Monday, November 29, 2004
You know I’m only human. I’ve got my ex-girlfriend packing up her stuff around me. It’s a tense and very sad time in my life. What I perceived as a nasty and gratuitous comment comes in from out of the blue and I lashed back. Sue me.
I wasn’t upset because the writer of the email didn’t like my site. So what. It’s only a weblog. She could have just said no thanks or not replied at all. I don’t have a problem with her views on pornography. Instead she prejudged me as a person and made a remark that was way out of line. I just wish she had read my post “Leftovers” in which I discuss how women are perceived in society.
I learned a good lesson today. Next time I encounter a situation like this I handle it though email or ignore it completely. Not air it on this blog. We live and learn. Thanks to the readers for their feedback even though it stings.
I am going to leave the post up because it’s now part of this site. You get to see all of me. The good, the bad, and the ugly. To remove it would be hypocritical.
I am in a real bad place right now. I am going to leave this blog alone for a few days. I need to get my feelings about the breakup into some sort of perspective and regroup.
Don’t worry. I’ll be back.
I have plenty of stories.
I like to link to waiter oriented websites that I find funny or interesting. When I provide a link I write the proprietor of that website, tell them about the link, and ask of they would link to my site in return. Just a couple of bloggers trying to increase traffic at each others sites. It’s a “you scratch my back I scratch yours” kinda deal.
Well today someone tried to scratch my eyes out. Check out this little email correspondence:
Loved your site and linked to it on mine - www.waiterrant.blogspot.com
Check my site out. IF you feel it has merit you may want to list it on your links page.
I hate my job
Nice and simple right? Well here is the reply:
Thanks for the compliment. I mulled over how I could decline your invitation without sounding offensive, and my best bet is simply by telling you the truth.
Did you read my site? I had one horrible boss who was always masturbating to porn in his office, accidentally leaving his door open for me to see everything.
I read your site. Your references to porn, saving up images in your head for future sessions, etc., offended me and are exactly what I hate about being an attractive woman who works with men. Everyone who frequents my site knows this.
No offense. It is just the truth. You and everyone else can say whatever the heck you like on the Internet. It is your site. However, I won't be linking to you unless you have some kind of emotional awakening about the harm caused by pornography to the male (and female) psyche. Not likely, I know, but drop me a line if that happens. And good luck finding another long-term romantic relationship. That is not a bitchy statement; I am being sincere.
Take care, waiter. I am sorry to not help another server, but my gut churned over this one. I just can't do it.
Oh boy. Someone’s running low on Prozac.
Jen, whatever opinions you have about pornography are yours and that’s ok. Mentioning, however, you are an attractive woman in your email makes me suspect you harbor an inflated opinion about your own appearance. Those secure in their self image don’t need to flaunt it.
You are a really pissed off chick. The crack about my love life was gratuitous and cruel. You not only despise your job - you probably despise yourself. Get some therapy or ask the doctor to increase the dosage. Hey - I'm just being sincere.
Hey if you like my site you like it. If you don’t you don’t. I will keep the link for idespisemyjob.com up. Why?
‘Cause I’m not an asshole.
Now I feel better.
ShamelessRestaurants.com has stories about restaurant working conditions in NYC. Before you accept a job - check the place's rep at this site. Good work guys!
Another interesting site is Customers Suck Journal. Worth a look. More anger to be found at idespisemyjob.com.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
There’s a rumor floating on the internet that President Bush’s twin daughters walked into Freemans restaurant in New York City and asked for a table. The maitre d’ reportedly replied that they “were full and would be for the next 4 years.” The entire restaurant cheered and did a round of shots to celebrate. The twins went somewhere else.
If the story is true then that maitre d’ is an asshole. Personally? I think the story’s bullshit.
A good waiter never discriminates. Never discusses politics. I’m sure the maitre d’ at Freemans is a seasoned pro.
So some shithead with too much time on his or her hands starts a rumor. Hey if it’s on the internet it must be true right? Well asshole here’s what you’ve accomplished:
Some Red State Bubba caught wind of the Freemans rumor and thinks it’s true and he’s seething. Taking his kids out to Burger King once a week is a big deal for him. (Believe me, I know from experience it’s a big deal for the kids too.) Bubba wants to take the wife out to a nice restaurant but can’t afford it. He and the Missus are busy working four jobs to pay for clothes and substandard healthcare much less go to a place like Freemans. Bubba hears how shabbily some Blue Staters allegedly treated two young women and now he thinks every person from the Northeast is a patronizing yuppie elitist.
So what happens when it comes time for him to vote? Does he cast his ballot for the Democrat who has some good ideas that could make his life easier? No. He votes Republican. Why? Because he can’t stand snobs like that fictitious maitre d’.
People will act counter to their own interests if they are made to feel like charity cases or culturally inferior. Republicans plug into that blue collar anti Brahmin rage very effectively. That’s why Bush won. The writer of that rumor might as well have been Karl Rove.
Rumor Writer your little lie will take money out of innocent people’s pockets. Feel better? The immigrants working in Freemans' kitchen feel the American Dream in their bones. Who the fuck are you? You don’t like the President? Well tear yourself away from the internet porn and participate in the political process. Is politics for you about being good or bad – or being right and wrong? Are you so wrapped up in your political outrage you forgot how to treat people decently? That you feel compelled to promulgate lies? Get a life and don’t come to my place. You’ve coarsened the public debate. To those of you who bought into this rumor – shame on you. You are what Jon Stewart rightly called “a dick.”
Blue State. Red State. When you break bread in my place we are all Americans. Hang in there Freemans.
PS. If you think you’ve figured out my politics from this post – you haven’t.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Louis, our token gay waiter, dreams of opening his own restaurant someday. Fairly fluent in French, an excellent cook in his own right, a superb waiter with over twenty years experience in the business, he has a better chance than most.
Money, however, is a problem. To supplement his income Louis got a second job.
He’s a meter maid.
Well he prefers the term “Parking Authority Enforcement Agent” but I’ll stick with meter maid. He’s gay so he won’t mind.
Parking where I work is a big problem. Yuppies think nothing of sliding their suburban assault vehicles into handicapped or no parking zones while they run into Starbucks or get takeout. The area is a target rich ticket environment.
The meter maids are, of course, hated.
Louis LOVES his new job. He’s got the uniform, the badge, the handheld ticket computer, and a major league power trip. He gets a hard on whenever he tickets some rich snob’s Jag.
One day a customer stiffs Louis on a tip. He calmly pulls out his cell phone, calls one of his meter maid buddies, and the guy gets a fifteen dollar ticket. Cheapskate’s meter is expired.
I see this and pull Louis into the back.
“Remember on TV when Bobby Brady became a safety monitor at school?” I ask.
“Yeah” he says smiling. He knows where this is going.
“Well you’re turning into him. Don’t get customers ticketed while you’re working here. Wait till your actually working as a meter maid.”
“Parking Authority Enforcement Agent.” he corrects automatically.
“Whatever Serpico." I reply. Message sent.
Louis is cool. He stops playing parking stormtrooper at work.
In a few months Louis becomes the most feared parking agent in town. The mere sight of him walking around in uniform sends people scrambling for quarters to feed their meters. He’s the High Plains Drifter of meter maids.
One day I am walking into work and Louis, official Parking Authority golf cart and all, is happily putting a boot on some scofflaw’s car.
“Having fun?” I ask.
“Oh yes” he replies with a great big smile. “This guy has like $500 in unpaid tickets.”
“You know I think you like this job a little too much.” I joke
“Well I is the long arm of the law.”
“Be careful sheriff, you don’t want to become the first meter maid killed in the line of duty.”
Louis laughs. It’s a running gag between us.
“I mean what would they do for your funeral procession?” I elaborate. “Strap your casket to the golf cart here? A procession of golf carts and meter maids? Bagpipes?” We both laugh at my macabre little imagery.
It turn out my words were prophetic.
A few days ago Louis is writing a ticket for an SUV hulking in a no parking zone outside Starbucks. A tie dye wearing aging sellout yuppie hipster comes running out, moccachino in hand, screaming,
“Hey you fucking faggot! You cocksucker! You give me a ticket and I’ll kick your ass.”
I told Louis he should have said, “I am. You’re right. I’ll call the cops.”
Instead Louis is professional, tells the guy he’s in a loading zone, and he can fight the ticket in court.
“You fucking asshole motherfucker piece of shit!” the man say tossing his $5 cup of java into the street and getting in his truck. “Fuck you.” I’ll bet this guy was the ONLY guy who didn’t get laid at Woodstock.
Raging Hippie then proceeds to try and run down Louis with his car.
Louis leaps out of the way. He’s pushed up against another parked car, gets clipped by the side mirror, and tumbles into the street where he’s almost squashed by oncoming traffic.
Although unhurt Louis goes to the hospital as per regulations. The cops are called. Hippie is in jail charged with assualt with a deadly weapon.
Later Louis is working in the bistro telling me the whole story. He is visibly shaken.
“Am I not the voice of prophecy?” I ask.
Louis smiles. He’s coming out of his funk. “You warned me.” he acknowledges.
“So this job isn’t all fun and games.” I say.
“No I guess not” he says shaking his head.
“Well it’s gonna be a slow night and you’re a psych casualty so go home.”
“Thanks.” he replies gratefully. He calls his boyfriend for a ride, buys a bottle of wine, and goes home to recuperate with some show tunes and alcohol.
Louis is an excellent waiter and a pleasure to work with. He will get over his brush with death and resume torturing people with his ticket machine. One day, when he has his own place, we’ll laugh all about this.
Being a meter maid is like a being a waiter. It’s a thankless job and people treat you like shit. Louis gets it from both ends.
I go back to work taking comfort in the fact that being waiter is safer. No one has tried to kill me.
At least not yet.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
I posted an ad for the book ScamBible a few days ago and a reader sent me a comment that I think needs to be addressed.
“So what have I, a frequent restaurant diner who almost always tips 20-25%, done to deserve being systematically "scammed" by my waiter or bartender, who is apparently now learning such techniques from a book?” – Chuck
Well I posted the ad and the man deserves an answer. Chuck, you do not deserve to be ripped off. Decent customers should always be treated well.
So why did I post the ad?
1) It was free advertising for a couple of guys trying to sell their creation. As a fellow waitron I am obligated under the Secret Honor Code of Waiters to assist them. Hey they sent me a free copy! How cool is that?
2) Most of the scams involve sticking it to the owners – not the customers. Yes I know on some level this cost gets passed along to the consumers, but if you worked in the restaurant biz you might be able to empathize with a waiter’s need to strike back. Some restaurant owners are scumbags. I worked for a guy that tried to make me eat a $300 emergency room bill when I was injured on the job. He fought the claim and I had to fight bill collectors for years. Other shitty things he did? Well……
a) Trimmed hours off employee timecards so he didn’t have to pay them for the full time they worked. Victims were usually Hispanic. If they complained he threatened to call immigration.
b) Called busboys “peasants” to their faces
c) Knowingly let his managerial staff force waiters to pay bribes to get decent schedules.
d) Fired people for bullshit reasons. The real reasons? If you were Black, Gay, or Jewish you were out! This owner was an evil prick and would have made the Waffen SS proud.
e) Whenever a waiter made too much in tips one week he would slash their schedule the next. He liked keeping everyone broke and dependent on his largesse.
f) Worst of all he brought shitty cakes from Costco and passed them off as homemade. He will burn in hell for that one.
If you worked for this Mini Hitler you might steal from him too. The ends don’t justify the means, I know, but what can you do?
3. I believe in freedom of expression. There are books on how to cheat on your taxes, scam casinos, and even build fucking nuclear bombs! You check them out at the library! It’s only illegal if you actually do it! (And I put in the proper disclaimer so there!)
4.What’s the big deal about a couple of waiters making a few quick bucks? Trust me – Corporate America is ripping you off on a scale that would make the writers of ScamBible spontaneously emit in their pants. I would worry more about the Enrons of the world.
5. Customers steal more stuff than waiters ever will. Besides walking out on the bill they have been known to steal: pens, salt shakers, candles, napkins, tablecloths, check holders, pepper mills, cheese graters, breadbaskets, light bulbs, umbrellas, fur coats, bathroom mirrors, plumbing fixtures, chairs, the owner's wife, phones, computer screens, and once I heard about an entire sink ripped out of a wall. Many restaurants figure theft and breakage costs at 3-5% of their budget.
6. The book is in good fun. Fluvio and I were reading it and laughing about the shit we pulled in our day.
7. Modern Point of Sale computer systems make ripping off anybody very difficult. Many of the scams described in the book only work with a paper ticket system which is going the way of the dinosaur.
8. Most waiters are honest. Certainly more honest that those Enron scumbags.
9. I don’t steal. (At least not now) and I don’t let my coworkers steal either.
10. I’m a waiter whore. I love the attention!
So relax Chuck. You’re more likely to get ripped off at the gas station than a restaurant. Have you seen the price of gas? That’s a real scam!
Thanks for the post. Toodles.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
The girl on table twenty-six is shockingly beautiful and she knows it.
Blonde, about thirty, she has a kick ass body and a face more beautiful than the all dreams of pornography.
The poor bastard she’s with is smitten. I can tell it’s a first date. He’s way over budget on the wine.
She gets up to go to the bathroom. I position myself by the register so I can drink in the sight of her ass when she returns to her seat.
While I'm waiting I can hear her talking on her cell phone in the bathroom. She is making arrangements to meet another guy for drinks after dinner. I’ll bet this girl hasn’t paid for a meal in years.
She exits the bathroom. I record some footage for the erotic cinema of my mind. They ask for a check.
When I drop the charge slip I overhear the guy asking her if she would like to go to a club. She says she has to go home. They exit. She gives him a peck on the cheek. He walks off disappointed.
She saunters off into a night of never ending promise.
As I watch her go an old Dylan song plays in my head:
You will start out standing, proud to steal her
anything she sees
You will start out standing, proud to steal her
anything she sees
But you will wind up peeking through a key hole
Down upon your knees
She wears an Egyptian ring, that sparkles before
She wears an Egyptian ring, that sparkles before
She's a hypnotist collector
You are a walking antique
Better to be alone than a collectible – or a meal ticket.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
The night’s almost over. I’m in the back enjoying a little snack of ciabatta bread and pesto when Arlene, a fellow waitron, interrupts me.
“My customer on table ten wants you to go over and apologize.” she says.
“What the fuck for?” I reply through a mouthful of food.
“He says you banged into him twice when you walked past him.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“Nope. He’s really pissed. Please go and smooth things over.” she pleads.
My restaurant is very small. When it’s busy it’s like a rugby match. The tables are so tightly packed you can’t help but brush up against someone. Occasionally somebody gets smacked.
“Ok. Ok. I’ll go over.” I promise.
Now I just broke up with my girlfriend. My patience is at zero. I scored a half a Xanax from the waiter pharmacopoeia at the start of the night just to get by.
It wore off hours ago.
I wipe my mouth and go to table ten. I place my hand on the guy’s shoulder and say, “Oh you poor baby. I’m sorry.”
The guy stares at me openmouthed.
“I guess you didn’t play much football as a kid.” I add with a wide grin.
“Well I’m very sensitive and I don’t want my girlfriend to beat you up.” he jokes nervously trying to save face. What a little bitch.
“Yes, she’s the only one I’m worried about.” I continue in the same mock humorous vein.
His date laughs softly.
“Just be careful next time.” he says weakly.
“Very good sir. Have a nice evening.” I go back to my pesto.
I delivered an apology and emasculation at the same time. I’m very proud off myself.
Next time I take the whole pill.
Friday, November 19, 2004
My girlfriend dropped the bomb on me Wednesday night. After four up and down years she is leaving me. She will be moving out December 1st. Ouch!
This did not come as a surprise. The relationship had been on life support for sometime. We both slowly, painfully, began arriving to the conclusion that we were ill suited for each other. It’s all a mix of anger, hurt, and regret with real love thrown in. Even though we love each other we realize that it isn’t going to work. You can love someone but not be in love. C’est la vie. She is a great girl and I wish her every happiness.
Now I have to find new digs. The rent at my place is too high to swing by my lonesome. My landlord is very cool and we made arrangements so I can stay until after the holidays. If you know what it’s like to look for an affordable apartment in the NYC area you can feel my pain.
I would like to take this opportunity to point out the tip jar on the right side of this page! (Ok that’s enough out of you, you self pitying wretch!)
So I go to work last night. I’m pretty shook up. The last thing I want to do is deal with asshole yuppies. I pray for a slow shift.
Fluvio, the owner, a survivor of some bad breakups, is solicitous and asks how I’m doing.
“I will kill the first motherfucking customer who looks at me cross-eyed.” I reply.
“Uh oh.” Fluvio says. “Ok you just stand here, hand out menus, and help the other waiters out. Just take it easy.”
Fluvio is being very cool
I walk around in a daze. I’m very quiet which anyone will tell you is unusual for me. My regular customers can see I’m a basket case and wonder why I’m not waiting on them. Fluvio whispers in their ears. A couple of customers get up, walk over, and say how sorry they are. They will forever be on my good side.
As is always the case, when you need a slow shift, God decides to pack the restaurant. We are slammed. The two other waiters start to struggle but are too nice to ask me to pitch in.
I'm up at the hostess stand watching the chaos unfolding. I feel like the Special Ed Waiter tonight. I spy a table anxiously trying to place an order. I take a deep breath, strap on my apron, and wade into the madness.
I take orders, fetch drinks, and help the other guys out with their tables. Once I get started my inner waiter takes hold and I am a relentless professional serving machine.
The kitchen starts falling behind. Entrees are late. I stick my head in the door and yell,
“Where’s the food motherfuckers?”
Ernesto, our sous chef, looks up from the stove and smiles.
“Glad to see you feel better poppy!” he yells back.
A feel a hand slap me on my shoulder. It’s Louis our token gay waiter. “Good to have you back brother.” he laughs.
The kitchen gets in sync. Order is formed out of chaos. I get my head on straight.
Yes. I am back.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Well it seems some knucklehead waiters down in New Orleans wrote themselves a book. They asked me to pitch it and their blog so here goes...
The book/blog is called ScamBible. No, its not devotional reading idiot. It's a manual on how to scam restaurants, bars, and customers out of their money. Finally a book about and for waiters not endorsed by those Food Network whores.
With any luck every waiter will buy a copy! KA CHING boys!
Waiter's of the World Unite! Carry your copy of Scam Bible as you march towards liberation!
How's that guys? Ok?
(WaiterRant is not responsible for any criminal or civil malfeasance you may commit as the result of reading this book. Don't blame my ass!)
Monday, November 15, 2004
A three top walks in the door. An old woman, face ruined, her hair and makeup arranged in a failed attempt to look thirty. Her daughter, already disintegrating into a younger version of mom, and the daughter’s husband; an Armani clad tortoise shell eyeglass wearing Uber Yuppie
I smile, say welcome, and ask if they have a reservation.
The first words out of the husband’s mouth aren’t “Hello” or “Three please” but,
“Is the owner in?”
I don’t like these guys already.
“No it’s his night off” I reply.
Shocked the wife says, “Where is he?”
“I think he’s home with his family.”
“Well if he's home who’s in the kitchen?” Uber Yuppie asks.
“The sous chef is cooking tonight.”
“What’s his name?” he demands
“Where in Italy is he from? Lucca?” he queries suspiciously.
“Ernesto is from El Salvador.” I say.
A look of disgust and surprise begins to play out on his face. He catches himself before it’s too obvious – but I see it.
“That’s in Central America sir. “
“I know where it is. Why isn’t Fluvio cooking? We want him to cook our meal.” shithead declares.
Instead of “Get the fuck out.” the words “Ernesto is an excellent chef. I’m sure you will enjoy your meal.” drip soothingly from my mouth.
The man looks at his wife. She shrugs. Her mother is just staring off into space mumbling “What? What?”
They deign to grace us with their presence. I seat them in a relatively shitty table.
Now I’ll let you in on a little secret. Many executive chefs, like Fluvio, hate to cook. After spending twenty or thirty years slaving under abusive bosses, working sixteen hour days, avoiding sodomization, and baking in 120 degree kitchens working themselves up from dishwasher to master of the kitchen - these guys are fucking traumatized. Have you ever noticed executive chefs’ uniforms are always immaculate? Not splattered with tomato sauce? That’s because they shout orders all night and never go near a stove.
So who does the cooking? Mostly guys like Ernesto. Hardworking faceless guys from places like Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Mexico. You were expecting a bunch of Italians singing opera flinging pasta? Wrong. You hear mariachi music and guys cursing in Spanish.
But this doesn’t jibe with most people’s fantasy of how a restaurant kitchen works. They imagine someone like Emeril or Mario Battalia waxing ecstatically about herbs and oils, engaging in something close to foreplay as they lovingly prepare your entrée.
So sorry. It’s a Mexican guy earning a paycheck, watching the clock praying for his shift to end as he sweats in front of a blast furnace cooking your food. In every restaurant in this great land of ours, whether it's French, Thai, Chinese, or even Indian, it’s Se Habla Espanol.
Yuppies raised on a steady diet of Food Network bullshit want an opera singing food personality to reinforce their Williams Sonoma Catalog ideal of how the world should be. When it runs smack dab against the harsh world of restaurant economics and immigration it creates what my old sociology professor called “dissonance.”
After Uber Yuppie and company tuck into their meals I go over and ask how everything is.
“Its ok.” they reply.
What a crock. Ernesto cooks the food exactly like the owner does. If I told these idiots an Italian had prepared it they would be smacking their lips, asking to meet the chef, and calling him “Maestro.”
But it’s only Ernesto the Spic so they don’t.
Dissonance? I call it racist bullshit.
Perception can be more important than taste in my business.
So the next time you go out to eat remember our hardworking Hispanic brothers and sisters who make your dining experience possible.
You couldn’t do their job. Trust me.
Chupa mis huevos grandes pendejo!
Saturday, November 13, 2004
The door chimes. I look up.
Standing in the doorway is a very young, tall, model thin, blonde girl.
My face brightens. “How may I help you Miss?” I say welcomingly.
“I am here about the hostess position.” she says hopefully.
“Ok. Just fill out this application and I will go over it with the owner.” I say, sliding her a copy.
The girl sits at a side table and fills out the paperwork. I grab some coffee. When she is finished she comes up to me and says, “I have one small problem.”
The girl points to her application. Her current employer is a strip club.
“A lot of people have a problem with that.” she says nervously.
“I don’t see how that’s a problem.” I say a little to fast.
“I don’t dance. I’m just a cocktail waitress.”
“It’s a bad environment. I’m trying to get out.” she adds.
“Well you have experience dealing with difficult customers that’s for sure” I reply. “Let me go downstairs and see if the owner can talk to you.
I go downstairs. Fluvio is half asleep in his chair sorting through his email.
“Get off your ass and interview this girl upstairs right now.” I bellow.
“What?” Fluvio says angrily, stirring in his chair.
I slap down the application and point to her current employer.
“Stripper hostess! Stripper hostess!” I yell. “GO GO GO !!!”
I never saw Fluvio move so fast.
He interviews the girl for a while. She leaves. He shakes his head going, “I don’t think so.”
“Why the hell not?” I demand.
“Just a feeling.” Fluvio replies.
“Being a hostess is not brain surgery. If she can deal with guys grabbing her ass she can deal with a few yuppies.” I plead.
“Oh come on!”
“Maybe, let me think about it.” he says.
“I never get what I want.” I say petulantly.
Fluvio throws up his hands and goes downstairs.
“I WANT STRIPPER HOSTESSES!” I yell after him.
I’ll let you know how this one turns out.
Hey, the girl wants out. Everyone deserves a second chance.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
That video camera thing at Starbucks so got under my skin that I wrote them an email expressing my dismay. A few days later I get a reply asking me to call customer service at 1-800-23-LATTE. Soon I’m talking to a very nice woman in Seattle explaining how aggravating it is to be recorded buying a $4 dollar cup of coffee.
In fairness to Starbucks let me give you their side of the story. The rep says that Starbucks stores, especially those in “city” locations, experience a lot of theft. Cameras are part of their asset protection program. They’re not worried about employees stealing, they’re worried about customers doing the old smash and grab at the register. The cameras are for deterrent effect. Ok, fair enough.
I mentioned that rumors are floating around that Starbucks uses the cameras to record and analyze customer buying behaviors. The woman said that was nonsense, “Corporate can mine that information from store receipts.” (Since most people pay cash - how the heck do they get that info?) When I mentioned that many companies use video to observe customer traffic, plan product placement, and collect demographic information, the woman seemed a bit flustered. It doesn’t look like Starbucks focus grouped a slick answer to this issue yet. Somebody missed a meeting.
Ok Starbucks says the cameras are only for security. I smell bullshit. Here’s why:
1. The video system was installed by a company called C Video. That’s the company that supplied surveillance cameras at Superbowl XXXVII in Tampa. We all remember the reports on the news how they used facial recognition software to look for terrorists. Well are they doing the same thing at Starbucks? I don’t know. It is a possibility.
2. If it’s for security why doesn’t Starbucks:
a. Post a sign on the door saying the premises are being video monitored? That would deter a lot of thieves. They don’t. I think they don’t want the sign clashing with their cultivated monotonous earth tone bohemian look. Also it would give people the opportunity to decide if they want their privacy compromised before they go in the store. Eeek! A lost sale!
b. Have the camera cover the whole store instead of just the register area. I mean someone could walk off with a $300 dollar espresso machine. I’ve seen fistfights break out over who gets the comfy chairs!
c. Post an article on their website explaining why they’re installing a video system, what it’s for and how it works. I can’t find such an article. Can you?
I don’t think Starbucks is telling the whole story. I’m not surprised. Videotaping employees in the past has caused them some grief. Hey I am all about safety but I am also about full disclosure too.
Write Starbucks and tell ‘em what you think. If you think I'm missing some information or blowing smoke out my ass - you can write me too.
Yeah I know this isn’t a funny post about waiting tables.
It’s 5:00 pm on Saturday and the joint is filling up fast. I walk outside to grab a quick smoke before all hell breaks loose. Puffing away I spy a spandex clad girl jogging towards me. Ah, I smile inwardly; I’m in for a treat – its Gym Babe.
Gym Babe, a tall, twenty five year old, drop dead gorgeous brunette, whose health club chiseled body defies attempts at description, runs past my place every day. This girl has been known to cause traffic accidents. I never miss a chance to see her.
Now I’m pushing forty, so acting like a slobbering teenage schoolboy is beneath my dignity. That’s ok. I’ve long since mastered the art of scoping chicks without making it look like I’m scoping chicks.
I turn away, face the picture window fronting the street, and catch her reflection as she flashes past. Mmmm nice. I reverse spin, flip my butt into the street, grab a glimpse of her spandex covered rump, send a prayer of thanks heavenwards, and continue my turn back towards the front door…….
……..when I come face to face with an angry looking bald man.
WHUMP! I feel a tremendous blow to the chest. I’m wondering “Why am I looking up at the sky?” when, with a crash, I land on my back, tumble over a few times, and come to a stop in the street.
Bleeding, I leap to my feet. Pumped full of adrenalin I find my attacker. A short, bald, heavily muscled man, muttering to himself, “That’s what you get motherfucker. That’s what you get.” as he walks away.
A demonic voice rushes into my ears. “KILL!” it thunders. My vision tunnels. I acquire my target. I step forward, ready to dish out some serious hurt.
Then, screeching down from the heavens, my good angel rushes to my side and whispers urgently into my ear,
“Fighting never solved anything.”
“Oh no. Not you again.” I say to my Celestial Jiminy Cricket.
“Listen. You will only escalate the level of violence and make a bad situation worse. It’s not worth getting hurt or arrested over.” she lectures.
“Screw you.” I reply.
“He’s bigger than you. He’ll kick your ass.” she warns
Angel has a point.
While I’m having this little supernatural moment, a meter maid, seeing the whole incident, calls the police, and chases down my assailant in his Parking Authority golf cart. The police arrive in seconds and take Baldy into custody.
It turns out Baldy is a 45 year old misfit on disability who lives at home with mom. His only occupation is working out - explaining why he could toss my 200 pound ass into the street like a rag doll. The reason he did it?
I “dissed” him by getting in his way.
Baldy gets a ticket for misdemeanor harassment and goes home. I bandage my wounds, swallow my pride, and head back indoors. It was a tough shift that night.
The next day I’m back at work. Looking around to make sure the coast is clear I go out to have a smoke. As I light up, Gym Babe runs right past me.
Since I’m caught off guard I have no time for my patented smooth move chick scoping maneuvers. I just gawk.
Gym Babe looks over her shoulder, smiles slyly at me, and waves saying “Caught ya!”
I’m left standing on the sidewalk slobbering like a teenage schoolboy.
Monday, November 08, 2004
It’s a slow shift. Rizzo and I are sitting in the back drinking coffee and reading the papers. I’ve only been a waiter a few months. The reality of my situation is sinking in.
“This job sucks.” I say simply.
Rizzo lowers his paper and says, “You think it sucks because you lack perspective my brother.”
“Perspective.” Rizzo repeats.
“Ok. I give. Enlighten me Obi-Wan.” I counter.
Rizzo puts the paper down and stares at me earnestly.
“Listen there is a guy named Vinod, he's just off the boat from Bangladesh. Do you know what his job in this great country is?”
“Tell me. I can’t wait to hear.” I deadpan.
“He’s the squeegee guy at the all night peep show on 42nd Street. He cleans up all the garbage and jizz in the stalls. And you know what? He's grateful he has that job. FUCKING GRATEFUL!”
“Ugh.” I wrinkle my nose in disgust.
“Yeah so while you’re bitching about working here, some guy who left a mud hut in some shithole is busy wiping up pervert spooge all day and he’s grateful. So stop your bitchin.” Rizzo declares, returning to the funny pages.
I think about that for a moment. Yeah I guess it could be worse. Yet, I can’t help wonder about “Vinod” and his custodial job at the porn shop...........
Big Al’s Nude Dance Emporium
Live Girls 24 Hours! All Nude!
123 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
Mud Hut No. 2,999,857.234
Sylhet, Sylhet Province, 3100
America. Great Country! I have job. I am chief custodian at Mr. Al’s Dance Emporium here in the greatest of cities. New York! Yes the Huge Apple. Oh Purna it is so exciting! Mr. Al is very kind. He pay me $1 an hour! So much money! I sleep in the back on the floor. A real floor! Wonderful! Mr. Al very kind. He lets me eat the popcorn free and beats me only once a day. I work very hard.
The dancing here very strange. Not like the dancing at home. Mr.Al tells me it “performance art.” The dancers very nice. Funny they all named “Amber” and all from Russia. How funny! I work hard. Soon I be manager. I will bring you and mother here to work when I get money. Al has not paid me yet. I know he will soon. When you can buy a pencil write me. Best to mother.
America Great Country!
I look up at Rizzo and say, “You’re sure he’s grateful?”
Without looking up from his paper Rizzo says,
“Bet your fucking ass.”
The door chimes. Some customers walk in. Rizzo and I get up and go back to work.
I guess it is all about perspective. Hey, at least I'm not the squeegee guy at Big Al's.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
I go into Starbucks to get my pre shift daily fix when I notice a strange plastic object hanging over the register.
“What’s that thing?” I ask my nose ringed tattooed hipster barista.
“A video camera.” he replies flatly.
“A what?” I say incredulously.
“A video camera with a live feed to corporate in Seattle.” he says with the perfect blend of surliness and cynicism I’ve come to expect from Starbucks employees.
“Is it to make sure you guys don’t steal from the till?”
“That and to observe customer buying habits.” he replies looking bored.
“Does it cover the entire store or just the register?” I wonder.
“It covers the employee area and customers at the register. It even has audio. Seattle can hear every thing we say.” Grinning he looks up at the camera and loudly adds, "Those assholes."
I look around while the kid gets my coffee. Several soccer moms are chatting. A student looks up from his copy of Camus to scope chicks. A tired looking man slumps in an easy chair pecking away on his laptop, studiously attempting to look busy. Ray Charles plays softly in the background. Everyone is drinking over priced caffeinated chemistry experiments trying to look like what some marketing hack in Seattle tells them is cool. They are being watched, analyzed, and dissected down to the last dollar and they don’t even know it.
Suddenly I don’t like Starbucks anymore.
I get my coffee, throw some change in the tip jar (to insure my waiter karma) and flip the camera the bird.
“Later man.” I say to the barista. He is smiling. He flips off the camera too.
Screw Starbucks. Next they’ll be putting “Soma” in the brew. Patronize a local coffee shop and give them your money. Check out this guy who is doing something about it.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Got off a few zingers tonight………..
“Waiter is the tiramisu any good?”
“Why sir it’s one of our most popular desserts.”
“It didn’t ask if it was popular I asked if it was good.”
“Well sir if it wasn’t good it wouldn’t be popular.”
What a shithead
I am walking down the aisle and a man snaps his fingers to get my attention. This is a major faux pas with us waiters. I ignore him.
When I pass by a second time the man snaps his fingers again. I stop, look at the floor, do a 360 degree spin, then look under his table. His wife has nice legs.
“Waiter what are you doing?”
“Why I’m looking for your dog sir. Is he lost?”
Otherwise a very nice evening, I waited on William Hurt. He was gracious, well mannered, and tipped well. He didn't snap his fingers. Introduced himself as “William.” Very cool. Girlfriend a complete babe.
Friday, November 05, 2004
I am waiting on a table of three hotties. They flirt, they drink; they’re loud and obnoxious. I keep the happy smile plastered on my face – their check is $300.
As they leave I pick up the check and look at my tip.
Zero. Zip. Zlich. Nada.
I am pissed. The ladies, laughing hysterically, have piled into a convertible parked directly outside the bistro. I go up to them and say,
“I am sorry to bother you but you forgot to leave a gratuity.”
The ladies laugh even harder.
Flummoxed, I repeat, “You forgot to leave a tip.”
The driver just waves dismissively, starts the car, and drives away. I hear their laughter fade into the distance.
Burning up, I walk back inside. I head toward the waiter’s prep area. I grab a cell phone from the pile and dial 911.
“Anytown Police Department – what is your emergency?”
“Yes I would like to report a drunk driver.” I rattle off the make, model, tags and direction.
“We’ll get on it.”
I hang up.
To this day I don’t know if they caught them. Probably not. I never saw them again.
I can be one stone cold son of a bitch.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Nothing’s worse than training a new waiter. When you’ve been waiting tables a long time most of what you do is unconscious, burned into muscle memory. To stop and actually think about what you’re doing, and then explain it, slows you down big time.
The resident alcoholic waiter Scott, hung-over, working a lunch shift, is training Travis, who’s working his first day. Sayeed, the manager, who knows Scott is hurting, gleefully lays this thankless task on him. Scott is pissed, griping about how much it sucks.
Little does he know his annoyance will turn into sheer terror.
A few hours into the shift Scott is standing behind Travis as he fumbles going through the specials to a new table. Bored, looking around, Scott’s eyes wander.
Then he sees it.
Sticking out of Travis’ waistband, partially obscured by his apron, is the handle of a small pistol. That’s right. A gat, a heater, a rod – a fucking GUN.
Scott’s sphincter instantly puckers as his pickled brain processes what’s happening. Excusing himself, he walks over to Sayeed who’s reading the paper, sipping espresso.
“Sayeed, Travis has a gun.” Scott whispers.
Sayeed lowers his paper and looks over at Travis. He sees it too.
A few years ago, a disgruntled mail handler shot and killed two people at the Post Office a block over. There’s a memorial out front honoring the victims. Most of us pass it every day. Sayeed is thinking about that memorial.
Although he is a consummate asshole, Sayeed is a very cool customer. He has to be. He’s from Beirut. He calmly flips open his cell phone, calls the police, and in very pleasant tones explains our little problem. He listens for a while, nods, says “OK.” and hangs up.
“Give me your cigarettes.” Sayeed tells Scott. He takes them and proceeds to do a very brave thing.
He crosses over the dining room, taps Travis on the shoulder, and invites him outside for a smoke. They go out the front door, light up, and start shooting the breeze. Now we have all fantasized about blowing Sayeed away, but Travis has a real opportunity here.
After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, two plainclothes cops, service pistols drawn, appear from opposite directions. They relieve Travis of his weapon, cuff him, and plop him down on the sidewalk. What happens next borders on the insane.
It turns out Travis is from Texas. In the Lone Star State carrying a concealed weapon is not only allowed – its encouraged. Travis has all the legal firearm permits in his wallet. The idiot thought he could carry heat in New Jersey. Wrong.
The police explain to Travis that he needs a concealed carry permit and no, waiters don’t qualify. He needs to register the gun with the Garden State and store it at home. Then, here’s the kicker, they uncuff him and give the gun back.
After the police leave, Sayeed tells Travis to take the gun home. When Travis is out of sight Sayeed returns to his table, picks up his paper, and orders a fresh espresso.
Scott, his hands trembling, is drinking a Scotch to calm his nerves. Sayeed lets it slide for today.
“Sayeed?” Scott asks.
“Yes Scott?” Sayeed answers from behind his paper.
“On his application, Travis’ last name wouldn’t be Bickle by any chance?”
Sayeed laughs. After a minute he picks up his cell and calls Travis’ house.
“Your fired.” he says simply. He hangs up and flips over to the sports section.
Scott drains his Scotch and gets another.
So the next time you decide to be a dick to your waiter, remember this little story. You might end up staring into the barrel of a Smith & Wesson, the last words you hear being,
“You talkin' to me?”
Think about it. We might be packing.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
A loyal reader wrote and asked, "What items should a good waiter carry with them at all times?"
Since many reading this blog are getting their jobs outsourced to China and may end up doing what I do (Heavens forefend!), I've decided to share a little of my hard earned wisdom.
Gear to be carried on your person (or close by)
1. Cheap ballpoint pens. Every waiter should carry at least three; one for signing checks, one for writing down orders, and the other for fellow servers to borrow and never return. Don't bother bringing a nice pen to work. The customers will only steal them. Alternate uses are, but not limited too:
a. Taking down a hot chick's phone number.
b. Emergency tracheotomy tube
c. Weapon (Think the Bourne Identity)
2. Wine opener. Not those expensive pieces of shit people get as wedding presents from Williams Sonoma. A $5 dollar waiter's helper from the liquor store will do. Has a myriad of uses:
a. Opens wine bottles
b. Pops open beer bottles
c. Punches holes in olive oil cans
d. Cuts open boxes
e. Cleans under fingernails
f. Slashes car tires of customers/owner (I never did this but I know someone who did)
g. Also comes in handy as a weapon. Think what that a corkscrew could do to a person!
3. Table crumber. Also a multipurpose tool:
a. Cleans crumbs off table.
b. Tongue depressor in a pinch
c. Scrapes dogshit or gum off your shoe
d. Also doubles as a nifty weapon. Good for poking soft body parts.
(Gee do you detect a pattern here?)
4. Pepper Mill
a. Would you like fresh ground pepper? How I hate saying that! Makes me feel like Adam Sandler.
b. Doubles as a club
5. Gum. Keeps your breath minty fresh and covers up the fact you've been drinking on the job.
6. Narcotizing substance of your choice. Waiters can be a walking pharmacy. I've seen servers with:
b. Hip flask of booze
c. Leftover Vicodan from the dentist. Percodan is also reallllly nice.
d. Prozac - should be in the water.
f.. Advil, Tylenol, Alleve, Oxycontin
7. Latex gloves. Now most waiters don't carry this but I do. It's a habit leftover from my days working in a psychiatric hospital. You never knew what bodily secretions you'd encounter. (You know vomit, blood, semen, urine, feces, spinal fluid) Well, the same holds true for a restaurant.
8. Reading glasses. A nice touch for the blind customers.
9. Cell Phone. I hate them but most waiters have one. Good for:
a. Calling home
b. Calling 911
c. Calling a cab
d. Calling your agent (Loser!)
e. Calling your therapist
f. Calling your bookie
g. Calling your dealer
h. Using built in camera to video coworkers banging in the linen closet
10. Distractions. Something to keep you occupied when it's slow:
a. A good book or magazine
b. Gameboy, Etch a Sketch, Darts (not recommended)
c. I have a wireless enabled PDA. I hop on the free neighborhood wifi network, check my email, update this blog, and, of course, look at porn.
11. Dupe pad. Some uses are:
a. To write down orders
b. For writing down hot chick's number
c. Doodling unflattering caricatures of customers
12. Matches for:
a. Lighting birthday candles
b. Lighting cigarettes/cigars
c. Cover the foul stench in the employee bathroom if you or someone else had Mexican the night before.
d. Burning the fucking place down. (Use dupe pad soaked in Bacardi 151 as a starter)
Gear to be stored in locker:
1. Additional narcotizing substances
2. Extra shirt and tie. In case you get splattered with food or aforementioned bodily substances.
3. Extra socks. Helps ward off "swamp foot."
4. Talcum powder. When you're walking all day you might get "the chafe."
5. Preparation H. Standing all day gives you hemorrhoids. I get them the size of golf balls.
7. Hand sanitizer. (In case you touch something gross)
9. Condoms (You might actually get lucky with the hot chick)
10. Extra weapons (Pens, scrapers, wine openers)
11. Copies of all applicable labor laws.
12. Resignation letter pre printed and signed. Insert date when needed.
13. Firearm where permitted by law
This list is by no means an exhaustive one. Feel free to email or post additional items you think might come in handy.
Aren't you glad you asked?
Monday, November 01, 2004
Saturday. 5:30pm. The phone rings.
“Hello, The Bistro, how may I help you?”
“I want a reservation at 7:30.” a gruff cell distorted voice barks.
“How many in your party?" I reply sweetly.
“Two.” I can hear car horns honking in the background
“Let me see what’s open sir, one moment.”
“I want the table in the window. I’m a friend of the owner.” he says. (The reader will note the absence of the word please)
This guy is probably shit out of luck. The odds of getting a reservation at this late hour are slim to none. His only hope is a last minute cancellation. I look at the reservation slots on the computer screen.
There, shimmering like an oasis in the desert, is an opening for the best table in the house at the H-Hour of restaurants the world over, 7:30 pm. This guy is lucky. My finger moves toward the screen to begin entering his information.
“Hurry up I haven’t got all day.” the man snaps.
My finger stops in midair.
Getting in touch with my inner asshole I say, “I am terribly sorry sir but we have no tables available at that time.”
“Whadyya mean it’s not available?” the man practically screams
“The table has already been reserved. I’m sorry.”
“Well move them and give it to me.” the prick says huffily.
“I cannot do that sir. Perhaps you would like a reservation at ten o’clock. That’s the next available opening.”
“Put the owner on the phone right now.” the man yells.
“I am sorry but he is indisposed at the moment.” I reply.
“Give me his cell phone number then.”
“I’m so sorry but I am not allowed to give out that number.” I say unctuously.
“Listen I am a good friend of Flavio. Put him on the phone.”
The owner’s name is Fluvio. Some friend.
“Like I said he can’t come to the phone right now. Since you are his friend I am sure you won’t mind me telling you the correct way to say his name. F-L-U-V-I-O.”
The man abruptly hangs up.
A few minutes later a very young man walks in the door holding some flowers. He wants to take his girlfriend on their first real “grown up” date. He asks if we have a table. He is polite, says please, and man he looks sooo nervous.
“How’s 7:30?” I ask smiling.
“That would be perfect.”
“I’ll put you in the window. Very romantic sir.” I say with a wink.
“That’s very cool thanks.” he replies gratefully.
Later they come in holding hands. She is thrilled with the flowers and the table. They order the cheapest entrees and suck down Cokes all night. They smile happily, talk in hushed tones, and look only at each other. I was the waiter. The tip was pretty bad. On the way out the girl slips her hand into the boy’s back pocket. Soon they are kissing on the street corner.
I watch them as I collect my meager tip. I am happy. Tonight this young couple will be making sweet love while the asshole on the cell phone explains to his wife why they are eating pizza.
All is right with the world.
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