A lot of servers abuse a substance or two. I'd estimate that 80% smoke., 99% drink heavily, and 60% smoke pot. This story involves the (ab)use of marijuana. In this case, the servers eat a "bud brownie". For more information, go here.
-A Description of The Animated Server and The Hippie-
The Animated Server is in her mid-20's. She stands around 5'5'' and is a bit overweight. She has dirty blonde hair that hangs 3/4 of the way down her back. The Animated Server tends to get flustered easily. It's hilarious to behold. Her voice gets loud, and she flails her arms, which can be dangerous in the close quarters of the kitchen.
The Hippie is in her early 20's. She is about 5'4" and incredibly skinny. Recovering-anorexic skinny, in fact. She has long, super-straight brown hair that falls past her ass. She also has big blue eyes that take in the wonders of the world with a dazed expression. I call her The Hippie for two reasons. One, she gives off a faint odor of pachouli. Two, she appears to suffer permanently from the effects of marijuana. Case in point... a table visiting from Scotland ordered 10 of our desserts to go. Unfortunately, we did not have enough cheesecake to sell to them. We were debating how to best handle the situation when The Hippie chimes in, "Just tell them 'G'day mate!'" in her sing-song voice. She was dead serious.
-Hash Brownies on a Sunday-
It's the calm before the storm on a Sunday night. Sunday nights are hit or miss at The Restaurant.
Servers either come prepared for a busy night or mope in expecting to walk through a ghost town. In either case, the results are entertaining.
On a slow night, the servers who came prepared need to find outlets for their pent up energy. Practical jokes abound.
On a busy night, the servers who came in expecting little business fall behind and rarely catch up. This is always fun to watch.
I should mention that we have a magician on retainer for Sunday nights. He comes in from 6-8. Lately, during that time period, The Restaurant has been filled with children. The magician does card tricks, makes balloon animals, and has a short stand-up routine that he repeats at least 20 times every week. Makes for a festive atmosphere.
I'm standing at the bar talking to the magician while he eats his salmon. He's one of the first people I've met that's following this new diet that allows you to eat anything you want, as long as it isn't bread or pasta. Sounds hokey to me, but he swears by it.
Engrossed in a conversation about "carbs" and calories, I almost didn't notice The Animated Server and The Hippie. They are huddled in a corner of the waiting area, whispering excitedly in hushed tones. My curiosity piqued, I decide to investigate.
"What's up, ladies?" I plunk down beside The Animated Server.
She looks around furtively. "Can you keep a secret?"
Probably not but, "Sure. What's going on?"
"The Hippie made a bunch of hash brownies. We just ate one each." She giggles like a schoolgirl.
"You did what?!! What if we get busy?" I know some servers, including The Hippie, can work high as a kite. I also know that marijuana that has been baked is more potent than marijuana that is smoked. (I did a 30-page research paper on marijuana my junior year of college. Seriously. It took me two months. Bane of my existence.)
"Relax, man. I work like this all the time. It's not even going to be busy tonight." The Hippie looks around, bored, as she licks her fingers. Now I know they're screwed.
I'm not overly superstitious, but when it comes to The Restaurant, I've come to realize that there is one absolute. If someone says it's going to be busy, it's slow. If someone says it's going to be slow, it's a mad house.
No sooner have those words left her mouth when a party of 10 walks in the door. Here we go...
Half an hour later I'm struggling to stay out of the weeds. The 10-top is demanding, and there are four "chuggers" at the table. I'm sweating bullets.
Flying into the sidestation to refill another pitcher of iced tea, I see The Animated server staring at the computer. She's idly tapping her pen on top of the monitor. Her eyes are getting red, and she seems to be looking through the computer. Oh shit.
"Hey! You OK?" She jumps a little.
"Yeah. Brownie is kicking in. I'll be fine." She turns back to the screen, types in her order, and disappears around the corner. I follow her out, dodging children running amok in the aisles.
I refill the 10-top's drinks and head back to the sidestation to catch my breath. I peak around the corner to check on The Animated Server. She's taking an entree order from a duece sitting in a booth less than ten feet from my vantage point. I want to hear how well she's holding it together.
"What can I get for you folks tonight?" The woman on the left orders a grilled chicken sandwich. She turns to the man on the right. So far, so good.
"And for you, sir?" He orders a burger. Rare. Brave man. Uh oh... why is she turning back to the woman?
"And for you ma'am?" The woman looks confused for a moment.
"You, uh, already took my order?" It sounds like a question. Another time, this would be comical. But there's an hour wait at the door and all the servers are hustling. I know we'll be in it deep if a server wigs out.
Now it's The Animated Server's turn to look confused. She looks at the woman for a moment, then looks down at her pad.
"Oh, of course. I... meant to ask if fries were ok?" Not a bad recovery. The woman seems satisfied. The Animated Server walks back to the sidestation.
"Are you going to make it?" I will kill her if she says 'no'.
"I'll be fine. Just don't talk to me!" She's sweating and her eyes are completely bloodshot.
"You sure as hell don't look fine! No bullshit. Can you make it?" I have to know if I need to be ready to take over her section.
"YES! Now go away, you're bothering me." That's good enough for me.
I relax a bit. If The Animated Server is ok, then The Hippie (who works high 'all the time') must be ok, right?
I head to a new table in my section. I fly through my spiel, take down their drink order, and head to the nearest computer. On my way there, one of The Hippie's customers grabs me.
"Excuse me, could I please have another lemonade?" He's friendly, so I don't shoot him a nasty look for tugging on my sleeve.
"Of course, sir. I'll be right back with that."
I scan the restaurant, looking for The Hippie. She's MIA. The other tables in her section are beginning to look around. They are mildly curious as to the whereabouts of their server. They aren't pissed... yet.
I can tell she's been gone for about ten minutes. Drinks need to be refilled, plates need to be cleared. It's not a serious situation, but it will be if I don't find her soon. I have to find her, now.
I run into Rena. She's on her way out of the kitchen, arms loaded with steaming dishes.
"Have you seen The Hippie?"
She turns her head and answers without slowing. "Not for a while."
Oh boy. I make a quick round, asking everyone if they've seen The Hippie. No one has seen her for at least fifteen minutes. I search high and low to no avail. Time for a decision.
Should I find a manager? If I do, will The Hippie get canned? Yes, and yes....
Can I take The Hippie's Section by myself? Heck no...
I know The Hippie struggles to make rent every month. I also know that my tip percentage has been declining steadily since I began my search. I don't want to get her in trouble, yet I'm pissed. Why does this kind of stuff always happen to me?
Luckily, Rena provides a solution.
"Did you find The Hippie? If you see her, tell her I printed a check for 121." She turns to go.
"Wait! You know her number?" All servers are assigned a number. This number allows us to clock in, open checks, close checks, run credit cards, etc. If we have her number, we can finish off her tables...
"Yeah... it's Four Twenty." Rena giggles at this. Apparently in the pot culture, 4:20 has some sort of significance. How fitting.
"Great. She's gone. Can't find her anywhere. We have to take her section. You take 121 and 122. I'll take 131 and 132. Finish these tables with her number, then everything from then on is yours. Cool?" Rena agrees and we're off to the races.
An hour and a half later, the rush eases. The servers are seated at a table in the back, rolling silverware.
The Animated Server made it through the shift, performing like a champ. She is now enjoying her buzz, laughing easily while stacking neatly rolled spheres of knives, forks, and napkins in a growing mountain on the table.
The group is in good spirits. We faced a minor crisis, but with a little hard work and teamwork, we came out ahead.
We don't know where The Hippie is, but she better show up soon. She has to cash out.
Up until now, the manager on duty hasn't noticed her dissappearance. This won't last forever. (This may seem odd to anyone who hasn't worked in the industry, so I'll explain. Some managers in chain restaurants are the type of people who have difficulty finding clothes that match. This particular manager has difficulty tying his shoes. I'm guessing that he probably employs the "bunny ears" method. In other words, the man isn't too bright. The idea that someone has enough confidence in this person to let them run an entire restaurant is, at best, laughable.)
For the second time, lady luck swoops in to save the day. A customer approaches our group.
"Excuse me? My mother needs to use the handicapped stall in the ladies room, but it's been occupied for quite some time... could one of you check and see if everything is OK?"
All of the female servers book to the bathroom, startling a nearby table. Thirty seconds later, they are pulling a scared-looking Hippie out of the restroom.
"What they hell happened?" Everyone wants to know.
The Hippie looks around. "I tweaked out, man. I locked myself in. I couldn't handle it anymore."
She looks at me. "They told me you helped. Thank you."
Not wanting to lecture her, I respond, "No problem. You OK?"
"Yeah, but I'm gonna need to smoke a fatty to calm down after this." She shakes her head slowly before taking her book and her closed checks to the back to cash out.
If any of you readers ever wonder, "What happened to my server? I haven't seen him/her in like fifteen minutes!" Well... now you know.