Chronicles of trading in Corporate America for a waitress's apron during my very own quarter-life crisis.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A couple of customer stories

I'm still taking things a bit slowly this week, so I haven't posted as much; however, I'm still writing every day.  A small update on the car accident -- guess what it would look like if a pick-up truck towing hitch and the front end of my Camry got together and had a baby?  Why, it'd look just like $4500 in damages.  Fortunately, I only have to pony up $500 of that in addition to my rental car fee, which isn't covered by insurance.  My soreness from the accident went away after a few days (Saturday, the day after, was the worst day), so I was able to play softball with relative ease last night.

Last night?  Whaaat?  On free dessert day, where I'm a nervous wreck for nine hours?  That's right!  I was finishing up my lunch shift around 3 p.m., and a manager informed me that we had a few extra servers on for dinner, and "Do you want the night off?"  I drew in a breath and my eyes grew wide.  And then I totally accepted, as I'd had a softball game scheduled and a chance to see my fiancé that I would've otherwise missed; plus, I'd gotten my ass kicked at lunch.  I think my manager was a bit amused by how excited I was.

Also, I was getting a little overloaded by co-workers asking my opinion on some drama between them.  I'm at the point, with some of these younger servers, where I want to remind them that I'm 29 years old and no longer care about certain things.

Anyway, in lieu of a real post, I just have a couple of customer stories that I've kept track of for the last six days of my bloggy absence:

I had a party of 11 people the other night – a lovely kitchen employee of TGI O’Chilibees and his fun, low-maintenance family.  Keep in mind that when I have a really nice table like that who treat me well, I tend to get a little protective of them and their experience.  They were sat at three rectangular tables that were pushed together lengthwise, and across from them were parties of six or so at round tables.  Space was an issue, as we had a lot of large groups come to the restaurant at nearly the same time (ugh, Sundays), and accommodation was almost becoming a problem.  

A lady was standing near my table, chatting with the people at the table next to mine.  Well, she wasn't so much standing near my table as she was practically sitting on top of it.  “Excuse me,” I said, as I approached behind her with a tray of food.  “Excuse me, please… Ma’am?”  She didn't look away from her conversation, ignoring me completely.  I gently tried to deliver the food to my table, working around this woman, and in doing so, I bumped into this lady’s ginormous purse.  Not her, but her purse, which of course she didn't hold tightly at her side, but instead she had it behind her arm, jutting out even farther into my table’s personal bubble.  And, seriously, this purse was big enough to hold a piano.  The lady turned and scoffed at me, then rolled her eyes at the table she was chatting with, as if to say, “idiot waitresses, amirite?”

Lady, you were completely blocking my access to my table, and they deserve the hot, timely meals they ordered way more than you deserve to gossip with your friends while standing in everyone’s way.  This is a restaurant.  Not bingo night.

Another table, after I dropped off the check, sat for a little bit and finished eating while I was scampering around my section.  I had about four other tables, and it was free dessert Wednesday, so I was a little on the busy side.  They handed me their check presenter and said, “That’s all you,” so I thanked them and went back to the kitchen.  I opened the check presenter, and the only thing in there was their bill.  Uh, what?  Are they about to dine-and-dash me?

I went back to my section and saw they were still sitting there.  Great, I get to have an awkward conversation now.  I approached them, opened their check presenter, and said, “Um, sir?  There’s nothing in here for payment.”  And my customers roared with laughter.  They were playing a prank on me.  Now, I have a pretty good sense of humor, but I don’t enjoy being fucked with, especially when I've got a million other things to do.  I left the check with them again and continued serving my other tables. 

“Alright, here you go,” they said, handing me the check presenter.  This time, I went to the wait station across from my section to sort out their payment.  And… wow.  They’d done it to me again.  No money was in the check presenter.

I take two long strides to their table and opened the check presenter to them.  “Sir…?” I asked, and the table once again cackled and clapped.  “Okay, okay,” the man said, and stuffed some dollar bills into the book.  “There you go, sweetpea.” 

All I have to say about this story is (1) If you’re going to play a prank on your waitress, could you do it in a way that doesn't involve her making two extra trips to your table while she’s busy?  And (2) Calling me “sweetpea” should cost more than just a 10% tip, bud.  


It may be a few more days before I get back on track posting regularly, but stay tuned.  I'm taking notes and writing stories nearly every day, so I have a backlog of stuff... including a server stress dream about getting rejected for a neck massage from a British officer who looks like Mr. Feeny.  You read that right.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Short hiatus, perhaps -- lots going on

If I don't post on the blog or comment on other blogs in the next few days, it's because I got in a car accident yesterday and have a bunch of aftermath to deal with, not to mention lots of restaurant hours.  Everyone is okay; the other driver and I are fine, and we both declined medical attention.  I am, however, reeeeally sore in my neck, wrists, and seatbelt area.  I've never been in a car accident before, but people I've talked to said the soreness should go away in a couple days.

The accident was my fault completely -- I rear-ended a pick-up truck.  I know you're not supposed to admit fault in an accident, but I can't kid a kidder.  I hit him, plain and simple.  I just assumed traffic was moving at a certain pace, but the truck in front of me stopped suddenly while I was glancing at the dash (not my phone, and I have the bill to prove it!), and I didn't react in time.  My tires didn't even get a chance to leave skid marks on the road.  I know now not to get too comfortable with traffic when it's 4:55 on a Friday afternoon.

I had been driving to work at the time, ready and caffeinated for what I hoped was a busy night.  It took two hours to go through the police stuff, file an insurance claim, clean up the wreck, and wait for the tow truck.  Then, I made another stupid decision:  I went to work.  The restaurant let me go home after just a couple of hours, because I was a freaking mess... spilling and dropping things, tripping, randomly getting really upset, forgetting small stuff for my tables... it didn't really help that they put me in a very busy, fast-paced section, but it isn't their fault.  I'm not blaming them; I shouldn't have been at work.  I was in no condition.  I took five or so tables and then my fiancé picked me up.

Speaking of my fiancé (plus my dad and my cousin David, both of whom came to the site of the accident to check on me or offer to drive me somewhere), he's been a saint.  He took me to get a rental car this morning, and with all the questions the rental place asked me about insurance that I didn't know any answers to (and no real way to find out those answers), the possibility of being late for work, realizing how sore I was, and being overwhelmed in general, I was probably a nightmare to deal with.  My hands were trembling, I was short-tempered, and I'd end up in tears at a sideways glance.  But through everything, he just calmly said, "I'm just happy you're okay."

My car is not okay.  I haven't gotten a call from the collision repair shop yet, but my Camry is undrive-able.  The driver of the pick-up had the evil forethought to have a hitch on the back of his vehicle, and that little fucker went about a quarter of the way through the contents of my hood.  So when the accident happened, my radiator went "screw this" and leaked all kinds of copper-colored fluid.  That was an insult to injury:  My car looked like it was bleeding out onto the street.  And I'm the one who cut it.

In keeping with an effective apology strategy that I recently read about and posted on Facebook, I'd like to apologize to my car.

I'm sorry, car.  It was wrong of me to take you and Friday rush hour traffic for granted.  I will never do that again, I vow to always pay attention while driving, and I still want to be friends.  Will you forgive me?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Language and Behavior: Cubicle vs. Kitchen

I've had some time to think about how my professional environment has changed, and here's my take, in a nice little table as an homage to my former office job:

Out of coffee
Waits for the administrative assistant to make coffee.
Makes coffee while loudly complaining about someone taking the last of it.
Project is taking too long
“Have you… followed up on those reports?  Okay.  No, that’s okay.  So how’s the family?”
“Where are we on that salmon?!” or “Table 53 won’t fucking leave.”
A mistake is made
Performs and documents remedial action(s); fills out paperwork in an attempt to implement further preventive measures.  Gets manager to sign forms.
“My table said the steak is too spicy or whatever.”  Gets manager to comp a meal.
Busy day
“I know you scheduled this meeting with me three weeks ago, but I am just sooo, sooooo swamped...”… leans back to check company iPhone that has no notifications on it.  Then, “Can we… hmm… can we mayyyyybe table this discussion until next Thursday?”
“I am in the fucking weeds, can someone help me?!”  Seven servers and two managers rush to assist.
Friend gets promoted
“Oh!  Oh.  Well, that’s great.  Congrats.  So will you be taking an office and everything?  Oh!  Oh.  Well, that’s great.  Will you still be assisting on the Anderson draft with me?  Oh!  Oh… Well, that’s great.”  Rinse and repeat. 
“You’re gonna be a fuckin’ manager?!  Holy shit!  So can you get us free drinks and stuff?  Do you have to wear, like, real clothes?!  Ew, gawd, and you have to be here like 14 hours a day?!  Ohhhhh my god, that sucks for you, dude!  Oh, but, you know, congrats or whatever.  Hey, Jenna!  JENNA!  Omigawd, Jenna -- Ashley’s gonna be a fuckin’ MANAGER!!  Hahaha, sorry girl, it’ll be okay…”
Pandora, elevator music, and whatever your apparently deaf cubicle neighbor listens to on their headphones.
Dining room:  Contemporary pop that makes you want to shoot yourself and Faith Hill.

Kitchen:  Mexican polka that makes you want to shoot yourself and music in general.
Bring a sweater
Bring deodorant
Manager wants to talk to you
“It sounds like the company is undergoing some changes.  Is there a procedure in place or in process?  I can help guide the department in a certain direction.”  Or, “Oh, there’s a fire drill today?”
“So… I’m just cutting up a bunch of limes, then.”  Or, “Oh, I didn’t know Table 80 was ‘VIP.’  Guess I shouldn’t have waited ten minutes to put in their order.  Why didn’t you fuckin’ tell me?”
Getting engaged
“Great, HR wants me to fill out some ‘Change of Name’ form.  For every…single…thing I do here.”
“Thanks, girl!!  Yeah, here’s the ring.  Thanks!!  Yeah, he’s awesome; we’re excited.  Oh shit, my apron has a huge stain on it.”
If you don’t have an amazing cafeteria that serves you a meal at a subsidized price of steak, asparagus, and roasted potatoes with a choice of salad, soup, and dessert… all of it for about $5… don’t fret – you have an entire hour to find (and eat, in peace, with friends if you want) whatever you fancy outside the office.
A kid’s meal at a 50% discount that you Hoover while standing next to the walk-in freezer and a mountain of trash bags.  In the meantime, you were just double-sat.
Control freaks
“I think we should note that this action item has been flagged as priority for the North Carolina location, so perhaps I should get my team on this to ensure prompt facilitation regarding the requirements.”  Also see:  throwing people under the bus, stealing projects, not comfortable with someone volunteering their work because the control freak is afraid that the person will start to look good (hi, Maggie).
“Uh, did you just take that money off my fucking table?”  Or, “Why should I tip out the hostesses?  They didn’t do shit tonight.”

As for customer control freaks:  DO NOT try to take things off my serving tray to mimic a “helping hand,” because it really just tells me that you've never held a tray in your life; plus, that tray and its contents will end up in your lap, because physics.
You’re late to work
“I was looking over areas that may be systematically problematic for the global implementation of this process and trying to think of a diplomatic approach.  … Yes, while I was driving here.  Why?”
“Couldn’t find my fuckin’ car keys, sorry.  Is my section clean, at least?”
“I’m becoming a paralegal,” “I’m getting a Masters in biomechanical engineering,” “I’m getting certified to be an auditor for the FDA,” “That’s Dr. Hager to you, herherhehrehrhehrehrhrh”
“Omigawwwwd, you guys, I’m so fuckin’ tired.  I had a class today at like, 1:30.  Suuuuuuckssss… you wanna close for me?”

(Yes, the stereotype is mean, and I’m one of those waitresses who wouldn’t mind a post-grad degree, but this is the majority of the co-workers I’ve experienced in the last 50,000 years.) 
“Did you see the game last night?”  “Which one?”  (Thinking of The Office here.)  Lean against the water cooler and discuss March Madness until your next meeting or Windows update.
… what?  Sorry, I couldn’t hear anything sports-related because a customer was just bleating “More chicken wings!” as his mouth spat chipotle sauce, beer, and blue cheese all over my fucking table.
Physical appearance
A combination of “like-I-could-give-a-rat’s-ass” and “I enjoy wearing sweater sets.”  No make-up, business attire, the occasional fun shoes. 
Clean, composed, contoured.  I usually go full-on with makeup at TGI O’Chilibees, unless it’s like, lunch on a Tuesday.  Sorry, Tuesday lunch crowd, but I didn’t use an eyelash curler.
Problem with a manager
“I’m gathering that the company is putting a lot of pressure from up-on-high on this project, and I’m concerned about the exposure that the resistance is receiving on your end.  Furthermore, can we please schedule some time to hammer out some of the details?”
“Would you finally fire that fucking hostess?!”
Staff meeting description
Quality System Administrative Management Associate Review Board
Happy hour

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Deep Thoughts

Just gonna jot down some random things during the break in my free-dessert double shift:

  • Rude tables really are just entertainment and fodder for my blog at this point. As my cousin David says, getting a bad table is like a grounder taking a bad hop in baseball. You get hit in the face, spin it for the media, and move on. 
  • Different shades of color may hold meaning for people like interior designers and fashion consultants, but not as much for kitchen staff.  Let's use pink as an example:  Apricot, coral, dusty rose.  But there is absolutely no shade of pink that can be defined as "medium to medium well."  Honestly, there's really no such thing -- there's medium or there's medium well -- and the cooks hate it when we tell them that someone wants "medium to medium well."  That's based on temperature, so if you want your steak at exactly 160° Fahrenheit, say so.  And P.S., if you insist on asking for "medium to medium well," what the cook might do is just cook your steak medium and then let it dry out under the heat lamps for five minutes.
Learn it, love it, and stop trying to deviate.
  • Speaking of steak, I've noticed that the temperature of steak a guest orders is indirectly proportionate to my tip.  That is, the more well done the steak, the shittier the tip.
  • I learned today that popular music from my high school years isn't lost on the 25-and-under crowd. Or, perhaps, it’s just programmed somehow into our brains by 96.5 FM. One waitress noted out loud in the stifling and busy kitchen, "It’s getting hot in here," and about seven of us, all performing random tasks at the time, responded (flatly, absent-mindedly, without looking up), "… so take off all your clothes...
  • Sometimes, IndyCar commentary makes me giggle. "Conway is now inside Andretti," "he just plowed into the back of that guy" (they really like to say "plow" a lot), "you never suspect that he's going to come right on top of you," "we're going to see some action between these two… or perhaps three…"
Commentator:  "And when you hit those curves, your whole body can feel it!"  Me:  "huehuehuehue"
  • Why do customers ask for modifications to their orders as if they're mad at the food?  "I'll have the chicken Caesar salad, and [eyes bulging, neck vein popping out] NO CROUTONS."  Geez, lady, sorry.  I didn't know that croutons, like, burned down your house that one time.
  • A first (and second) for me:  In the last week, there've been two tables who have not only stiffed me, but they didn't leave enough cash in the check presenter to cover their bill.  Do I go to Kohl's and offer only $30 for a $32 shirt?  No, I don't, and you wouldn't, either.  Get your shit together, people.
  • On a happier note, a huge thank you to the couple that tipped me $20 on $35 today with the note, "Congrats and good luck!"  I doubt you guys read this blog, but that really made my shift.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Waitress anxiety dreams

I thought I'd perhaps evolved beyond stress dreams about waitressing, but I still ended up having them while I was at my cubicle job, and I discovered last night that I'm still highly capable...

As you can see here, they never really go away.

Every time I fitfully logged into unconsciousness last night, there I was:  Staring down my section at a TGI O'Chilibees look-a-like, where three tables have been waiting for ten minutes to be greeted.  Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a high school boyfriend I haven't seen in ten years walking in with his parents (despite the fact that he lives in California now) and requesting my section.  It then suddenly hits me that I took a table in another section hours ago and forgot all about them; they're probably starving and covered in cobwebs by now.  No one has food, I just got sat again, people are glaring at me, and my high school boyfriend is so chatty I could punch him.

Instead of developing a hernia, I wake up, only to go through it again a few minutes later (after getting my cat to move, because she usually sleeps on my head).  At one point, I even got up, walked around, had some Gatorade, looked at Reddit... and then I tried to sleep again.  I tried to conjure up dreams about my adorable fiancé, puppies, clouds shaped like Mick Jagger, eggplant (why eggplant?  Not sure, but it sounds like a very passive and peaceful object).  But, no, I later woke up to the sound of a neighbor using a tablesaw after dreaming that I couldn't put any guest orders in because I hadn't been trained on how to use the computer system.  Blimey.

Oh, and quick update:  Like I suspected, we were overstaffed on Easter.  I had three tables all night and was sent home after only a few hours.  And I still made more money than I did for my double shift on Saturday.  No wonder I have nightmares about it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Oh, Great -- Easter

I don't have warm, fuzzy feelings about Christianity.  Not even for Peeps... they make me sick.

I do sincerely wish a happy Easter to my Christian friends.  Have merry celebration with your loved ones. Or even a dirty homeless guy.  Bake a ham, even though Jesus was a Jew and probably wouldn't touch that hunk of glazed-yet-dried-out pig meat with a bed 13 feet long and six feet wide (uh... Deuteronomy 3:11, der). Whatever floats your boat.

I'm not bitter. 

I was kicked out of some form of Catholic Sunday school (CCD:  Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, key word "doctrine") at the age of... what, seven?  Thank you, and you're welcome.  One of the best things my parents ever did was to not send me back to that story-telling hour.  Or, really, story-yelling hour... heh, amirite?

Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, I'm talking about you.  And that's a ridiculous name for a pretty building.  Talk about being full of yourselves.

The actual "best" things my parents did for me were to... well, get together, and whatnot... and to give me a pretty awesome sibling, get hired as teachers so they could devote themselves to public service while keeping the same hours as their school-aged kids (and stayed home during summers, which was really cool), and encourage work ethic so that I don't become a broke-as-shit waitress at 29. Oh, wait.  

They actually did teach me about work ethic and money, but I'm having some trouble figuring out why I've been so terrible with both for the last few years.  I was doing okay-ish until I was about 26.  

My favorite Bible verse, an excerpt from Ruth (1:16):  "Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:  Thy people shall be my people."  

To me, that means loyalty to family and friends, unconditional and gracious love, enduring commitment, etc. Home is where the heart is.  Preferably with more than one bathroom.  And help those you love when they need it.  

(Yes, I am an atheist who happens to have a favorite Bible verse.  I think it's important for atheists to read the Bible, know it cover to cover, interpret it, and discuss it as a text of religious allegory.  That might be my English degree speaking.)  

I had requested off today -- in fact, my name was like the second one on the page in the "request off" book, six weeks ago -- and I didn't get it, so I'm working in a couple hours.  So now, my current and future family are having a fun weekend without me.  

As I was telling this to my friend/co-worker yesterday during our slow Saturday shift, some other waitress butted her nose in and said, "Seniority takes place with request-offs, too."  First:  I wasn't asking for your input from across the kitchen.  I was talking to my friend.  Second:  That's fucking whack, if it's true. Seniority should never, ever play a part in requesting a day off to see my family for the first time in a long time, especially considering I've worked every Sunday since I started, and the first few people to request off didn't get their wish.  Third:  Everyone knows that you get high before you come to work, Miss Nose-Butt.

Who goes to a restaurant on Easter Sunday?!  Not once, when I was a kid, did we deign to visit a TGI O'Chilibees on Easter.  Easter was usually spent at a grandmother's house (both of whom were extremely Catholic), eating a ginormous homecooked meal (yeah, lots of ham), tugging at my uncomfortable church outfit, and searching for plastic eggs in the backyard in hopes of finding an egg containing coins.  In all my memories of Easter -- dipping eggs in dye and painting them, attending standing-room only Mass, and having to wear pantyhose -- going to a restaurant doesn't come to mind.

This had better be worth it, unlike yesterday, where I made $43 during a 7.5 hour double shift.  That's not even minimum wage, guys.

Last night, I had a table of eight people (two children) who were pretty easy and semi-friendly, except for one woman, who I'll assume was not filled with the glory of Holy Week.  I asked her if she'd like for me to box up her food to take home, and with her face buried in her phone, she briefly shook her head.  She didn't even look at me.  Her husband said to her, "Why don't you say, 'no, thank you?'"  

Now, cupcake, here's a lesson on life -- and, perhaps, marriage... when your husband has to comment on your attitude and manners in public, you should try to remember how you had the maturity to get married (and have kids) to begin with.  And then work on it.

When I asked her if I could take her finished dish out of her way, she didn't even respond.  Didn't look at me, didn't say anything, didn't provide any body language.  Her husband rolled his eyes at her, took her plate, and handed it to me, and I thanked him.  

Their bill came to $50.32.  I received a fifty dollar bill, a quarter, a nickle, and a penny.  $50.31.  Not only did I have to pay a penny out of my pocket for their bill, but because I tip out based on my sales (to the hostesses, bartender), I paid almost a dollar just to serve them.  Their bill was more than I'd made the entire day.

Romans 15:1:  "We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Customer Jokes That Make Me Want to Waterboard Someone (With Memes)

But I'll still laugh my ass off, because I need the tip.  Just the tip.

1. “I didn’t get any dinner!” or “I obviously hated this! Haha!” when the plate is licked clean.  My typical reaction in front of the table:

I am happy that you enjoyed your meal, but I only appreciate this joke when I'm the one that cooked, served, and ate the meal with you (e.g., my friends and family). Otherwise, you're just giving your waitress a two-second heart attack, because she'll think something is really wrong at first.

2. Me: “Can I get you anything else?” Customer: “A million dollars?  Teehee!”  Really, you're going to tease your waitress about giving you money?  Excuse me while I get a can-opener for the worms and whoop-ass we have in the pantry.

Sometimes I think the customers that tell this "joke" might actually mean it, though, because they usually turn out to be shitty tippers.  If you're serious about needing that million bucks more than I do, then maybe you shouldn't be going out to eat?

3. “The computers are down? So everything’s FREE, right?  huehuehue”

Happened to me when I waitressed in a Mexican restaurant:  Not only am I in the weeds, but our computer system just froze and died at 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday.  Now we get to transcribe orders to the kitchen/bar, hand-write all the checks, add items up, calculate taxes, manually charge credit cards on something that resembles a Victorian-era sewing machine, and respond to this joke from every table.  (People who are cashiers:  I really feel for you when a barcode won't scan.  I know you folks hear this a lot, too.)

4.  When I place the bill on the table:

I'll then say, "It's free with every meal, sir."

Just... seriously, people, don't joke about not paying your damn check.

5.  "The food is great!  You're a good cook!  Oh, you didn't cook it?  *chortle*"  Oh, let's laugh about how my skills are limited to smiling and ponytails.  Now, this one would be cute if I didn't find it a bit condescending.  I actually am a good cook (and I have references, what up), but the customer here is, in a sense, dumbing me down to an employee who simply brings the food from the kitchen to the table.  And that's when I kinda feel like this:

(In other news, I had a fun evening:  softball practice with some former co-workers, including my fiancé, and then a great dinner.  It was a nice day off.)