Sunday, June 19, 2005

Valerie, Ranch Dressing, and a Birthday

-Description of Valerie-

I introduced our GM Valerie in The Captain post. Here are some more details about Valerie.

Valerie was born in the Phillipines and is now in her late-20's. She is about 5'4'' and weighs about 165 lbs. She has short (chin-length), straight, thick dark hair, and she occasionally smokes UltraLite cigarettes (without inhaling). To best sum up her appearance, think of a Phillipina version of Monica Lewinsky.

In her youth, she was part of the upper echelon of Phillipino society. Growing up, she had servants dressing her and catering to her every need. In her late teens, Valerie got pregnant. According to her, it was her first time, and it was in a bathroom stall. Classy. She moved to America soon after she got pregnant. I don't know if she left in shame, if her parents kicked her out, or if she preferred Chicago's snowy, windy, cold-as-hell winters. In any case, Valerie was ready to take America by storm.

She landed a job as a pantry girl in the restaurant. She quickly became one of the GM's pet projects. She rocketed up the ladder, first moving horizontally from pantry girl to line cook to server, then moving vertically to Shift Supervisor, Assistant Manager, and then General Manager.

During her meteoric rise to the top, she developed a reputation as a hard-ass. She was given the nickname "Valerietnam" by one of our more clever, geographically-challenged servers.

Valerie is stingy, cheap, frugal, whatever you'd like to call it. She will do whatever it takes to make or save money, customer or associate be damned. This story is the best example of Valerie's thrifty ways.

-Valerie's Story-

Rewind to my second shift on the floor. I'm just out of training, and I'm allowed to take three tables at a time. It's a lunch shift, and our place is hopping. Our restuarant is located in an area with a lot of businesses and many of them spend their lunch hour at our establishment. Most don't tip incredibly well, but the volume and time constraint allows the servers to turn tables quickly.

As a new server, I have yet to find my rythym. I'm still making mistakes, and I'm hustling to try to keep up.

I get seated with a four-top. All women wearing trendy business casual, except for one who has donned a spiffy new blazer-skirt ensemble. I'll call her "Dressy."

I go through my spiel. They all order the same salad and waters with lemon. Dressy orders an extra rameken of ranch dressing.

I return to the computer and punch in their orders. I resume flying around, refilling drinks, clearing plates, running food, etc. The four-top's food comes up, and I deliver it with a smile. I have yet to make a mistake this shift, and life is good.

The women chow down. They only have a short amount of time to eat, so manners and etiquette take a back seat to ravenous hunger. I have to take a step back so I don't get hit with the lettuce shavings that fly out of the sides of their mouths. Seriously.

I am finally caught up with my tables, so I go in back to try to get to know the other servers better. They pretty much ignore me because I'm the new guy. They don't know if I'm going to make it yet, so they don't bother learning anything but my name. Hell, at this point I don't know if I'm going to make it yet, so I can't blame them.

I return to the floor and see that the women have polished off their salads. Another table's drinks are getting low, so I have to clear the women's plates quickly in order to get refills on time.

I notice that Dressy didn't touch her extra rameken of ranch. It's still sitting on the edge of her plate in the same spot. Oh well.

I stack up the three biz casual plates on my left arm and am going for Dressy's with my right. I feel the plates in my arm shift. Instinctively, I glance back to my left and pull my right hand over to help.

Unfortunately, I have Dressy's plate in my right hand. Fortunately, I miss her head by less that a milimeter. Unfortunately, the rameken of ranch flies off the plate.

Time slows to a crawl. Everything moves in slow-motion, and someone hit the mute button. I hear nothing, and everything in my field of vision blurs except the rameken. My entire being is focused on that extra dressing.

I see the rameken spinning end-over-end. The dressing is flying out in a widening spiral, splattering Dressy's blazer's back with line after line of creamy, oily dressing. Finally, the rameken hits the floor and bounces. It's still spinning, but nothing is coming out now. It's like someone is holding down the trigger of a machine gun when the clip empties. The chamber is still whirring and clicking, but nothing comes out.

Slowly the rameken spins to a stop, upright and empty. All three biz casual women look at Dressy in horror, mouths agape.

Life returns to regular speed and someone turns on the sound again. My first impulse is to run and hide. I regain my composure.

"Oh my goodness. Ma'am, I'm so sorry. I'm going to go grab something to clean you up, and I'll see if I can find my manager as well so we can take care of you."

As I turn to go, I hear one of the women comment, "Well, Happy Birthday, huh Mary? Ha ha!"

This stops me dead in my tracks. My mind does a quick situation recap. I've just spilled copious amounts of ranch dressing all over a lady's new business suit on her birthday. SHIT!

I book to the back.

"Valerie, you have to come out here quick!"

"What wrong?" She's testing the temperature of the soup kettle during the busiest part of the lunch rush.

When it's slow, she's preparing for Armegeddon. When it's busy, she performs tasks that have no bearing on the outcome of a shift. Outstanding.

"Ijustspilledranchalloverthisladyonherbirthday" The words spew out of my mouth.

This is the first (but not the last) time I've spilled on a customer. I don't know the exact procedure, but I'm sure it involves a manager visit to the table, endless apologies, ass-kissing, paying a cleaning bill, comping the food bill, and/or buying a new suit. Five years later, I know this is what should happen. However, Valerie has a different plan.

"Oh. Buy them a sundae" She turns back to her thermometer. The sundae bar is a unique feature in our restaurant. It costs $2 for a kid, $4 for an adult. You get a free one on your birthday, regardless of whether the server spills ranch dressing on you.

"Valerie, I can't go back out there and tell her that. I feel awful, I've ruined her suit. We need to pay her cleaning bill, not buy dessert for the table."

"Not for the table. For her. I busy."



Great. I go back to the table alone, armed with wet wipes and a plan. I'm not about to tell them that Dressy only gets a free dessert (one she's entitled to anyways) in exchange for my ruining her birthday.

"Ladies, your lunch is on us" I turn to Dressy, "Here is my manager's business card. Please send the cleaning bill to her. Again, I am so sorry about this."

The ladies nod, and then boogie as quickly as possible. They even leave me a $5 pity tip, which, to this day, I feel that I don't deserve.

I go to the back to tell Valerie what I've done.

"You stupid. I take employee discount off of their bill (50%), but if I get cleaning bill, you pay."

I am too emotionally drained to argue. After paying for half their bill, I end up walking out the door five dollars on the positive side.

I never got a cleaning bill, so either Valerie had a change of heart (doubtful) or Dressy wanted nothing more to do with our restaurant (likely). I never saw her or her friends again.

Today, I was the WORST SERVER EVER.


scoob717 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hey, you weren't the "worst server ever." Though I've never been spilled on while dining out, I can certainly understand how it could happen. I've dropped my fair share of plates in my own kitchen... You did an admirable thing by comping their meal and by offering the dry cleaning to be paid for by Valerie (shame on her for being so rude, too). By the way, I'm glad she got canned. I've just started reading your posts (yesterday, actually), and now I'm sad that I'm almost finished. I look forward to reading more.