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