, a girl in a tiara, or a guy with pimples wearing a rented tux, you got Prom Taxed. It was even on the menu.

Screaming Baby. Parents of Screaming Baby let SB shriek, spit drooly half-masticated cracker blops all over the walls, carpets, seats, high chairs and tables, and occasionally think it is acceptable to change their SB’s diaper ON THE DINING TABLE. DURING DINNER. IN FULL VIEW (and smell range) OF THE OTHER PATRONS. Occasionally SB’s mom makes a political statement by openly breastfeeding her baby. Breastfeeding is natural and all, but some people don’t want to see it while they are eating, and life is unfair and I don’t want to hear any angry lactivist comments about it. Just realize that some people don’t want to see it while they are eating, and that no judgment is being passed on whether they should get over it or not. Oh, smoking or drinking alcohol while nursing are not out of the question. Bonus points when the diaper, as is inevitable, is left on the dining room table. That’s your tip. Some e.Coli and nausea.

Buffet Moo-cows. Since they get their chow for themselves, the fact that someone seated them, refilled their drinks, checked on them frequently to make sure they were content, removed dirty plates all night and had no way to recoup income on the table at which they lingered for hours never enters their tiny minds. They think that since they grabbed a plate themselves that it’s only fair that this someone get no tip.

Low- or No-Carb dieters. I’d be cranky, too. Carbs are delicious. But I wouldn’t order insanely customized food that no longer has any chance of tasting palatable and then throw a fit when the butter-soaked garlic bread isn’t rushed to the table immediately. And then they order a lot of alcoholic beverages. Bread and booze = carbohydrates.

Kiddie Rodeos. Undisciplined, unrestrained and unnoticed by any adults who might be forced to claim them, a pack of rowdy sproglets galloping all over the restaurant signals indifference on the part of their adult caretakers to the feelings and welfare of others (or the kids). You may receive no tip. In fact, they would love to ask you to pay for the privilege of being their unappreciated and unacknowledged babysitter for the past hour and a half.

Fake Bling. Danger, Will Robinson, danger! Fake Bling and his / her companions will be appalled to find out that dinner-sized salads and refills on sodas are not free. Will ask for a dozen bread baskets and think nothing of packing bread into pockets or purses “for later”. No judgment. Times are rough. I would never narc anyone out for pocketing a biscuit. The problem is that they will often be loud and foul-mouthed and unable to understand polysyllabic words. Worst Fake Bling offenders are Caucasian males with baseball caps. Please dine at Krystal or Hooter’s and leave us alone.

Bad places to work: anywhere involving nudity if you are female but not inclined to get nude, places that serve chicken wings (especially buffalo-style chicken wings), places attached to shopping malls, places with carnival games (Chuck E Cheese, Dave & Buster’s, et cetera), places with sports shows on multiple televisions all day, places that do not have metal utensils or cloth napkins, places that make servers wear rollerskates or sing, places that require servers to wear revealing or humiliating polyester uniforms, places that are open 24/7, et cetera.

I miss the money (I actually always got above-average tips), but I am too old and crabby to deal with the general public anymore, and my fallen arches made it an exercise in torture every single night anyway. Be nice to your server. It is a crappy job.

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