Sunday, July 31, 2005

For technical reasons beyond our control.......

Commenting will be disabled for the next two days. I'll resume posting Tuesday.

I have a surprise in store for you.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Where's Prozac When You Need It?

The phone rings.

"The Bistro," I answer, "How can I help you?"

"What kind of cuisine do you serve?" a female voice asks.

"Northern Italian madam."

"And what's your sushi special tonight?"

I pause a moment.

"We don't serve sushi madam."

"Why not?"

"Because we're not a Japanese restaurant?"

The caller thinks about that for a sec.

"Do you serve tuna?" she asks.

"We do."

"Can't you make sushi out of that?"

"No."

"Why not?" she asks incredulously.

"Because."

"Oh."

There's a long pause. I can visualize this woman sucking her thumb.

"Would you like to make a reservation?" I ask

"No, I really wanted sushi tonight."

"Sorry," I verbally shrug.

"Could you suggest a place?" she asks testily.

I give her the name and number of a very expensive sushi house and hang up. I look at the clock and sigh. So far I've put in eighty hours at the Bistro. When Fluvio comes back this Sunday it'll be 110 hours without a break. Phone calls like this threaten to destroy whatever sanity I have left. It's time to self medicate.

I go to the back and fetch a can of my new best friend – Red Bull.

"Cocaine in a can?" Gerald quips as he walks by.

"I can't afford the real thing," I deadpan.

"The dumpster dealers will cut you a break," Gerald says, referring to the criminal element that delivers behind restaurants everywhere.

"Never did that stuff actually," I reply.

"A couple more of these double shifts and you will be," Gerald observes.

"I'd settle for some Prozac," I say, "Got any?"

"I'm fresh out."

"Damn."

I go back to the front and start reading The Times. The Red Bull kicks in. Great. Now I'm wide awake borderline psychotic.

I try and lose myself in the Dining In Section. There's a good article about aperitifs. I crack up when I get to the part about Cynar, a liquor made from artichokes. Sounds disgusting I know but it's quite good on the rocks with soda. We have it. No one orders it. Hmmm. I wonder how that would taste mixed with Red Bull………….

Gerald interrupts my reverie.

"The lady on 26 left her credit card on the table," he says handing me the checkbook.

I look at the folder. Not only did she forget her card – she forgot to sign the receipt and leave a tip.

"Was this woman drunk?" I ask.

"I wish she was," Gerald replies, "she and might have been less of a bitch."

"What was the problem?"

"You know the type," Gerald says drolly, ''water with lemon, chicken Caesar spilt, and three hours of prattling with her friend."

"You can retire on checks like that," I observe humorlessly.

"You'll take care of it?" Gerald asks.

"I'll lock up the card," I reply, "maybe she'll come back for it."

"Ok."

Two hours go by. The lady doesn't come back. I call the credit card company.

"Hello, Credit Card Company," a pleasant voice chirps, "How can I help you?"

"A patron left her card behind in my restaurant," I say, "Could you call her and let her know we have it?"

"What's the number on the card?" the rep asks.

I rattle of some digits.

"Thank you sir," the rep says, "that card has now been deactivated."

"Wait a minute," I yelp, "I just wanted you to call the woman and tell her we have her card!"

"I'm sorry but its procedure to invalidate a card when it's reported lost or stolen."

"Could you at least call the lady and tell her she left her card here?" I ask.

"I'm not allowed to relay messages to a card member," the rep drones robotically.

"But…."

"Please destroy the card."

"But…."

"Destroying the card protects you and the customer," the rep continues.

"But…."

"Thank you for calling the Credit Card Company. Have a nice day."

Click.

Gerald comes back up to the hostess stand.

"Were you able to get a hold of her?" he asks.

"I called the credit card company and they canceled the card."

"Why didn't you call information and try and get her number?"

Now why didn't I think of that? Maybe because I'm exhausted.

"Too late now," I say.

"Try anyway."

I call information. The name on the card is unique. Of course they have her number. I ring her up.

"Hello," a professional voice answers.

"This is %*&%* at The Bistro. You left your credit card here."

"Oh yes I know."

"I'm sorry but I tried to have the credit card company contact you and they invalidated the card."

"WHAT!!!!!!" the woman shrieks, "I just got that card!"

"I'm sorry. I should've tried to call information and find you. But my first impulse was to call the credit card company."

"THAT WAS THE WRONG IMPULSE!" the woman yells.

"Well it's been deactivated for your protection."

"You're really stupid," the woman huffs.

"Well madam," I reply angrily, "you left your card here, didn’t sign the bill, and forgot to leave the waiter a tip. I don't know you. What would you have me do?"

"Now I have to get a brand new card!" the woman moans ignoring my tirade.

I look at the name embossed on the card. It has the letters Ph.D on the end.

"Pardon me," I ask, "are you a psychologist?"

"I'm a therapist," she says, "Why?"

"Just satisfying my curiosity," I murmur.

The woman hangs up violently. I hope she wasn't with a patient. Then again I feel bad for anyone she's treating. I cut up the card into tiny pieces and dispose of it.

Gerald returns. "So what happened?" I tell him.

"So I don't get a tip?" he asks.

"Something tells me you weren't getting one anyway," I reply.

Gerald laughs. "Fuck her."

I echo the sentiment and return to my paper. I look at the clock. Monday will be my first day off after eleven double shifts. I can't wait. Phone calls like this don't help. I'm burnt out. I start praying for a blackout so I can close early.

Of course it doesn't happen. I'm not gonna make it three more days.

I better get some Prozac soon. They should start putting it in Red Bull.

Hmmmm. Now there's a million dollar idea.


Attention! Waiter Rant has moved to www.waiterrant.net!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Attention Loyal Waiter Rant Readers!

Waiter Rant is going to be down for maintenance for a short time today. The changes I hinted at earlier are coming soon. I have worked 70 hours so far this week without a day off. After I get some rest (and time to write) I'll post more new stories.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Baby Bucks

I'm tired.

Fluvio went on vacation and I'm stuck minding the store. I've got seven more double shifts till he comes back. I'm worried. It's only Sunday and I'm already punchy. There are bags under my eyes and my cheeks ache from maintaining the customer friendly smile. My feet hurt. Every customer is becoming an obstacle to overcome. I dread the phone. Waiters constantly harass me with problems. By the end of the week I'll probably be psychotic.

The Sunday rush ends. The last tables are finishing their espressos. Soon the Bistro will be empty. I look at the clock. Fifteen minutes till closing. Thank God. I want to be in bed before midnight. I start doing my cashout.

I'm wondering why the drawer is short ten bucks when the door chimes. A youngish guy stands in the doorway. Damn.

"Can I help you sir?" I say cheerily, but my heart isn't in it.

"Can I get a drink and some take out?" the man asks.

The guy looks familiar. I spin through my mental rolodex of faces. Ah, there he is. Dan something or other. Cute wife. He proposed to her in my section two years ago. I stuck the ring on a piece of tiramisu. Now they're expecting their first child. Tempus Fugit.

"How's your lovely wife sir?" I ask, smiling at the memory of his spouse, laden with child, sweating like a pig in the July heat.

"She had the baby earlier this evening," he replies with a wan smile.

"Congratulations!" I offer.

"Thanks."

I can’t help but notice this guy doesn't look entirely happy.

"Mother and baby are both well?" I ask carefully.

"Yeah they're both ok. Jen was in labor for twenty four hours."

"Yikes"

"Now she wants Porcini Risotto from her favorite place," he says.

I groan inwardly and pull out my dupe pad. I have to let this guy get some food or my soul will burn in hell. The kitchen guys are gonna be pissed.

"So one Porcini Risotto. Anything for you sir?"

"Just a Ketel One on the rocks."

"Coming right up."

I put the risotto order in over protest and get the guy his drink.

"Here you go," I say handing the man a frosted highball glass. He scarfs the vodka down greedily.

"Want another?" I chuckle. If I just had a kid I'd drink too.

After a short pause New Dad replies, "No I'm good."

"Well it'll be twenty minutes until your entrée's ready. If you want another let me know," I offer as I return to the cash drawer to find my missing ten bucks.

I start counting but stop. Something's not right. Even with my back turned I can feel the tension coming off this guy in waves. I'm emotionally attenuated I guess. Chalk it up to my years working in a psychiatric hospital.

I turn around. New Dad's knee is bopping up and down nervously. His discomfort is making me anxious. I decide to intervene.

"So did you have a boy or a girl?" I ask.

"A girl."

"You poor man," I say winking.

"Tell me about it," the man sighs.

"God has an exquisite sense of justice sometimes doesn't he?"

That provokes a laugh. "You're right," the guy agrees.

Now you might think my comment's inappropriate but it isn't. Whenever men undergo a major life event, like getting married or having a baby, we guys tend to respond with a certain gallows humor. For example, my brother, on his wedding day, had to walk down a long dimly lit corridor to reach the main part of the church. As we groomsmen walked behind him, ostensibly to keep him from running away, I was reminded of a line from a movie. I couldn't help myself.

"Dead man walking!" I cried out.

The guys cracked up. The minister cracked up. My brother smiled nervously and walked to the altar to await his bride.

Now he's married and sipping beer on some beach in Maui with his beautiful wife.

My point? Sometimes a little ribbing helps soothe a guy's anxiety and snaps everything into proper perspective. Usually.

"And then there's dating. Oh man…." I continue saying to New Dad.

The guy's laugh's smaller this time. Actually he looks like he's about to throw up.

Ok, so maybe gallows humor isn't the way to go.

A quiet minute passes. The guy stares at the floor. He take a deep breath like he's about to say something. He doesn't. The clock ticks. I see moisture in his eyes.

"You'll be fine," I say gently.

The guy wipes his face quickly. "Yeah I know," he says, "but there's so much to worry about. I mean summer camp, private school, college. You know what college is gonna cost in eighteen years?"

"No idea."

"A million bucks!" he explodes.

"That much?" I wonder skeptically.

"And then there's braces, toys, broken arms," New Dad gushes as if a dam burst from within

I recognize what's happening. When New Dad held his baby for the first time the enormity of what's happening hit him. He's trying to process it all at once. I don't have kids of my own but I have friends who do. I've seen how they've handled it. I know what to say. I hope someone says it to me when my time comes.

"It's a lot of stuff but you'll break it down into small steps and it'll come together," I offer quietly.

"I guess," New Dad says.

"Think about everything at once and you'll go nuts," I say, "just remember, one day at a time."

"Your right," New Dad exhales.

"Enjoy your little girl. She's only a baby once."

I finally see a real smile. "She's beautiful," he says.

"I'll bet she is."

"You have kids?" New Dad asks.

"Me? Hell no. I just have joint custody of a dog."

"You'd be a good father."

I feel myself blushing. "Thank you sir."

"How old are you?"

"Thirty seven," I reply. New Dad is about ten years my junior.

"Well, be sure you have them before it's too late…"

"Sir," I say clasping my hand on New Dad's shoulder, "one of the great things about being a guy is we can still make babies twenty minutes after we're dead."

New Dad emits a soul cleansing laugh.

"I have plenty of time," I reassure him.

"You're a funny guy," New Dad says.

"I try sir."

The food's ready. I slip a tiramisu, gratis, into the bag, run the check, and take the order to New Dad.

"All set sir," I say, "and since your wife likes tiramisu so much I threw one in on the house."

"Thank you," New Dad says shaking my hand.

"You're very welcome."

The guy signs the check and leaves. I watch him walk off into the night his life changed forever. That kid's gonna be all right.

When I open the checkbook and my exhaustion dissipates. On a thirty dollar check the guy tipped me fifty bucks. Totally unexpected.

As I close up the Bistro I can't wipe the grin off my face. Baby bucks!

Ka-Ching.

I hope this guy has lots of babies.


Attention! Waiter Rant has moved to www.waiterrant.net! Please update your bookmarks and links to www.waiterrant.net

Friday, July 22, 2005

To the Rescue!

I've received a couple of aggrieved emails lamenting that I haven't written many posts this week. I'm grateful to have readers that eagerly await each post. The readers, as you can see by the comments, are one of the major reasons why Waiter Rant's traffic has steadily risen over the past months. Thank you!

Normally I post two to three times per week. This past week has been especially crazy for me. My brother got married over the weekend. Now, "Fluvio," my boss, is going on vacation and I'm going to be living at the Bistro for the next twelve days. That's right – I'm gonna have to drag my laptop to work!

Right now, this instant, I'm sitting to write a post when Fluvio calls.

"Hello?"

"Get over here. Gwen is throwing up all over the place."

Oh, that's appetizing.

I groan and look at the clock. It's too early to be hearing this shit.

"So what do you want me to do?" I ask.

"The restaurant is full and I have no one to work," Fluvio says. I can hear the near panic rising in his voice.

"Can Gwen hold on till I get there?" I ask.

"I don't think so."

I sigh deeply. I wanted to post today. But I've got a job to do. I've got to go now.

"I'm on my way boss," I say. Off to the rescue. Again.

"Thanks!" Fluvio says hanging up.

Folks - I've got to go! I'm a waiter after all!

Have a nice weekend. New stories next week!

Attention! Waiter Rant has moved to www.waiterrant.net. Please change your links and bookmarks to www.waiterrant.net. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lawyer Blog

"It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing, and to talk by the hour." - Thomas Jefferson

Over the past couple of weeks I've been reading Opinionistas, a blog written by a young female lawyer in NYC. In addition to her describing life as an indentured billable hour servant, replete with grueling hours and impossible workloads, she also describes colleagues sloughing off their youthful idealism as they struggle inside the pressure cooker environment of a major law firm. I particularly liked this entry - Casting That Stone. It’s about how some women seem to abandon their hard earned professional lives in pursuit of safe, boring, marriageable men. Opinionista wonders if women have evolved, if at all, during the past sixty years of feminist awareness.

But what I really like about this blog is that you get the sense the author is in the midst of a psychological struggle of her own. In her world of high priced graduate schools, expensed lunches, and status hungry sycophants; everyone is constantly comparing themselves to everybody else. Do I make enough money? Am I more successful? Why is she married and not me? Who's got a corner office? Why did that associate get the deal? It can be a toxic soul eroding landscape that not everyone survives with decency intact.

Its obvious Opinionista has second thoughts about being a lawyer. Her ambivalence permeates the entire blog and you wonder what she'll end up doing. Will she chuck her expensive law school degree? Or will she make whatever accommodations she needs to make within herself to remain a lawyer? It's a process all professionals struggle with when they realize the career they've dreamed about since high school isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Well written and humorous - I recommend you check Opinionista out. The author does "question everything" but yields insights into a slice of life we might otherwise have never known about.

Go read!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

My Name is Clark Kent

Now that I'm thirty-seven I need glasses in order to read. Not prescription eyewear, just a good set of readers you can pick up at any pharmacy. Years of reading books, peering into computer monitors, and working in low lighting have taken their toll. At least the glasses lend me a professorial air.

I'm constantly taking the glasses on and off. I'm always reading something – a dupe pad, the POS monitor, or an order form. Sometimes I'm wearing them tableside. Sometimes I'm not. This occasionally leads to confusion….

A four top sits in my section. I'm wearing my glasses. I go to the table, special, cocktail them, and take their order.

When I deliver the apps I've taken the glasses off.

"Excuse me," a rather distinguished looking man says, "Could you ask our waiter to come over here?"

Huh? I am the waiter.

"I beg your pardon sir?" I ask.

"Could you get the waiter with the glasses?"

I stifle a laugh. Without my spectacles this guy thinks I'm a completely different person.

"Right away sir," I reply.

I duck out of sight and put my glasses back on. I return to the table.

"How can I help you sir?"

"I’d like another Manhattan please," the man asks.

I make a little bow and go to make the man's drink. I take my glasses off and deliver the cocktail to him.

"Who wanted the Manhattan?" I call out.

"It’s for me," the man signals.

As I place the drink in front of him he peers at me intently.

"Hey, you’re the same guy!" the man yelps.

"Actually my evil twin works here too. I guess you've met him," I reply winking.

The table busts out laughing.

"Arthur it's always been the same guy. You’re the one who needs glasses," his wife teases.

Chagrined the man take a sip of his drink. "Your other brother is the handsome one," he says.

Touche my brother. Touché.

I put my glasses back on. The table's cracking up. "So I look better with the glasses on?" I ask.

"Actually nothing can improve your mug," the man ripostes. I like this guy. He's customer you can screw with.

An optometrist eats in our bistro almost every day. He's left us a pile of business cards. I leave the table and go and fetch one. Returning I hand the card to Arthur the Blind.

"Call this guy. He can help you pick out a nice pair," I say triumphantly.

"Ok, ok," the man says waving his hands in surrender.

"If I may say sir, you desperately need them," I continue. The table is in stitches.

"I like your other brother better," Arthur laughs.

"Make sure you leave him a nice tip," I counter.

Arthur's wife turns to me and says, "You are the first waiter to ever give it back to him. Good for you."

Lady, I'm letting him off easy.

"For everything there is a first time," I say.

The table finishes dinner. I hand the check to Arthur sans spectacles.

"Here you go sir. Please don't be mad at my brother. He's a bad, bad waiter."

The man chuckles and takes the checkbook. When I return the book is stuffed with cash.

"That's all for you," Arthur says smiling.

"Thank you sir,"

I move out of sight and count out the bills. On a $200 check I get fifty bucks. Righteous.

The table gets up to leave. I thank the man for his generosity.

"You're a good sport sir," I say.

You really threw me with the glasses."

"Well sir," I say opening the door for him, "now I know how Clark Kent got away with it for so long."

The man roars with laughter and walks out into the humid night.

As I watch him go I realize Clark Kent and I have a lot in common. Like the reporter from the Daily Planet I too have a secret identity to protect.

Mild mannered waiter by day – Superblogger by night! Hey, I've always wanted to be a superhero. I think I'll indulge myself in that delusion for a while.

Just call me Clark Kent.

Now where's a phone booth?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Because I'm Pretty?

A while back we had a waitress I'll call Sue. Initially she seemed like a good worker, but, after a few weeks, her true work ethic became glaringly apparent. Unwilling to work her way up the totem pole, she felt she was entitled to the best shifts, always came late, did minimal side work, and somehow managed to leave before everyone else. But when Sue was on the floor she made a bundle in tips. Why?

Sue was twenty-two and drop dead gorgeous.

I'm not talking run of the mill cute. Sue was Playboy Bunny/pornstar/supermodel amazing looking. Her sex appeal was a living breathing palpable force. Ernesto, one of the sous chefs, turned into a quivering lump of guacamole whenever she entered the kitchen. Sue could transform grown men into eager to please little boys and subdue women into awestruck silence. Well aware of her "assets," Sue used them to the utmost.

One day during the summer, at the start of the shift, Sue comes up to me.

"Can I leave early tonight?"

"Why?" I ask warily.

"Because I'm going to the shore with (Insert rich guys name here) and he wants to get there by 10pm," Sue explains.

"We're busy tonight. I'll probably need you," I say.

"But he really wants to pick me up early."

"Good for him," I snort.

"Please," Sue pouts.

"We'll see."

Sue puts her purse on the table. "But I've already packed my bag," she says with a mischievous smile.

"You put all your stuff in that thing?" I ask in amazement.

Sue reaches into her bag and pulls out an electric blue bikini, a slinky one piece miniskirt, a thong, and a pair of high heels.

"You see I'm all ready to go," she whispers slyly.

Goddamn. This girl packed all her stuff into a small purse. I'm not immune to Sue's charms. The thought of her in that bikini gets my mind racing. But then again that's exactly the effect she was going for.

"Talk to me later," I say excusing myself. I need a cold shower.

The night is, of course, crazy busy. Sue works the floor and makes a ton of cash. Around nine o'clock she comes up to me again.

"My boyfriend's outside. Can you finish up my last table so I can go?"

I look out the window. Her "boyfriend" is in his forties and drives a Porsche.

I glance at my watch. Truth be told, the other waiters are hungry for cash and wouldn't mind picking up her slack. I have no reason to keep her here.

"What's going on with your last table?" I ask.

"Oh it's a bunch of guys. They're almost finished." Sue says.

"Ok you can go."

Sue happily runs downstairs to change. I go over to the POS computer. The check on Sue's last table is $300. I transfer it to my number.

When Sue returns she's in her miniskirt and high heels. The effect is stunning.

"Well have a nice time," I say appreciatively.

"Thanks," she replies, "You can give me that table's tip the next time I see you."

??????????

"I'm sorry what did you say?" I ask dumbfounded.

"You can give me the tip from those guys on Monday." she clarifies.

"Uh – no."

"What?" Sue stammers in disbelief.

"If you leave early the tip's mine," I tell her.

"But those guys are gonna leave me a big tip." Sue protests.

"Thanks for the money," I reply, "Appreciate it."

"You can't do that," Sue exclaims.

"Nothing in this world's free darling."

"But……"

I hold out my hands like a scale and weigh out her options. "Boyfriend or money?" I tease.

Sue's face flushes a deep red.

"Money or boyfriend? I say moving my hands up and down. I start to hum the tune from Jeopardy. I know, I know – I can be a real prick sometimes.

The boyfriend impatiently raps on the window and points at his watch.

Sue pulls on her lower lip. Looking at me seductively she says, "You're just kidding. I know you'll give me the tip."

I cross my arms and stare into her big blue eyes.

"Why on earth should I let you leave early and still give you the tip from that table?" I ask.

Sue thinks about that for a moment. She's struggles to find an answer. Finally she says,

"Because I'm pretty?"

I can hear Betty Friedan rolling in her grave. I laugh out loud.

"You've got to be shitting me."

Sue's face hardens into a brittle mask. Suddenly she's not pretty anymore.

"I'll tell Fluvio you're stealing my tips," she hisses.

"Fluvio will give me your tip himself," I shoot back.

'That's not fair," she yelps.

"Life's not fair babe."

"And I thought you were a nice guy," she says.

"You shouldn't confuse being a nice with being a tool."

"I can't believe your taking my money," she stammers.

"Sue, to be honest, I'm tired of your bullshit," I say, "and your social life is your problem."

Sue storms out.

I finish Sue's table. The guys leave her, or rather me, $100.

"Make sure the girl gets that," one of the men burbles.

"But of course sir," I say slipping the C Note into my pocket.

After the work the staff pile into a bar for drinks. Thanks to Sue's largesse the drinks are on her. I explain to Fluvio what happened.

"If she asks me for that tip she's in for big surprise," he says.

"She's cute but she's a pain in the ass," I say sipping my beer.

"She's never happy with her schedule," Fluvio ruminates.

"Since she's so busy at night why don't you assign her to lunch shifts?" I ask.

Fluvio smiles. Lunch shifts are a waiter's death sentence.

"Permanently," I add.

"I think I will" Fluvio agrees. We toast each other.

Sue quit the next week. Ernesto was miserable.

Whether you're a boy or a girl – looks can only take you so far.

And I am not a tool.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Check Please

Ah, the check – my favorite part of your meal.

I know this is the part of the dining experience most people could do without. But it's when I get paid! A lot of people are idiots when it comes to the simple act of paying for services rendered so I've compiled a little tutorial to make the whole currency exchange a little smoother.

1. Know when it's time to leave. Are you finished? Plates cleared? Dessert and coffee gone? Are there twenty customers waiting by front door for a table? Is the waiter hovering nervously around your table? Did the hostess offer to get your coats? That's probably because the restaurant needs the table. It's our fault we overbooked the restaurant you say? Not so fast. 15% of reservations never show up! What are we supposed to do? Lose that money? No – so we overbook Take the hint and get out. I know that attitude ticks people off but a restaurant is a BUSINESS - not an extension of your living room. It's time to pay the bill.

2. Ask for the check. Sounds simple right? It's considered rude for a waiter to drop a check without the customer asking first. Some people are unaware of that convention so they sit around pissed off wondering why the waiter hasn't produced the checkbook. We're not psychic! A sure fire way to discreetly ask for the bill is to put your credit card or wallet on the table. We can figure out you want to leave. (However, if you do get the bill before asking for it that's waiter speak for "get out." A tactic usually employed when a waiter's under pressure from management to turn tables and increase revenue. Or the waiter just wants to go home- usually the later.)

3. Don’t fight over who's paying the bill. Sometimes your friend wants to pay for dinner. I say let them. However, if you anticipate a "fight" over whose the more generous party please keep the waiter out of it. We always lose out. Go to the waiter at the start of the meal and hand him your credit card. If there's still a disagreement the waiter will follow the following rules to avoid dropping the check on the table like a hockey puck and letting you scramble over it:

a. Will give check to the regular customer of he or she demands it.
b. Will give check to person who made the reservation.
c. Will give check to person he or she knows is the better tipper.
d. Hand the check to the five year old and crack everyone up.

I've had people chase me and try and take their friend's credit card out of my hand so they could pay the bill. Don't make a scene. Grab something out of my hand and you'll have more than the bill to worry about.

4. Don't fight over who's not paying the bill. Sadly this is the reverse of Rule # 3 – no one wants to pay the bill. Every waiter recognizes this situation. You've dropped the check and no one make a move to pay it. Passive aggressiveness all around. This usually happens with adults eating with grown children or excessively parsimonious middle aged yuppies. Occasionally they get into shouting matches. Someone had better pay – and fast.

5. Sticker Shock. Can't believe how high the bill is? Well the prices are posted on the menu. Did you ask the server how much that Osso Buco on special was? No? Caveat emptor pal. Don't complain to me about the prices because I don't set them. It's your responsibility to keep track of what you're spending not mine. My job? I'm like a stripper. It's my job to separate you from as much of your money as possible.

6. Let your server know the check is ready. Don't leave the checkbook lying forgotten in the middle of the table while you're having your "my son/daughter is more successful than yours/I make more than money than you/I live in a nicer building/I'm thinner/I have a better job than you" conversation. The waiter has things to do. He can't hover over your table waiting to see if you placed cash or a credit card in the checkbook. You have to let the server know it's ready to be picked up. We hate going to the table and asking "can I take that for you?" when you haven't even looked at it. Ways to avoid any unpleasantness are:

a. If you're paying in cash make sure the bills are peeking out of the checkbook.
b. If you're paying by credit card use the old stand by – set the checkbook upright on the table with the credit card sticking out.
c. For the love of God don't put the bill in your lap, under a napkin, or, my favorite, lean on it with your elbows. That's some passive aggressive shit. It screams that you don't want to part with your cash. Don't look like a cheap bastard. Just give me the friggin check.

7. Splitting the bill. That's easy. Most restaurants' computer systems can split a bill four or five ways. If it's a mix of credit cards and cash explain how you would like me to process the bill. Separate checks? Unless you asked at the beginning of the meal for separate checks you ain't getting 'em. There is no way I can remember who got what two hours later. Fuck you and your expense account.

8. PAY IN CASH! – If at all possible pay in cash. The owner will love you. The waiter will love you. Why? Credit card companies charge a fee for every transaction. (Some unscrupulous owners take the transaction fee out of a waiter's tips. It's illegal but it happens.) Now I don't always pay in cash when I go out. I'm not unreasonable. But leaving the TIP in cash will always make you the waiter's friend.

9. Dine and Dash – Thinking about skipping out on the bill? Don't even think about it. I will chase you down like a dog and hold you till the cops arrive. You ain't doing dishes – you're going to jail. If a customer skips out on the bill it's the WAITER who has to pay for it. I'm sorry but I don't like you that much

10. Credit card declined? Nothing warms the cockles of my heart than to tell some Sex in the City wannabe, "I'm sorry but this card is experiencing some difficulty." (Translation? – YOUR CARD'S NO GOOD YOU LIVING BEYOND YOUR MEANS DICKWAD!) Don't argue with me either because I've run the card several times. That's why there's a bunch of declined slips in your checkbook! And don't get on your cell phone and fight with your credit card company. It makes you look like an asshole. Just give me a card you haven't maxed out at the Sharper Image.

11. No money? Hey it happens. People occasionally leave their wallet or purse at home. If you're a regular, no sweat, we'll get you the next time. But if I don't know you? I'm taking hostages. Leave your wife or girlfriend behind as a bargaining chip while you go and secure funding. If you don't come back? You'll have given your companion a date she'll never forget.

(It also helps to leave your cell phone, PDA, Rolex, or youngest child with the waiter until you come back with the money. Don't worry. We'll take good care of them.)

12. Don't subsidize your friend's meal. This has happened to all of us. You get a salad and a bowl of pasta. Your friend gets the rack of lamb and several martinis. When the bill comes he or she says. "Let's split it." That's bullshit. Grow some balls and stand up for yourself. Make them pay for what they ate.

13. THE TIP What do I need to say that I haven't said already? You know what to do. 15% and up.

14. Automatic gratuity. Most places add a mandatory 18% gratuity or service charge on parties of six or more. Language is important here. If it's listed as a gratuity you're under no legal obligation to pay that amount. (You will, however, discover you'll have a tough time getting reservations in the future) If it says "service charge" you're legally obligated to pay it. Don't like it? Cry me a river. I can dial 911 really fast. The French Laundry adds an 18% service charge to EVERY bill so give me a break.

15. The Double Tip. Now here's where reading Waiter Rant pays off for you the consumer. Beware of the Double Tip! Sometimes customers, often drunk, are unaware the gratuity is added to the bill so they TIP ON TOP OF IT! Example:

Bill - $100
Mandatory Gratuity - $18 (figured pre tax)
Total $118

Customer stupidly leaves $141.

That's $23 extra bucks! Now some waiters will be pissed that I'm telling you about this little secret but tough shit. It’s dishonest and I'd rather you come back to my bistro and give me money over the long haul. It doesn't pay to alienate customers with petty thievery. That being said – if the customer's a complete asshole my ethics might get compromised real fast.

16. Don't bitch to me about the taxes on the bill. Do I look like the governor? Write your assemblymen.

17. Making sure you did the right thing. Most waiter manuals say its bad form to take a paid check of the table before the customer leaves. That's crazy. I always check the bill before a customer walks out the door. Why? To make sure there are no problems. I can't tell you how many times the customer has taken BOTH credit card slips. It also helps to embarrass the shit out of some tightwad who's stiffed me on the tip. I position myself at the front door when they leave and say "Oh thank you for the nice tip sir!." Asshole. Don't come back.

18. Don't think the check is the credit card slip! Customers, usually smashed out of their minds, think they've handed me their plastic and sign the bill thinking it's the credit card receipt. Hold on! I need the credit card FIRST Einstein. Don't make me chase you!

19. Repeat after me. The yellow copy's yours. The white one's mine. The yellow copy's yours. The white one's mine.

20. I say "Thank You." You say "You're welcome."

21. Problems with the bill? Ask for a manager. Since I'm the manager at my place pray I'm in a good mood. Your rights as a customer?

a. Bill should be clearly itemized and legible. (Does not apply at Dim Sum restaurants)
b. Never pay for what you didn't order.
c. If you see something on the bill you don't understand you have every right to have the matter explained courteously to you.
d. If an establishment says it takes a certain credit card on the door than they have to take it. I ate at a French place once and paid with Amex. The waiter said, "We prefer Visa." I said I saw an Amex logo on the door. "We still prefer Visa," he said. "Well I prefer American Express," I replied handing him the card. He ran it grudgingly. Tough shit pal. Some waiters can be assholes.

22. Paid up? Go home.

If you have any additional guidelines I didn't think of feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Addendum

Ask for change. If you hand me a checkbook filled with cash tell me if you want money back. Sometimes this isn't a problem. If you hand me two hundred dollar bills and the check's $130 that's a no-brainer. However, if you hand me a hundred dollar bill and the bill's $80 am I assume you're a great tipper? Should I keep it? Let your server know.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London 7/07/05

"The way was long and weary, But gallantly they strode, A country lad and lassie, Along the heavy road. The night was dark and stormy, But blithe of heart were they, For shining in the distance The lights of London lay. O gleaming lights of London, that gem of the city's crown; What fortunes be within you, O Lights of London Town!" - George Robert Sims

Hang in there guys. Our thoughts are with you.

The lights of London shall always burn bright!

Special People

It's Sunday afternoon and the Bistro's packed with retarded people.

No, I'm not dissing Yuppies again. The customers are all part of a tour group. With the exception of a few staff members, the entire crowd consists of "differently abled" or "special" people. Since Sunday's are usually slow Fluvio booked the party and gave them a moderately priced package. Eating at the Bistro is a real change for these people. I know. Years ago I ran a group home for developmentally disabled adults. Going to IHOP was the norm.

"I want cheesecake!" one of the customers shouts. He hasn’t even gotten his salad yet.

"Don't you be worried. You'll get your cheesecake," Fluvio says smiling.

"I want it now!" the man yells.

"Hey, I cook for you and you don't want it?" Fluvio teases jokingly.

"Sorry," the man replies.

I look at Fluvio. He's managing this beautifully. Occasionally he gets flustered with customers but today he's the soul of patience.

"You're handling this really well," I tell him.

"Someone in my family is like these people," he replies.

Ah I think to myself. Just when you think you know someone they surprise you.

"Well I used to work with these people so I'm impressed."

"Thanks," Fluvio says.

I survey the crowd. Like people in general, retarded people have a variety of personalities. Some are rambunctious. Others are quiet. I note most of the people say "please" and "thank you." A couple sits together holding hands. She's wearing a simple dress. The man's wearing a suit twenty years out of style. They seem to enjoy each others company.

"Excuse me sir," another woman calls out.

"Yes madam?" I reply.

"I don't have any money," she says opening her empty purse for emphasis.

"I think it's already taken care of madam." The staff's probably holding the money.

"Ok," she says eyes downcast.

"Enjoy you dinner Madam."

The entrée's come out and the customers tuck into it with gusto. The staff retires to the coffee machine for a break

"So you used to work with these people?" Beth asks me.

"Jeez," I say shaking my head, "that was like fourteen years ago." Time flies.

"Did you enjoy it?"

"It was hands down the hardest job I ever had."

"How long did you work there?"

"One year."

"That's not a long time."

"It was all I could take."

"Sounds rough," Beth says.

I smile. "Beth, let me tell you a story……..

I'm twenty-three, unemployed, and living at home. That's, to put it mildly, putting a crimp in my social life. One day I see an ad in the help wanted section.

Wanted
Residential Group Home Manager for
Developmentally Disabled Adults
$22,000 a year Studio Apartment included.

The pay sucks but at least I'd be out of my parent's house. I have a BA in Psych. I apply for the job and get it.

The job turns out to be incredibly hard. Most of the residents are severely autistic. I'm basically the primary caregiver because the rest of the staff at the home are a bunch of lazy shiftless bastards. They eat, sleep, watch TV, and collect a paycheck. I fire all of them.

Within three months I find a new staff. After some fits and starts the home starts to run like a well oiled machine. The residents seem happier. In my spare time I turn my studio apartment into a swinging bachelor pad. Attached to the group home it has a private entrance but can be accessed through a door in the residents' living room. It's small but it's mine. I even buy a new bed.

I'm eager to break it in – if you know what I mean.

Sure enough nature takes its course and late one night I bring a young woman back to my "place." As I pull in the driveway I see a big moon face peer out the window. It’s Tony. He's twenty five years old, two hundred and thirty pounds, and autistic. He's my toughest client.

I wave to Tony. His face disappears behind the curtain. He never sleeps. He prowls around the house all night talking to himself. The doctor's are trying to titer his medication to a therapeutic level. So far no luck.

The girl and I enter through the private entrance. I told her the deal with my apartment. She didn't seem to care.

Once inside she turns to me.

"Cute place."

"Thanks"

"I have to use the bathroom. Why don't you put on some music?" she asks slyly.

"Right away."

I light some candles and put my cool new Enigma CD into the stereo. The girl returns from the bathroom.

"Nice music,' she says.

"Yeah aren't they great?" (Hey, I'm only 23)

"Come here," she purrs.

Soon we're making out. Her shirt comes off. I pull her towards my bed. I reach around to undo her bra.

I fumble with the clasp. Ah Waiter - you smooth operator you.

"Let me help you," the girl says breathily. She reached back and undoes the clasp easily. Her bra starts to slip off. I'm salivating.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Someone's banging on the door from inside the group home. A strange disembodied voice cries out,

"HELP! HELP! DON"T YOU HURT HER! DON'T HURT HER! MISSES HEALY? MISSES HEALY? I'M YOU'RE FRIEND. YES. BOOOOWEEEEEOPPPP!"

Oh God, it’s Tony. He's having an episode.

"Who the hell is that?" the girl says clutching me in terror.

"One of the residents. Don't worry about it," I say eager to see her goodies.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

"Don't you think you should see what's up?" the girl says putting her bra back on.

Aggravated I go to the door and open it.

Tony stands naked in the door. He has an erection. He's masturbating furiously.

"Jesus!" the girl shrieks.

The irony that I also have an erection is not lost on me.

"DON’T YOU HURT HER!" Tony yells at me.

Just great.

I gently guide Tony back into the house. The overnight staff and I put him to bed. We remind Tony that if he wants to masturbate he needs to do it in PRIVATE.

"Ok," he says.

"Good night Tony."

I return to my apartment. The girl's fully dressed with her purse in her hand.

"I want to go home.'

"But…."

"Now." Her tone brooks no disagreement.

I take the girl home. It's the last time I see her……

"Oh my God. That's too funny," Beth laughs, "What happened to Tony?"

"Oh the story gets better," I reply, "The next morning he hit me in the head with a frying pan. When I tried to take it away from him he bit me on the arm. I had to go to the hospital."

"Wow," Beth says shaking her head.

"Tony was heading for a crisis. He's just picked the night I was trying to get laid to flip out."

"No wonder you didn't last long," Beth chuckles.

"But it was a good experience," I say.

"Why?"

I look out upon our crowd of retarded customers and smile, "Because if I got cockblocked, hit with a fry pan, and bit in a twenty four period I think I can handle anything some Yuppie customer throws at me."

"True," Beth concurs.

"Besides," I say, "these guys are a really nice group of people."

"The people out there are better behaved than half our regular customers," Beth says.

I burst out laughing.

"At least they say please and thank you!"

"You're right."

The dinner ends and the special people leave happy. They leave us a nice tip. Go figure. .....

Ok. Ok.

So I dissed the Yuppies a little bit.

And no - I never figured out who "Misses Healy" was.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

My Sister's Keeper

I'm sitting in a bar after work with Beth and Arlene. It was a long night and we're rewarding ourselves with some post shift libations.

Beth's drinking a beer. I'm finishing up a dirty martini. Arlene, who is almost seven months pregnant, is sipping her single disciplined glass of wine.

I signal to the bartender for another drink. Arlene looks at me forlornly.

"Hey that's not fair," she says, "I can only have one."

"When you're in the recovery room I'll bring a pitcher of martinis instead of flowers," I quip.

"I still can't have it. I'll be breastfeeding," Arlene replies tartly.

I laugh. "I guess you're drinking days are behind you Mommy."

Arlene smiles. She just turned thirty. This is her first child. Her entire life is about to change.

The bartender sets a fresh drink in front of me. I take a sip. Mmmm. Ice cold.

"Hey look over there," Beth says nudging me.

"What is it?"

"Another pregnant lady at the bar," she giggles.

A very large pregnant woman struggles onto a bar stool. The bartender goes up to her. She orders a Jack & Coke.

"Jesus – that's a bit much," I remark.

The barman deposits the drink in front of her. She sucks it down in under a minute. Wiping her mouth she gets up and waddles outside onto the patio. She lights up a cigarette.

"Can you believe that?" Arlene says in horror.

"I'm afraid I do," I reply sadly.

We watch the woman as she returns to the bar and proceeds to drink herself into a stupor. Some of her running buddies join her. They start to get loud.

"I don't think I can see anymore of this," Arlene says rubbing her tummy nervously.

"Yeah, let's get out of here," Beth agrees.

I look over at the woman. She's having a good time, laughing uproariously at her friend's jokes, oblivious to the life growing inside her.

"Let's go," I say polishing off my drink.

We ask the barman for the bill. He brings it too us.

"Thirty bucks," he says. I reach for my wallet. Drinks are on me tonight.

"Hey! I want another drink," the pregnant lady calls out.

"Just a sec lady," the barman snaps.

As I count out the bills I whisper, "Don't you think that lady's had enough?"

The bartender stares at me blankly. "Not my problem," he replies.

"Yeah, but she's pregnant."

The bartender glances over at Arlene. She only drank half her wine. "I'm not my sister's keeper," he says shrugging.

I push the pile of bills towards him. "I guess you aren't," I mutter softly. The barman snatches up the cash and walks away.

"Ok, let's go," I sigh.

We walk out the French doors onto the patio. The air is thick with tobacco smoke. The pregnant woman comes up behind us with her fresh drink and lights up a cigarette. Arlene moves away from her.

The woman goes over to one of the outside tables and sits down. She starts talking to a young girl with dreadlocked hair and arms covered in tattoos. Off to her side is a little girl, maybe two years old, fast asleep in her baby carriage. She clutches a plush toy close to her chest.

My heart plummets. It's one in the morning.

"Jesus, those ladies are never going win Mother of the Year," Arlene says angrily.

"Who brings a little girl to a bar this late?" Beth asks.

I look at the little girl. I look at the pregnant woman.

"People who are angry at having kids," I reply.

Beth looks at me quizzically.

"Sometimes people are angry they have to grow up and get their shit together - so they take it out on their kids."

"Maybe," Beth says.

"The funny thing is most of the anger is subconscious. If you asked them they would tell you that their kid is the most important thing in the world."

"Well they're not acting like it," Beth replies.

"Those women shouldn't have kids," Arlene says throwing in her two cents.

"Probably not," I sigh.

We walk Arlene to her car and say our farewells. I go home. I can't get the little girl in the carriage out of my head.

A couple of days later I've got a pregnant woman in my section. She orders a glass of Merlot. No big deal. After she finishes her appetizer she orders another. I bring it reluctantly.

The woman finishes her entrée. The table is cleared. I bring the dessert menus.

The woman waves me off. "No dessert for me," she says, "But I'll have another glass of wine." I notice she's slurring her words slightly.

I remember the alcoholic pregnant lady from a few nights ago. I think about the little girl in her baby carriage.

"I'm sorry madam," I reply, "I cannot bring you another drink."

The woman stares at me in surprise. "Why not?" she asks.

"I just can't."

Our eyes lock. A few seconds pass. The woman starts to say something but reconsiders. She knows why I won't serve her.

"I make a mean cappuccino," I offer in conciliation.

"That's probably a good idea honey," her husband chimes in. Great pal. Now you decide to find your balls.

The woman lets out a deep breath. "Ok. Just make it decaf."

I win.

"Thank you madam," I reply gratefully.

The man and woman finish their desserts and leave. The tip's 15%. I'm lucky these people didn't make a scene.

The night ends. I go into the bathroom to wash my hands and face. As I'm toweling off I look my reflection.

My father once told me that if you're ashamed of what you see in the mirror you're in trouble.

I think about my pregnant customer. Sometimes we are our sister's keeper.

The man in the mirror smiles back at me. I'm not in trouble.

At least not yet.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Animal Cop

It's Sunday morning and I'm hurting.

My brother's bachelor party was Friday night and I'm still trying to shake off the after effects. My pounding headache morphed into fatigue about the same time my joints began to throb. Goddamn that scantily clad shooter girl and her $2 tubes of poison. Why did she pour that stuff down my throat? Oh that's right – I asked her to. Things are still kinda of hazy.

I hole up behind the hostess stand with a newspaper and an extra large cup of coffee. My eyes feel like the inside of an empty beer bottle. I've got to be on the floor twelve hours today. I have no idea how I'm going to make it. I turn to the paper and start reading about the lusty fight brewing over Sandra Day O' Conner's replacement. I remember when she was appointed.

Engrossed in thrilling reading about Originalist versus Deferential Judicial Conservatism I begin to forget how much pain I'm in. The Bistro's slow. Everyone's away for the holiday. I take a sip of my coffee and settle in for a slow afternoon. I pray no one bothers me.

Suddenly a shadow falls across my paper. God's seems to be ignoring me today.

"Excuse me how long has that dog been there?" a female voice says.

I look up. An intense looking middle aged woman hovers over me.

"I'm sorry. What did you say?" I ask painfully.

"I said how long has that dog been in that car?" the lady says pointing towards the street.

I look outside. A little dog is sitting inside a Mercedes Benz.

"I don't know Madam."

"Well it's been cooped up there since we've been here," the lady huffs.

"And how long have you been here?" I inquire.

"Half an hour."

"So what's the problem?"

The woman glares at me. "You shouldn't leave a dog inside a hot car."

"But Madam, it's not hot out."

"Look at the poor thing. He's suffering," she says oblivious to me.

I look back at the dog. His tail's wagging.

"He seems alright to me."

"I can't enjoy my meal with this going on," the woman pouts.

The woman's a kook. The dog's fine. What do I look like? The ASPCA?

"Madam, if it appears the dog's in distress I'll call the cops," I say trying to humor her.

The woman shakes her head and returns to her window table. I turn back to my paper.

Five minutes later the woman comes back.

"Did you call the cops?" she asks.

"No Madam."

"Why not?"

"The dog's fine."

"How do you know?" she counters harshly.

I reluctantly put down my paper and go outside. The temperature's a pleasant 76 degrees. I walk up to the luxury automobile. The car's parked in the shade and the windows are open halfway. I reach inside. The dog licks my hand. His nose is cold and wet. He waves his tail excitedly. The interior of the car is cool. No problems. I walk back inside.

The woman is back at her table. I go over to reassure her.

"Madam, the inside of the car is cool. Everything's fine. Enjoy your lunch."

"You see Rachel," the woman's husband says, "the dog's ok."

"It's still wrong Bob," she counters.

"The waiter will keep on eye on him," Bob says.

Thanks for the promotion Bob. Now I'm the dogcatcher.

"I can't stand when people mistreat animals," Mrs. ASPCA growls cutting into her $25 hunk of charred animal flesh.

I smile to myself. That dog's chilling in a $100,000 car. The bovine she's eating wasn't so lucky. The last thing that went through its mind was a stainless steel bolt.

"Enjoy your steak madam," I say returning to the hostess stand.

I have a little dog. I take good care of him. If the pooch in the Benz was suffering I'd call the cops in a heartbeat. But there's no abuse going on here - just an overwrought woman whose passion has no connection to reality other than her need to indulge in some gratuitous self righteous anger. I turn back to my paper.

The door chimes. A pleasant looking lady comes in to order some takeout. As I'm writing down her order I notice the owner of the Mercedes has returned. His little girl's contentedly eating an ice cream cone. The dog tries to sneak in a lick. The girl giggles.

Suddenly Mrs. ASPCA runs out the front door almost running my takeout customer over.

"What's her problem?" Takeout Lady asks alarmed.

"I think she's seen one too many episodes of Animal Cops."

Ms. ASPCA goes up to the owner of the Benz and sticks her finger in his face. I can't hear what's she's saying through the window but it can't be good.

The man flushes with anger, but to his credit, makes a quick recovery. He talks to his accuser in what seems to be an even manner. The man's daughter looks frightened.

Meanwhile the little dog barks angrily at Mrs. ASPCA.

"I'll bet there's an interesting story behind all this," Takeout Lady remarks. I fill her in on the details.

"I love my dog too," she sighs, "but that lady's an idiot."

The Mercedes Benz pulls away. Mrs. ASPCA storms back inside.

"I want to leave Robert," she barks at her hapless mate.

"Let me pay bill first for Chrissakes," her husband growls. His wife returns outside to wait for him – her face contorted in a rictus of seething anger.

The husband asks for the bill. I ring it up for him and he pays it. He shakes his head.

"I'm sorry for the scene," he says quietly.

"What can I say? She likes animals," I reply.

The man smiles ruefully and leaves.

"That poor man," Takeout Lady says.

"Something tells me his wife loves her dog more than him," I reply.

"Well - you know what they call a female dog?" Takeout Lady asks grinning.

"Indeed I do madam," I chuckle

I hand the lady her order and wish her a nice day.

"Don't let this place go to the dogs," she laughs.

You ain't kidding," I reply.

Takeout Lady leaves. I turn back to my paper.

"Please God," I whisper, "no more lunatics today."

I hope He listens to me this time.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Holiday Weekend

Hi everyone.

I'm sorry for the lack of posts this week. I've been really busy. My brother is getting married and tonight I'm dragging him out for his bachelor party. Of course, I have to wait tables the next evening! Working hung-over? That'll be fun. Pass the aspirin.

I'll be in no condition to write anything until Monday. Don't worry – I have plenty of stories. Some funny stuff happened at the Bistro this week.

Have a Happy July 4th Weekend!

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