Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Drunken Irishman

-A Description of The Drunken Irishman-

The Drunken Irishman (who I'll call Irish from now on) stands 5'9'' and weighs about 180 lbs. Most of it is baby fat. He has sandy hair, which is 'styled' bi-monthly at Supercuts. His complexion is ruddy. His cheeks and nose seem perpetually red from the burst capillaries. He is in his mid-20's.

Irish mumbles and stutters, which is not a good combo when trying to chit chat with customers. This can get him into trouble sometimes.

Irish drunks too much, but nobody seems to mind. He's a friendly drunk.

This story is about a shift and the beginning of a night out with The Drunken Irishman.

-The Drunken Irishman-

I've been working at The Restaurant for a few weeks now. I'm learning the ropes, and my tip percentage is rising steadily. Running four tables is a breeze.

I'm even starting to become familiar with some of the oft-used (but never under-appreciated) jokes that servers use to banter with their tables when we're in a hurry. For example: "You didn't care much for your dish, sir?" when the customer has all but licked the plate. I'm starting to enjoy this job.

I walk into The Restaurant for a Saturday night shift. I'm pumped. Weekend nights are electric. The bar is busy, sections are full, and almost the entire staff is scheduled. It's always a good time.

Walking in the back, I notice a group of people hanging out by the pin-up board. Normally, this board contains notes from people looking to pick up or give up shifts, a list of the 86'd items, and any other random pieces of info that Valerie thinks important.

Today, a shopper report hangs on the wall. For those of you not in the know, let me enlighten you on shopper reports....

Restaurants, especially corporate-owned restaurants, use shopper reports to grade service. A shopper service recruits people to go out and eat at restaurants and then grade the server. If a server follows the cookie-cutter 10 steps of service, they will score well.

(I hate shopper reports. In my humble opinion, the scores do not represent the true ability a server has to make the guest enjoy their dining experience. This is worthy of an entire post, so I'll get into this another day.)

This server scored a 67%. Horrendous.

"Ouch. Can someone get in trouble for that?" I ask.

"Yup. You can get your ass fired for that." The Hippie is examining the report, idly munching on organic carrots.

"For what?" Irish walks into the back, looking harrassed. Then again, he always looks harassed.

"Low shopper scores."

"No you can't! If that was true, I'd have been fired after my first night. I got a 35."

Now Irish has a crowd. Taking pains to speak slowly and clearly, he explains. He was so poorly trained that he barely knew how to clock in for his first shift, which happened to be on a Saturday, our busiest night of the week. He had never waited a table before in his life, but he was given a four table section. He didn't know the menu, the computer, or the steps of service. Murphy's Law: Irish got shopped his first night on the floor.

"How did you manage to get 35?" If he knew nothing, I'm wondering if he got points for saying his name correctly.

"Oh, it wasn't me. They liked the food." This gets a laugh from the servers.

"Shows you how much shoppers know. Our food is crap." This from one of the veteran servers. I can't say that I disagree.

Valerie comes around the corner.

"ShiiiiiiIIIIIIFT!" It doesn't matter that we're all standing within five feet. Valerie always screams like a banshee when announcing the shift meeting.

Ten minutes later, after a scathing assesment of our serving abilities, Valerie sends us out to the floor. I see that I've already been sat, so I head to the table. As I'm launching into my spiel, the hostess double seats me. Great. It's going to be that kind of night.

Two hours later The Restaurant is hopping. I'm in the groove. All my jokes, even the bad ones, are working. My tables love me, and all my tips are over 20%.

I'm restocking glasses in a side station when Irish comes in to refill a soft drink.

"How you doing tonight?" I ask.

"Not so good. That shift meeting killed my good mood."

"Well, looks like your night is about to get better." I nod to one of the round 8 tops in Irish's section, which is getting sat with a party of 7. "Try ID'ing the older lady if she asks for a drink. Old folks love that." The 70-something looks like she could use a drink. The grandkids are rambunctious.

"Oh yeah? I haven't done that before, but I'll give it a try." Irish runs his drink and heads to greet his table. All my tables are happy, so I stick around to hear his delivery.

"Hi folks how are you doing? My name is Irish and I'll be taking care of you this evening." He rattles off the specials. "Can I start you folks off with something to drink?"

Turns out that everyone (with the exception of the little ones) is drinking. Finally, Irish gets to the 70-something.

"And for you miss?" I love that he used 'miss.' It's a good lead-in. They're going to love this if he can pull it off.

"Pinot Grigio, please."

I lean forward in anticipation. I love the sound of a table laughing.

"Of course. And I know I don't need to see your ID."

Dead silence from the table. Irish realizes that he's completely blown it. He's turning all shades of red, and he's starting to shake. He tries to backtrack.

"What I mean is.... I was going to ask to see your ID, cause... I mean, can I see your ID? No, just kidding...." I'm reminded of Tommy Boy. ("Your brain's the one with... shell on it")

The 70-something is staring at Irish to see if he's serious. The lady's son looks at Irish with pity. I bet he's wondering if Irish left his helmet on the short bus.

Irish beats a hasty retreat to the bar. I follow.

"So, uh, that didn't go so well, huh?" I'm trying to console Irish, but inside I'm laughing my ass off.

"No. This shift is worthless. How about going to the bar after this?" He's still beet red. I feel bad for him.

"Of course. We're going across the street. Hopefully we can catch the end of the Cubs game." Irish is a big Sammy Sosa fan. (mind you, this is pre-steroid scandal baseball) The Cubbies are playing the Cardinals in St. Louis. They're vying for the division lead.

"Great. Now excuse me, I'm going to try to save my tip."

He walks back to the table with a full tray of drinks.

He scoots in between his table and another 8-top. He places a drink down. As he straightens back up, a man at the other table finishes a story he is telling with a flourish. His arm flies back, slamming into Irish's tray. The tray tips, spilling the drinks all over the table.

The man telling the story glances back at Irish, then quickly turns back to his table. He says nothing. Irish looks back at the man, anger flashing in his eyes. He turns back to the table.

"I can't believe that guy just did that! I'll be right back with a new round and a towel." Irish turns to leave.

"What guy?" The son asks angrily.

I don't believe it. The son missed the whole thing. Looking around at the table, I can see that the rest of the party missed it as well. Irish looks around helplessly. His eyes lock onto mine. I smile and shrug. What can you do when Murphy's Law is in effect?


After a long night, the shift is finally over. We head to the bar.

We sit down and order beers. Pint of Bass for me, schooner of Miller Lite for Irish.

"How about some shots? I need to forget tonight." Irish is looking haggard. I'll help the best I can.

"Burning Turkeys?" Nothing will make you forget your troubles like Wild Turkey and tabasco.

The bartender sets down our shots and heads to the taps. I look up at the big screen TV. The Cubbies are clinging to a two run lead in the bottom of the ninth. They've brought in Antonio Alfonseca. While I know that he's twice the man I am (24 digits, 6 fingers on each hand, six toes on each foot), I also know that he's a rotten closer. He's in a precarious situation. Two men on, two outs, with the Cardinals slugger up to bat.

"To the Cubs!" says Irish, holding his shot glass up. I pick mine up, clink Irish's glass, and we down our shots. Immediately the burn sets in. The bartender was generous with the tabasco. She sets down my beer. I down half of it in two gulps to try to ease the burn. Irish looks for his beer.

"We're changing the keg, hon. It'll be just a sec." She saunters away. Irish is in pain. He's madly brushing his tongue with his hands. Just then, a groan arises from the bar patrons. Looking back at the screen, I catch the ball leaving Busch stadium. Great.

I look back at Irish. He looks downright miserable. He lives and dies with the Cubs. He's just seen his club blow a two run lead, his mouth is on fire, and it will be a few more minutes before he can get his beer to put out the flames. On top of that, he's had a rough night on the floor. Rotten night for Irish all around. Murphy's Law.


Anonymous said...

2 in one week! I feel so lucky I may just have to buy a lottery ticket!!

cassafrass said...

ouch. all you need to top that off is the fact that the 7-top included a secret shopper. i think thats about the only thing that could make that night any worse.

Becky said...

Wow! May I suggest having your fire-hydrant-beer-glass before taking the burning shots? Easy for me to say but the night sounds like a learning experience for Irish. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger...right?

Becca said...

That failed joke just made my co-worker from Venezuela think I was laughing at his accent! Poooor guy.

Ranter said...

Oh, what a bummer. I hope Irish didn't take it too badly or take any of that angst home with him. Sometimes whatever can go wrong will, but then the next day could be fantastic. Today was one of those days for me!