Wednesday, January 27, 2010

War Story Wednesday

Hold on to your hats blogger friends! This week I have no other than the QUEEN of the internet LiLu, from livitluvit gracing my small, simple blog with her witty and creative musings.
To say that I am excited that she is guest blogging for me is essentially the understatement of the century.
So without further ado, here it is:

Though I have long since retired from the world of restaurants and bars, I remember the trials and tribulations I endured throughout my decade in the industry like it was yesterday. I started out as a sixteen year old hosted at a suburban TGIFriday's; and yes, every cliché you can imagine about it? True.

I'd been eyeing the much larger tips servers made for some two years by the time my 18th birthday rolled around, and I started my first shift training "on the floor" the day I was legal. (Insert obligatory "barely legal" joke here.)

I was pumped, but (understandably) terrified, despite that fact that I was shadowing a good friend of mine.

The night went well; almost too well, in fact. I cavorted with customers, winning them with smiles and extra bread sticks and upselling them on booze and appetizers all the while. I was a natural.

That is, until we got seated with an 8 top.

"Just treat them like any other table," my friend and mentor coached me. "Drinks, apps, entrees. You can do this."

And so I did. Green though I was, I managed to get their drinks in record time, enter all the courses in the computer with the appropriate delay times, and was riding high by the time their soups and salads were up in the kitchen. The group had a one year old I'd been playing peek-a-boo with, and their wallets, I mean hearts, were mine.

I waltzed over to their table with three salads on one arm, proud as anything of my newly acquired "carrying" skills.

"Here we are, folks! One Italian, one Thousand Island, and finally, an olive and vineg-"

I saw it happen. I saw the ramekin of olive oil slowly, tenderly, terrifyingly, TEETER...

Before it gently slid off the edge of the bowl and upended its entire contents onto the bald little head of the toddler.

Stunned, the baby sat there with a little plastic yamaka resting on his crown, the oily yellow goop slowly dripping down his wee button nose.

And then I died.

Or, everyone uttered noises of surprise and clucking and frantically grabbed napkins and blotted while trying not to laugh because hey, if you think about it...

That's pretty damn funny.

Fortunately for me, the family was amazingly cool about it, but my mortification was complete. I hid in the kitchen until they were gone and ate my weight in Sesame Jack chicken strips to forget the pain.

I went on to be a helluva waitress, but I never forgot.

And I put the cocky away...

At least until I became a bartender.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

War Story Wednesday.... Or, the WSW that wasn't.

I thought that I had the best entry ever for WAS. I was so excited because it was clever and funny.... And vaguely familiar?? And after a bit of thinking was proven to be an excerpt from "Waiting" by Debra Ginsburg. Umm, Debra, if that was you who sent it to me than my apologies! How-EVAH, evidently it is time for a couple rules.

1: Original work please. Although I certainly can not police this if you are gonna scam off a book them I'm probably going to bust you.

2: No racial crapola. All peeps are occasionally bad tippers. There was a lot of this JENK in my inbox. STOPIT!

3: Hey "lousywaitress" at I genuinely loved your 12 emails that all said "They wuz bad tippers. They left me like, 10 cents maybe." I might just have to combine all the fabulocity of your emails to make one big wacky post. I bet you would love that! And common sense tells me that maybe you only got a smattering of change becasue you were.... lousy??

Anyway everybody- better luck next week. I did get a few good laughs but nothing that I felt ok about sticking up on my blog-o'-fantabu-lism.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Adventures with Spaghetti...

At the end of a very boring evening I had this adventure:

Within minutes of closing I got a table of two, which happened to be my first table in well over an hour. It was a table of "mature" adults, obviously on a date. As I walked close to the table I was struck by a very unusual and altogether unpleasant odor. Realizing that it was heavily applied perfume radiating from my female dinner guest I attempted to place the exact scent that I was detecting. After a moments pause it occurred to me that it was the odor of a freshly cleaned porta potti, or to be more exact almost the identical smell to those little deodorizers that are placed in porta-crapper urinals. Ummmm-UM!

Breathing thru my mouth to avoid the noxious fumes I greeted my party and asked if they would like to partake in a beverage. "What do you have for beers" the boyfriend asked. Seeing that they did not have a drink menu I took a minute to recite the selection which, while not impressive is fairly lengthy. "I'll have a Bud Lite" he declared. If there is one thing that bothers me (and believe me, the there is more that one) it is when people ask for a beer recitation and then order a BUD! Howbout you just ask if we have Bud in the first place, if that is what you are going to drink? Spare me the trouble of going thru the whole shebang, you know?

When I got back to the table only girlfriend was there and she was all ready to chat me up and to become my very closest friend. She gave me a very long and boring story regarding the magnetic bracelet that she had on and how she could pick up her silverware with it. Trying to be a good sport I mentioned that she must need to be cautious when handling knives as that would be a nasty way to loose a phalange. She looked at me in complete shock and awe, and gasping, declared that she had never thought of such a thing! And oh my gosh, wasn't I just the smartest thing!! (yes.) Moving along, she asked to order an appetizer which is referred to as "toasted." She did not understand this phraseology. "Toasted" she said, flipping her menu over in confusion and looking at me with a wrinkled brow "you mean they put them in a toaster?" I explained that no, this was something that was baked or "toasted" in the oven and it was just another way of saying the same thing.... She was baffled, and said thoughtfully that the menu was very confusing indeed. Sighing, and shaking my head I left to put their order in and was intercepted by a most agitated Karen. Looking at me in an irritated was she said "The people at your table smell TERRIBLE! I am going to have to go and apologize to MY tables about the SMELL!" I agreed wholeheartedly that eau de urinal cake is not the way to go, and that if nothing else perhaps the stench would get people out of the restaurant before it got too late. Looking at my watch I noticed that it was indeed getting very late and due to the chatty Kathy nature of my table things were moving slower that molasses.

Since I knew that their apps would take a few moments I returned to stink bomb central to take the dinner order and get the show on the road. "I'll have spaghetti and meatballs" girlfriend said. "We don't have spaghetti" I said, but we do have the following pastas..." Listing them carefully I noticed her drifting into la-la land, clearly overcome by her own odor. "OK" she said dreamily "I'll have the spaghetti and meatballs." "Actually." I deadpanned "We. Don't. Have. Spaghetti. Why don't you try the angel hair with that?" "Hmmmm. OK. I'll have Spaghetti and meatballs!" "Al-righty!!" I exclaimed writing "Angel Hair and Meatballs" carefully on my pad of paper. Turning to boyfriend I asked what he might like to have on this very fine and confusing evening. "I'll have the shrimp scampi!" he drawled. Sighing mightily I explained that we did not have that item, but I would be happy to see if it could be prepared specially for him. "NONO" he said "I'll just have the spaghetti (yes, he said spaghetti) and red clam sauce." Wondering if either of them had bothered to so much as pick up the freaking menu I explained that again, that was not an item on the menu but I could check on the special order situation. Turning down my offer once again he finally agreed to have some good old fashioned manicotti. AHHHH!

All the while I had been at this table, attempting to avoid breathing in the thick cloud of epic perfume nastiness I was getting an eyeful of the table-next-door, wrapped in a full blown make out session. Which made me think of This Madness! Imagining that I was going to have to go and get the broom and poke them apart like horny dogs I told Marissa that it looked like her table was ready to leave (to get a room.) "Oh CRAP" she said "Really? Do you think that you could go over there and make them uncomfortable so they stop?" Thinking that if the eau de latrine was not making them feel icky than nothing would I prepared to stop the madness via a pitcher of very cold water thrown upon their writhing bodies. Much to my surprise the lady from my table has broken up love fest Oh-ten by stopping to chat with them (I could hear her telling them the story of the magnetic bracelet. Fun!)

Fortunately for all of us, crazy in love table included the big bad spaghetti dinners came out at this point so everybody had to go back where they belonged. I asked if there was anything else that I could get for either of them to make their dining experience more enjoyable? "I'll have a peanut" said girlfriend. I was a bit staggered, as there was absolutely nothing on the menu that I could think of that had anything to do with peanuts. "A peanut...?" I said slowly, attempting to buy myself some thinking time "Could you be a bit more specific about what you mean." "Yeah, yeah" she said, nodding helpfully "you always have a couple different kinds of peanuts? maybe two different ones." PEANUTS. BRICK WALL. I had nothing, no matter what way I twisted my brain I could not conjure a recollection of ever seeing a single peanut. I was ready to admit defeat when she perked up "I remember!" she exclaimed "I always get the PEANUT GREEEEGIO!" Ah. Pinot Grigio- gotcha!! I scampered off to get her a nice glass of peanut, and to get them more sauce for their spaghetti and to escape the fumes of perfume death. Returning to the table I asked how things were, and if they were enjoying dinner. "Don't know!" crowed the boyfriend "Haven't even tried it yet!!" Sneaking a peak at my watch I noticed that we had been closed for almost 30 minutes and this table had taken ne well over an hour to get to this point (appalling on a slow night.) Sneaking peeks at them I saw boyfriends fork hovering in the air, bite ready to try. And it hovered. And hovered. And did not move. For well over 5 minutes. Awesome! I give up!

After a time they did hurry up and eat, and then I hustled them around and forced them to pay up and get the eff out of my freaking section. As much as I love hanging about at Captain Rigatoni's it was time to leave.

The best part of the whole situation was that they wrote on a comment card about the "great spaghetti...." ummm hmmm. Some people never learn.

Friday, January 15, 2010

If you gotta problem yo, I'll solve it. Or not?

As a rule I am quite a good problem solver. I can help you to jump start your car, I am not scared to help you check out funny noises in the dead of the night (well, I am. but I won't admit to it! oops, just did.) Really, I am a fairly handy person to have around when it comes to being a minor problem solver- Ms. Fixit type of gal.

One problem that I absolutely CAN NOT fix? The problem with people being bat shit crazy.

It is a well established fact in my brain that Captain Rigatoni and Bobbi Rigatoni are quite far off the deep end of anything that pertains to reality. The way that the pair of them interact with the staff, each other and their own freaking family constantly appalls me and leaves me shaking my head in dismay.

Let me set the scene for you. As is the norm on a Friday or Saturday night we were all summoned to have a big, rousing pre-shift meeting. We were actually called to the dining room for this one, which rocks my socks since it means we get to sit down!! We all gathered around, and I placed myself as far away from Capt Rig as is humanly possibly, and situated myself behind the tallest person there because invisibility is desirable.

Captain Rig strode in, rubbing his temples in a most aggravated manner and adjusting his bluetooth headset so that we could see how busy and important he was. It is difficult to forget even for a minute that we are working with The Most Famous Person in the Land as we are all constantly reminded of that fact. "All of YOUS are trying to put me out of business!" was his statement du jour "I have never seen this place run so poorly!!" He continued on in a fairly normal (for him) way, expressing his usual level of disgust in the fact that all of us tend to tell people to eat elsewhere, scream obscenities at his guests, lock the doors and turn off the lights, and spit on peoples food right in front of them. Normal stuff, you know? I was very happy to be sitting and hiding and was inching oh-so-close to dozing off (or going to my happy daydream place. mmmmm, cozy) when the meeting took a turn for the worse. Captain Rig stood in front of the Male youth of America and pointed a chubby finger at him. "THIS is one of the big problems" he seethed "I have said from the beginning that this guy has no place in my restaurant, and no business waiting tables for me!!" THUNK! That's the sound of my chin hitting the table in a bit of shock (I quickly picked it up and resumed my hiding.) The poor MYOA had no opportunity to run for cover as he was front and center, and clearly the object of Capt Rig's attention and fury. DOOM! I watched in growing horror as Capt Rig demanded that the MYOA tell him the exact ingredients that made up several dishes on the menu. Cracking under the scrutiny the poor YOA was unable to even remember his own name, much less the amount of salt that goes into the meatballs. Stammering somewhat, but maintaining a remarkable level of cool headedness the YOA tried very hard to do the Captain's bidding (with no luck.) FURIOUS at the incompetence of his freshly minted and still untrained staff member he continued making an example of the poor guy. Stepping in, Bobbi joined in the fun and carnage. "Bobbi" said the Captain, slapping his palm to his forehead "Can you even begin to believe this guy? Why is he even working for us? WHY?" Bobbi eyed the YOA with nothing short of unbridled hatred, "DISGUSTING" she proclaimed, voice dripping with insanity "Just. Disgusting." All of my radars that detect extreme psychosis were going off hard core in my brain at this point as I continued to watch this poor kid get strung up by his toenails and publicly flogged. I snuck a peek around the room at my coworkers, wondering if my feelings of shock/disgust/pity were mirrored on their faces. Not surprisingly I noticed that Jan, Karen and Gina were looking pleased and smug, knowing that if they were called upon to recite recipes that they could do so with ease. They were practically jumping up and down saying "pick me! ask me! I'm crazy too, just like you Captain Rig!" Taking no notice of their flailing arms and eager expressions Captain Rig finished up his rant of terror. "This here is a good kid" he said somberly to YOA "but that doesn't mean that he should work here. All of yous should memorize the menu as I will be quizzing you on it, and firing the people who get it WRONG!!" As we scattered, one of the newer girls (the one who has a tendency to tattletale like a 3rd grader) announced her grand plan to make flash cards with menu items on them and diligently study them. Rolling my eyes with reckless abandon I held back the urge to slap her silly. Come ON people, you have just witnessed the execution of somebody's frigging SOUL and you prattle on about flashcards?? Sheesh, the lack of humanity of 98% of the people I work with is horrifying.

It was no great shock to me that Captain Rig maxed out my psychosis radar, and to see Bobbi so willingly jump on the beat down bandwagon was expected. How do they manage to live with themselves after so easily dishing out public humiliation? Like I mentioned before- bat shit crazy is a problem I can not fix- and the two of them are way beyond help.

A great side note- despite suffering horrible humiliation the MYOA has stuck it out and continues to work there in a manner that seems quite acceptable to my uneducated eyes. I'm not sure if I would have been able to stand continuing on after such an episode, so good for him for being such a tough guy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

War Story Wednesday!

A fabulous guest post from Two Birds On A Wire
This is a good one and I can honestly say that I have never had to contend with this set of shenanigans!! Thanks to everyone for the WSW submissions- keep 'em coming!

What choo do wif my gold teef?
I worked in a larger chain restaurant for about 2 years and had many memorable moments, but this was one of the gems. It was a Saturday afternoon in the summer and the lunch hour was pretty dead. I was working upstairs in the smoking section for my shift and had only about 2 or 3 tables. One of my tables was a younger couple that was in to eat before seeing a movie across the parking lot at the movie theater. The guy was all decked out in gold chains around his neck, his pants hanging off his butt, obviously he was too cool to take his sunglasses of inside because they had been on the whole meal and his girlfriend was all dolled up with her hair recently braided, her nails recently painted a nice bright purple with little rhinestones glued on each one, and she was wearing her silver stilettos out for her afternoon date. I knew right away that they were going to be a handful, but I was not prepared for what was about to ensue. Serving them was similar to many experiences I had had before, running back and forth for countless ramekins of ranch, barbeque, and hot sauce, refilling sodas, requesting new fries because theirs were not "crispy" enough for them and expecting a less than 10% tip. They were a lot of work for two people and I was ready for them to go. Finally when I dropped off the bill and they strutted out of the restaurant I went up to the table to find a nice $2.13 tip for their $40.00 bill. Whatever. They were out of my hands. Now I had one table that was completely low maintenance so I thought I'd go visit my friend up at the bar and chat for a minute. In the middle of my conversation I hear the man from my table storming back into the restaurant and yelling "Where's my gold teef?!" He proceeded to march upstairs and grab the collar of one of our sweet bus boys who hardly knew a lick of English and yell at him about his missing gold teef. The bus boy was obviously frightened so I hurried upstairs to use my spanish skills to ask him if he found gold teeth while bussing the table. After finding out that he wasn't aware of any gold teeth I thought maybe they could have been wrapped up in a napkin and thrown in the trash. So I asked the bus boy to go grab us some gloves and we then began to dig through the trash can right there to see if we could find the gold teef. The bus boy found a napkin that was shaped strangely and opened it up to find the set of 4 gold teeth and held it out to the man. The guy said "Dude you was trying to steal my gold teef!" then ripped the teeth out of his hand and then placed them back over his normal teeth and stormed back out of the restaurant. You better believe the whole restaurant saw this scene and was just staring at me with their jaws dropped and speechless. It was quite the disgusting display but I do have to thank the man though because of his display my one remaining table felt horrible that I had to deal with his shenannigans and gave me a hefty $30 tip. I will never forget the man wif the gold teef.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

How to have fun at work

It was a dark and stormy night....

Actually, it was no such thing. It was a very typical weekend night of excess drama, and even more excessive lack of business. I was having a challenging time finding anything to do to occupy myself in a manner that would keep me out of the slacking spotlight. I had about given up and was seconds away from throwing my hands up in frustration and having a comfortable seat in the walk in cooler when surprise! I got a table. A very novel concept, being that I am a waitress and all...

Sadly, it was a table of old people, and while I have nothing against being/getting old it is a well known fact that senior citizens are notoriously bad tippers. They are under the misguided impression that leaving us verbal tips such as "oh honey, I bet you wish that you had gone to college now, doncha??" is payment enough. That kind of payment is always well received by me and I reciprocate by boiling their coffee, or similar. Anyway, I digress. Old people love to know the life story of their server (usually so that the much appreciated "tips" can be handed out.) They proceeded to ask me about my life and times and not really feeling like getting into the technical details of what I occupy my days with I simply replied that I was a waitress. WELL! Never have I seen so much excitement from such a small and boring word. "PAY attention Archie!" crowed the female at my table "This girl is an ACTRESS!!" As I started to reply that no, an actress I am not some wise-ass part of my brain awoke and reminded me of how very bored I was. So I gave the people what they wanted, knowing that I would never see them again and also thinking that I might as well put on a good show and really earn my 12 cent tip. I developed an excellent life story, complete with why I was now in a small town far, far away from the hustle and bustle of my Hollywood upbringings. They were overly excited at this point and I was a bit concerned that my wild tale would end in the need for paramedics, or extra oxygen. They eagerly demanded to know if they might have seen me on TV! In a movie! On Broadway! I replied sensibly that no, I was not a well known actress because I was a stunt double. Pfffffffffffft!! "A stunt double" Archie pondered "like when Julia Roberts doesn't want to show her bum?" Holding back laughter at this point (and wondering what it was that gave away my body double stature? Obviously my wildly womanly curves and supermodel appearance...) I went on the defense "NONO" I replied, "not a BODY double a STUNT double- you know, the ones who leap off tall buildings, take roundhouse kicks to the face and are regularly set on fire." They were suitably impressed, as they very well should have been. Sadly at this juncture I had to excuse myself from my outrageous meanderings and go back to my job as a waitress. However, feeling that I was really onto something good I spent the rest of my evening telling tall tales to all my tables. I am clearly a very well rounded person as I am a stunt double, a paramedic (inspired my the hyperventilating old people thank-you-very-much) and a 3rd grade teacher. I must admit that I found this to be an excellent way to occupy my time and distract me from my imploding coworkers.

So, all in all this was a win-win situation. I was amused, my guests were amused, and no harm came from any of it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

War Story Wednesday- Coming Soon

Starting this month (perhaps even this week) I'll be hosting War Story Wednesday here on middleagedwaitress.
A great way for all of us on the front lines of chaos to exchange tales of horror!
Please hit me up here if you'd like to participate. Good times will be had by allllll!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In which the insanity becomes even more insane...

Happy Oh-Ten everyone! We plunged into the new year at Captain Rig's with a bang (and a whimper...)

Not shockingly the arrival of the super new decade brought an unprecedented level of stress to our normally cordial and relaxed environment. New Years eve-eve did not run particularly smoothly and if you ask Jan and Karen it was all the fault of us new staffers. Idiots! Renegades!

Before I dive into the deliciously gory details of what was a truly hideous weekend I just want to pause for a moment and say one thing. I can honestly say that I have never seen such a display of absurdity by a boss in my life. Words fail me, and for those of you who know my true identity that is a rare thing. Sadly, I simply can not put into writing the level of crapola that Captain Rig brings to the table. Moving on...

New Years eve got off to a bad start right from the beginning. Tensions were running on overdrive and a delivery of critical items had not yet arrived, throwing several staff members into fits of fury. Preparing to chop up a Mt Everest sized pile of lettuce I discovered that I was missing the bags that the lettuce gets stored in. Inquiring about the whereabouts of said items was obviously the wrong thing to do "You're just going to have to START ON LETTUCE" Karen screeched at me, as her lips curled into a sneer exposing her desperate need for dental work. Looking at her it occurred to me that she had most likely suffered some sort of traumatic brain injury, rendering her incapable of being at all rational. Speaking very slowly, taking into account her extreme mental deficit I explained that I was indeed chopping lettuce but was unsure what to do with the finished product. "You'll just have to figure it OUT!!!" she screamed like a complete lunatic. Sighing in despair I retreated into the depths of the kitchen to beat my head bloody against the wall and contemplate the unjust world that I was sadly a part of. Lucky for me, within minutes the delivery man had arrived bags in hand.

As Marissa and I finished up with the 42,786 pounds of lettuce we were summoned to the kitchen by a roaring Captain Rigatoni. He and Bobbi were furious with all of us and our inability to perform even the most mundane of tasks. They were sick and tired of the incompetence and F***ing bull crap that they had to put up with. Captain Rig was especially disgusted by the fact that our idiocy had attracted the attention of the labor department. He stormed around, pointing, cursing, gesturing and hovering precariously closely to the brink of a major coronary event. And then I did it. I made the very poor decision to open my foolish mouth and make a comment on the bile that he was spewing every which way. (it was legit though, I was not being a smartass!) Hearing the sound of my voice Captain Rig whipped around, eyes bulging in horror that someone of my pathetic stature would dare to speak to his highness. Demanding to know my name, he asked if I wanted to continue working there. Much to the dismay of my brain, my mouth opened up all of its own accord and said "YES". WHAT the frick mouth?? Hush yourself!! Getting close enough to me so that I could see the pores on his nose he snarled that if I wished to continue to have the privilege of working for him that I had best zip it. He continued to rant in a manner of complete disarray and confusion for quite some time before concluding with: "Well I don't know about all of YOUS but CAPTAIN RIGATONI is going to have a damn good 2010." To which people actually applauded. After I threw up a little in my mouth and contained the urge to slap everyone in the face I unwillingly plunked my hands together a bit to blend in. AKK!

Running away in horror, trying to shake the feeling of pure insanity I was stopped by my human work friend. "So..... what did you think of THAT?" he asked me. Being that I was genuinely disgusted and furious I replied that I had never in my life seen such a display of confusion and bullshit. As we finished our whispered discussion Bobbi rounded the corner and noticing that the two of us had paused, she shouted "STAFF, STAFF there is a LOT to do and we need to GET SHIT DONE!!!" Moving along, shaking our heads at her display of insanity we proceeded to circle like moronic goldfish around the restaurant. A few moments later I noticed that a bit of snow was on the floor so I stopped to pick it up. Like a freaking cat Bobbi pounced on me again. "STAFF" she hissed "IT is time to be paying attention to our TABLES!!!" Looking at my empty section I decided that I needed to hide. Passing my human work friend I declared my intention to hide out in the bathroom for a bit of time. I took a moment in the bathroom to take deep, calming breaths and try to lower my blood pressure to a more acceptable level. I reminded myself that I was not really an idiot, contrary to popular belief. I tried to get in touch with my inner zen like qualities, even while my stupid eyes were threatening to get all cry-ish on me. Realizing that I could not shack up in the bathroom forever I shook it off, tried to keep my inner beast dormant and got the hell back to work.

Fortunately at that point things became busy and we had a nice, smooth evening. New Year's Day went well too, with a minimum of drama and ridonkulocity. Imagine THAT! We can all do our jobs... Now this isn't to say that the Head Harpies were not on a rampage of destruction but most of them kept their thoughts to themselves.

What I managed to take away from the whole long, absurd and exhausting weekend were a few tremendously helpful tips on how to run my own business. Hooray! First of all I need to really start yelling at my staff a whole lot more, with gratuitous use of the F word as well as referring to myself in the third person. Awesome-o! Secondly, I need to schedule an "I'm Great" meeting, where all I do is talk about the fabulocity that is me, name drop, pat myself on the back and in general make my staff want to commit harry carry on the spot. Thirdly, and most importantly I absolutely need to remember that the way to get my peeps in the mood to do a helluva good job for me it to use them as my own personal punching bag right before the busiest day of the year. Cool beans!! I feel that if I implement these tips I will soon be the most successful person in the world, just like Captain Rigatoni.