Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Teacher and her Baby

-A Description of The Teacher-

The Teacher is in her early 30's. Medium height, medium-to-slender build. She has short dirty blonde hair and pale skin that turns red when she drinks. She always wears solid colored sleaveless shirts, white tennis shorts and strappy leather sandals. She is rather non-descript, and would blend in with most crowds.

I have only seen her at the restaurant during the summer, when our patio section (outside aka "dining al fresco") is open. She has a baby who is about 16 months old at the time of this story. The Teacher and her Baby are regulars that usually come in for lunch. She's very friendly, she tips well, and her Baby is well-behaved. Great customer, except that she drinks despite the fact that she's alone with her Baby.

I've seen her with her husband once, so I know he exists.

I know she is a teacher at a local high school because she taught one of our waitresses.

-The Teacher's Story-

I've just returned from school and I'm beginning my second summer at the restaurant. It is late May, and the weather thus far has been awful. Today, however, dawns sunny and warm.

I arrive at 10:30 and help set up the restaurant. At the shift meeting, Valerie informs me that I'll be taking the patio section. It's the first day the weather has cooperated, and I have a premonition that it will be busy.

I hate it when I'm right. The patio fills quickly, and I'm stuck running eight tables. For those of you not in the industry, a normal server station is limited to three to five tables.

Eight is borderline ridiculous, especially when we have to expo our tables' food, run our tables' food and get our tables' refills.

Eight on the patio is insane. The patio is the farthest section from the kitchen and the drink stations. Every time someone wants an extra side of dressing or mayo, I have to sprint through the entire restaurant to get to the kitchen. I'm good, but I doubt there are many servers who are good enough to handle this.

I spend the entire shift "in the weeds." It's 90 degrees outside and I'm sweating bullets. I can feel my boxers sticking to the inside of my thighs, and I know when I go home I'll need to shower twice to feel right again.

Three solid hours of this and the lunch crowd begins to thin. I am about to be cut and I can't wait to head home for those showers and a nap before I return to complete my double shift. Then The Teacher saunters in.

I know I'll have to take her. The late checks (two servers who take over the restaurant when the rush is over) still have full sections, and no one else is volunteering to stay.

I've had The Teacher once before, last summer. She tipped me well, so I remember her.

During her last visit, The Teacher drank several beers, even though she is solely responsible for transporting and caring for her Baby. She got a little tipsy, but she drank a couple glasses of water and sat for a while after her meal, letting the effects of the alcohol subside.

(Quick side note- It is illegal for us to refuse alcohol to anyone of sound mind who is of legal drinking age. If a pregnant lady walks in the door and orders three fingers of scotch, the bartender has to pour away. Otherwise, the pregnant lady can sue us for discrimination. I love this litigious society in which we live.)

The Teacher is seated, and the baby is resting comfortably in a car seat/carrier combo.

"Hello, Ma'am. May I start you off your usual draft?"

"Yes, but could I have the larger glass? I'm really thirsty." She wants 20 oz. rather than 12. Not an unusual request. But the Baby...

"Of course. Would you like your usual salad?"

"Yes, I can't believe you remembered! I haven't been here in months!"

I wink. "We'll ma'am, I'm good at what I do, and customers are important to us. Your food should be ready in ten to fifteen minutes, and I'll have your drink to you in a jiffy." I'm such a kiss-ass.

I ring in her order, walk to the bar to retrieve her beer, and walk out the door, squinting to block out the blazing sun. I deliver her beer and begin my side work.

As I'm rolling silverware, my Server Sense goes off. It's been less than five minutes since I dropped off her drink, her food won't be ready for at least another five, but something seems amiss. I peak outside and see that she has pounded her beer like a fratboy on a bender. The foam is still clinging to the side of the glass.

"May I get you another?" Geez, it's hot out here.

"Please. I was really thirsty." She's sheepish, almost embarassed.

No worries. Two beers isn't that much. But the Baby...

I bring her another beer and go to check on her salad. The chicken is cooked, the salad is prepped. I add a breadstick and a dressing and her food is ready.

I bring it out to her and notice that her beer is only a quarter full.

"So hot today. May I have another?"

I'm starting to look for clues as to her state of drunkeness. She seems fine, no slurred words, glassy eyes, or loud voice. But I know from experience that on a hot day, those first couple drinks may go down easy but the alcohol will eventually hit you like a ton of bricks.

The Teacher seems OK. I'll bring her another beer, but I'll watch her closely. But the Baby...

She's gently rocking the Baby in its carrier as I return. I set the beer down and inquire about her food, which she's plowed into, full-steam.

She pauses, fork halfway to her mouth.

"Waiter, the sthallad is deliciousth!"

Awww SHIT! She's hammered. And I just placed a full beer in front of her. Time for damage control.

I immediately fill up her water glass and bring her another breadstick. I run to the back in search of a manager. Valerie is cashing out the other servers in the office.

"Valerie, there's a lady on the patio. She's getting pretty buzzed and she has a baby with her. She was fine and then all of a sudden WHAM!"

Valerie may be heartless when it comes to the well-being of most customers, but as a single mom, she has highly-honed maternal instincts.

"Cut her off. No more."

"Will do. I'll try to slow things down so she has time to sober up."

"Go." Such a great conversationalist, our Valerie.

I grab the water pitcher and start back towards the patio to refill The Teacher's glass. The scene unfolding in front of me stops me dead in my tracks. "Deer in headlights" doesn't do justice.

The Teacher has finished her salad and pushed it to the side. In its place, the Baby squirms in The Teacher's arms. The Teacher is changing the baby's diaper on the table. Where people eat. In the same spot where she was eating moments before.

Frozen in horror in the middle of the dining room, I've attracted the attention of the late checks, Deedee and Rena. They join me and we all stare out the window.

Deedee, our resident middle-aged alcoholic waitress, is the first to speak. "What the hell is she doing?" she asks calmly in her trailer park drawl.

"Changing her kid. Thank God this place is empty." Rena is half-laughing, half-gagging at the spectacle unfolding.

"I know there's a changing station in the men's room. Isn't there one in the women's?" I have to ask to make sure.

"Sure is. Must be an issue of convenience." Deedee shrugs and heads to the back. I turn to look at her go and I notice her swaying slightly. She's been hitting the flask that she keeps hidden in the bowels of her apron. Whatever gets you through the day.

I turn back, ready to tell The Teacher that she has to move to the changing station. She's already finished, and -uh oh- she's opening the door that leads inside of the restaurant, carrying the bundled diaper. She walks directly up to me and thrusts the diaper in my hands.

I'm too shocked to move. I can only stare dumbly at the disposable diaper in my hand as the smell of baby shit permeates the air, assaulting my olfactory sense.

"Take care of thisth for me pleezzzth." She turns around and walks back outside. My mind shuts off. I vaguely comprehend that I'm standing in the dining room at work, sweating like a pig and holding a diaper. For some reason, the fact that the diaper is warm piercess the haze. It's my only lucid thought.

I hear howling laughter. Rena and Deedee are holding onto the sides of the kitchen door to keep from falling on the floor. Rena is wiping tears out of her eyes.

I break out of my trance and find the nearest trash can. I dump the diaper and fight down the urge to vomit.

I find the nearest sink and scrub my hands like an obsessive-compulsive sanitation freak. They are pink, raw, and nearly bleeding when I feel clean again. I dry off with a paper towel and head back to battle.


The Teacher has another full beer in front of her!

"Deedee! Did you give that lady another beer?"

"Not me, man."


"Don't look at me."

That left the bartender, Darren.

"Darren, did you give that lady another beer?"

"Yeah. Where were you? She said she couldn't find you, so she came to me. Tipped me five bones too. Snooze you lose."

"Darren, Valerie cut her off! She can barely stand, and you gave her another beer!" I'm pissed.

"Hey, man, I didn't know. Sorry." Darren smokes enough pot to keep a small Central American drug cartel financially stable. He's pretty much unflappable, and very little concerns him. He shrugs and walks away.

I don't blame Darren. He had no way of knowing. Except that The Teacher could barely stand on her own. Asshole.

In life, as in serving, you have to clean up your own messes. Resigned to my fate, I walk back outside. I spend the next three hours sitting down and talking with The Teacher as she slowly sobers up. I make sure The Teacher always has a full glass of water, the baby is comfortable, and that all future diaper changes occur in the changing station in the women's room. I even help The Teacher open a jar of baby food. Can't tell which smelled worse, the diaper or the pureed carrots, peas, and peaches. Pretty much the same, I guess.

I'm sweating the whole time I'm out there. My shirt is completely pitted out and my boxers cling to me like a heavy, stinky, wet second skin.

Eventually, The Teacher is sober enough to drive. She pays her bill, tipping me handsomely.

She's embarassed, but I smooth things over. I apologize profusely for overserving her. I let her know that it was my fault, and that we want her to come back soon. She'll be back often, but she'll never repeat today's performance.

Finally, her SUV pulls out of the parking lot and I have time to take stock of the situation.

I hate that I'm leaving as the PM servers are coming in.
I hate that I smell like an old shoe.
I really hate the fact that I have to be back in an hour to complete my double shift.
Worst of all, I hate the fact that it's my own fault that I'm in this condition.

However, this shift's experience was the BEST BIRTH CONTROL EVER. If I never touch another dirty diaper again, that'd be just peachy with me.


shrimplate said...

Great story. I stumbled across you when I was reading the comments over at Waiter Rant.

Keep blogging!

The Server said...

Thank you thank you thank you! You're the second non-family member/close personal friend that has read Server Stories. Tell your friends!

Miss Sara said...

We're out here, The Server... and we're watching you...
Great story. I, too, found you from Waiter Rant.

SierraBella said...

Oh no- you're becoming awfully popular now!
Remember, I was your first non-family member...
Great stuff!

The Server said...

I will remember, and I will be forever greatful, sierrabella. You, shrimplate, and miss sara are my favorite (albeit "only") customers. I have a story to write today, so hopefully I'll have something up by noon central time. Thank you all! I'm so happy that I have readers, I'm fighting back tears over here!

parental unit said...

A trip to the laundromat used to remind your Dad and I that we weren't ready to start our family...this story adds yet another dimension to various methods of birth control...love you and love your writing, baby boy. you make us proud:)

Dark Druid said...

Reminds me of the time in college in India..no running away was involved though..promise :-)

\\m/ \\m/

Good blog!!

solargalaxy_6 said...

Great story, I'm glad to hear that telephone operators aren't the only people getting the weird, but nice, drunk people.

I too found you from Waiter Rant.

Anonymous said...

Hey I just wrote you and gave kudos-

In defense of mums who drink at lunch with said baby, alone or with other mamas-
Some of us are responsible. And i have never ever seen a mom, even one who was perhaps, slightly tipsy, not slurring though [slurring is uncool anytime] change her child on the table!!! Out in public perhaps, but discreetly but not, certainly not, on a table in a restaurant.
Don't let it put you off kids though! ;-)
I never wanted a child and it was the best and most fun thing I ever did- Talk about living life to the fullest!
But yeah, wait til you are really ready and ya got the right gal!

It'sJustMe said...

Another great post, Server! Just working in a restuarant where children frequent was enough birth control for me.

Quick funny tidbit:
Graduation from elementary school and middle school were a big deal in the affluent suburb of my restuarant. So on one Thursday in June we packed all through the morning shift with parties filled with overindulgent parents and their spoiled kids.

I think it was overcast that day so the patio just happened to be empty. Hands full of dirty dishes, I was walking through the far cafe (which, of course, has only large glass windows separating it from the patio) when I happened to glance outside. There was a small boy, probably age 5 or 6, who had dropped his pants and was peeing (or at least attempting to) in a bush on the edge of the patio.

I stopped in my tracks, and gaped open-mouth, along with the 24 occupied tables sitting next to the patio, as this little boy took a whiz all over the cement blocks and railing outside.

Shocked, I couldn't even react. I watched him return inside and sit down next to his mother at the table right NEXT TO THE RESTROOM. She was about the only one who didn't seem shocked by his behavior. What kind of parenting is going on these days?

Keep the great stories coming! I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to add a link on my blog to your site. (I don't get anywhere near as much traffic as waiterrant, though.)