Thursday, August 10, 2006

Soldato's Last Stand

-Preface I-

Please read about Soldato before you read this post.

There are times when you have to take a stand. The breaking point varies from person to person. Some folks fly off the handle if someone bumps into them on a busy street. Other folks refuse to react if they get slapped in the face.

Soldato is one of those with a nasty temper. He'll throw down without hesitation for little or no reason. However, to this day I still believe that he held on longer than most normal waiters could have... this story is about Soldato's last day at The Restaurant.

-Preface II-

Spring is turning into summer. It's warm outside, and we've opened the patio for The Restaurant.

In the midwest, we get excited for the summer. It means we can shed layer upon layer of clothing. It means we can get ready to leave the house in under ten minutes. And, most importantly, it means that we can once again see beautiful women prancing around in sundresses.

It's only been two months since Valerie was unceremoniously kicked to the curb, and already The Restaurant is beginning to turn around.

As servers, we notice the little things these new managers do differently. Encouragement and aknowledgement of effort are nice changes. Morale is higher than it has been in a long time.

The most refreshing change is that these new managers are less likely to give up a free meal to a scammer. Now don't get me wrong here. They will try to satisfy the customers if there is an issue. The difference is that they handle it fairly.

They won't throw freebies to people who don't deserve it. At the other end of the spectrum, they won't try to weasel out of a problem by offering the minimum solution. Valerie's solutions were akin to either applying a band-aid to a gaping head wound or fixing a crack in the sidewalk in front of a dilapitated shack. These new managers decide what's fairest to the customer, The Restaurant, and the server. They make a decision and then stand behind it.

The new management team has also made some great personnel moves. They canned The Deaf Server, the Hippie, and The Penguin. They brought in two intelligent, experienced servers, as well as one extremely eager newbie. They also dropped three quarters of the hostesses, and then hired a couple of cute high school honor students to pick up the slack. The IQ of the restaurant has tripled.

The only problem with the new staff is their availability. We're running short several servers each shift, and the new managers refuse to allow anyone more than the four tables allotted by Corporate. This is fine for people who can't handle a lot going on at once. But for people like Soldato, who's been in the business for 15 years, this makes for some boring shifts.

Despite this one setback, the Old Guard (The Woman, Soldato, Rena, and I) agree; this is the smoothest The Restaurant has run in a long time. We're making money, we're having fun during shifts, and we don't have to cow-tow to horrible customers.

-Soldato's Last Stand-

We're in the middle of a lunch rush. I have the patio and I'm running back and forth from the kitchen. I'm sweating likeFloyd Landis before a drug test. I look over at Soldato, lounging against the wall of the side station, checking out the soccer moms sipping Arnold Palmers at the table nearest the door. Even though I'm waiting on the soccer moms, I'm jealous.

Soldato has an easy four booth section. He can handle four booths in his sleep, so he has ample time to think about what he could be doing with four housewives in a minivan.

A quick glance at the host stand gives me pause. There is a wait. At lunch. Uh-oh. This is a big no-no in the restaurant business. For the most part, our lunch clientele is comprised of business folks hailing one of the numerous office parks surrounding The Restaurant. They want their food and service fast. It's hard enough to squeeze a casual dining lunch into a 45 minute lunch break. It becomes damn near impossible if you have to wait for ten minutes at the door.

One of the new hostesses is on, and she's not handling her first heavy rush well. She's looking around helplessly as people crowd the entryway. She looks like a baby calf separated from a herd of wildebeast, about to be mauled by a pack of ravenous lions. I have time to wonder, 'Is 'pack' the right word for a grouping of lions? I think it's actually supposed to be something else...'.

I snap back to reality when I see the hostess take a half-step back from her post. She's showing weakness, and the group of people storming the host stand smell blood. She needs help.

My hands are full, so I'm powerless. I look back at Soldato.

"Hey!" I hiss at him.

"What?!! I'm busy here!" He turns from the window to stare me down.

"Dude, go help her. She's gonna drown." I nod towards the hostess. Her mouth is now open and her eyes are wide as saucers as she looks over the chattering mob in front of her. They're inching forward, moving in for the kill.

"Ah hell." He loosens his collar and stalks towards the host stand.

"Give her some room people. She needs air. I said STAND BACK!!!" Soldato can be intimidating. Years of smoking Cowboy Killers has made Soldato's voice deep and raspy. He also talks with his hands. The louder he gets, the more grandiose his arm motions become. Right now he's yelling, and his arms are pinwheeling. I'm reminded of those little windvanes, the ones where the arms spin in high wind.

I love watching an angry little Italian screaming and waving his arms. But while I find it hilarious, some folks find it intimidating. He scares most of the people away from the hostess. They soon sit quietly in the waiting area, hands folded in their laps. The hostess looks up at him, the tears that were welling in her eyes now dive back from whence they came. My hero.

There is only one person still hovering. It is a man in his mid thirties. He's a squirrelly-looking fellow. Wire rim glasses, pleather jacket, mousy brown hair. Shorter than Soldato by about half a foot, he exudes Napolean Complex. He's with an older woman that I can only assume is his mother.

I can practically smell the Drakkar. I can almost hear what I assume to be a whiny, nasal voice. Figuring Soldato can handle a guy who looks like Paul's (from The Wonder Years) older brother, I put on my best fake smile and head out to refill the soccer moms' teas.

"Hello ladies, how is everything today?" I stretch my smile as wide as it'll go. The ladies smile back.

The waitresses get to flirt for big tips all the time. I relish the opportunity when I get a chance. Doesn't mean I'm good at it, but it's fun all the same.

When I turn around to head back inside, I hear them giggling behind me. My flirtation is paying off.... or I sat in something and they're laughing at me. Either way, they're happy. Happy people=bigger tips= a happier Server. Life is good.

Opening the door that leads back into The Restaurant, I am stunned to see Soldato still at the host stand. Paul's older brother (POB from now on) has more spunk than I though.

They're still arguing. Soldato is trying to keep his cool, but I can tell he's starting to break. His hands are clenched into fists underneath the host stand, and I can see his pulse pounding through a throbbing, angry-looking vein protruding from his neck.

The little hostess has backed completely into the wall, looking for all the world as if she wants to just melt into it. Not good.

Worse, the regional manager, Karl, has decided to make a lunch shift visit. Karl is a metrosexual. Not a single strand of his closely-cropped hair falls out of place, as usual. His $200 pastel shirt matches perfectly his tailored trousers. His shoes are polished to a high shine. His persona screams "Look at me! I'm important! I'm carrying a laptop in this ridiculous-looking bag slung over my shoulder! I am personally responsible for the well-being of every Restaurant in this state and a half of the neighboring state! Adore me, my children!" Comical really.

Unfortunately, Karl is just about the only person from the Corporate Office of The Restaurant that can fire you on the spot. Even our GM is supposed to consult someone before he can tell a server to hit the road. Karl can toss you on a whim. And if it makes him feel important enough, or look good enough, he'll do it without hesitation.

Karl immediately takes an interest in the scene unfolding in front of him.

POB is leaning into Soldato, his nose inches away from Soldato's chin.

"Why can't we sit down now? My mother is old, standing around like this is bad for her back. I demand that we be seated NOW!" Soldato is steaming. I can see he's itching to shut this guy up.

Soldato gathers himself, takes a deep breath, exhales. "Sir, like I already explained to you... We are on a wait. I know there are unoccupied tables throughout the restaurant, but we are are not allowed to wait on more than four tables at a time. Our corporate office believes that we can't provide the level of service necessary to make you dining experience..."

"Screw that and screw you! My mother needs to sit..." Spit is flying out of POB's mouth as he chirps a mile a minute. He's standing so close to Soldato that I'm sure he's feeling spittle spray his cheeks.

Karl decides to help.

"Hello sir, my name is Karl and I'm the regional manager at The Restaurant. I'm sure we can make an exception for your mother's case. I'll arrange to have a table opened up for you."

"Thank you." POB is gloating now, "I knew that there had to be someone here with more brains than this stupid wop."

Oh, hell. Why did he have to go and say that? And why did Karl have to let this jerk sit down? He just let POB cut in front of about 10 people. Worse, he made threw Soldato under the bus. To top it off, Karl made Soldato prep the table.

I hurry over to help. I want to keep Soldato from boiling over. I pretend to straighten the table cloth while Soldato lays out the silverware.

"Keep cool," I whisper, "This asshole would like nothing better than for you to take a swing at him. He looks like the type that would sue."

"I don't give a shit. What the hell is Karl thinking, cutting my balls off like that in front of that douchebag?"

I agree, but...

"Just hold it together, I'll find someone to handle this table."

"Fuck this bullshit, I'm tired of this. Karl can fry in Hades for all I care. Sanctimonious bastard." Quite a vocabulary for a "stupid wop".

Soldato heads back to the host stand, grabs two menus and motions to POB and his mom.

"Please follow me, sir." His voice is calm, but that vein is still pulsing in his neck. I'm scared the pressure is going to cause it to burst. I don't want to clean up that mess.

The other patrons glare at POB as he passes by.

POB follows Soldato to table, grinning the whole way. Once there, POB sits down. He doesn't bother to pull out a chair for his "poor mother."

"Now, sir, if there's anything else you need," Soldato says, "please let me know."

"Oh, I will. Sorry about that wop comment earlier, I was just worried about my Mom. You know how it is, right?"

"Of course I do! You and your mother, you have a wonderful lunch." He pats POB on the shoulder and turns to leave.

POB looks at his shoulder, then looks at Soldato's departing back. He pushes back from the table and jumps up, the nerdiest-looking jack-in-the-box I've ever seen.

"HEY! Don't touch me! He touched me! Did you see that? He put his hands on me!" People are staring, most in disgust and surprise.

Soldato turns. "Sir, I..."

"What seems to be the problem, here?" Karl is back. His timing is as impeccable as his hair.

"He put his hands on me. Is that how you run your restaurant? What is this? All I wanted to do is take my mother out for a decent lunch, and now..." POB is working up a lather. Some folks will do anything to get a free meal.

"Please calm down sir," Karl puffs out his chest. Big Man. "Soldato, apologize to this man."

I'm reminded of the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High where Judge Reihold gets fired.

Karl should know better. He's met Soldato before. I wonder if Soldato will kick 100% of his ass.
Soldato looks ready to take a swing. To my surprise, he stops and smiles.

"No, I don't believe I will. You know what?"

He turns to POB. "Go fuck yourself."

To the man's mother, "I can't believe that piece of shit came out of you."

To Karl, "I quit. You can go to hell."

He takes off his apron, pulls out the change, hands me his open checks and turns to go. He gets a small cheer from the neighboring tables.

I think he's heading for the door when he makes a sudden left turn and plops down at the bar.

"A little service here, sweetheart!" He pounds a fist on the bar and pulls a bowl of snack mix in front of him.

The Woman is bartending. "You know servers can't sit at the bar." She laughs at him. "What are you doing?"

"I'm not a server here anymore. Shot and a beer, please!" He takes off his Restaurant logo polo shirt. He's got a stained wifebeater tee underneath. He lights up a Red. Classic.

"Seriously? What happened? Did you quit or get fired?" Fired employees aren't welcome back.

The ones that quit however... that's another story. In another brilliant stroke intended to improve customer service, The Restaurant is not allowed to refuse service unless someone is being disruptive or is drunk. Soldato is neither... yet.

Soldato spends the rest of the afternoon drinking at the bar. Karl fumes, but there's nothing he can do, technically.

Once Karl leaves, the staff heads over one by one to get a recap of the events leading up to Soldato's Last Stand. Soldato is happy to provide the details. He embellishes the story each time, until eventually I was holding him back from taking on both Karl and the POB (and probably the mother too).

He drinks himself stupid until close. The new GM comps his bill. Like I said, these guys were good folks.

We head over to the neighborhood bar for a nightcap. It's the whole crew, set to send Soldato out in a blaze of glory. Or at least, shots of tequila.

As we walk into the bar, we all stop dead. POB is sitting at the bar, trying to talk to some trashy-looking, disease-ridden, middle-aged bar fly.

He's drinking something with cranberry juice in it.

"Hey asshole!" Soldato yells, "You're in my seat."

POB looks up, ready for a fight. "Oh yeah?"

"That the best you can come up with? Jesus, I'm piss drunk and I could come up with better than that while I kick your ass all over this place. Actually, that ain't a bad idea..." He makes a move towards POB.

POB throws his hands up to cover his face. He overbalances his bar stool, and it falls over. He stumbles briefly, regains his footing, and books out the back door. I've never seen him there since.

We all sit down. We laugh and drink until 4 am. They turn us loose into the night.

Luckily, there's a row of cabs sitting out front. Soldato hops into the first one in the line. "I'm outta here. You guys have a good one." He closes his eyes and is asleep almost immediately. I poke my head in the front and give the cabbie directions and a $20 for the 3 minute drive.

I hate to say it... but I'm proud of Soldato. He didn't even take a swing at the guy. I know it killed him inside... just a little bit, it did. But he kept his cool and stayed out of the pokie. POB definitely would have pressed charges.

I'm not worried about Soldato. With his experience, he'll have another serving job by the end of the week. I'm gonna miss him at The Restaurant though. We all will.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Love it

I didn't know I was getting so (in)famous! I appreciate all the comments, even those intended to scathe, demoralize, or upset. I believe these give wonderful insight to true human nature.

I'm not dead. I haven't quit writing. I'm not trying to build suspense. The truth of the matter is that I've been working. Not in a restaurant, but at a large corporation. Unfortunately, this doesn't afford me the free time to write as often as before. In fact, I've had very little time to do anything besides eat, sleep, work, plan my wedding, and play summer baseball and softball.

I'll write again... check back once a month or so. In the meantime... let the comments, be they good, bad, or ugly, keep rolling in...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Story coming soon

Hi all,

I'm still writing. Just wanted to give you all a head's up to look through the archives for Soldato stories. This next post is going to be about the shift Soldato got canned. I promise it will be entertaining.

Additionally, I think it will spark a nice little discussion. I've noticed a lot of "waiter haters" posting in the comments section. While I disagree with most of their statements and believe that they represent all that is unholy and wrong with the world, I do enjoy the debates that ensue after they post.

Oh, and just for the record... a commenter recently noted that anyone with all their limbs and half a brain (or something to that effect) could wait tables. I take offense to that. I have an Ivy League education and I work a "normal" job at a major corporation throughout the week. Neither college nor my "normal" job was/is as challenging as learning how to make a living as a waiter.

I firmly believe that these "waiter haters" have never waited on a table. I also believe that they have yet to take that silver spoon from their mouth. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find that they have yet to do a single day of honest, hard work.

Ignorance is bliss.

Monday, March 27, 2006

NCAA Tourney and Everything Else

Sorry all. Not able to do a post this week due to the NCAA tourney.

Most folks love a little bit of drama. Almost everyone likes it when the Little Guy wins. Personally, I can't think of a sweeter sight than watching George Mason topple UConn in OT.

I wasn't able to tear myself away from the couch this weekend. Since my computer is nowhere near my couch, it was impossible to post a story.

However, next weekend I will be posting. I have two good stories in mind. I'm not sure which I'm going with yet. They're both entertaining.

I do want to talk about one little side bit that happened this weekend. The Woman and I went out to meet my parents for dinner on Sunday night. We went to an Italian chain restaurant. This place is a 30-second walk from The Restaurant.

All the servers from this joint used to come over and booze it up when I was the bartender at The Restaurant. They probably made a house payment or two for me.

Looking around, I only recognize one waiter. The rest of the staff had completely turned over in less than two years. Sad.

Our waiter isn't very good. He has little personality, does't know that refills are a good thing, and takes too long in between visits. He only has a three-table section. Inexcusable.

He spends a good portion of his time at the host stand bitching about something to his manager. Maybe he wanted to watch the tourney. Maybe he was pissed that he got a bad shopper report (although if he did, it was deserved). Who knows?

I turn to the woman at one point during dinner and ask her if she missed serving.

"I do." I can see the memories streaming behind slightly glazed eyes. "I don't miss having to rely on other people for my money, but I miss everything else."

She didn't elaborate on "everything else," but I knew what she meant. The other servers. The nights out after a rough shift. The little internal battles between the incompetent managers on power trips and the ingenious servers who were always one step away from their big break. Laughing with the fun tables. The excitement and non-stop madness of a busy weekend night. Putting a bad customer in their place (this doesn't happen often, but when it does, there's nothing sweeter). Seeing a regular walk in and wave to you. And much, much more.

Servers often say, "Everyone should have to wait tables for a month, just so they know how it is." I agree, but not for the same reasons. (Servers usually say this after they get a bad tip, or because they have just waited on one of the hefty number of folks believe that serving is a "low" lot in life.)

I believe that everyone should serve because they too should get to experience "everything else."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Judging Covers


After working in the industry for a while, most folks begin to develop a special ability. After watching a table walk in, sit down, and look at their menus, a server will be able to tell you what they will order, how long they will sit there, and what they will tip.

Today, if I were to walk into any restaurant, I could probably tell you what each table will tip within +/- 1%.

There are exceptions. This story is about those exceptions.

-Judging Covers-

It's a busy Saturday night at The Restaurant. I'm bartending. I've been doing this for about a year now, so I've got it down.

Friday nights and Saturday nights are the only two shifts when we staff 2 bartenders. We need it. We usually have a full bar, we're responsible for the service bar, and we have to take and prepare take-out orders. We're also responsible for two bar booths.

I'm working with The Woman, and we work well together. She handles the bar and the take-out orders while I take care of the service bar and the two bar booths.

The place is rockin. It's busy, noisy, and we're making mad money.

The bar booths have been turning over pretty well. At the moment, they're both getting bussed. I turn my attention to the service bar.

There are about ten chits that I need to make. I pull the string off the machine and take a look.


Three milkshakes (one chocolate, one strawberry, and one vanilla), two margaritas, one smoothie, one virgin daquiri, and several myriad something and somethings (Jack and Coke, 7 and 7, etc.).

Frozen drinks are a pain in the butt. Especially when we have three blenders, only two of which work properly. I have to plan this one out.

I throw 9 scoops of ice cream and some heavy cream into the blender. Punching the "start" button, I grab another blender and throw in some ice, sour mix, and bar strawberries and set that a-twirl.

Finally, I grab the mixer out of the dish tub and go to work on the margaritas. It takes me about 25 seconds to whip those up. I'm thankful that I am the sole bartender on Margarita Night. I put those up on the bar and start on the something and somethings.

Looking over, I see that the milkshakes are blended to the right consistency. I pour two into cups (vanilla-done!). I add some chocolate sauce into the other. I throw some bar strawberries into the third and put it back on the blender. I flash spindle the chocolate shake and it's good to go. I stop the blender and pour out the strawberry shake. Whip cream, whip cream, whip cream... ta-da!

As I go to work on the virgin daquiri/smoothie mix, I glance up and see that the two bar booths are bussed and getting sat. I have about two minutes... no problem.

I stop the blender, pour out half the mix into a teardrop glass. Adding a lime wheel garnish, the virgin daquiri is done. I add some more ice, some pineapple and apple juices, and half a banana. I throw it all back on the blender. I return to the something and somehings.

A minute later, I'm washing my hands and grabbing bev naps. I take stock of my tables as I make my way around the bar.

Table 1- Two middle-aged couples, nicely dressed. Expensive leather coats and flashy jewelry. The two ladies have enormous rocks on their fingers. Cha-ching! 20% on at least an $80 tab, over .

Table 2- A late-30's couple. Woman has on a shirt with a large picture of a cat's face. Man is wearing torn jeans. Both have the same hairstyle. Shoulder-length, unwashed, and stringy. Bummer. 10% on $20. Oh well.

When you get double-sat, the key is to treat two tables like one. I start off with drinks. Money table- 2 glasses of chardonnay, 2 expensive scotch and water. Poor table- water and an MGD.

Dinner order... Money table: 2 chicken and pasta dishes, 2 strip steaks. Poor table- chicken pot pie and cheeseburger.

Notice a pattern developing here?

The people in both groups are nice. Especially the couple. His name is Ron. He works as a mechanic. Her name is Judy. She takes care of their 8 cats.

I'm allergic to cats, so I'm careful not to get too close. If I get one whiff of cat hair, my face swells up and I look like Corky from Life Goes On.

I take good care of both tables. I really pour on the charm for the 4-top. The motivating factor is money, and it's looking like this is going to be the table that will fund my post-shift bar trip.

Final bills... Money table- $120. Poor table- $25.

Dropping off the bills, I head back behind the bar.

"How's it going?" I ask The Woman. She's making change at the till. I'm careful to make it look like we're just co-workers. There are a lot of young guys at the bar, and I want them to think they have a chance. They'll tip better that way.

"Fine. Are you taking good care of Ron and Judy?"

"Yeah. They have 8 cats. He's a mechanic. Why do you ask?"

"You'll see. They do it right." She slams the drawer shut, adjusts her bra, and heads back to her customers.

I wonder what she means. I haven't seen the couple in The Restaurant before. They can't be regulars. They look like they just left a garage sale. Hmmm...

Finally, they leave. I walk over to check out the tips.

Money table- $15. Bullshit. I hate this job.

Poor table- $10. Wow. Nearly 50% tip.

Scratching my head, I go back to work.

When the rush is over, I ask The Woman about the Ron and Judy.

"They come in about once every month and a half. They don't have a lot of money, so they save it up before they come in. They make sure they can afford their meal and their tip. Like I said, they do it right."

A quick recap... swanky table, high bill, crap tip. Poor table, low bill, great tip.

Just goes to show that you can't judge a book by it's cover.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Penguin


The Penguin is one of the strangest people I have ever met. She's a compulsive liar with poor hygiene. She's also grossly overweight and short. From the back, she looks exactly like Danny Devito in Batman Returns. This is how she earned her nickname.

Despite professing to always be on a diet, her car always seems to be littered with fast food wrappers. I got a ride home from her one day. The car smells like a combination of fast food burgers and kitty litter. Yuck.

This story describes my introduction to the inner workings of... The Penguin.

-The Penguin-

It's a cool day at the end of September, our slowest month. I'm closing The Restaurant. Normally, I'd be pissed. However, The Actor is the closing manager tonight. His antics keep me entertained.

It's around 9:30. We close the doors at 10:00, and the bar closes at 11:00. There hasn't been a soul in the place for almost an hour and a half.

The Restaurant is losing money every second we stay open. However, corporate policy says that we can not close the doors early, so I'm stuck sitting on my can earning about half of minimum wage.

I'm bored. I think about sticking a fork in my eye so I can go home, but decide against it. I like my depth perception.

I decide to bug The Actor. I get up and head to the back.

The Actor is sitting in the office writing out the daily log.

"I'm bored. "

"Did you clean everything, make sure everything is stocked, and empty everything off the expo line?" He doesn't look up from his scribbling.

"Yeah, I'm completely done. Isn't there something fun in here?" I start pawing through one of the drawers in the office. Lost and found items can be interesting some days, but not today. Couple sets of keys, a credit card or two, and a work ID badge from "Lashawnda".

"If you're going to act like a child, read this. There should be something interesting in there." He hands me a red leather-bound book.

"What is this?" I ask.

"The accident report log."

Sweet. The accident report log contains, in graphic description, any horrific accident that occurred on Restaurant property. This ought to keep me entertained.

I flip to the front. It seems that when the place first opened, there was a goose that made its nest in the parking lot. Damn thing bit two customers before animal control agreed to "relocate" it.

I'm mildly disappointed. The book is written in really boring language. It doesn't even provide any juicy details.

Even worse, the managers' grasp of the English language is decidedly lacking. They try to sound professional, which exacerbates the problem. Case in point:

"The animal is nested on our property between the fourth and fifth line of the parking lot. When too [sic.] customers traveled by the animal, it bit them. One was injured to her buttocks and thigh..." Boooo-ring.

Flipping through, I see that two cooks have cut off fingers, damn near everyone has been burned, and that Deedee, our resident drunk, fell down not once, not twice, but three times in the same month. She's collecting unemployment now.

"Were you working when Deedee had her accidents?" I'm curious what happened.

"Yeah. It wasn't even wet where she fell. I swear I could smell liquor on her breath, too. It pays to be a drunken fool." He shakes his head. Suddenly, he jerks his head around.

"Hey, have you gotten to "The Penguin" yet?"

"No, why?"

"I was managing that night. Check April of two years ago. I had to do the accident report for her slip and fall." He's grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

I start leafing back through the book. July, June, May... ah, April.

I start reading and almost crap myself.

"The Penguin (he actually wrote "The Penguin" instead of her real name) was waddling through the main dining room with a full tray of food. She spotted a baby seal. Because she was hungry, she gave chase with intention to club. She slipped on a patch of ice and fell. The food splattered on several nearby guests, two of which reported burns. There names are..."

Pure genius. He even wrote it in red ink, so it stands out more in the book.

"Was she hurt?"

"Not really. Her pride more than anything else. I must admit, it was really funny watching her try to get up. Have you ever seen a turtle flipped on its back?"

"That's mean." But funny.

"So what? I'm going to hell anyways." He turns back to his paperwork. I look down at the accident report log.

"Isn't this thing supposed to be serious in case we get sued?"

"Yeah, but what are they gonna do, fire me? I'll claim that they fired me because of my sexual orientation. Speaking of which, do you wanna go in the walk-in? You can close your eyes and pretend I'm a girl..." He looks at me hopefully.

"I'll pass. The Woman is waiting for me at the bar across the street. I think The Penguin is supposed to be over there too."

He clucks sympathetically. "You poor, poor man. Have you heard her latest one?"

"What do you mean?"

"Her latest lie. She's a compulsive liar." He pauses and looks at me. "You didn't know?"

"No, I didn't." I actually thought she was kind of interesting.

"So far, since she's worked here...," he begins counting off on his fingers. "She's had cancer. She's remembered repressed memories of childhood abuse. She's been engaged to a wonderful person who broke it off two weeks later. She's been on every crash diet known to man, yet she continues to gain weight at an astonishing pace, and finally.... she's had 3 grandmother's die."

"None of it is true?"

"Not a word. When I found out that I had cancer, I asked her for the name of her oncologist, thinking that since she is so... you know, healthy, he must be a good doctor. She didn't know what an oncologist was. And two weeks after her 3rd grandmother died, she came in and ate with her parents and their parents."

That's messed up.

"So what's her latest?"

"That her cousin was the pilot on flight 93. You know, the one that crashed into the farm in Pennsylvania."

9/11 was still fresh in everyone's mind. It had been a strange few weeks since the Towers fell. People were coping in different ways. But to cope by saying that your cousin was flying one of the planes? That's just weird.

Just then, the door bell chimes interrupt my thoughts. I look at the clock. 9:58. It never fails. Sighing, I walk to the front to take my last table of the night.


An hour and a half later, I'm sitting in a booth at the bar sipping a beer. There is a really good turnout. About ten people have made it over to the bar, and we're having a great time.

Pool, darts, pitchers of beer, surly cocktail waitresses... I love dive bars.

The Penguin is starting to get on my nerves. She keeps talking about her cousin and how sad she is.

I wonder if it could be true? I mean, after all, someone has to be related to all the people on the flight. If that's the case, then I'll feel really bad about doubting her.

As it is, after hearing The Actor bash her for the last hour, I'm starting to find her annoying. She's attention-grubbing and clingy.

She also has a large brown stain on her two front teeth. I can't stop looking at it. She doesn't smoke or drink coffee. I'm trying to figure out how she could possibly have a stain like that when The Woman plops down next to me.

"What's up?" She's smiling. Not in a good way. She looks like she's got some sort of diabolical plan cooking.

"Not much. The Penguin is starting to get on my nerves. Do you think her cousin was really on that plane? If he was, I'll feel really bad...."

"I wouldn't," she pauses dramatically and then pulls out a newspaper clipping. "These are the passenger manifests for Flight 93. There's no "(Penguin's last name)" on there."

"What if he's from the mother's side of her family?" I'm still hanging on to the hope that she wouldn't lie about this sort of thing.

"Let's ask," she turns around, looking for The Penguin. She's at one of the bar box pool tables in the back, trying to elicit a pool lesson from Soldato. He looks annoyed.

"Hey Penguin, what's your Mom's maiden name?" The Woman yells across the bar.

"Why?" she calls back.

"I'm doing a family tree on everyone in the office." What a lame excuse. However...

"Oh, how fun! It's (mother's maiden name)." Stupid Penguin.

The Woman quickly cross-checks the list. Nope.

I don't know what to feel. I'm angry at her for trying to take advantage of the situation. I also feel really sad for her. Her life is going to suck if she continually gets caught up in lies.

"You gonna call her out?" I ask.

"Only if she annoys me. I haven't decided yet."

The TVs in the bar are tuned to a baseball game. During a commercial, a news brief comes on about 9/11. It seems that all news briefs are focused on that day now. I wonder if it will ever go back to being normal. I doubt it.

"I can't watch! It makes me so upset," The Penguin is crying. Big, sobbing heaves that make her rolls jiggle. I can't believe this shit.

"Give me that clipping," I whisper to The Woman. I don't know why, but I have an uncontrollable urge to give The Penguin something to cry about.

"Nope, I'm going to call her on this one. I've known her a lot longer than you, and I'm even more sick of this shit than you are." With that, she marches across the bar and confronts The Penguin.
A stuttering explanation, a short screaming match, and a huffy waddle to the parking lot later, and The Penguin has left the building.



The Penguin called in sick to work the next three days. She said it was her pancreas.

She never admitted to lying about her cousin (or anything else, for that matter). She recently got fired from The Restaurant for being lazy and stealing from the petty cash. She still has that brown stain between her teeth.

Personally, I just feel sorry for her. It's going to be a tough life.

Now I remember...

(Please read the comments section of my previous post before reading this. Otherwise, this post won't make sense.)

I almost forgot how some of the (anonymous) people who comment on this blog seem to think that they are entitled to something. Can't these people just enjoy what I and others have to share, rather than demand things?

Don't get me wrong folks, I love the comments. I really do. But here's the thing...

I write on my own time, when I have time. I have a ton of good stories. I also have a general idea about how long it will take to write them. Sometimes, however, that time table flies out the window. For instance, the story about MASE took me almost 2 weeks to get right.

It's not that I'm teasing you folks or trying to build anticipation when I say that I'm going to post on a certain date. I just want to do the stories justice. I don't want to start posting crappy stories. That's not fair to you, me, or the people that the stories are written about.

I have to balance my time between work, my fiance, my dog, my family, and having a life. I try to squeeze blogging in there as often as possible, but some days it's just darn near impossible.

So folks, here's what I propose. I am going to try to post once a week. Maybe more, maybe less. I'm not making any promises, save this- the stories will be entertaining when they do get posted.

The story I was writing turned out to be more difficult than expected (hence the delay). Therefore, I am going to shelf it for a while.

Instead, I am going to introduce you to a new character...


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

New Post Coming Tomorrow or Thursday

Hi all,

Just wanted to let you know that I'm going to start writing a new post. Should be ready either tomorrow or Thursday.

Hope all is well,

The Server

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Food Poisoning


This post contains some nastiness. If you are easily grossed out, don't read this. You have been warned.

-Food Poisoning-

The Woman's parents are taking us out for dinner. We're celebrating my getting a new job. Woo-hoo!

We decide to go to a "junk-on-the-walls" Mexican restaurant chain. When I was in college, my roommates and I would go to one of their franchises near campus. I have a feeling that this trip will be a bit more... reserved.

I always over-eat when I go Mexican. Two good reasons... first, I love the taste of Mexican food. Second, Mexican food tastes like crap when it's nuked. No sense wasting food.

In preparation, I eat a large breakfast and skip lunch. People think that it's best to not eat all day if you're planning on chowing down at night. WRONG! You must eat a large meal early in the day to stretch out your stomach. Otherwise it shrinks, and you won't be able to shovel in as much when the dinner bell rings. Keep that in mind next time you're heading to an all-you-can-eat buffet and you want to get your money's worth.

Walking into the place, my olfactory sense goes haywire. There's nothing better than the smell of Mexican food when you're starving. Fajitas sizzling, enchiladas bubbling, salsa... salsa-ing? Yum!

Sitting down, I take stock of the area in which we're seated. There is a party of ten right next to us. Two sets of parents and a small horde of children. Most of the kids are behaving, except for the two littlest ones running circles around the rest of the party. Ugh.

There are a few tables near us that need refills and some pre-bussing. Not too bad, but it isn't how I'd want my section to look, especially on a Sunday afternoon at 4:30.

"It's funny. I can't help looking around and judging the server's section. Am I going to be doing this the rest of my life?" I ask The Woman.

"I still do it, too. Is it just me, or is the overall quality of servers dropping? I would never leave my section like this." She looks around, shrugs, and picks up her menu.

We discuss the other things we see wrong in the restaurant for a few minutes before deciding that either the quality of service is dropping or we're too harsh because we know what everything is supposed to look like.

The busboy drops off our chips and salsa. We dig in. I realize that we don't have water after I've already noshed several chips. Damn. I'm thirsty. On the verge of being uncomfortable.

Right on cue, our server pops up.

"Hi, welcome to ____! My name is waitress and I'll be taking care of you tonight. Would you like to start off with one of our ridiculously overpriced, watered-down margaritas? Our specials tonight are...." I actually tuned her out after I hear "my name is" because I've heard, and said, it all a thousand times. I make up the rest as she goes along.

It sounds like she's reading from a script. I don't know whether to curse the corporate office that makes her do this twenty times a day or to curse her for not inserting some of her own personality into her spiel. Either way, I'm dying over here. I decide to cut her off.

"Water!" I'm almost crying. "Please, I'm begging."

"Oh. the busboy didn't bring any?" Obviously not. "OK." She scuttles off looking miffed that we failed to order any of the Super-Duper Berry Werry Margaritas. She returns five minutes later with our drinks. She takes our order and shuffles away.

I decide that she isn't a good waitress. She moves slowly, she isn't very friendly, and she doesn't smile a lot. Oh well.

I turn my attention back to The Woman and her parents. The discussion is lively and animated. Her father is a big-wig at a local construction business. His stories are usually pretty entertaining. Tonight is no exception.

He's just getting into a story when our food comes. Quickly. Way too quickly. It's only been about five minutes since we've put in our order.

I look at the woman. She doesn't seem too concerned. She should be. She and both her parents ordered a dinner that involved cooked chicken. It takes between 10 and 15 minutes to fully cook a chicken breast. I ordered a skirt steak and enchiladas combo. It takes at least 10 minutes to fully cook a steak, even one as thin as the hunk of meat sizzling on my festively-colored plate.

The fact that our food is out in five minutes means one of two things. Either they undercooked the chicken OR they pre-cooked the chicken. Neither option eases my mind.

I've seen Valerie send out pre-cooked chicken before. Usually, this is because a server accidentally hits a key twice when they're ringing in an order. Valerie hates to waste food, so she'll try to put the extra chicken out the door on another table's order. It works if the other table orders immediately after the 'mistake'. If not, those folks'll end up with some dry chicken.

If the chicken is undercooked, then there's a problem. Food poisoning. Yuck.

I nudge The Woman. "Is everything cooked all the way through?"

She pauses from chewing and takes a peak inside her chicken enchiladas.

"Looks like it. Why?"

"Didn't it seem like everything came out pretty quick?"

"Yeah, but I think it's ok." She puts her knife and fork back to work.

Shrugging it off, I turn my attention to my steak.


It's 3 am. The Woman has been vomiting since 11 pm. Every half hour. You can set your watch to it. I'm forcing her to chug water in between bouts. I'm not feeling so hot myself.

The puppy is yapping away like crazy. He must think this is some crazy new game that we've invented.

All of a sudden, I realize it's my turn. A cramp builds in the depths of my stomach. I can feel it growing, pulsating, swirling. I make a sprint towards the other bathroom. It reaches my sternum. I know that once it begins to travel up my esophagus, my gag reflex will take over and then...


I hate Mexican food. I can still see the corn from my rice...


10:30 AM- The Woman is exhausted. Luckily, I've gotten off lightly. I was only sick four or five times. She's feel wretched, and I can't blame her.

She's called into work for the first time ever. Actually, I called into work for her. She couldn't make it out of the bathroom.

I call up the Mexican place to let them know that they may have a contamination issue on their hands.

The manager answers. She listens to our tale of woe and expresses her sincerest apologies. She takes down our information.

"Sir, please know that I'll be sending you some gift certificates. To what address can I send them?"

I think for a minute. I know I'm sure as hell not eating there anymore. I call out to the Woman, who's still praying to the porcelain God in the bathroom.

"Honey, the restaurant wants to send us some gift certificates. What do you think?"


"I don't think we'll be needing those, thanks." Click.


I really did get off easy. The Woman had to go to the treatment center for an IV. They pumped 2 bags of saline into her before she began to look normal again. I just felt rotten and weak for three days.

New Post Tonight

Hi All,

New post coming tonight. I am just now getting over the food poisoning that the Woman and I got on Sunday. I would have written sooner, but I had my head stuck in a bucket for 2 days straight...

The Server

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Scammer Series #3- The Servers


In The Industry, we deal with scamming on a weekly, sometimes even daily, basis. In this post, I want to talk about something we used to do at The Restaurant.

Scammer Series #3- The Servers

It's a beautiful Saturday in the summer. I'm working my third double in a row at The Restaurant, but I don't care. I've been working there for three months, and I finally feel like I've got the routine down. I know the menu, my people skills are vastly improved, and I've made a bunch of friends on the staff. Life is good.

The drive to work is great. I put the top down on my Jeep. The good folks at the radio station are nice enough to play good songs for the entirety of my journey. Even the cute flagger girl waving folks through road construction on the highway has a smile and a wave for me.

I get to work early. The only other people around are the cooks and Valerie. Valerie is doing her usual- puttering around and looking upset. The cooks are cooking up bacon. There must be 400 pieces on the flat top, and it smells amazing. I may have to start coming to work early more often.

"Hi Valerie," I'm cheerful, even though it's only 10:15 (for those of you not in The Industry, this equates to about 6:00 NPT [Normal Person Time]).

"Start putting lemons in side stations. Clock in at 10:30." Valerie is a sweetheart. Knowing that my working while not on the clock will make her happy, I head back to the walk-in cooler to get the lemons.

I begin to set up the side stations in The Restaurant. The place is good to go in fifteen minutes. Funny how it usually takes 2 servers half an hour to get the place set up for the lunch shift.

The other servers start trickling in. My good mood is contagious, and soon everyone is laughing and having a great time. I can't wait to start getting tables. I know I'm going to rock it today.

The hostess is a new girl. She's a pretty high school junior. She's also dumb as a rock. Sometimes I wonder if those are two required traits for hostesses at The Restaurant.

She triple seats me right off the bat. Nothing can sour my good mood. I'm so on, I could run ten tables right now. I know I'm giving great service. The customers even tell me I'm giving great service. It's that good of a day.

I drop off the checks, run the credit card slips, and head to the back to chug a glass of water. When I get back, all three tables have left. Excited, I collect my credit card slips.

10%, 15%, 10%. On the second 10% tip, I notice that the lady wrote "Great Service!" with a smiley face at the bottom of the bill. I'm astonished. I average around 20% on lunch shifts. This is ridiculous!

For the rest of the shift, I'm fuming. I only make $30.

"This is bullshit," I mutter under my breath.

"What's bullshit?" Barry, one of my new server friends, is separating his credit card and cash slips for his cash out.

"Look at this." I hand him the 10% tip slip with the women's patronizing scrawl on the bottom.

"Ouch," he says sympathetically. "Well, you can't win 'em all."

"Yeah, but my whole day was like that. My tip average was 14% today. I've never done that bad before." I'm steamed, and Barry can see it. He smiles and pulls me away from the other servers to calm me down.

Barry is a great guy. He seems perpetually calm. This may have something to do with the amount of pot he smokes daily, or it could be his natural personality. The jury's still out. Either way, he was a way of defusing worked up servers.

"Easy buddy.... I know just what you need. Let's hit the theater in between shifts." I'm a huge movie buff. But I'm not in the mood right now. I just want to sleep in my Jeep in between shifts.

"We don't have time." We have to be back in 2 hours.

"We're not going to see a movie." He winks conspiratorially. "Meet me there after you cash out."

I'm thoroughly confused, but I agree. Barry cashes out before me and heads out the door. I check out with Valerie, who gives me crap for my "shitty tips".

"You give bad service, you get bad tips." I show her the lady's comment. She's not impressed.

"Be on time for shift tonight."

I leave The Restaurant, steamed as hell. Driving to the movie theater, I can see clouds gathering. Looks like rain. Great. The hard top is off of my Jeep, and I don't have time to go home and put it back on. It doesn't get much worse than driving home in soaked pants.

Even the good folks at the radio can't cheer me up. My favorite station has begun a tribute to disco, and my number 2 and 3's are both stuck in commercial limbo. I hope Barry has something good for me at the theater.

Pulling into the theater parking lot, I'm amazed at how empty the place is. Apparently, not too many folks go to the movies on Monday afternoon at 3 pm.

I park and hop out of the Jeep. I am heading to the lobby when I hear someone calling my name.

"Over here!"

Confused, I look around and spot Barry. He's at the side exit door. Wondering what the hell he's doing, I change course and walk over.

"What's up?"

"This is going to make your month," he says. "Do you know about the new promotion?"

I shake my head. Smiling, he begins to explain. Every year, The Restaurant spends some advertising money at the theater. They buy one of those adds that shuffle through before the previews start. As an incentive to bring in customers, The Restaurant will take off $2 for every movie stub that the customers bring in. He explains that on cash tickets, you can make an extra couple bucks every time someone comes in without a movie ticket.

"And this place is like a gold mine," he says, sweeping his hand out over the concrete in front of the exit. Looking down, I see what he's talking about.

There are hundreds of ticket stubs scattered on the ground. Doing some quick math, I figure there's probably $200 for each of us.

Barry smiles. "Feel better?"

"Hell yeah!" I start picking up stubs and stuffing them in my pockets. After a few minutes, I realize how ridiculous we must look. Like two bums picking up empty soda bottles for the recycling deposit.

"I'm heading back, I think I'm good," I say, standing and brushing off my knees.

"Cool, I'll be right behind you," Barry says, his fingers nimbly picking through the trash to scoop up another stub.

Heading back to work, I begin to ponder the situation. Doubt is starting to creep in.

Granted, I deserved more than the 10% I got on those two checks. But was I the one to decide that? I mean, after all, the tip percentage will balance itself out. I'd seen it happen. One shift, you work your tail off and get 15%, and the next, you don't do anything extraordinary and you average 25. Karma.

Finally, I get back to The Restaurant. I decide to see how the shift goes. Maybe those stubs will come in handy, maybe not.

I walk in and head to the back. I clock in and start tying on my apron. Lisa, one of the old-timers who has been at The Restaurant since it opened, comes by.

"Did you hit up the theater yet?" she asks.

Lisa is one of the most honest, straightest servers in The Restaurant. Shocked, I nod.

"Barry took me over there. You do this too?"

"yup," she replies, opening her serving book. She shows me the compartment in the back, which is stuffed with ticket stubs. "This is always a good month." She smiles and walks away.

Now I'm even more torn. If Lisa does it, is it wrong? If it's OK, why do I feel that nagging, slightly nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach?

Shrugging, I look out and see that I've gotten my first table. Putting on my Server Smile, I head into battle.

Half an hour later, I get my first tip. 15%. I deserved 20. I know it in my heart. At the computer, I pause. I look at the stubs I stuck in my book. I don't know what to do.

"Ah, you hit up the theater?" It's The Hippie. She's smiling ruefully. "I didn't get a chance to go over there yet. Too bad too, I could have used it tonight." She turns to walk away.

"Wait. Here." I pull out all the stubs from my book. "You can have mine." I want no part of this.

I walk away. I feel good about what I've done, what it says about my character. I feel good that I've helped out my fellow server. I feel good that I've resisted the temptation. The only thing I don't feel good about is the 15% tip...

Monday, February 20, 2006

So You're Probably Wondering...

What happened to me?

Well, I'm afraid that it's not too terribly interesting. But I'll go ahead and give it a shot. Since I last wrote....

I moved into a new townhouse with The Woman. We got the keys in October. I still have yet to unpack.

I've been working a sales job. When I started working there, I ignored the danger signs. High turnover, low employee morale, etc. It was one of those burn-out jobs where they try to get as much out of you as possible for as long as possible.

Unfortunately, my burn out was more extreme than most. This burn out is the reason that I haven't written.

It started off as bronchospasms, like I wrote in the post before. It turned into full-fledged, crippling panic attacks that took hold every time I thought about work. Since I was working 12 hours a day, these attacks were occurring more and more frequently. By my third trip to the emergency room, I knew I was done. I quit the next morning. The only thing I feel good about is that I was leading the branch in sales for the month at the time I left.

Hopefully, I'll be able to get out of this whole situation with only an ulcer, heartburn, and mild breathing problems. The ulcer no longer bothers me, I'm able to eat almost anything without fear of heartburn, and my breathing is improving by the day. I'm on the road to recovery.

Other updates...

I got a new puppy. If someone tells me how to post pictures, I'll show you all what he looks like. He's a beautiful black lab mix. His name is Payton. I got him for The Woman's birthday. The jury is still out on who she loves more. Either way, I see us as the two luckiest men around.

And lastly, but certainly not leastly.... (is 'leastly' a word? Absolutely not. Do I care? Not so much. Do I have a habit of asking questions and then answering them myself, thereby making it a declarative statement? You betcha!)

I am engaged. I asked The Woman to marry me on Christmas morning. She teared up like Niagara Falls. I thought I would feel weird, waking up next to someone, knowing that they would be my partner for the rest of my life. Instead, I wake up every day with a feeling of contentment, happiness, and joy. Even with all the health problems, I'm the luckiest man alive. I don't know how she puts up with me.

So that's the short and sweet of it, folks. I'd love to talk more right now, but I'm on a job hunt of epic proportions. Anyone know of a good restaurant in the Chicago-land area that's hiring?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Server Stories Back on the Air!

Hello Everyone,

I want to send a big thank you to all of you who have written me emails and posts asking about my well-being. I can't tell you all how much that meant to me.

I am doing better. My health was not good for some time, but I have recovered and I look forward to writing again. I apologize for the long delay, but unfortunately, it could not be avoided. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.

With that said...

I'd like to announce the return of Server Stories. I am going to be pounding the ol' keyboard trying to get a new post up ASAP. I still have plenty of stories to tell, and I couldn't stand it if I have to keep them bottled up inside.

So sit back, grab a frosty beverage, and relax. I'm The Server, and I will be taking care of you this evening....

Back from the brink,

The Server