Wait staff are a lot like first responders. We have to be at the tables no matter what is happening in our lives or even on the planet due to, as I like to call it, the "You're kidding me, right?" factor. Even in the midst of a global cataclysm, I do not even bother calling work to see if I need to go in today, as I know the answer is always going to be yes.
It can be raining bricks and fireballs, deadly hoards of the living dead can be running the streets, killing at will. A nuclear holocaust of biblical proportions can be imminently poised to strike my city, and still I need to show up, uniform and all. Why, you ask me? Because some wicked stupid idiot and his family will show at the tables up to eat.
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Tales from the Tables
A Wicked Funny Look From The Waiter's Side Of The Tables
By D L Tracey
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 D L Tracey
All rights reserved.
How it all started
After five eight-hour shifts of training and, one week of classroom instruction, this first time waiter was, finally ready to begin his career at the tables. Now to make my own money and not have to give it to the person who was training this very special waiter, I thought with a smile. It was Sunday morning, a slow start in most restaurants. However, I was glad to start making cash as the bills were piling up at home, so I did not care about the hours. Besides, I needed to buy my son new shoes for school and this was the game plan to do just that after my first eight-hour shift.
Lee, party of one, table thirty five, the host came over and said to me. Great, I am on my way to money I said to myself with a smile and headed for the table. Approaching the table of one, I had my story down pat. Trained by some of the very best; heck everyone told me so. I would do just fine the managers' looked on as I made my way to the table, a smile on their faces as their newest rookie was about to greet his first customer. Stand back folks, there is a new waiter in town.
"Hi, my name is Lee, I will be taking care", and before I could finish the party of one raised her head from somewhere in her fur jacket and screeched like cat claws being dragged down a black board, "Do you have any nibblets?" Oh, no what are nibblets? Where were nibblets on the menu? Looking down at my very first guest huddled in the corner of the booth as if she was trying to get away from me. Popping her head back out of the fur cave, she repeated he request "nibblets." This time, she also starts snapping her fingers as she waved them in the air back in forth in front of her mouth like some sort or mariachi dancing lobster trying to feed herself, as she brought the snapping claw-like fingers to her mouth.
Looking down at the lobster guest at this point, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. This master of indecision just stood there pen and note pad hanging in my hand wondering if my eight-hour shift was up yet. Thankfully, the lobster started to drag the cat across the black board again as she screeched "Brrrreeeeaaadd and butter." I want "Nibblets" again, the lobster screeched, snapping with her claws pointing to her crustacean mouth in the process of her waving frenzy.
Now we were getting somewhere. The shoes are as good as on my son's feet. Smiling now, this master of animal whispers asked the lobster woman if she would like a drink with her nibblets. Waving me away from the table with her left claw as the guest pulled her lobster head back into the fur cave the words "nibblets" echo ever so slowly out of her cave like woolen hood.
What the lobster woman taught me that day was something that for years I would tell anyone I would train in this most glorious profession. ~ Never ever, take it personal. ~
Awkward but true stories
It never ceases to amaze me that folks in a major crisis will show up at a table to air all of the dirty laundry in such a place as a restaurant. Sure, I know what you are saying right now: "Folks will not act out in public" so it is a safe place to meet and chat in safety and no chance of embarrassing confrontations. Man, you are so wrong.
"Do you think I am beautiful?" Without a doubt one of the most awkward and at the same time saddest tales from the table I have ever witnesses. A family of five consisting of Mom, Dad, both in their late forties, two sons and a daughter; all the children were of college age. The family sat at one of our most prized half-circle booths in the back of the restaurant. As I approached, they quieted down a bit. The mother looking down at the table tears running slowly down her face. "It's always a toss-up to me, what is worse, crying or breast feeding makes me the most uncomfortable approaching a table".
Sitting between her two sons' shoulders touching as if the young men were offering her protection from whatever was happening at that moment. There was a lot of tension at this table of five. Reading the mood of a table is one of the most important things any waitperson must master in their quest for the tip. This pointed headwaiter had become wicked good at doing so. And this mood was anger and so much sadness.
Evening folks, my name is Lee and I will be taking care of you tonight. "Excuse me," mother stuck between the bookend sons blurted out in a desperate quiet pleading tone. "Mom, stop it!" the left bookend son interrupted. Since the mother was not a child, waitpersons are usually obligated to answer requests from adults. Yes, ma'am how can I help you?" I said. Raising her head, the mother blurted out in a soft tone. "Do you think I am beautiful?" Looking at the mother you are stunning ran through my head. Long brown hair, high cheek bones, sad blue eyes from her crying and quite a body for any age women. "Yes, I checked her out on the way to the table." But this pointed headed waiter is not a fool and just blurted out. "Excuse me ma'am." Now the daughter chipped in. "Mother, just stop it right now." The father just turned his head, wanting to be anywhere but here right now from his look. Brushing off her daughters' request. The mother repeated her request to me.
"Do you think I am beautiful?" Any waiter knows when they must answer a question, and this was a time to answer this question. Turning my attention into a narrow mode as the horror of the rest of the family had brought them all to silence, the sad woman pleaded for my answer. "Yes, I think you are stunning and quite a woman. Yes, you are beautiful," I offered. Still looking just at the woman, not sure what was to happen next.
"What do you think of a man who would cheat on a woman who stood by him for years, raised his kids and worked hard to give him a great family? And stood by him no matter what?"
"Mom, stop it!" came a chorus of pleads from her three children. However, mom was not done just yet. "Only to find that man was cheating on you with a woman that was his daughters' age!" Glaring at her husband, the woman started to cry again.
Looking back at me, she pleaded for an answer. Well what do you think of a man like that? Taking a deep breath, I said "a man like that sucks." Well, time to go, the daughter said, standing with the rest of the family and heading quickly for the door. The two sons arm in arm with the mother in tow between them. The father was already out the door.
"Hey guys, welcome!" Without a doubt, this was one of the most head scratching moments at the tables. A busy Friday was at hand when I approached a party of two with my customary busy night greeting "hey guys" how are you tonight. Before this pointed headed waiter could finish my fast greeting. "She is a miss and I am a sir," do you get that?" Came the command from the left chair in a kind of mainly voice.
Coming from the owner of the voice was a glare that this nitwitted waitperson would not forget for years to come.
"Did you hear me?" repeated the almost manly voice. Yes, I heard you tough guy. Never say what you think; always stick with the script, is my motto. Yes sir, of course you are a sir and the lady is a miss. Following up this with a "pardon my stupidly look" The almost manly man seemed pretty happy with flexing his muscles in front of the miss and ordered for both of course."
A few years later, like a thousands other corrections by guest at the tables, this pointed headed waiter had let the valuable lesson learned by the almost manly man pretty much just float away in the big empty space between my ears. It was safe once again, to use my famed "Hey guys, welcome" introduction to my tables when it was wicked busy and idle chitchat was a thing used for slower times. This pointed headed waiter was moving at the speed of tips this night.
"Hey guys, welcome, "how is everything tonight?" "She is a miss and I am a sir," do you get that?" Came the almost manly response. My head began the processing of this correction to my table style. "Wait a minute, this can not be. "But why yes it was the tough person from years ago. Heck, he was still wearing the same shirt. Stripes never go out of fashion in his closet, I am willing to bet.
At this point, the only thing left to do was laugh. That is just what I did laugh a bit and just started to smile. "What are you laughing about?" "the tough person snarled getting up from his chair in a huff from the table and continued to grill this pointed headed waiter. "I asked you what you are laughing about." Stepping towards me, bad breath leading the way. "Yes, wait staff can smell your breath when you talk. "So what the frock is so funny?" he said as he dropped his fork and started the glare to try and back me down. (Keep in mind here frock is never the word used.)
Well, we had this "hey guys" talk a few years ago, I replied. Hoping tough guy would see the humor in this matter. Sadly, the kinda tough guy was not as amused. Reaching down for the miss' hand, the kinda of tough guy continued. "Let's get out of here." The tough guy uttered as his bad breath continued its assault on my senses. Standing aside, this nitwitted waiter tried one more attempt to salvage this table and the tip. "Sir, I am truly sorry if I have upset you again." This was not my intention in anyway. At this point, it was about time to just walk away and get the table back in play. However, not just yet it would seem. As I turned to leave the table area. The tough guy grabs my shoulder.
"I resent the way you have treated us," he snarled. Still, the bad breath flowed freely now, mixed with the slight sting of spit on my face. Pulling away from his girly grip and wiping my face to rid myself of the spit this marine had had enough of this assault. "Look, I could care less what you think." If you want to spit on the manager, he is over there, I said, nodding in the direction of the front entrance. This pissed off waiter continued, "if you ever touch me again." But before I could finish, the kind of tough guy took the miss' hand and headed at a rapid skip straight for the front entrance, slamming the door behind them. Lee, is everything all right? The manager asked coming up behind me. Yes, I replied they were in a hurry to get to the movies and needed to leave now. "Wink"
"We are women" Close if not the best bizarre story of all time. Party of twenty had just been sat in my section on a slow Saturday morning. Well, at least I will get a grat on this table, this master of observation thought as I approached the table of hillbilly-looking men. Each man at the table was bearded and in overalls wearing baseball caps. Yes, a handsome bunch indeed graced my tables on this fine morning.
Approaching with my customary happiness, this master of the table started with a safe, customary greet. "Hey guys, "how are we all doing today?" You would have thought I kicked a puppy by the looks from the table of men. How wrong was this nitwit of the tables on this one.
"We are women" came a chorus from the manly women. Yes, I hear you roar, ran through my nitwitted skull. So how are we today ladies? Again, "We are women!" came the reply of the many manly women. Yes, and quite the site. This master of the tables was tempted to say but I still needed this job. Looking over the table this master of all that is mundane surveyed the women at the table. Pretty sure this was some sort of gag set up by my little brother but I was pretty sure he does not know the Smith brothers, so here we go.
Well, then, women, shall we start with a beverage or maybe a drink? This master of words was not going to catch a break at this table as the responses were of the jabbering sort. One of the women seemed to be the boss in all this and demanded twenty waters with straws. "Why do people always ask for a straw with a drink?" And bread for all, the Boss Smith Brother woman demanded as the other bearded women in general agreement of the bread and water to start. Shaking my pointed head, this master of the tables went to prepare the feast of bread and water.
This story from the tables went on for hours but a book can only be so long. So the master of the table will jump to the end and the lesbian prayer that was said at the end of the meal. As the amen's were being said, the head women once again thanked the bearded women group for not being the sex objects of men and to continue on their path of true womanhood. Yes, very sexy indeed. This master of the silly will leave this tale at just that.
"Pain at the tables" Over the many years at the tables, this master of service has learned that much sadness is played out at the tables. Like some sort of Greek tragedy, in many ways this waiter has heard, felt, and seen such sadness to make me go out back and catch my breath so as not to cry at the pain from the tables.
"The funeral" This Sigmund Freud master of the table service extremer has noticed, (though there are always exceptions to the rules) that whenever a man has lost someone, the wife takes the man out to eat after the funeral. The man in his grieving seems not to be allowed to talk while in the grieving process but must eat surrounded by his family and friends. Never answering any questions by the intrepid wait staff, the man will just look at the table waiting for his food to appear. Thankfully, the female half of the couple takes the duty of ordering for her man at this point and then directs the conversation at the table to a very mundane topic.
This master of table observation service has never really seen a women in mourning due to the fact this master of table is reasonably sure the male knows not to parade his grieving mate out in public for all to see her crying on his stiff shoulder. Women do seem to want the eatery to see them as in charge of this tragic extremely sad situation. "Yes, I am in charge" seems to be the motto here and I will take care of everything. Important to note here the man still pays the bill, but rest assured that the women will direct everything else including water for everyone whether they need it or not.
"Why do guests order water and ice tea together? Watch my eyes roll at that wicked retarded request."
My heart does break when the guests are extremely old and dressed up in black. The man's tie never quiet tied right the women wearing a hat of some sort. "Hats on women just says class act." Always seems to be on a Wednesday evening for some reason. Both the man and woman somehow seen to sense that time is nearing as yet another friend has left their life a bit smaller with the passing. Barely able to breathe due to the fact of the loss of long-time friends and family. They somehow manage a smile and thank you for your kindness as they walk arm in arm ever so slowly out the front door. Their pain is ever so real to all who witness this sadness.
This part is for my dearest Lori, when you dad died the reason for not attending the funeral was not that I had to work but was due to the fact that your dad was the most special man I have ever had the pleasure to meet in this crazy world that runs about as smoothly as a car with square wheels.
The reasons were many for not going to pay my last respects to such a great man. But your dad's brother and the pain he must have been in over the loss of his little brother would have been ever so much for this Marine to bear. The thought of sitting in a restaurant with so much pain over the loss of such a great man to all who knew him would have been too much for me to deal with. Your dad was very special to me and if nothing else, I am glad to have known him even if it was such a short time in my life.
To any women in my life: "please do not take me out to eat." When I lose someone so close to me the pain is blinding and I cannot even order my dinner. "Now is not the time" to show the world you are in charge. Take me to a quiet place and allow my grief to happen in the privacy of your arms. Allow my tears to fall in the privacy of my pain for you and the loss of someone very special to me. "Forget dinner, I will eat when ready."
"Handicaps, disfigurements, and such" Over my many years at the tables, this master of service has had to make many tough decisions about how to approach a guest that was handicapped or had very special needs in some fashion. From horrible burns to mangled bodies confined to wheel chairs to a loving child with Down's syndrome and so many more painful moments at the tables for all wait staff.
Excerpted from Tales from the Tables by D L Tracey. Copyright © 2014 D L Tracey. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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